ESPN: Pav not top-25, Jets Fans: We know

Photo by clydeorama

ESPN published their top-25 goaltenders in the NHL today with some notable tenders left off the list. While all of M.A. Fluery, Thomas Vokoun, and Semyon "I cost a 1st and 2nd round pick" Varlamov could be considered uncomfortable absences for their teams, it was the slight to Ondrej Pavelec that sent the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen to talk to coach Claude Noel


What does the organization say?

Those with a long memory (or who obsessed about hockey all summer) will remember Kevin Cheveldayoff saying Pav had his ‘best games in front of him’ in his end-of-year press conference. He also said that Pavelec liked his heavy workload (most starts in the league last year), despite the not-so-young-anymore goalie posting an average save percentage of .877 in the second game of the six back-to-back’s he played. It seemed the organization was going to stand behind Pav as the goalie of the indeterminate future.

Claude Noel was more candid today when asked about Pavelec not being included in ESPN’s top-25 list. From Friesen’s article linked above:

“Judging from his numbers, it’s probably fair,” Noel said. “Until those numbers change, players get ranked a lot of times according to numbers, and it’s probably fair.” 

Just how fair is it?

Ranked 34th in save percentage last year (min. 25 games over 82, pro-rated to 15) and 37th in average goals against, he was not a starter-quality netminder. So we’re left with a series of questions with mostly disappointing answers.

Pav’s stats:


  • GAA: 2.80
  • EV Sv%: .914
  • Total Sv%: .905


  • GAA: 2.91
  • EV Sv%: .917
  • Total Sv%: .906

We start with Bruce Peter’s work last year over at Eyes on the Prize to determine average save percentage for goalies by role – starter, platoon, backup, and replacement. His latest numbers are for the 2011/12 season, when the average save percentage in the league was .914. For that year, a starter averaged .924 at even strength, and .917 overall. Pavelec’s 2011/12 stats fit with the backups (if we’re generous), who averaged .917 at evens, and .910 overall. For interest sake, call-up (or replacement) goalies averaged a .903 total save percentage that year, just a few points shy of Pavelec. 

As we consider the most recent season’s performance, one thing we can keep in mind is that the team didn’t recognize Pav was struggling in back-to-backs. If we take those six games out of his 2013 season, his overall save % swells to .912 – a platoon quality performance. So while Noel’s chosen back-pedal today was to put the emphasis on team play, in fact Noel himself has to wear some of the blame for Pav’s abysmal season.

Regardless, save percentage isn’t the only way to measure goalies – there has to be a way to consider Pavelec’s big-game ability, right?

Cam Charron offered a unique take on Pavelec here on Jets Nation in 2012, looking at the stat by Hockey Prospectus called ‘Quality Starts’ and Thomas Drance’s own ‘Blow Ups’ to compare Pavelec to replacement level goalies. Check out the article for precise definitions, but in broad strokes, they are what they sound like. A Quality Start is a solid performance, and a Blow Up is… well, what example should we use? 8-3 vs Lightning? 10-1 combined score in back-to-back games against Washington? The point is, we’ve seen a few and know the story. Charron’s conclusion was that Pavelec tied replacement level goalies with a 58% rate of Quality Starts, but had a blow-rate quite a bit above average at 16%. A good goal tender might have a Blow Up rate of 10-12%, and the call-ups averaged just 14.5%. That’s a whole extra start in which Pavelec’s play cost his team a chance at a win.


Perhaps that wasn’t the big-game goalie we wanted…

Still, there is one way in which Pavelec is a top-25 goaltender – he’s tied for 20th in average salary.

  • Robert Cleave

    Sure, we know. Arctic Ice knows. Cam knows. Other teams’ more lucid fans know. I did notice, though, that until today the paid Winnipeg media still seemed really reluctant to go down that road, and I have a cynical suspicion that the rest of the media, the rights-holders in particular, might just try to gloss this over as the musings of out of towners that don’t really understand Ondrej’s Sisyphean burden.

    It’s a bit sad, really. If the local press spent half the energy on examining Pavs’ actual performance that they’ve spent chasing non-stories about Evander Kane’s Tweeting habits, or Dustin Byfuglien’s fat, or the sins of History’s Greatest Monster™ , Alex Burmistrov, it wouldn’t have taken ESPN to get this subject on the front burner.

    • Kevin McCartney

      Completely agree, Robert. There are a bundle of issues the MSM seems to have in evaluating this guy, from ‘consistency’ theories all the way to risking their access by reporting that he’s statistically worse than Steve Mason and Jason LaBarbera.

      I do hope it moves to the front burner, though. Simple math tells us a league average starter gives up 14 (!!!) fewer goals last (shortened) season than Pav.

  • Travis Hrubeniuk

    I think the comments from Coach Noel may reflect the thoughts of TNSE. He needs to be better.

    The Jets still have buyout options, and there will be other goalies available at the end of the year. I may be simply over reaching with hope here, but unless Pav pulls something out of his butt and improves, he may not be here too much longer.

    I hope.

  • Kevin McCartney

    I don’t think the Jets will excercise a buyout option regardless of Pav’s performance. They were too cheap to buy out the collosal failure that Jokinen was last season.

    He’ll make some exciting diving saves…because he is way out of position. And he’ll the throw a puck into his own net that is shot from the goal line. We are stuck with this guy for the long term.

    • Travis Hrubeniuk

      The main difference between Buying out Jokinen and Pavelec is term. Jokinen is gone regardless after this year, whereas Pavelec is here until 2017 unless something is done. Throw in the fact that the Jets really don’t have a replacement for Jokinen until they figure out if Scheif is good to go and the lack of depth otherwise at center, and it would be a huge waste of money to buy him out. Might as well have him here in the meantime.

  • Travis Hrubeniuk

    I hope I’m wrong but I think we will have Pav in net through the duration of his contract. I doubt that he will improve much in that time…it’s his positional play that is suspect. He was signed long term based on potential…not performance.

  • Kevin McCartney

    I think the team won’t move Pav out of the net for less than Hellebuyck or Comrie stealing his job. It’s good losses after bad with this group.

    That said, the other catalyst of change would be a new coach or GM. We’re still not clear on whether this team is ‘re-building’ or ‘re-tooling,’ so perhaps everyone stays regardless of the final standings. But a miserable season could spell the end of the ‘potential’ players who have hit their mid-twenties on a roster than doesn’t even make the playoffs. (I’m thinking Pav, Postma, Pasquale… really all the P’s).