Thursday, November 11, 2010

Better Lucky Than Good

Warning: This entry is very hockey puckish.

The last five Stanley Cup winning goaltenders were: Anti Niemi, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastion Giguerre, and Cam Ward. What do all these goalies have in common? None of them are considered one of the great goalies in the NHL. Maybe some might say Cam Ward is a top ten goalie, but not better than Roberto Luongo of the Canucks of Vancouver.

When I say that Roberto Luongo is overrated, I don't mean it in the sense that he's not as good as people think (although with the difficulty in judging a goalie that may also be true - see this link: ). What I mean is that his value to the Canucks is overrated. Commentators seem to think you need a great goalie to win the Stanley Cup, but that clearly isn't the case. Then you'll hear you need a hot goalie to win the cup, but these 'hot' goalies aren't necessarily the best goalies. So why waste your money on a premium goalie? Just make sure you don't have a bad one.

Bottom line is I'm tired of hearing how Luongo is the difference maker. If the Canucks win the cup it will be because they play solid defensively and have enough offensive talent to beat a hot goaltender. And Luongo will have to play well enough not to lose games for them. Even Marc-Andre Fluery can do that.


  1. Remember "King" Richard Broduer? xelA

  2. Luck, indeed. I've long felt that hockey is more luck than skill. That is, a high percentage of goals are come from players just shooting it as hard as they can toward the goaltender or a crowd of players and hoping the puck ricochets in. Only a small percentage of goals are what I'd describe as skill goals.

  3. Guy, while this was certainly the case in the early part of the 70s, when the Broad St. Bullies ruled the ice, I don't think that describes the way of things today. Goalies are simply too big nowadays, and fill way more of the net than they used to, for the shoot and pray tactic to payoff much. Plus, with the influx of European players in the NHL that began in the mid-70s and really took off in the 90s with the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the talent level has risen considerably. With that, I am seeing a lot more goals that I would consider the result of skill rather than luck.

    Here's a sampling of highlights from last night. Acknowledging that these are highlights, and tend to honour the highlight worthy goals, I mostly chose games where there weren't many goals scored, so the highlight package has to show most if not all of the goals scored in the game, I think you can agree that there are not too many flukes in this collection:

  4. Oh, and I concur re: the overemphasis on the goalie's importance. As I said above, most goalies are (with the help of the equipment, however ineffectively regulated it may be) much larger now than ever before, filling so much of the net, that despite all of the skill level evident in the NHL these days, it is a real challenge to put the puck in the net against "average" goalies. Which is to say that the diff between an excellent and a mediocre goalie may make a difference over the long haul of an 82 game season, but in the much shorter playoff run may be considerably less evident.

  5. In order of your clips:

    a. Just a hard slap shot from the blue line. Shoot as hard as you can and hope it gets past. It did. Bogus.

    b. Also looked like a shoot-it-hard-at-the-net-type goal. Bogus.

    c. First legit goal off a pass. The goalie was out of position and the guy got the pin-point pass and scored before the goalie could get back.

    a. Nice pass but the guy just shot it hard at the net. Bogus.

    b. Hard to tell (granted, most of them are hard to tell because I can't see the puck) but it looked like a nice pass followed by just a hard shot at the net. Bogus.

    c. Hard shot. Bogus.

    d. Empty net. Bogus.

    a. Crowd in front of the net. Bogus.

    b. Hustle play but the guy did flip it over the goalie so that took some aim. Legit.

    c. Deflection. Bogus.

    a. Good puck control but ultimately just a hard shot at net with a bunch of guys in front. Bogus.

    b. Nice pass but just a hard shot on goal. No skill. Bogus.

    c. Shoot-out. Good move. Legit.

    So there you go. And for the record, I never saw the Broad St. Bullies.

    Can you follow the puck? The American networks were ridiculed for that experiment make the puck have a tail, but I thought it worthwhile.

    But the big question is, Jack's last post was Nov. 11. What gives? It's the 25th already. I fear he's not going to get to 52 posts by year's end. Quitter.

  6. I have nothing interesting to say about hockey, but I will chime in with Guy regarding the frequency of the posts. How many have there been this year (I'm too lazy to count them)? I'm not sure, but it seems as though 52 is a long way off...GO LITTLE JACKIE SHOWERS, GO!

