Goalies and Voodoo Magic

Jan 29, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens (30) stops a shot during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at Rexall Place. The Oilers won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-138256 ORIG FILE ID:  20140129_lbm_wb4_281.JPG

Without a doubt, one of the weakest links of the Oilers in 2014/2015 was the goaltending. Both Scrivens and Fasth failed to lock down the starter position, finishing the season with adjusted save percentages in the bottom five (goalies who played 20 games or more).

One thing we know about goalies is that a  lot of voodoo is involved. One season, a goalie can be terrible and the next, he’s winning games in the playoffs. One could argue that even assessing goalies involves a lot of guess work and truthiness, as a lot of factors come into play. Which team is the goalie on, how does the team do possession wise, does the team have a strong defensive core, and so forth.

I really want to believe that Scrivens can bounce back. After a good college and minor league career, he had shown well in his NHL career. Unfortunately, things went sideways this past season, but I don’t think we can write him off just yet.

To make a case, I first looked at how he measures up against the average adjusted save percentage (at even-strength) among goalies who played 20 or more games. And secondly, I looked for other goalies who may have had a rough season (or two) and bounced back.


Let’s start off with Ben Scrivens’ history.

Season Team Gm Age GP W L T/O QS% AdSv%
2011/12 TOR 12 25 12 4 5 2 0.455 91.66
2012/13 TOR 20 26 20 7 9 0 0.588 92.33
2013/14 EDM/L.A 39 27 40 16 16 4 0.629 93.43
2014/15 EDM 57 28 57 15 26 11 0.373 90.88

This past season stands out as his worst in terms of adjusted save percentage (at even-strength) and the number of games he gave his team a chance to win (QS%). His adjusted save percentage, which factors in the quality of shot (low, medium, high danger), as well as his save percentage of high danger shots at even strength, was well below average.


Last season, and the year prior, he was alright when it came to adjusted save percentage at even strength…right around the average. His save percentage when it came to high danger shots at even-strength were slightly above average two seasons ago, and not too far off the average last season. I should also note that his save percentage when it came to high danger shots was at 82.96 when Eakins was head coach in 2014/2015, and 79.82 when Nelson was head coach. Scrivens’ adjusted save percentage did not change after goaltender coach Freddie Chabot was fired, but his high-danger save percentage went from 83.84 under Chabot to 79.92 under Schwartz (Source: War on Ice). Maybe it was the team tactics under one coach or the fact that Petry was dealt at the deadline, I’m not sure. But those are all factors at play here.


In a previous post, I used the percentage of quality starts to find other goalies who had terrible seasons, similar to Scrivens. Goalies that also had QS% below 0.400 since 2007 include well-established netminders like Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov (Source: Hockey Abstract). I decided to graph each goalies adjusted save percentage compared to the average as well as their high-danger save percentage along with the average. Again, this is for even strength situations and includes netminders who played 20 or more games in a season.





Couple notes:

  • I think it goes without saying that goalies can be hard to predict. But when goalies have a bad season, they typically bounce back the following year.
  • Man, Elliott and Smith are all over the map.
  • Our boy Devan Dubnyk was trending well before he had that bad season in 2013/2014. So happy to see him bounce back and get recognized for his accomplishments.


Ben Scrivens has a lot of work to do this summer if he wants to get back to an acceptable performance level. He’s in the last year of a two-year contract and will likely be in the AHL next season if he has another sub-par season. There are only so many roster sports for netminders.

The good news is other goaltenders have had seasons with a QS% below 0.400 but have managed to bounce back and maintain employment at the NHL level. These goalies have also seen their adjusted save percentages take a hit throughout their careers, but have still managed to remain as starters in the NHL. At the end of the day, it’ll be up to Scrivens to put this past season behind him, make the right adjustments in the off-season and put together a solid campaign as an Edmonton Oiler. The club would be wise to assign him the backup role, but I really think he could push for that starter position in 2015/2016.

