Martin Brodeur: Most GVT in Devils history. And he's got two more seasons to add to it. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Earlier this past week, I brought up Tom Awad's Goals Versus Threshold (GVT) with respect to Ilya Kovalchuk. It's a wonderfully versatile stat that allows comparison between goaltenders, forwards, and defensemen based on how much they've contributed to their team. GVT is broken up by offensive GVT (or goaltending GVT for goalies), defensive GVT, and shootout GVT. A zero value is replacement level, so ideally you'd want these values to be as high as possible. It's best for judging regular season performance as it's a results-based stat; players who don't play a lot of games will suffer. I used it (and gave a quick overview with links to Awad's original articles for a more in-depth explanation) to show how much Kovalchuk had contributed in 2009-10 to both the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils.
About two weeks ago, Tom Awad posted up a massive all-time GVT spreadsheet at the Behind the Net blog. It covers all NHL players (WHA seasons don't count, apologies to Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull most of all for that) who have played from 1944 to this past season, ranking all of the contributors by total GVT from Wayne Gretzky (541.7, #1) all the way down to former Leafs, Capitals, Oilers, and Devils goaltender Ron Low (-84.4, #6008). Awad normalized everyone's numbers to account for changes in the era of hockey and how much help each player received. It's not a silver bullet of a stat, but it can help you in making an argument in comparing Brett Hull (298.3, #27) to, say, Bobby Hull (296.3, #28).
I figured it'd be interesting to see where the current New Jersey Devils line-up ranked among the rest of the league from Awad's findings based on each player's career. Who ranked among the very best? Who was the worst? Since I'm doing this just for kicks, I also did the same for Devils legends, coaches, and other notable players. If you just want to see how the 2009-10 Devils did in terms of non-normalized GVT, check out this list at Behind the Net.
The point of this post isn't to say who's better; all GVT measures is results, not talent or accomplishments, after all. Just to see how each player's contributions stack up against NHL players of the past. Please set your viewing to 'Wide' before continuing so you can see the whole chart.
Now, I'm sure you'll look at these charts, like Patrik Elias' line for example, and immediately say, "Hey! The sum of all the GVTs don't add up to the total! What gives?" I believe the cause is rounding error. Awad's spreadsheet rounded all the GVT to one decimal position; therefore a few total GVTs are off by 0.1 from the sum of GVTs. Rounding errors also explain why players with the same total GVT are ranked higher or lower than one another.
To provide additional and fun context - as well as an excuse to type the name Bronco Horvath in a post - I've listed the players ranked one ahead of the Devil and one behind of the Devil, with their total GVT in parentheses.
I also took the liberty of calculating the GVT/game rate. Since GVT is a results-oriented stat, players like Zach Parise and Travis Zajac don't have impressive totals since they haven't played as much as Jamie Langenbrunner or Brian Rolston. With GVT/game, I can show that in due time, assuming they can keep up the same level of contributions, they can pass both of them.
As for the Devils Legends & Notables, I decided that somewhat arbitrarily. I've included the retired players, notable coaches (Pat Burns didn't play in the NHL so he's not here), the Devils who did recent work as alumni, Chico, and players that the fanbase may remember fondly for one reason or another. If you want to know about someone else and aren't willing to download the 12MB file yourself, please ask and I'll look it up.
Italicized players are those who didn't play the whole season with the New Jersey organization. My criteria for inclusion was at least 20 career games played. If I missed anyone, please let me know.
Key: GP = games played, O/G GVT = offensive/goalie GVT, D GVT = defensive GVT, S GVT = shootout GVT.
The 2009-10 Devils Forwards by All-Time GVT
Niclas Bergfors has a big asterik because he's actually listed twice on Awad's sheet. First, as Nicklas Bergfors, who played 9 games from 2007-08 and 2008-09; and then as Niclas Bergfors, who had his full rookie season in this past season. I summed up the two listings and he'd rank around 2302 all-time. I could be wrong in my estimation due to rounding issue and I didn't adjust anyone else's rankings because of it.
