Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Toskala Of Measurement

Inspired by a few debates circling around the Toronto Maple Leafs. The comparison between Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft (albeit not much debate there), the over/underrated Leaf defense and the likelihood of a playoff birth due to a goaltending change. I decided to do a little number crunching...

Over the course of 4 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Toskala has averaged a .914 SV%. Last season with the Leafs, Andrew Raycroft posted an .894 SV% for a difference of .020%. These numbers obviously make for a good measuring stick when comparing these two netminders head to head, but how do they relate to team success?

Should we grab Toskala's .914% and filter it into Raycroft's 1931 shots against, we can project 1765 saves over the course of the season. Which is 39 more saves than Raycroft managed last season. And of course that means 39 less goals.

If we factored in the 39 less goals against into last season's stats, the Leafs would have managed 258 goals for, versus 230 goals against. Giving them the 4th least goals against in the East.

The one team that had comparable numbers to these projections last season, were the Calgary Flames. The Flames managed 258 goals for, versus 226 goals against. It was good enough to earn them 96 points over the season. Had the Leafs managed 96 points (a mere 5 pts more than they did manage), they would have sat in the 6th seed in the East and paved a way to Atlanta for a playoff series.

And now I can hear the 'quality of shots' angle being thrown my way. What are the chances that Toskala can provide the Leafs with a .914 SV% considering their defense, as opposed to San Jose's? And when Marc Denis, Ed Belfour, Roberto Luongo, Manny Legace, Dan Cloutier and Andrew Raycroft collectively dropped .013 SV% last season while playing for their new respective clubs, this makes for a very valid argument. But really, this isn't about finding a foolproof way of predicting the Leafs chance of success next season. It's more to do with proving how much of a difference a measely .020 SV% can make on a team's success, and how it can instantly change the appearance of it's defense core.

While John Ferguson Jr., Paul Maurice and the Toronto media rave about Andrew Raycroft's 37 win season, or are ready to tar and feather the blueline, truer stats have been ignored.