Deconstructing the Jersey Toss

"The medium is the message." (1964)

“The medium is the message.” (1964)

Originally posted at Hockey in Society.

The jersey of any sports team, professional or not, holds a history, a story, and many different meanings. The message that resonates with any sports jersey is different depending on who is involved in the communication process. To some, the jersey simply designates who plays on what team. For others, a jersey holds significant, personal meaning which can be immersed in a narrative to build and share.

During two embarrassing losses on home ice this past season, two Edmonton Oilers jerseys were tossed by fans on to the ice. Both were acts of frustration and disapproval towards the club and their miserable performance. Many understood why the fans threw the jersey, while others, including Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens, questioned why the jersey was used as the medium to send a message.

“I’m from (Edmonton). You’re not just disrespecting guys in the room you’re disrespecting guys who wore the jersey before us … Messier, Gretzky, they all take pride in wearing that jersey. You’re a fan, you get to say and do whatever you want, call me whatever name you want, but when it comes to that logo, that’s a sacred thing for us. It’s disheartening for me to see our fans treat it that way.” (Canoe.ca)

The crumpled jersey on the ice for all to see was significant because it was an extreme response to a poor performance. It brought to light the narratives, history and meaning we each have as fans of the team. And, aside from the disrespect to the past players as Scrivens pointed out, the toss of the jersey also challenged and disrupted the traditional communication channels sports fans have established with their team. Continue reading

Filtering out the Noise: Laraque/Gazdic and Goalie performance against former teams

LaraqueWithout a doubt, blogging tools such as Twitter have been great tools for fans to share and receive information. The best part about it, however, has been its ability to filter out the junk information that surrounds the game of hockey.

Two great examples today.

A local sports reporter was being interviewed on the radio this morning and suggested a current Oilers enforcer Luke Gazdic was a better player than former Oiler Georges Laraque. It was quickly picked up on Twitter.

Unfortunately, the reporter didn’t back up his assertion, leaving it up to listeners and the online community to correct him. Jonathan Willis of the Cult of Hockey had this to add: Continue reading

Catching up with the Oilers

1297543298643_ORIGINALI have no idea how anyone, journalists, bloggers, anyone, can find the motivation to write a paragraph about the 2013/2014 Oilers.

Since the Olympic break, the club has gone 6-9. In the month of March, they’ve posted some very brutal losses to the likes of Buffalo and Calgary.

The Positives

The young defencemen are looking pretty decent. Guys like Marincin and Klefbom continue to hold their own despite some rookie jitters. Both are a great example of how the AHL benefits players, especially when there’s a strong coach and system in place. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if OKC Barons coach Todd Nelson makes his way up to the NHL soon.

The Scrivens/Fasth combo is looking pretty decent now, and have stolen a few games for the team. GM MacTavish might not be everyone’s favorite, but at the least the guy is making changes quickly.

Continue reading


Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

Well, that was fun.

It was nice to be reminded what meaningful hockey looks like. I thought the tournament was a great showcase for hockey, and really highlighted the skill and speed of the game. No useless pushing and shoving after the whistle. No meaningless fights. Just hockey.

A gold for Canada was expected, but with excellent goaltending apparent across the tournament, along with a knock-out format, anything could’ve happened. Thankfully Canada can boast back-to-back gold medals and move on from all the hype and gossip that lead up to the Olympics.

A personal highlight for me was watching Teemu Selanne play his final tournament for Finland and win bronze. The 42 year old has had such a remarkable career and continues to play well as he gets older. He, along with Martin St. Louis, are great examples of age being just a number. I can’t imagine the work they do to keep doing what they do. Just unreal.

And now, back to the grind of being an Oilers fan. Last I checked, they won five of their last seven, Ben Scrivens was playing well, and the team is destined to ship out real NHL players for draft picks.

Recommended Links

Welcome….To The Machine – Black Dog Hates Skunks


Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Unbelievable performance by goaltender Ben Scrivens tonight as the Oilers shutout the powerhouse San Jose Sharks. How the Oilers allowed that many scoring chances and still won the game, a shutout no less, is beyond me.