Patrik Elias is among some esteemed company and with a good 2010-11, he could break a total of 200 GVT. That's really impressive as only 99 players have surpassed 200 GVT since 1944. Rod Gilbert is the gate keeper at 99th overall with a total GVT of 200.6. When or if he does it, he'll become the 11th player to have played at least one game for the Devils to have a total GVT of above 200. He's a legend.
Brian Rolston is a good example of how to get a solid all-time GVT ranking. Be a very good contributor for a long time. If you're elite for a number of years, then you'll be among the very best. Not a bad career for Rolston, even though there's not a lot to like based on recent performances. The same can be said for Jamie Langenbrunner, except there's plenty to like about his recent seasons; not the last few games, mind but overall seasons.
Incidentally, Alex Ovechkin is 215th all-time with a total GVT of 135.1; Sidney Crosby is 285th with a total GVT of 118.0; and Evgeni Malkin is 542nd all-time with a total GVT of 79.5. Of course, all three haven't played all that many games. They will rank far higher when their careers are all said and done. Until then, please use this knowledge to point out that Brian Rolston has still done more in his career for his teams than any of those three. And use it soon, it's not going to last long. Not in Ovechkin's case,at least.
Kovalchuk's combined and normalized defensive GVT is 13.3, further proof that he's not total defensive liability. He did quite well and he's only 27; he's going to shoot up this list barring anything terrible happening to him. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac will only fire up the list too, but they are in pretty good company now. Also, feel free to use this to argue that Zajac's a better contributor than Marc-Andre Fleury.
Dainius Zubrus is poised to surpass the legendary Bronco Horvath next season. Good luck, Dainius.
Among all of the call-ups and fourth-line players, Vladimir Zharkov stands out as the only player to remain above replacement level. All have above-replacement defensive GVT, but offense holds them all down. Andrew Peters was the worst all-time on the Devils, but he can still say he contributed more in his career than Vesa Toskala (-8.1, #5684).
The 2009-10 Devils Defense by All-Time GVT
Notes: Martin Skoula has contributed more in his career than Paul Martin. Seriously, he was quite effective back when he was on the Avalanche. Should the GVT/game rate hold, Martin should surpass Skoula next season though.
Proof you're a defensive defenseman: high defensive GVT values, sub-replacement offensive GVT over your career. Such as it is for Colin White, Bryce Salvador (who's above EA's NHL 94 starting center for the Devils, Alexander Semak), Mike Mottau, and (early as it is) Mark Fraser. Contribute a little offense and it helps that much more, which should be of no surprise since it's called goals versus threshold. Offensive contributions play a big role. Props on White for being at an even 1000th all-time.
The 2009-10 Devils Goaltenders by All-Time GVT
Notes: Yann Danis' low total amount of games obscure this somewhat. Sure, if he can play like this more often, he'd be much higher. But the fact he hasn't been getting so many games is a little telling as to whether he can do this more often.
Martin Brodeur is the highest ranking New Jersey Devil on this list. Only 26 players on this list broke 300 GVT, and Brodeur's going to have two more seasons (at least) to push himself further up. He's also the second highest contributor of GVT among all active NHL players, with Nicklas Lidstrom just outside of the top 10 (355.1, #11, between the Esposito brothers). Brodeur is also 7th among all NHL players who have played their entire careers with one team.
Brodeur is the sixth highest goaltender in terms of all-time GVT. The netminders ahead of them with their total GVT and rank: Glenn Hall (344.1, #16); Tony Esposito (354.5, #12); Jacques Plante (361.8, #9); Dominik Hasek (425.6, #5); and Patrick Roy (433.7, #4). As a Devils fan, I was shocked to see Hasek and Roy that much higher, stunned that there is a statistical way that shows Brodeur to be seriously behind those two. Yet, after thinking about it for a bit, I am not upset in saying they are better than Brodeur because they are among the top 5 players in NHL history. I don't think that detracts from the impressive value Brodeur's contributions.
