Vulgar Statistics: Jhonas Enroth
It’s been the question of the week: why not put Enroth (a better option) in Lalime’s backup spot? The answer has been that it’s a better for the Sabres and for Enroth’s development to have him playing often in the AHL rather than sitting in the NHL. To me this says that the Sabres think Enroth will be a viable starter one day (otherwise you want your best guy in the backup slot). Many people (including Phil and myself) disagree with this assertion. Time to find out.
I’ll preface this with the statement that it is impossible to know who will be a viable starting goaltender in the NHL until it actually happens. What I’m going to do though, is take a look at Enroth’s AHL stats as compared to current starting goalies and debunk the myth that poor numbers are an indication that a guy will not be able to start successfully in the NHL. (Success being loosely defined as holding onto the job for a season or more. It’s not my fault some coaches are idiots.)
For the comparison I’m going to take Enroth’s AHL numbers from his first season and compare that to the numbers from the first season of every other starter (or ambiguous starter) in the league. I’ve only used the first season (of significant time) for every goaltender for one main reason. I wanted the best comparison in terms of each goaltender having similar time and experience in the AHL. If you take one guy’s four years in the AHL, and put it on the same page as another guy’s thirty games it’s hard to tell if you can even make a valid comparison between stats. But if you take a guy’s 48 games in his first significant season and a guy’s 35 games in his first significant season you can start to make some inferences that are fairly valid.
There isn’t much of a trend one way or another. You have some of the upper tier goalies (Miller, Halak, Rask) near the top on one (or both) lists, and some (Vokoun, Fleury, Luongo) near the bottom. It confirmed what I slowly began to suspect, that my thought that Enroth doesn’t look like he’ll ever be a viable NHL starter is incorrect, and shows that I really have no idea.
You can take his second season, this year, a few different ways. You can be dismayed at his statistical setback (3.32 GAA, .897 sv %) or be thrilled by the fact that he’s won two NHL games this season. It’s still early this season, and there’s plenty of time for him to settle down in the AHL and improve his stats. The fact that he’s 5-2-0 in the AHL, and that Leggio has a fairly unimpressive GAA himself (2.71) suggests that the lack of goal prevention is more a reflection on the Portland defense than the goaltenders.
I’m still relatively certain that Enroth won’t be a solid NHL starter in the future, but based on his play this year (even against two crappy teams), I’m starting to change my tune. Plus the guy had the save of the year on Kovalchuk. Come on.