The Detroit Red Wings are one of the most successful teams in the league. No general manager, in fact, has had as much success with his current team as Red Wings G.M. Ken Holland. This has prompted a lot of talk about the “Detroit model” and how to imitate it – a concept that generally pops up in articles where the reporter explains that the team he covers employs a brain trust and isn’t a one man show. Sometimes these references can be hilarious with just a little bit of hindsight.
Of course, it’s difficult to pin down an exact model for what Holland does in Detroit, but since the lockout he has consistently done at least one obvious thing, year after year: he’s spent next to nothing on his goaltenders. Chris Osgood, Jim Howard, Dominik Hasek and Ty Conklin all had one thing in common – they were not highly paid. Hasek came closest, but even he had a meagre base salary along with bonuses that kicked in, a contract designed to protect the Wings from his age and health while possibly giving them elite-level goaltending in the playoffs.
The other players on that list were all 1B goaltenders or thereabouts at the beginning of the seasons where they played significant games.
By and large, however, this is not a pattern that other NHL teams (with the exception of Philadelphia) choose to follow. “Build from the net out” is an oft-repeated maxim, and one NHL general managers as a group follow with gusto. Unfortunately, goaltender performance can be difficult to assess, and often we see name goaltenders overpaid in the summer; players like Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin become prize free agent acquisitions at hefty prices because they’re big-name goaltenders, often despite much in the way of recent achievement.
Marty Turco, likely to be cast loose by the Dallas Stars, would seem to be the logical candidate to follow in their footsteps.
He’s a “name” goaltender; he’s been a starter in each of the last seven seasons, he’s been the best thing about the Stars in their last two playoffs, and back in 2002-03 he looked a lot like an elite goaltender. When looking at free agent goaltenders this summer, his is invariably one of the first names that pops up.
But how good has he been, really?
This last season, Turco posted a 0.913 save percentage – his best performance since that 0.932 save percentage in 2002-03. That performance ranked him 18th among NHL starters and 19th among goaltenders with 25+ games. Here’s where Turco’s performance has ranked him against other NHL goaltenders, since the NHL lockout:
|Season||Save Percentage||Rank (41+ GP)||Rank (25+ GP)|
When I look at that chart, one item in particular stands out for me – not once since the NHL lockout has Turco been an above average starting goaltender. At his best relative to the rest of the league (in 2006-07) he was the 16th-best starter in the NHL.
That’s still fairly good – Turco is a legitimate starter in each of these seasons, something that surprised me – but he’s a below-average starter. For me, that means if I were looking at signing him, I’d be looking to sign him for 1A-type money: somewhere south of $3.0 million. I’m convinced that someone is going to give him more than that, and I have my doubts that he’ll turn out to be worth it.