By the way, if he has two good seasons, he may catch Hall and with some great seasons, possibly Esposito. No shame in being the all-time 6th best goaltender by contributions, though. Brodeur's a legend.
Devils Legends & Notable Players by All-Time GVT
Now here comes some fun:
Notes: Not one single player who was totally below replacement level, including Rob Skrlac. The only sub-replacement non-shootout GVTs were Ken Daneyko's offensive GVT and Jacques Caron's defensive GVT.
I included Scott Niedermayer on the list since he's pretty much a sure-fire Hall of Famer at this point and he had much of his career in New Jersey. His total GVT is fantastic and second-only to the mighty Scott Stevens, who has the highest total GVT among all Devils skaters. Brendan Shanahan came ever so close, though.
Let me offer another admission of error. I personally felt Stevens was better than Ray Bourque. Per GVT, Bourque was not only superior to Stevens throughout his career but finished with the third highest total GVT of all time with 492.4. Bourque's defensive GVT was 209.9, the highest all-time and way higher than Steven's already impressive 175.6. Bourque wasn't just consistent or great, he was consistently elite from 1979 to 2001. Looks like that was nothing more than emotion. Will I still say it? Probably, but with knowledge that it's not necessarily true.
Among all of the past cup-winning coaches and assistants, Larry Robinson stands out the most as he led Montreal's blueline for close to 18 seasons. Jacques Lemaire follows up just outside of the top 100 all-time; Bruce McCurdy of the Copper & Blue had this excellent profile on Lemaire as a player, further showing how good he was. Again, Pat Burns didn't play so he's not here. Among the assistants, well, Stevens is at the top though he's new. Among the others, John MacLean leads over Tommy "Scott Swedens" Albelin, "T-Bone" Chris Terreri, and Jacques Caron.
I'm pretty impressed that most of this list is among the top 1000 contributors in NHL history, from Robinson (of course) to even a utility forward like Sergei "Sarge" Brylin and an offensive liability (his offensive GVT was only above replacement for three seasons) in Daneyko, who can claim a means of supremacy over Harold Snepsts if he wanted.
Why is Don Lever on this list? Well, he only scored the first goal in New Jersey Devils history. Admittedly, he was a bigger contributor as a Vancouver Canuck. Still, he ended up pretty high on the list, which reminds me. Congratulations to Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green for surpassing Lever's contributions in this past season. Keep at it and you'll be passing Bruce Driver in a few years.
Speaking of 80s Devils, Pat Verbeek had a very good career, as did Kirk Muller. Also, moving to the 90s, here's proof that Claude Lemieux was a very good player outside of wrecking opponents in the finals and constantly irritating them. Speaking of irritation, Bobby Holik ranked higher than Wendel Clark and just below Bernie Federko despite his own contributions declining after signing with the Rangers. If only he stayed a Devil, he'd be better regarded as a player - especially in NY and Atlanta. Ah, well, he'll sleep just fine on his giant pile of money given to him by James Dolan.
Lastly, check out Chico! Evidence he was better than Rogie Vachon in one way. I hope someone at the Devils or MSG picks up on this and let's Chico know. Granted, a lot of it was boosted by playing on those dynasty Islander teams, but it's a results-based stat and, well, Chico got results like he gets hot dogs today - plenty and often.
Well, What Do You Think?
All of this was just for a fun perspective on how the individual Devils have done in their career. What do you make of the findings? Which Devils surprised you the most? Who do you think will continue to be big contributors to the Devils (or some other team) in the future? Is there any other Devil you want to see? Let me know in the comments.
Huge thanks to Tom Awad for putting the list together of all-time GVT since 1944 and making it available for public consumption. Please read Tom Awad regularly at Puck Prospectus and go download the spreadsheet for your own curiosity here. See how the seasons broke down by GVT for the players. Get a better sense how good Ray Bourque was for his 22 seasons. Raise an eyebrow at how high John Vanbiesbrouck ranked all-time. Enjoy it as much as I have.