Thursday, January 16, 2014

Scrivens vs. Dubnyk

Just 1309 shots ago, Devan Dubnyk was a three-time Team Canada representative at the world championships making $3.75 million a year and seen as the future of goaltending in Edmonton, while Ben Scrivens was a backup goalie making $612K that started just 2 of his team's last 19 games before being included as the goalie going the other way in the Bernier deal.

How things change.  Dubnyk has struggled in 2013-14 (.894) while Scrivens has thrived on arrival in L.A. (.931), and as a result Edmonton's management figured it was worth pulling the trigger on two separate trades to effectively make that goalie swap.

I think there are might be a couple of legitimate reasons to prefer Ben Scrivens over Devan Dubnyk if one was forced to choose between the two of them (a cheaper cap hit being the main one), but I don't know why anybody would care that much.  It seems to be an obvious overreaction by the Oilers to their goaltending issues.

Both Dubnyk and Scrivens are 27 years old and pending UFAs.  Scrivens has a .917 career save percentage to Dubnyk's .910, but Dubnyk has almost 4 times the sample size at 5079 SA compared to 1365.  Over the past 4 seasons, Dubnyk's situational numbers aren't too far off Scrivens' (.920 EV, .876 PK vs. .923 EV, .891 PK), and that's despite playing on an Oilers team that averaged a 68 point pace over that span (including 34-70-15, .902 without Dubnyk in net).  Scrivens had better minor league numbers, but as a collegian he was more developed when he hit the pros whereas Dubnyk came from the Dub at the age of 20.  Dubnyk was a first round pick, while Scrivens was undrafted, and Dubnyk would likely have been considered ahead of Scrivens in development throughout their entire careers until a couple months ago.  I'm not sure half a season is enough to make a major correction in that relative ranking.

I find it very interesting that Nashville was the team acquiring Dubnyk, since the team's continued employment of Mitch Korn and track record of goalie development makes me generally trust their instincts on goaltending.  Dubnyk is going to have a good opportunity to turn things around with the Predators.

Even if the Oilers are right, though, what do they really gain by this move?  There are just 33 games left in another lost season, where the only real goal left to accomplish is to continue sinking faster than the Sabres and Flames and thereby gain the inside track on yet another first overall pick.  Ilya Bryzgalov is also still in the mix, and it seems likely he will get his share of starts, making acquiring a goaltending upgrade even less valuable to the team.

Assume that Oiler goalies other than Bryzgalov get 500 shots the rest of the way.  If Scrivens keeps up his .931, he'll allow about 35 goals, or 18 fewer than Dubnyk would have if he held steady on his seasonal pace over the same workload.  That's a sizable difference, equivalent to three wins in the standings, yet how likely is it that both goalies don't regress heavily towards their career averages, and what's the advantage in finishing 28th instead of 29th or 30th?  Even if they are philosophically opposed to tanking, if Edmonton is serious about handing the reigns over to Scrivens it would seem that they would have an awfully good chance of signing him this summer.  The Kings certainly aren't going to be much competition for any Edmonton offer given that they have their starting goalie locked up through 2023, and with Dubnyk's $3.5 million coming off the books Edmonton would likely have more than enough cash to outbid any other teams in Scrivens' pay range.  It appears they must be intending to give Scrivens a tryout to see if he merits a contract in July, but even if they do that they're making a decision from a fairly small sample size.

Then again, panicking over small samples seems to be something of an Oiler trademark.  If any team should be patient, you'd think it would be a team in development mode, yet the Oilers have been the king of goalie overreactions this season:

1. Signing Jason LaBarbera as the backup goalie, then dumping him to Chicago after only 146 shots against.

2. Bringing up minor-leaguer Richard Bachman and giving him three straight starts because he played pretty well in the first one.

3. Signing Ilya Bryzgalov, a goalie who nobody else wanted, to a one-year deal after Bachman got injured and Dubnyk and LaBarbera continued to struggle.

4. Trading Dubnyk and acquiring Scrivens.

The other big issue is the cost Edmonton paid to make the move.  They gave up a 3rd round draft pick (which given the Oilers' poor play will be a very high 3rd), plus they retained $1.75 million in salary on Dubnyk, plus they took on the contract of Matt Hendricks, who is signed for $1.85 million for the next three seasons.  Hendricks is 32 years old and has a -0.3 GVT this season and just 21 points in his last 170 games. Given his age and recent performance, he's very likely to be a replacement level player at best over the next three seasons, which means the Oilers are probably wasting about $4 million compared to signing an equivalent guy to the league minimum to plug in on their fourth line.  The Oilers did save the difference in salary between Dubnyk and Scrivens over the rest of the season (~$1.2 million), but with the retained salary and likely overpay on Hendricks it looks to me like they may have paid in the range of $4 million plus a 3rd rounder for 33 games of a goalie that they could have had for free this summer.  All in all, a perplexing move for Edmonton.


  1. Good stuff, CG. Good to see you actively blogging again, I had almost given up hope. Prefer your new blog name, & note with approval your farewell post at BIAF. The data on shot counting biases in Jersey is an important one, & things like puckhandling & faceoff suppression are nuanced observations but absolutely contribute to MB30's value, who I would maintain is "the most efficient" goalie I've ever seen if not necessarily "the best".

    Interesting observations too on the Oilers netminding situation, which has been a gong show all year. The club has had better netminding in recent weeks, but remain unsure that it is worth the cost.

  2. Please keep posting. Love the analysis

    A mathematician and goalie

  3. Wow, absolutely fantastic blog. I am very glad to have such useful information.
    Thanks For more information visit