  7. Being able to shoot the puck hard and accurately is not a bogus skill, Guy. It is as integral as being able to skate quickly and move nimbly.

  8. For the record, Little Jackie Showers has already admitted defeat on his goal of 52 posts for the year. A while back I said it was more likely to be 40.

  9. Having been at last night's Canuck's game, and having spent the last two years learning to play hockey (and only now being able to raise the puck a a teeny bit on a shot), I have to say that there is a great deal of skill involved.

    The puck control of the Sedins, for example, is incredible These guys are not just whacking the puck around and hoping for the best. Sure, sometimes luck is involved like in any sport (even basketball! sacrilege!!)

    A lot of offense in hockey is shooting the puck to create rebounds, so not every shot needs to be precise with the intention of scoring. I would also say that being the big guy in the slot deflecting a hard shot from the blue line is also a skill. I spent quite a bit of time learning how to properly do deflections at hockey camp last summer. To do it well you have to understand angles, you have to have good positioning in front of the net...

    And let's not forget that all this happens on skates. Learning to play hockey has been one of the hardest things I've ever done, but probably the most satisfying thing I've done in years.

    Amen. It's the best game you can name.

  10. I agree with Sue. It's extremely hard for a 40+-year-old woman to learn to play hockey. And also that a lot of (i.e. way too much) offense in hockey is shooting the puck to create rebounds (i.e. bogus).

    And Dan, that's what I mean. It may take skill to shoot the puck hard, but what I'm getting at is they're not aiming for a particular gap they see and putting it through when they're taking a slap shot from 30 feet away. They're aiming at the net or one of the quadrants. Whether it goes in or not is up to the gods.

  11. So I am struggling to see why you say that this is bogus, Guy.

    It is impossible to know exactly what a shooter is trying to do with each shot, but it is probably highly situational. If the goalie has the angle covered and/or has come out of his crease, the shooter may indeed be shooting to create a rebound, or firing on a wing a prayer that the puck finds a whole in the goalie's defense. However, if the goalie has left an opening, either by not covering the angle well, or by staying back in his net, then I'd argue that it often takes great skill to hit the opening. And that there is a reason that there are only a few 50 goal scorers every year: scoring a goal in the NHL is a very difficult task, and one that requires great skill.

  12. I'm just not explaining it well. No question it's hard to score goals. That doesn't make it a skill (for most goals, anyway). If you're shooting just so it'll bounce off the goalie to your teammate, that's not a lot of offensive prowess on display. And if in that shot to create rebound, it somehow manages to scoot through a hole the goalie created by mistake, that's not skill, either. It's fluke. And don't get me wrong: I'm not saying all goals are like this; just the majority. The beautiful goals where a skater dekes out the goalie and lifts the puck into a gap he created really is a thing of beauty. It's also really rare. Most goals are grind-em-outs.
    It's not really meant as a value judgment; just an observation. It's no reason not to like or dislike the game.

  13. If it isn't a value judgment, I reckon you oughta avoid words like "bogus" then.

    And I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I see a lot more skill than you do on those goals that you dismiss as flukes.

  14. "Bogus" is just to get a reaction. Mission accomplished. ... Okay, and I honestly believe they're bogus. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the sport.

  15. Further to my last sentence, a sport doesn't need to be difficult to be compelling. Sure, the best pros are able to do things way better than non-pros, but that doesn't make what they do inherently difficult. And we don't choose what we like based on degree of difficulty. How many people are big diving fans? Or high jump fans? We can enjoy a little league or t-ball game just as much as a major league game because the opponents are relatively equal. I don't like basketball because I think it's hard to do; I just like it for whatever reason it hits me. And I wouldn't defend it by using that argument. I just like it because I like it. And you probably like hockey just because you like it. Why do we like certain things and not others? Who knows.

  16. What Guy said above is, oh shit I'm gonna agree with him again, Jack must be really worried! I've watched, and played, soccer my whole life and still love the " beautiful game ". But I also like watching hockey, and can appreciate the game, yet I can't even skate! I have never watched a baseball game on TV, yet have enjoyed many baseball games live, here and in Seattle. Same with basketball, when the Grizzlies were in Vancouver.I think it's good to like things and not know why? Cheers, xelA.