Will NHL Goalies Be Rested in a Shortened Season?

One of the most important questions on the minds of fantasy hockey managers this week is whether or not goalies will be rested in a shortened season. And while there are many people willing to publish their hunches on what might happen, there are few people supporting their hunches with actual data. One data point we do have is from James Mirtle who notes that eight goalies played 40+ games during the last shortened season (the 48-game campaign of 1994-1995).

We’ve compiled data on goalies going back to the 1991-1992 season. And instead of focusing on games played, we have focused on the amount of minutes played by each goalie. More specifically, we took the top 10 goalies from every season (based on total minutes played) and computed the average minutes played in that season by the top 10 goalies. Since the number of games played in these seasons was not consistent, we divided this average by the total minutes played by the typical team in each season. Thus, for a typical top 10 goalie, we have the fraction of a season played by this goalie.

Consider the following graph (click for larger image) to be a measure of the workload by the NHL’s workhorses dating back about 20 years. Pay particular attention to the 1994-1995 shortened season and the years surrounding it. The graph is demonstrative proof that the last time the NHL played a shortened season, coaches let the goalies shoulder a significant load.

Comments (3)

  1. flubber

    Hartley hasn’t commented on this issue but local media are speculating that if Kipper is healthy and playing well, he might play all of the first 10 games. The belief is the Flames are desperate to make the playoffs and with only 48 games there is not a push to ensure rest for KIpper

    I looked at the charts and there are two conclusions I drew

    1. The first was the one you point out… That the shortened season saw number one goalies play a GREATER proportion of games than preceding or following seasons

    2 there seems to be a slight uptick in number one proportion over time. while last year was only slightly above average, the Two highest proportions on the chart are in the last 5 years


  2. Mike

    The fraction of minutes played (as defined in the above article) was 84.3% for the shortened 2012-2013 season. As projected, the bulk of the workload was shouldered by true #1s (as it was in the 1994-1995 shortened season). In fact, this 84.3% fraction makes 2012-2013 the largest workload shouldered by starting goalies for the entire period of data collection (1991 – present).

    So the oft-cited “backup goalies will be important in a shortened season” notion that was regurgitated on most fantasy hockey sites (not this one!) turned out to be a myth.

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