The ECHL announced its 2015-16 First and Second teams today. As expected, there were no Admirals named to the team. Awards are hard to come by on a team which only found competitiveness once the calendar year turned. I think there is an interesting case study to be had in terms of their goalie selections, as well as Vitek Vanecek winning a spot on the All-Rookie team.
Josh Robinson picked up a spot on the first-team while Jeff Lerg picked up the second-team nod. In many ways, I think these are backwards. Robison’s numbers are spectacular: a 27-1-1 record and a league-leading .930 save percentage. He also leads the league in GAA, which is nice, but generally a team stat. Battery mate Parker Milner’s 2.17 GAA is not so much of a departure from Robinson’s 1.84. The truth is that the league-leading Mavericks are a good enough all-around team to limit the chances for both of their outstanding netminders. GAA should be eliminated, but it’s still the leading stat of choice for the ECHL and AHL.
I’m more impressed with Lerg. The Toledo Walleye netminder appeared in 41 games, facing an average of 29 shots per game. Lerg tied South Carolina’s Mark Dekanich with a .927 save percentage, good for second in the ECHL, and tied for third in the league with three shutouts. Robinson appeared in 30 games this season facing 25.7 shots a game. Lerg played a heavier workload and faced more shots per game. He’s by far more impressive in this race.
Many will point to Robinson’s one-time undefeated streak, and that 27-1-1 record. Win-loss records are team efforts, meaning the team in front of him scored enough goals to win 27 times. Robinson’s season is impressive, sure, but Lerg’s season strikes me as a better definition of “best goalie”. Considering they didn’t play the same amount of games, it’s hard to have a one-to-one comparison.
Some other stories are impressive: Fort Wayne’s Pat Nagle appeared in 51 games this season and posted a league-leading five shutouts; Joel Martin continues to be the only goalie allowed to play for Kalamazoo (and still finish 15th in save percentage). Rookies were also a pretty decent crop.
Vitek Vanecek’s selection to the all-rookie team is once again the result of the praise of GAA over save percentage. Vanecek managed a 2.03 GAA, good for 2nd in the league, but teammate Mark Dekanich put up a 2.10 with a .927 save percentage. Both formed a solid tandem, but the Stingray defense was the key to allowing so few goals. Over the course of the season, Dekanich and Vanecek posted nearly similar numbers. Dekanich has 33 games, an 18-9-2-2 record, and Vanecek 18-7-5-1 in 32 games. Vanecek did post 4 shutouts. However, the near similarity indicates a tight philosophy for the Stingrays which allows both keepers to thrive.
Anthony Peters of the Florida Everblades would have been my choice for the All-Rookie team. Peters isn’t the leading rookie in terms of save percentage-that’s Adirondack’s Ken Appleby-but he did play more than any other rookie. Along the way, Peters did manage 3 shutouts and a 10th place finish in terms of overall save percentage. Florida is currently 4th in the Eastern Conference with their rookie netminder, behind only the Stingrays. Given workload and importance to his team, Peters strikes me as the better choice.
Part of the problem is the lack of available data (and quite possibly interest) at the AHL and ECHL levels. The amount of information at the NHL level has led to some quite important thoughts in the world of hockey in the past decade. Those ideas should naturally carry over to development, but it’s not there yet. Of course, not all arenas are the same and some lack resources. In the age of everyone having a pocket-sized video recorder, there is no review at the ECHL level. Small things like this need to have some sort of uniformity if there is going to be real continuity in development. Right now, there are only the crudest tools to evaluate goaltenders. Some types are going to go straight to the GAA, make up their mind, and not do much else. Thinking like this should change.