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How Mike Condon’s Boom or Bust Performances Help Ottawa

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Mike Condon is rarely average on any given night. Here’s why his peaks and valleys can actually be a good thing for the Senators

NHL: Ottawa Senators at New York Islanders Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

After the Ottawa Senators re-signed Mike Condon to a 3-year 2.4M AAV deal last week, there were many who loved the signing, but also many who thought it was an overpay. I am still in that latter group, although I wanted to look a positive in Condon’s performances.

At the age of 27, he is not going to become a starting goaltender, nor do I think he is even going to be a 1B type of backup. However, he can provide some value in an interesting way.

While checking twitter on the day of the signing, Twitter friend Stefan Wolejszo gave me an idea for an article on Condon. Although his save percentage last year was just league average, his boom or bust performances will give Ottawa more chances to win than some other backup goalies would.

Ideally, you’d like your goalies to be consistent. However, if you’re goalie is consistently average or below-average, then he isn’t giving you a chance to win very often. The Senators rely on their goalies having high save percentages, and Condon is capable of stealing a game every so often.

Yes, it sucks when Condon lets in five or six goals on any given night, but most teams lose with their backup in net anyway. It’s a scheduled loss. But if he’s capable of playing like Craig Anderson every third game, then that’s a huge boost.

So how can I prove this with Condon? I grouped his games this past season by save percentage to measure game-by-game performance. The league average SV% last season was .913%, so I’ll say that any game between .911-.917% is “average.”

Then anything between .918-.924% is great, between .905-.910% is bad, below .904% is terrible, and above .925% is amazing. These are arbitrary endpoints of course, but I thought they made the most sense.

I wanted to see how many games Condon had for each category and see how he compares to the top starting goaltenders, but also the top backup goaltenders.

Categorizing Goalie Starts

Goalie Games Started Overall SV% Terrible Starts Bad Starts Average Starts Great Starts Amazing Starts % of Amazing Starts % Either Terrible or Amazing
Goalie Games Started Overall SV% Terrible Starts Bad Starts Average Starts Great Starts Amazing Starts % of Amazing Starts % Either Terrible or Amazing
Mike Condon 37 0.914 16 2 0 1 18 48.65 91.89
STARTERS: ------ ----- ----- ----- ------ ------ --------- -------- ------
Sergei Bobrovsky 63 93.1 20 2 2 0 39 61.9 93.65
Craig Anderson 40 92.6 14 1 0 2 23 57.5 92.5
Braden Holtby 63 92.5 19 3 4 1 36 57.14 87.3
John Gibson 49 92.4 20 2 2 2 23 46.9 87.76
Devan Dubnyk 64 92.3 20 0 6 3 35 54.69 85.93
BACKUPS: ------- ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ -------- ------
Aaron Dell 17 93.1 2 1 3 0 11 64.71 76.47
Jimmy Howard 22 92.7 7 0 1 3 11 50 81.81
Philipp Grubauer 19 92.6 5 0 4 1 9 47.37 73.68
Scott Darling 27 92.4 10 0 2 1 14 51.85 88.88
Anders Nilsson 25 92.3 10 2 1 1 11 44 84

This is quite the large table, and it needs some explaining. In hindsight, it seems obvious that I should have expected few performances that fall between bad and great, as the sample size from game to game is so small. Even with that volatility for all goalies though, Condon still stands out.

The starting goalies are the top-five in SV% from last year, and the backups are the top-5 amongst themselves. These goalies all had great seasons, so I was not comparing Condon to below-average players, or even average ones.

The first several columns are self-explanatory, as I grouped the games by my definitions previously mentioned. The last two columns are more interesting though. I looked at the percentage that a given goalie posted a .925 SV% or greater in a single game, and Condon does not look spectacular in that regard. However, he is up against some good competition.

Furthermore, if his one “good” start was “amazing” instead (by allowing one fewer goal), he would have a higher percentage of amazing starts than three of the backups (while being right behind Scott Darling), as well as John Gibson.

The last column drives my initial point home: the fact that Condon is going to either be amazing or terrible. 34 out of his 37 starts (91.89%) were either below .905 SV% or above .924%, which puts him as the third most boom or bust goalie on this list. Not surprisingly, Craig Anderson ranks even higher with 37 of his 40 starts being amazing or terrible.

It certainly felt like the Senators would frequently go from a 3-0 win to a 5-2 loss throughout the season, and the numbers presented here back that up. Ottawa’s goaltending was extremely hit and miss, and you know what? That might just work out for them, especially if Condon can get his workload to a normal level for once.

Despite Guy Boucher’s new system, Ottawa still allowed the fourth most shot attempts in the league, meaning solid goaltending will be crucial for success. With Condon in net, it will rarely be a close game where he allows two or three goals. He may blow up and allow five or six, but at least he can also steal a game against a team like Pittsburgh or Washington.

I don’t necessarily love having a backup goalie like that, but at least he does have that upside. I would have liked to have gone in another direction for the backup goalie position for the money and term that the Senators gave to Condon, but this is one positive way to look at it.

Even if Condon ends up with a SV% that is below league average, he may be able to provide some hidden value by stealing games that Ottawa shouldn’t have won, and losing games that they would have most likely lost anyway.

I’m curious to see if this trend continues for both of these goalies.