Ottawa Senators Player Grades - Joonas Korpisalo

Our next instalment of Player Grades brings us to Joonas Korpisalo, whose season was less than stellar.

Ottawa Senators Player Grades - Joonas Korpisalo
Photo by Zachary Kadolph / Unsplash

Reader Grade: D, Staff Grade: D-

Oh boy, here we go.

When Free Agency opened up last summer, one of Pierre Dorion's final moves as the GM of the Ottawa Senators was to shore up the goaltending position by signing Joonas Korpisalo to a five year, $4M deal. At the time of the deal, there were some questions around the term and, perhaps, a bit of skepticism. But I don't think even the biggest detractors of the deal predicted what would come next.

Since entering the NHL, Korpisalo has showcased a pretty volatile save percentage. In some seasons, he's posted numbers like .920 in his rookie year and a .917 prior to signing with Ottawa. But he's also had a number of seasons around .900, and a few below. Needless to say, signing Korpisalo to a five year deal was likely a decision made hoping he'd post closer to his best seasons and not, statistically, his worst season on record.

In the NHL this season, there were 65 goaltenders who appeared in 20 or more games. In that list, Korpisalo ranked 60th in save percentage (.890) and 58th in goals against average (3.37). What was increasingly concerning was the matter of how some of Korpisalo's performances occurred. By this I'm referring to the fact that the Ottawa Senators allowed a goal on one of the first two shots of the game on 20 (!) occasions this year. That wasn't all Korpisalo, but it often felt like the Finnish netminder simply wasn't ready to start the game.

There's also a matter of where the goals came from.

The thesis of the above is essentially that as the shots Korpisalo faced became more difficult, the rate of goals allowed went down. This, logically, should not be the case. A goaltender should be stopping the easy ones and forcing other teams to put together the highest quality of shot in order to beat them. In Korpisalo's case, we saw with our own eyes the number of low danger shots that ended up behind him. This data backs it up.

Let's take a look at the other end of the spectrum in this same category - our three Vezina Trophy candidates for 2024. Understanding that I've literally cherry picked some of the top goalies in the league and nobody, even the most optimistic Sens fan, would've expected Korpisalo to perform like these goaltenders.

You'll notice Bobrovsky with a bit more fluctuation than the other two but the important theme here is that all three Vezina candidates start in the black on the left, then the lines get closer together or the red line overtakes the black.

In essence, these goalies were nominated for a Vezina based on an outstanding season and those performances start with saving the shots you're supposed to be able to save. Korpisalo did not have that foundational "easy save" performance for the majority of the year, and it showed.

Needless to say, this season was about as bad as it could have been for the Ottawa Senators and goaltending. Individually, Korpisalo posted career worst stats in a number of areas. The team in front of him isn't absolved from any blame, but there's an argument to be made that even approaching-league-average goaltending from Korpisalo would have, at the very least, kept the Sens in the playoff picture until closer to April rather than being out of it by February.

Frankly, I think the readers (D) and the staff (D-) alike were, overall, kind in this grading. At the end of the day, the expectation was that Korpisalo was going to come in and provide Ottawa with stable goaltending and he failed in that regard. Probably deserving of an F, we let him off easy.

At this point, we have no idea what the Ottawa Senators are going to do about their goaltending situation but it's tough to envision having hope in the season ahead if Korpisalo returns as the de facto 1A and doesn't significantly overhaul his game.

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