Who are the top goalies in the NHL?

There’s a debate on Twitter right now (Friday afternoon), taking place between a few Leafs fans about where Roberto Luongo ranks among the top goalies in the NHL. Why not do some math?

I think it’s worth looking at Luongo versus other top goaltenders. He still has four or five healthy good years in him going down the stretch of his career, and still quite valuable if Toronto were able to acquire him. I looked at goalies who had played 165 games over the last three seasons and stacked them all up in this chart with their even strength save percentage (EV SV%), throwing in two Leafs goalies, James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson:

  Saves Goals 3 EV SV% VORP
Lundqvist 4441 331 0.9306 84.6
Luongo 3911 298 0.9292 68.6
Rinne 4351 333 0.9289 75.0
Vokoun 3871 299 0.9283 64.2
Reimer 1600 128 0.9259 22.5
Niemi 3462 278 0.9257 47.8
Miller 4378 356 0.9248 56.3
Quick 4002 327 0.9245 50.1
Hiller 4025 329 0.9244 50.2
Kiprusoff 4486 367 0.9244 55.7
Price 3919 322 0.9241 47.4
Ward 4464 371 0.9233 50.1
Howard 3884 324 0.9230 42.5
Anderson 4165 355 0.9215 38.7
Bryzgalov 3744 326 0.9199 28.5
Brodeur 3669 323 0.9191 24.7
Pavelec 3767 335 0.9183 22.3
Fleury 3892 356 0.9162 14.0
All Leafs 5972 557 0.9147 11.7
Gustavsson 2182 222 0.9077 -12.6

I calculated VORP as the number of goals a goalie has done better than a replacement goalie (estimating the replacement’s save percentage at .9129). Surprisingly, James Reimer actually ranks very high in both metrics, the caveat being he hasn’t played as much as a guy like Antti Niemi, who retains much more value than Reimer because he’s maintained that level of play for longer.

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(UPDATE) As a brief update, Neil Greenberg expressed this well:

That’s where VORP is good, since it allows us to discern between goalies who are good for a song and dance, and goaltenders who have had longer, more sustained careers. Henrik Lundqvist is clearly above the pack in this one. Pekka Rinne, Luongo, and Tomas Vokoun all look competitive for that second spot.

I think Vokoun’s spot deserves a bit of an asterisk. I haven’t seen anything written about the arena effects at the Bank Atlantic Centre, but Florida’s goalies always seem to have pretty high save percentages. That would be something worth looking at, but there’s no doubt Vokoun also had a pretty good season in Washington. It’s his age that’s the main concern with Vokoun, and I don’t think Brian Burke was wholly unreasonable to not give him a second year.

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Anyway, over three seasons, the entire Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending staff has been a little under 12 goals better than a replacement goaltender. That’s about the equivalent of two wins better than a goalie you could find on your farm system or on the waiver wire. Almost all of that comes from James Reimer. That is not a very good record to have.

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