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If Hammond is healthy, give him a go

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Given Condon’s recent play, the Hamburglar deserves another look

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: this is Craig Anderson’s team. Once he’s back in game shape, he should be the one who gets the starter’s title and unless he crashes and burns, the bulk of the workload for the rest of the season.

But Andy is not ready to go just yet, and there is still the question of the backup position once he is.

A little over two months ago, the short term decision was obvious. Andrew Hammond was coming off an injury, and had not fared well at all in his 80 minutes of ice time to that point. Mike Condon on the other hand, had posted a .939 SV% in his first three games for Ottawa. Hammond was sent down, Condon backed up Andy and took over when Andy had to leave the team again.

A few rough games against the California teams for Condon gave Hammond a chance to regain his role, and then ... injured. Again.

Fast forward to today. Condon has been struggling and what was a .945 save percentage before going out west is well in the rear-view mirror. His season SV% is down to .914, and a meagre .907 in his last 10 games. That’s a 10 game stretch that has included two shutouts, which gives you an idea of how bad he has been on average. He’s overworked and under-performing.

There are a few knocks against Andrew Hammond. His numbers this season are downright dismal, though he has only faced 55 shots and only played one of his games from start to finish. Two of his other three games were shortened due to injury and in the other he came in to relieve Condon. His refusal of the conditioning stint after his first injury was likely ill-advised, and could very well have left a sour taste in management’s mouth.

All that’s before the multiple injuries so far this season - and one of them was the second injury to the groin in his career. If this makes you nervous, I don’t blame you one bit.

What shouldn’t be a black mark against him? His performance last season. There’s a pervasive narrative that last year was the "real" Hammond, and that it proved he is an AHL goalie. For sure, .914 doesn’t look very good on the surface. There is also the persistent narrative that Mike Condon’s .903 last season wasn’t the "real" him, and this year is what we can really expect... the same* .914 that Hammond posted last year.

*actually trivially lower, by .0002

As for the doubt that .914 is the "real" Andrew Hammond, let’s look at 5v5 save percentage:

  • 2014-15, .940
  • 2015-16, .937
  • 2016-17, .889

If you’re wondering how he could have such a good 5 on 5 SV% last season, but so dismal overall - it’s the penalty kill. During the run, he had a short handed SV% of .928. Last year that tanked to .790.

Which is more likely to be repeated? 5 on 5 SV%, by far. Work - none recent, unfortunately - has shown that SV% on the penalty kill is largely random from year to year and that over time just about every goalie comes back to close to the league average. 5 on 5 regresses as well, but not nearly as much.

Between the general randomness of penalty kill SV%, and the way the team has shaped up this season compared to last when short handed, I’ve got faith that we wouldn’t see a repeat of this kind of performance.

But why has his 5 on 5 dropped so far, and would it be likely to recover? Shot location gives us a clue.

@IneffectiveMath, hockeyviz.com

Yikes. That’s a whole lot of red right in his face this season, showing a complete and utter lack of defensive support. The numbers bear it out as well - he faced "high danger" chances at twice the rate this season as he did in either of the last two seasons.

Let’s compare to what Condon has seen this season:

@IneffectiveMath, hockeyviz.com

That’s what defensive support looks like! Well below league average unblocked shot rates from almost everywhere near the net, with only higher rates near the points. Can anybody look at that and not think Hammond’s SV% wouldn’t go up this season if he faced shot distribution like that with #TheSystem fully functional?

With Condon in decline and Andy not quite ready, get Hammond in the net in the interim. The crease is about to get crowded, and the team needs to figure out who the expendable one really is.