If you recall from the last article, Randy Hahn seemed to think I was laying quite a bit of the blame for the team's failure to win the Stanley Cup on Evgeni Nabokov. Many of you know that I, in fact, consider him the least to blame of the San Jose Sharks, as he won every game in which the team scored three goals.
In other words, he did what a goalie is supposed to do, while the offense did not. Here is my follow-up (for more of the interview, see Shark-Infested Blogger ):
In fact, I did a little research, and in the last three years, Nabby’s post-season performance has declined slightly from the high standards he sets during the regular season. He’s averaged 70 games played per season during that three-year stretch. No goalie since the Original Six era who is over 31 years old, has ever won a Stanley Cup when playing in more than 62 games. Do you think that the workload that Nabby has been forced to handle in the regular season may be affecting his post-season?
When you’re saying he’s been forced to handle it, I don’t think that’s a fair—you know, don’t put words in my mouth with the question—I don’t think he’s been forced to handle it.
If Nabby wanted to play 60 games , and went to Todd McLellan at the beginning of the season and said, “For me to be ready for the playoffs, I think it would be best for me if I played about 60 games and Thomas Greiss played about 22," then I think that’s what would have happened.
You can’t assume that coaches and goalies and organisations don’t have these conversations—they do. And Nabby got the kind of work that Nabby’s was comfortable getting—nothing was forced on him.
True: from all accounts, he plays a large role in determining how much of a workload he’s going to handle.
And, and if you’re the coach of the Sharks, and your goaltender says to you, “Coach, I gotta play a lot, because if I don’t play a lot, I feel I am rusty and I start losing my sharpness, and my reactions aren’t as good. I need the work. If I’m not hurt, let me play because I will be at my best for you in the playoffs if I get a lot of work, well, are you gonna go against him?
Um yeah, not unless there’s a lot of countervailing evidence.
Right, right, and I don’t think that the evidence you present is a lot, and you know he’s taken the Sharks to the conference finals twice in his career. And in those years he played a lot of games, like this year, so I don’t buy this thesis that Nabby has played too much in the regular season. It’s a bunch of numbers that uh, you know that you can dig up, and that you can present a thesis.
At the end of the day, it’s gonna be a decision of the coach in consultation with his player. And they’re gonna make that decision, and they did what they thought would be the best. I just don’t think that it’s that easy to say, well here’s the numbers, and the Sharks blew it by playing Nabby that many times in the regular season. I don’t think you can just make that correlation—I don’t think that’s a fair correlation to make.
That’s why I asked you the question: I wanted to get your input on a theory.
At this point, I felt it best to move on because the question was not productive. I feel it is my responsibility to ask the tough questions, and that does not equate to a statement of fact, as evidenced by the fact that I put scrutiny on Nabby to begin with when I did not blame him for the failures of the team.
However, in this case, I did present a theory I very much believe, and I fully disagree with Mr. Hahn about its veracity. Over a period of more than 40 years, if not one goalie over 31 years old (and no one besides Martin Brodeur who was even 30) won a Cup playing in more than 62 games, I think that represents a wide enough sample to be looked at as compelling evidence.
I should note, however, that I erred in recalling the parameters I established in my research: I should have told him that "no goalie playing in 68 games during the regular season who was 31 years old when the playoffs started" had ever won a Cup in that year.
That is why giving a competitive guy like Nabokov so much weight in the decision as to how much workload he would handle is not to me a wise decision. However, since Nabby all-but decides when he plays, Mr. Hahn was absolutely right that I had used a poor choice of words in saying it was a workload he was "forced" to handle.