Lowetide likes to measure team success in pennants rather than Cups. Considering the amount of luck involved in a winning a Cup, there's not much less accomplishment in winning a Conference title, or in baseball parlance, a pennant. From Lowetide:
Before expansion in 1967, there were only 6 teams so getting your name on the Stanley was a lot easier than it is now with 30 teams. I'm not saying it was easy, but from 1928-1967 there are extremely few Norm Ullmans (guys who had terrific, borderline HOF careers without winning the Stanley) and since then there are several Norm Ullmans retiring each season.
There are also certain players who have been traded to heavy Cup favorites for the sole purpose of winning a Cup to complete their legacy, and even more ridiculous, one of them has his sweater retired for a single year of play. But that's a rant for another day.
I like to look at the final four, especially as it pertains to individual accomplishment. There remain very good players who were perhaps great in their prime that never made a Cup final because beating out fifteen teams is not an easy task. Curtis Joseph made two conference finals, but never a Cup final, and his best goaltending was probably wasted on first-round miracles in Edmonton. Last year, I looked at save percentages and rankings of final four goaltenders in each year since the lockout and compared their save percentage in season as well as since the lockout with how they did in the playoffs. The list has been updated, with Jaroslav Halak breaking a very important trend.
The number at the left is the individual save percentage rank in the NHL that season for qualifying goalies. In this case a "qualifying season" is one in which the goaltender played in 25 regular season games or more. In 05-06 there were 47 qualifying goalies, in 06-07 there were 44, 07-08 there were 44, in 08-09 there were 56 and the number of qualifiers in 09-10 was 47. The number to the right is the individual save percentage rank in the NHL since the lockout based on qualified goalies with more than a single season. There are 61 such goalies since 05-06.
|Yr. Rank||2005-2006||Ovr. Rank|
Last year, I was able to say:
One thing you may notice that something is missing from the numbers in the right-hand column - values that are 10 and under. None of the post-lockout top 10 save percentage goalies have played for a pennant.
But now, Ryan Miller's stellar season actually pushed him into the top ten after the fact, and Jaroslav Halak's small sample size has him squarely in the top ten. Is Halak the exception to the rule, or will his hot streak come to an end as his save percentage eases down the list?
Except for Miller who, again, climbed the ladder this year with a marvelous season, the goaltenders on this list significantly outperformed their overall number for a single season. Marc-Andre Fleury has been average over the last five years, but his 2007-2008 season was an incredible aberration.
Signing a goalie to a massive contract and expecting consistent top ten numbers and playoff stability isn't wise. The goaltenders above generally played well above their careeer rates for a single season. The key, it seems, is building a strong foundation for a team (except for Montreal) and catching lightning in a bottle in goal.