Avs season preview: Part I - Goalies

I've been insanely pessimistic about the Avs season all summer, and I have only revealed the source of my pessimism in bits and pieces over twitter. So I figured I needed to give a comprehensive guide to why I don't think the Avs are going to be very good this season: (and why I'm going to enjoy the season anyways). This is intended to be a 5 part series, but it could balloon to six or drop to four depending on how much I have to say. The intended parts are:

I - Goaltending
II - Forwards
III - Defense
IV - 'Other'
V - Recap

So here we go:

Goalies -

Key Additions: Reto Berra (kind of, he was here last seaosn but played 2 games).
Key Departures: JS Giguere

Starting Goalie-
Semyon Varlamov
: Is coming off of a great season professionally, in which he was second in Vezina voting and sported a sparkling .927 sv% (including a .933 ES sv%). At 25, this should be a cause for optimism, right?

Well, yes and no. He went a long ways to establishing himself as a bona-fide starting goaltender in this league, and one a team can lean on (this was very much in doubt before last season). But expecting him to repeat his perfomance from last season is unrealistic. League average sv% for starters (35+ GP) last season was .9167%. This includes other goalies such as: Henrik Lundqvist (.920), Jon Quick (.915), Ryan Miller (.918), Luongo (.919).

If Varlammov regresses to a .919 sv% (which would be above average for starters): That's 17 more goals given up next season, on regression alone. It's important to note that Varlamov may not regress to there, it's entirely possible that he regresses only a little... but it's equally possible he could also have an 'off' year next season too (his sv%'s the three season's prior to last were all at or below league starter ave). Goalies are fickle and unpredictable: there's too much random chance in goals (even over the course of a 2,000 SA season). 

My baseline on Varly: an ~17 GA drop next season, a .919 sv%. That would still be an excellent season for him. (Of course the error bars on that are large. 1 st dev on average is a range of .910-.923. For the Avs that would mean a GA of 35-9 more. 35 is terrible, nine isn't so bad.) Still, I think everyone would be happy with Varly in the .919 range.

Backup Goalie

Reto Berra: The most contraversial backup goalie in the league. The avs paid a steep price (2nd rounder) for a guy who has not performed well at the NHL level. He's got a career sv% of .893 over only 31 career starts. Now many people have pointed out, that's a very small sample size to judge from, but really bad players don't usually get to have enough games to have a large sample size, either. And Berra's international appearences for Switzerland and in other leagues don't inspire much donfidence that he's very good either. 

So he's an unknown, and Allaire and Roy are using him as a replacement. It's also worth noting that if he doesn't cut it, he'll likely be replaced by Aittakaillio or Pickard. 

Last season Giguere had a sparkling .913 sv %, which was also good enough for "below average starter". Even if Reto Berra improves/regresses 12 points in save %, that's a net loss in the backup goalie position. How much? 

Giguere faced 608 shots last season. Replacing that with a .905sv% adds 5 to the GA column, not terrible but that translates roughly to 2 points in the standings. (again, that's assuming Reto Berra/backup by comittee can improve a whopping .012 in his sv%, which is pretty optomistic for anyone to improve)


So, I expect -22 in Goal Differential (with large error bars) based on goaltending alone (which translates to ~7 points in the standings). Again it's worth noting my regressions are, IMO, optimistic with assumptions that:

- Varly is an above average NHL starter
- The Backup Goalies performing well above their (admittedly Small Sample Size) career averages. 

(A side note on goalies: 

The season Varlamov had last year doesn't even guarantee he is an above average starter [I think he is, but it's well within the realm of possibilities that it was a fluke year]. 

Here's a partial list of guys who had seasons as good as Varly (.014 sv% points above average): Dan Ellis, Manny Legace, Rick Dipíetro, Ron Tugnett, Dan Ellis, Manny Fernandez, Arturs Irbe, Roman Cechmanek. Of course, Henrik Lundqvist, Dominik Hasek, Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas all have those kind of seasons too. The point is: having one great season isn't really uncommon for mediocre goalies. 

Very good goalies do it a lot. Varly had a very good season, he needs a couple to be in a spot where you can pen him in for an above ave sv%. Goalies are fickle. Never ever forget this. )