If you’re anything like me, sometimes you think about stuff. At times I think it’s important to keep those thoughts to myself - like the time I pondered “exactly how in the heck in the world DO giraffes survive that six foot fall when they’re born?” One thing I can share, though, is the completely stable consideration of “just who is a better goaltender, Pekka Rinne or Barry Trotz?”
Based on such physical attributes as body size and cranial structure, the obvious answer would be “not Barry Trotz”. Not so fast. Pekka Rinne is a massive man, and an equally good goaltender; but is he the best Nashville has ever had? My interest is piqued by the great stats Nashville goaltenders have posted in the last five or six years, yet the turnover rate is extremely high. Until the Rinn-Era, Nashville has been a goalie-graveyard of sorts, if you were step outside the box and compare a goalie replacement program to death. How much better Rinne really is than other notable Nashville ‘tenders, and how much of their successes can be likened to the style of hockey Barry Trotz employs?
Above are career numbers. Take into consideration that Mason has been in the NHL twice as long as the other two, and Vokoun has played more the double the games Mason has. One standout category is shutouts. Rinne has one less shutout than Mason, with 109 less games played and 8 more than Ellis with only 22 more games. While it’s arguable that a shutout is evidence of a better goaltender, it represents an ability to win games without much team support. Both Rinne’s save percentage and goals-against average are at an elite level, while Mason’s and Ellis’ are average. It’s clear that Rinne will surpass Mason’s wins and shutouts, save any unforeseen issue, and that his career numbers are on a trajectory to widen the gap by a fair margin. It’s going to take some work for Rinne to catch Vokoun, but at 28 he’s got lots of time left.
The following table compares the average of recorded goalie stats from years played in Nashville to years played on any other team in the NHL (combined). All averages are taken from regular season play, playoff stats are not included.
Once again, the shutout category stands out. Two shy of Vokoun in half the games played and well clear of Mason and Ellis. Both Rinne’s save percentage and goals-against average are superior to the other three; statistically speaking Rinne is the better goalie of the four. Shifting the focus to Mason and Ellis and comparing their team statistics really highlights the perks of playing in a defensive system. While Mason’s goals-against average is comparable, all other categories for both goaltenders are much improved in Nashville. Any fantasy GM can look to a Trotz coached team for solid and consistent numbers, no matter the goaltender. Now is the best time to own the Nashville starter as Pekka Rinne has proven himself as the best they’ve seen. The fact that Nashville employs one of the best d-man pairings in the NHL must also be considered in Rinne’s success.
Drafted in the same year, in the first and second rounds respectively, both Suter and Weber began their NHL careers with Nashville in 2005-06. It wasn’t until 2008-09 that Rinne would be considered an NHL regular, starting 52 games. By this team Weber and Suter had amassed 390 NHL games between the two of them. In the two years prior to Rinn-Era, Vokoun posted a save percentage of .919 and .920, which were the best of his career up to this point. Weber and Suter had an immediate impact in Nashville, obviously getting better as they acclimated themselves to the rigors of the NHL. Interestingly enough, it’s Vokoun’s numbers that are truly impressive as they continue to improve as he gets older.
The biggest surprise to come out of this is how Vokoun’s numbers have improved after leaving Nashville for Florida, typically considered a weaker team. Vokoun’s save percentage is improved by quite a large margin. This stat could be padded by the fact that he faced an average of 1,975 shots on goal in Florida, while averaging 1,753 shots in Nashville over his last four seasons. Still, the difference between a .912 and a .922 save percentage is enough to make that point moot. His shutouts improved from one in every 16 games to one in every 10 (give or take some hundredths). Without the statistics in front of me, I would have drafted Vokoun in Nashville 10 out of 10 times. Not so much anymore. Owning Rinne in any league is big, apparently owning Vokoun in one-year leagues is almost as good. Consider at what point you have to draft Rinne at in comparison to Vokoun and there’s something to think about.