Scrivens set a new record for most saves in a shutout win with 59 stops. Here’s hoping he can continue playing well and extend the current three-game winning streak.

It can easily be pointed out that the team played horrific defense and allowed way too many quality scoring chances. They really did luck out against one of the top teams in the league.

But in the midst of another losing season, it’s nice to have one of these memorable wins. Lord knows we’ve been burned by a hot goalies enough times, so it’s nice to be on the winning end for once.

Recommended Links

Ben F’n Scrivens!!! – The Copper and Blue




Dropping Dubnyk

Source: The Oilers Rig

Source: The Oilers Rig

As expected, the Oilers shipped out goalie Devan Dubnyk. This season has not been his best, but Dubnyk did show a vast improvement from the start of the year. He’s an average to good NHL goalie that had to face a ton of shots playing behind a weak defensive team. A lot of the goals he allowed were magnified nightly mainly because the team did not have enough talent to get one back.

I’ve been a fan of his mainly because of the issues he had to deal with developing in the Oilers system. Keep in mind, when Dubnyk completed his junior career, the Oilers did not even have their own farm team. He was stuck scraping minutes on another club’s farm team, which is challenging as other goalies had higher priority for ice time.

Goaltending is one of those positions that I don’t value as highly as others. In my opinion, you need average goaltending behind a solid system and tactics to have success in the league. Goalies are just too difficult to predict. Far too often you hear stories about goalies almost coming out of nowhere to lead their team to success. An example would be Martin Jones in LA or Viktor Fasth in Anaheim. Both were relative unknowns who have put up some decent numbers playing on well structured teams.

Having said all that, I can appreciate MacTavish making a move that he thinks is best for the team. What I don’t understand is the return he got for Dubnyk. I think a couple other posts put it best: From The Copper and Blue:

Hendricks signed a four-year deal with the Predators as a free agent in July of last year; a deal that comes with an annual cap hit of $1.85M. Oh and he’s 32. In 44 games this season he’s scored two goals and added two assists. His 0.09 points/game this season is well of the areer best of 0.32 that he posted in 2010/11, but if you look at the years in between is probably the type of production that should be expected during his time with the Oilers. The fancy stats don’t put him in a much better light either. His Corsi% this season is 42.3%, lowest among Predators forwards. He has had tough zone starts though, second toughest on the team, but even when you account for that the results are not very good. All signs point to a players who belongs, more often than not, on the fourth line.

From mc79hockey:

It seems to me that there was an obvious alternative: send Dubnyk to Oklahoma City. Sure, it stinks for Dubnyk’s career given that he’s probably looking to drag his save percentage above .900 before he becomes a free agent but then Dubnyk’s career is not the Oilers’ problem. If faced with a choice between what’s best for Dubnyk’s career and what’s best for the Oilers, the decision is simple: do what’s best for the Oilers. The Oilers went another way. At the end of the year he goes. The Oilers get nothing in return but then nothing trumps negative something. There are Hendricks’ available for very little every summer who don’t need four year deals at $1.85MM. The Oilers just ate a ton of risk that Hendricks won’t be able to play in the NHL in a year or two for no apparent reason.

Considering the Oilers used a first round pick to select him and that they spent so much time developing him into a legitimate NHL goalie, it’s hard to understand what problem MacTavish was trying to solve with this trade.

Cutting Room

I find it interesting that MacTavish picked up Ben Scrivens, another goalie who spent time in the LA Kings goalie development system. MacTavish had high praise for Jonathan Quick recently and also pursued Jonathan Bernier in the offseason. Should also note that former Oilers goalie Billy Ranford is one of the goalie coaches in Los Angeles.

It’s getting quite tiresome to constantly hear the Oilers pursuing Alberta born players. Before acquiring Scrivens, who just happens to be from Spruce Grove, Cam Ward, a Sherwood Park resident playing in Carolina, was confirmed to be of interest to the Oilers,