Another day, another analysis of just why the Pittsburgh Penguins haven't given Marc-Andre Fleury a contract extension. He's barely outperforming his backup goalies.Jonathan Willis has the piece and it's worth the read, boiling down to:
In summary, for seven best years of his career, Fleury has been backed-up by a goalie of some note for just one season, otherwise it’s been a career backup who played his way out of the league and a trio of AHL-calibre goalies. With the exception of Vokoun, it’s a group that any bona fide NHL No. 1 goaltender should trash in a head-to-head comparison. Except Fleury doesn’t. In fact, he actually comes in a little south of the group of five we’ve mentioned when we look at even-strength save percentage.
The stats are what they are, but let's also take a look at the backups. Ty Conklin had a shot-out-the-dark, career year in 2007-08. Likewise, Brent Johnson was very good in his first two years in Pittsburgh (before being very bad in his final year) and Tomas Vokoun was a stud. Even Jeff Zatkoff was fairly respectable in his first NHL year. Other than one year of a blah Dany Sabourin, Fleury's had some pretty good seasons from his backups.
Also, it would be interesting to see what the competition level was. As Pensburgh reader @BoxcarTrav412 pointed out on the twitters, Fleury is going to be the guy to see the toughest and best teams. A quick looking at Zatkoff's 20 appearances last year saw him get 10 non-playoff teams. Further, he only played 2 games against a team that made out of the first round. This team was the LA Kings, the eventual Stanley Cup champion, and a team that Zatkoff probably mostly played as a "revenge" game since he was in their system previously.
Further, even strength save % is only one piece of being a good goalie. A very large piece of it, but not all. Willis' article offers no evidence to compare Fleury vs. his backups other-than even strength- which may not carry a ton of weight, but certainly would illustrate a big difference between a starting caliber goalie and even a backup having a good season.
That said, the evidence is very interesting. It's not terribly surprising if you've been paying attention- Fleury is usually about middle of the road in save %, and he's had some backups have some pretty good years. Maybe they're helped a little with favorable matchups along the way too.
In total, it's just another statistical analysis based on save percentage, which usually means that Marc-Andre Fleury isn't going to end up looking that good. In a contract year, there's a lot on the line for him and the Penguins moving forward as they try to determine how to get a high level of play out of a goaltender.