Friday, February 12, 2010

Why People Who Should Know Better are Complaining about Tim Thomas

Why? Because they don't know any better. I just watched this video and it would be funny if it weren't so wrong headed:

Was Tim Thomas's Contract a Mistake?

I make no secret of the fact that I'm a fan of Tim Thomas, and some people will no doubt assume that I'm biased by that. But that's not it. What I can't stand is when people are biased against Thomas, unfairly pointing out every soft goal yet only grudgingly giving him credit when he does well. You see that in the video when the guy on the left claims that Thomas is no Brodeur. That's what he thinks and nothing Timmy can do--even winning the Vezina--will change his opinion. The Vezina? That was merely Julien's defense-first approach at work. I mean, last year that guy could have suited up and won the Vezina! Yet of course this year the poor play of the team has absolutely nothing to do with it. Yeah, right. I have never seen a successful player so unreasonably maligned by the so-called "experts" in any sport (more on that in another post).

To put the idea to rest that I'm just as biased let me state unequivocally that Tim Thomas has not played well enough since the January 14th game against the Sharks. That's eight games that they lost--eight games that he was not able to steal. This was a period where the Bruins gave up 22 goals (2.75 goals per game). During that same period the Bruins managed only nine goals (1.13 goals per game). There should be no doubt that the low scoring was the real problem, but it is just as true that a Vezina-winning goalie should have been able to stand on his head and steal a few of them. Unlike earlier this year that didn't happen.

In the last five starts Rask has had one great game and four mediocre-to-good ones. He has allowed 12 goals (2.4 goals per game). In that same period the Bruins have scored 15 goals (3.0 goals per game). It's true that Rask had a terrific game against Montreal on February 2. But the same could be said about Thomas having helped steal the game against the Sharks. The main reason the Bruins are winning now is that they are scoring again. Had they scored 3 goals per game during Thomas's losing streak they would have won most of them.

So why are people claiming that Thomas is finished? It's simple. They don't actually watch the games. They just see some highlights from time to time and primarily look at the stats. Right now Thomas is 13-15-7 with a 2.52 GAA and a save percentage* of 0.915. Rask is 13-7-4 with a 2.09 GAA and a whopping 0.928 save percentage. Clearly Rask is by far the better of the two, right? By-the-way, in the 2005/2006 season Brodeur's GAA was 2.57 and his save percentage was 0.911. Does that mean he was no longer Martin Brodeur? Should the Devils have dumped him and his big contract?

But here's the thing: stats can lie. Take the last game against Tampa Bay--statistically Rask had a poor night, allowing 4 goals on 35 shots (a horrible 0.886 save percentage). So he stank right? No! In fact, watching the game we know that he was very sharp and didn't allow any soft goals. In a game where one team runs away with it early it is typical for the team to let down and allow some goals. But they did get the win and that's what counts. So here is a perfect example of how the stats alone lie. You have to watch the games. Those "sports guys" in the video have many other sports to be watching. There is just no way they watch every game. Having watched all but three games this season I can say that Tim Thomas has in fact played very well, often under extremely difficult circumstances. The stats alone don't begin to tell the story.

Look--all goaltenders have difficult periods. All of them. But it happens to Thomas and some small-minded fickle people are willing to give up on a good thing to satisfy their preconceived notions. Hey, if I'm just biased in favor of Thomas, then why have I won this same argument about how good Timmy is every single time since 2006? The fact is he has never let me down. As always, Timmy will be back and his detractors will shut their mouths, biding their time until they can once again show their unfounded disdain.

As for Timmy's contract, see my comments from the last post. Here are a few additional points to consider:
  1. Goaltenders have longer careers than players at other positions
  2. Not everyone hates Thomas--he could have signed for much more money as a free agent last summer. Some fans seem to have forgotten that goaltending is the foundation of a team.
  3. Thomas took a discount because he wanted to play for the B's and because they offered him the long-term contract.
  4. Thomas's cap-hit in his fifth year is very small.
  5. Five million per year for solid goaltending is a steal for a Vezina winning goaltender.

*Sports people are awful at math! A percentage, by definition, is where 100 is the maximum. The so-called "save percentage" isn't a percentage at all. It's a simple ratio. To make it a percentage you would need to multiply the number by 100. E.g. 0.915 becomes 91.5%. So for God's sake people, either multiply by 100 or stop calling it a percentage.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Trading Tim Thomas

The Bruins finally won a game. I don't have to tell Bruins fans how painful and upsetting the last few weeks have been as the Bruins went on a ten game "not winning" streak. It turns out that they did pick up four points in OT losses (regulation ties) so it isn't exactly correct to claim it was a losing streak. But it sure felt like a losing streak so it might as well be called one.

I have been saying all along that what they needed was to score three goals. It's ironic that when they finally scored three their goaltender also got a shutout. Turns out all they needed was one goal. But nevertheless three bodes well for the future. If they score three in just about any of the recent games they likely win.

Oddly, despite all this the Bruins are still in the thick of the playoffs. The question now isn't if they can make the playoffs so much as if they can be expected to win a series if they did. They certainly have the talent to go far, of that I am certain. This idea you see in the press that the Bs played over their potential last year is idiotic. A team can be more than the sum of its parts but it can never be better than its potential. Last year was no fluke. We know how good this team can be.

Rumors are swirling about Tim Thomas being shopped around. Even if true I doubt it means more than the GM taking stock of market value. After all, Thomas has a no trade clause. It seems unlikely he'd suddenly decide he didn't like the weather in New England. But more importantly, the Bruins have a sweet deal in their goaltending, arguably the best in the league. The tandem of the veteran Thomas and the up and coming Rask is a GMs dream--particularly when you consider their cap hit taken together is only $6.5 million, which is good through the 2011/2012 season. For comparison, Khabibulin alone has the same figure, as does Luongo. Giguere has a hit of $6 million, Kiprusoff $5.8 million. And those teams have to pay for a backup as well, because no goalie can play every game. Which would you rather have? Luongo or the Thomas/Rask tandem? Rask is unproven (Raycroft anyone) but with great potential and despite the Thomas doubters Timmy has always overcome any adversity sent his way, which has been considerable. If one needs to come up for air, the other can always take over. This is as close as it gets to a sure thing in the playoffs. All they need is a team that can play in front of them.

The bottom line is that no GM in his right mind would trade either of them right now. That is, unless he is forced to--and that's the great worry. There are only a few reasonable places to look for enough cap room to bring in a difference maker up front, and Thomas is the prime one. It may be tempting to move him to clear the space, but that would be staking the future of the team on a kid goaltender, which would be a big gamble. As I said before, he'd be crazy to do it.

Unless he was forced to.