Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Anton Stralman And Save Percentage

In the aftermath of New Jersey's perplexing Colin White buyout, I decided to browse around for possible free agent 'replacements'. Usually if I want to find out about a player, I'll use this helpful Behind The Net link: Anton Stralman . It gives the basic rundown of a player at even strength - Corsi QoC, Corsi QoT, Corsi Rel, Zone Start, all of that fun stuff. It's not the full picture by any stretch, but it's at least an outline. Stralman is one of the few legitimate NHL defenders left on the free agent market. However, something about his numbers caught my eye - here's his team's save percentage while he was on the ice at even strength over the last 4 years, according to Behind The Net:

2007-08: .900
2008-09: .892
2009-10: .903
2010-11: .907

That's four years in the NHL, and he has not even come remotely close to having a league-average save percentage on (League average is about .920). He's played 212 games over that time. Could Anton Stralman be negatively affecting his team's save percentage? I hesitate to make this claim, but still - four years and no seasons are close to average.

Stralman has played for the Leafs and Blue Jackets, two teams who have not exactly gotten stellar goaltending over his time there. So I thought - perhaps Stralman himself is partly responsible for this 'poor goaltending'. If Stralman suppresses his own goalie's save percentage, maybe he's bringing it down from league average or so to, well, worse than that. It's an accepted maxim in the hockey numbers community that save percentage is largely independent of team play, but perhaps that's not so. Using a sample size of one won't make this argument ironclad, but it might introduce some skepticism towards a long-held belief.

To study whether or not Anton Stralman could be negatively affecting his team's save percentage, I fired up some trusty Time on Ice scripts (courtesy of Vic Ferrari). The first thing I found is that, as usual, Time On Ice and Behind The Net do not exactly agree - here's Stralman's on-ice save percentage according to TOI:

2007-08: .900
2008-09: .893
2009-10: .908
2010-11: .915

These are not insignificant differences, and can likely be chalked up to the fact that A: TOI counts 4 on 4 situations whereas BTN does not, and B: TOI doesn't count empty net situations whereas I *think* BTN does. Already our thesis is looking shaky, with that .915 save percentage there. Here's a look at save percentage when Stralman is on the ice, versus when he's off the ice:

So, there you have it. His first two seasons, he's negative, and in his second two seasons, save percentage is higher when he's on the ice. Thus it's difficult to conclude that Stralman is suppressing save percentage. Why he hasn't yet found an NHL home, I'm not sure, but it appears that he could be a reasonable third-pairing option who can play on the power play.

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