During a recent Twitter
war discussion about the Golden Knights’ 2017-18 roster, a comment was made stating something to the effect of “there won’t be many blowouts with Fleury between the pipes.” Immediately the skeptical writer portion of my brain fired off wondering, is that accurate? So here we are now.
It should come as no surprise that Marc-Andre Fleury has been one of hockey’s best goalies over the first 13 years of his career, but it should also not knock your socks off to hear that he’s not the player he once was and there’s a reason the Penguins were willing to part with a 2nd round pick in 2020 for the Golden Knights to select Fleury rather than Ian Cole, Bryan Rust, or anyone else they left unprotected.
From the 2010-2011 season to the 2015-16 season, Fleury’s goals against average (GAA) was 2.34. In 2016-17 it was 3.02. Over the same span, he recorded 27 shutouts in 343 starts. Last year, he had one.
It’s possible it was simply just a down year for a guy who was in a weird situation as the backup to a 23-year-old who stole his job and his 2nd Cup. He also started just 34 games, his lowest (by more than 20) in any non-shortened season since 2007-08 when he was 23-years-old himself.
There’s something to be said about rhythm, flow, and consistency for a goalie, and it’s something he’ll likely get a bit more of in Vegas, but last year was a significant decline for Fleury, and if he plays like that again, Calvin Pickard‘s start numbers are going to increase quickly.
Back to the blowouts thing. I like charts, so here’s another chart.
|Season||Lose by 5+||Lose by 4||Lose by 3||Lose by 1 or 2||Win|
As you can see, it’s kind of going to depend on how you define a blowout as to how you can answer the question. If losing by 3 is a blowout, then get ready for some blowouts. But if losing by 5 is the only way for a game to be considered out of hand, then we’re in good hands with the Flower.
By comparison, the Colorado Avalanche, who went 22-56-4 (48 points), finished in last place by over 20 points, and had a goal differential of -112, lost games by three 14 times, by four 8 times, and by five or more 4 times.
The Golden Knights roster is a lot closer to the Avs than it is to the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Penguins, but with Fleury in net, it seems we should be safe expecting games between one and three goals rather than four and five… or nine like Colorado experienced last year.
There’s a really good advanced stat called Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) that is probably the best indicator of Fleury’s decline in 2016-17, but we shall save that for an Advanced Stats For VGK Dummies article. So hang tight, it’s coming, and for the baseball fans, it’s WAR for goalies, gotta love that.