NHL Network likes to rank the game’s best players by position each offseason, so it got started on Monday by listing the top 10 goalies in the league entering next season. Carey Price tops the rankings, which is a perfectly good and reasonable decision given how good the Canadiens netminder is.
Top 10 goalies, per @NHLNetwork:— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) August 7, 2017
One player you’ll notice missing from the list is Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, which seems like an odd omission. Even his section in the honorable mentions post, where he’s listed No. 13, says, “An elite goalie for the past several seasons, Crawford, 32, was his consistent self in 2016-17.”
So is he an elite goalie, or not? Because if he’s been an elite goalie the past few seasons, there’s no reason to rank him No. 13 behind the likes of Jonathan Quick, Martin Jones, and Pekka Rinne.
Let’s quickly put the statistics of those four players from the past three seasons side-by-side:
GA%- is a statistic provided by Hockey-Reference that takes a goalie’s save percentages and compares it to the league average save percentage over the same time frame. A GA%- of 100 is exactly league average, and you want to get below that figure. Over the past three seasons, Crawford has clearly been the best of those four goalies in terms of save percentage.
So why such pessimism in Crawford? He’s posted a GSAA, which turns GA%- into a counting statistic based on playing time, of +4.09 or better in each of the past four seasons. (That means he’s allowed at least four fewer goals than a league average goalie would’ve on the same workload.)
Jones’ best GSAA is a +4.64 in 2015-16, and he was negative last season. Rinne has been wildly inconsistent, going from +14.23 to -12.51 to +8.05 over the past three seasons. Quick, on the other hand, has been consistently near average, with GSAA figures hovering between 1.4 and 6.0 over the past four seasons.
GSAA isn’t perfect, but it’s a good baseline for comparing goalies’ save percentages over longer periods of time. In this statistic, there’s really no justification for placing Crawford so low.
Just because I just spent a bunch of paragraphs slamming the rankings, it’s only fair I make my own. Here’s how I’d rank the top 10 goaltenders entering the 2017-18 season:
- Carey Price
- Sergei Bobrovsky
- Braden Holtby
- Devan Dubnyk
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Matt Murray
- Corey Crawford
- Cam Talbot
- John Gibson
- Robin Lehner
Really tough to choose that final spot between Lehner, Quick, Rinne, Cory Schneider, Frederik Andersen, Craig Anderson, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tuukka Rask, and old pal Scott Darling.