The HockeyNomics’ Verdict on Martin Brodeur

Dobber Sports




As the man with the most wins and the most shutouts in history, Martin Brodeur is often talked about as the best goaltender ever.


But Darcy Norman, author of Hockeynomics, emphatically disagrees.


Norman played at the junior level before heading to the University of Alberta to earn his degree in economics.  A self-professed lover of the game, Norman believes numerical rigor can illuminate the many still-dim corners of the hockey world.   In his book, Hockeynomics: What the Stats Really Reveal, he brings together the views of some of the most successful personalities in sports statistical analysis to answer questions like:


  • Who's good at the draft? (and Hockeytown does not fare as well as you might think)
  • Who will have the better career, Crosby or Ovechkin?
  • Which teams spend wisely?
  • Was Gretzky's 92 goals in 1981-82 the finest goal-scoring performance ever?
  • Is Martin Brodeur overrated?

All of these questions Norman addresses with heavyweight mathematical theory, but his ease with the concepts and his casual writing style keeps the material accessible (and kept my eyes glued to the pages deep into the night).


It is the investigation of this last question concerning Brodeur that I want to share with you, because while many of the arguments in Hockeynomics have fantasy uses, the examination of Brodeur results in two new statistical measures that I think are relevant to goalies and their fantasy owners.  And I'd love to see more of them.


Is Martin Brodeur the Best Goalie Ever?

While most of us agree that save percentage is a better statistical measure of a goalie's ability than goal-against-average (and if you don't, you should), Norman shows us how to take the concept of save percentage even further.


In answering the question of whether Brodeur is history's best goaltender, Norman builds his case around something that many people already believe to be true: while the Devils have been stingy with the quantity of shots surrendered over much of Brodeur’s stellar career, they’ve also been stingy with the quality of shots allowed.


In order to prove this, he introduces the reader to the concepts of Shot Quality Against (SQA) and Shot Quality Neutral Save Percentage (SQNSV).


Slightly scary terms, I know, but hang in there.


SQA begins with calculating the likelihood of scoring on different types of shots (Norman doesn't overwhelm us with the details here, but points out that most of us can appreciate that a slapshot from 10 feet out has a higher likelihood of producing a goal than a weak backh