We've all been a little preoccupied with this silly little thing called a first round series (is that still going on? it is?!), but when the Vezina finalists were announced on Wednesday, there was a glaring omission. I don't need to tell you that Tuukka Rask was snubbed. I'm going to, but I don't need to.
Rask got screwed. And that's just fine.
Con - The Shaft
Apparently, this was the NHL's GMs to one of the league's undisputed top goaltenders:
Let's take a quick look at how Rask stacks up against the guys that are supposedly more worthy:
(for more please see Robert Vollman's OBSCENELY detailed year-end statstaveganza spreadsheet, goalie edition. He's collected everything, so you don't have to hand tally QS% anymore!)
Rask's number two league-wide in SV%, two in ESSV% and the most consistent starting goalie in the entire league by the off the charts Quality Start percentage, as we've covered before. But he's number four+ in the eyes of NHL GMs, who evidently value Wins as a goaltending stat above the netminder's actual measurable contribution. It's pretty evident from the above that Rask belongs and Niemi does not. There are six goalies ahead of Niemi with at least 30 games played with a higher SV and ESSV. The guy had a good season, but San Jose's lack of a competent backup and need to run their starter ragged isn't reason enough for his inclusion.
Look, Bob deserves to win this, and I won't argue that Rask is snubbed for the prize itself. Just hand it to Bob now. While defense-independent goaltending stats aren't being collected - and are of dubious value given their basis in the even more flawed shot quality - we can read into the statistical tea leaves based on possession that Bob had it worse than any of his compatriots in terms of support. He had the worst FenClose team in the bunch by a country mile and was tasked with holding them in it while getting overwhelmingly outshot. As a result of his efforts, his team held the 5th best GA/60 in Close situations, with Boston just .01 ahead. He ran neck and neck with Rask all year while playing for a team that couldn't drive play at all. Color me impressed.
(sidenote: for all the kvetching late in the season about this team pissing away leads, Boston was the fourth lowest GA/60 at close and held the league's second best goal differential/60 at Close. Choke artists, the lot)
Pro - The Deal
With that out of the way, why in hell would it be good that a player get shafted?
First and most importantly is that his renewal negotiation just lost one bargaining chip. I'm not daft enough to suggest that Bill Zito can't just point to the gaudy flashing numbers to make his case, but the absence of a nomination past or present is nothing but a positive for Peter Chiarelli. Looking back between lockouts at the cap-era finalists, there were a number of renewals that took place after the nomination, in the off-season following, or when the nom was all but in the bag, all costing teams a pretty penny. Comparable deals for non-award-contenders were exceedingly rare.
Pekka Rinne signed at $7.7m following his nomination, good for 11.7% of that year's cap. Backstrom at 6m mid-season (10.6%). Lundqvist after two years of nominations and at least one snub for the trophy itself came in at 6 (13%). Brodeur re-upped at 5.2m over 6 years en route to a totally undeserving nod ala Niemi (13%).
Jonathan Quick's recent renewal, while also coming off the back of a bigger prize, came in at 9%. As the last of the cap-circumventing long-tail deals, the wisdom of the epic never-ending term is looking awfully questionable in light of his below-league-average performance. Tim Thomas, whose age represented a serious question mark at the time, signed at 8.8% of the then-cap.
I omit Miller, Bryz, Luongo and Kiprusoff as their deals fell to far from their nomination to be considered an eminent factor, but their next contracts were 11%, 9.4%, 13.3% and 11% hits respectively.
Overall, barring circumvention or age, 11-13% of the cap looks like par for the course, which is to say the upper echelon of goaltender pay. If you're recognized as the best you're getting paid as the best, typically overtaking the established highest paid prior to the signing. At the low end for next year, that's a cool 7.1m for a nominated goalie - the top hit for a 2013-14 netminder.
Granted, there are never-nominated guys like Ward (10.6%), Price (10.1%) and Fleury (8.8%) who carry fairly massive deals independent of recognition, so it is possible Rask can land a serious re-up without the kudos, but the guys with eye-popping price tags that haven't been knighted by the NHL's GMs are few and far between and none hit above 11% of cap. Lehtonen and Howard are the newest entries to this above-5m list and have probably set the market following the latest lockout. If so, their 8-9% hits are far more palatable. Arm yourself with these comps Chia, and let Kekalainen worry about the consequences of awards.
Pro - The Motivation
Rask like his predecessor is a competitive fellow, as milkcrates the world over can attest.
He's presently beating his .929 in-season figure in these playoffs and as Joe Meloni covered on Thursday is one of the key reasons the Bruins possess the series lead. Evident again last night, Rask's playing at the top of his game and keeping the Bruins in games they've no business being in and giving them the time for the sleeping pills to wear off mid-game.Whether or not the Vezina snub is in the back of his mind as he plays like a world beater, he's not going to take being passed over lightly. There's still two shiny things on the horizon for Rask, and while attaining either will likely invalidate pro #1, we call that an uptown problem.
Pro - The Competition
Last but not least, lets consider the big picture. What we can glean from the voting body's failure to include the second best goaltending performance in the league is that the NHL's GMs are subject to the same biases as media and fans. Rask's absence from the list is a fantastic thing for Peter Chiarelli's future wheelings and dealings, as well as for simply sitting back and reaping the benefits of his competitors' mismanagement. His fellow GMs' collective disdain for objectivity and willingness to value the wrong aspects in their player evaluations allays any fears that the shrewder, money-puck friendly managers out there aren't becoming the norm. If a player like Rask can fly under the radar as an undervalued asset relative to his performance, then there's always a competitive advantage to be had.
Bruins fans should be thanking the NHL's GMs for their oversight: a cheaper, more fired up Rask and incontrovertible proof that the league's front offices are full of dolts. Huzzah!