Evgeni Nabokov: Playing for Cup Contender Is Not a Priority for Overrated Goalie

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Evgeni Nabokov: Playing for Cup Contender Is Not a Priority for Overrated Goalie
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Sergei Bobrovsky

Of course any hockey player would want to win the Stanley Cup but for Nabokov to state "what's the point?" to play for the Islanders when he wants to be on a Cup contender is a joke considering his history.

He turned his back on the team that he has played for his entire career—a team that is a legitimate Cup contender over money.

He wanted no less than five million from the Flyers when they acquired his rights from the Sharks—lucky for them they couldn't come to terms. The Flyers are not only legitimate Cup contenders but made it to the finals last year. Had the Flyers come to terms with Nabokov they would have had to make some cap space for him.

They would not have been as good a team this year because their skaters would not have been as good to make the cap space for Nabokov and because they would not have discovered Bobrovsky who appears to be a better goalie than Nabokov. Had they signed Nabokov, Bobrovsky might never have had an opportunity for a NHL career because he would have to play for the Adirondack Phantoms, the worst team in the AHL and not looked so good playing for them because a goalie's performance is contingent to the performance of the team in front of him.

Here is an article from Bleacher Report debating on how they will make room for Nabokov against the salary cap. Imagine the ridicule if someone said don't worry we don't need Nabokov we got Bobrovsky.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/412165-flyers-to-sign-nabokov-who-will-need-to-move-on

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Jakub Stepanek

Nabokov has had many opportunities playing with  legitimate Cup contender and many would say, myself included that he choked in all of them.

Instead of pursuing the Cup which is now so important for him he chose the rubles in Russia and to play for St.Petersburg of the KHL. He was severely outperformed by a much younger teammate Jakub Stepanek who averages 2.09 goals against with a .923 save percentage in 29 games while Nabokov averaged 3.02 goals against and .888 save percentage in 22 games. He was ostensibly amicably released from his contract but I am sure it has a lot to do with his sub par performance and the amount of money he was earning(?) for it. It has been a long time since he has played without having one of the best defensive trapping teams in front of him.

In every year that he played for the sharks he was outperformed by his teammates in net and here are the stats comparing him to his 2 longest serving teammates in net

2003-04

Toskala  2.06 GAA  .930 SA PCT  Nabokov 2.20 GAA  .921 SA PCT

2005-06

Toskala  2.56 GAA .901 SA PCT  Nabokov 3.10 GAA   .885 SA PCT

2006-07

Who would you rather have in net for the playoffs?

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Toskala  2.29 GAA  .914 SA PCT  Nabokov 2.35 GAA .908 SA PCT

2007-08

Boucher 1.76 GAA  .932 SA PCT  Nabokov  2.14GAA .910 SA PCT

2008-09

Boucher 2.18 GAA. .917 SA PCT  Nabokov 2.44GAA  .910 SA PCT

As you can see every year he was outperformed by his teammate yet is considered to be the better goaltender and has made more money every year. This perception is because he has been the longest serving goalie there whereas Boucher and Toskala have played for other teams before and/or after playing for San Jose, teams that are not as good defensively.

A goalie's is so hard to evaluate because there performance is so much a reflection of the performance of the team in front of them and it is almost impossible to decipher if the goalies stats are more of a  product of his performance or the teams usually the only way to get some indication is to compare teammates in net but usually you are only comparing two or three guys.

There are so many examples of goalie's stats totally reversing upon a trade here is a few of them

Alex Auld

2007-08 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 9 0 0 509 30 2 1 3.54 3 6 0 219 0.880 -
2007-08 Boston Bruins NHL 23 0 0 1213 47 3 2 2.32 9 7 5 531 0.919

Ed Belfour

1996-97 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 33 0 26 1966 88 4 1 2.69 11 15 6 858 0.907
1996-97 San Jose Sharks NHL 13 0 8 757 43 1 1 3.41 3 9 0 328 0.884
1997-98 Dallas Stars NHL 61 0 18 3581 112 1 9 1.88 37 12 10 1335 0.916

Luongo
2005-06 Florida Panthers NHL 75 3 2 4305 213 4 4 2.97 35 30 9 2275 0.914
2006-07 Vancouver Canucks NHL 76 2 10 4490 171 3 5 2.28 47 22 6 1998 0.921

Lehtonen

010-11 Dallas NHL 36 21 10 5 2147 89 1097 2.49 .919 0 2 1 3 17 7
2009-10 Dallas NHL 12 6 4 0 663 31 350 2.81 .911 0 - - 0 - -
2008-09 Atlanta NHL 46 19 22 3 2624 134 1498 3.06 .911 3 6 - - - -
2007-08 Atlanta NHL 48 17 22 5 2707 131 1560 2.90 .916

Brian Boucher

2002-03 Phoenix NHL 45 15 20 - 2544 128 1210 3.02 .894 0 - - - - -
2001-02 Philadelphia NHL 41 18 16 - 2295 92 972 2.41 .905

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Jakub Stepanek

I would also like to bring up Jim Carey as an example of how hard it is to evaluate a goalie's performance and how quirky their stats can be. In 1996 he was the Vezina trophy winner as the best goalie in the league at 21 years of age and two years late was not good enough to play in the NHL.

Nabokov was no better than Toskala and nobody would give him the kind of money Nabokov could have had in the summer.

I think there are many goalies not playing in the NHL that are better than Nabokov but just haven't had the opportunity(unfortunately some never will) just like Bobrovsky might not have had, had the Flyers signed Nabokov. Bobrovsky, Reimer and Sepanek are not the only Bobrovskys, Reimers and Stepaneks out there and unfortunately some of them will never have the opportunity. Trick is finding them. Easier said than done when goalie are so hard to evaluate.

Some might say that a goalie needs NHL(playoff)experience to succeed in the playoffs you just need to look at last year's Stanley Cup Finals to know that is not true. Some might say one year could be a fluke. Marc-Andre Fleury made it to SCF with only 5 games previous experience in the playoffs at the young age of 23. Cam Ward won the Cup as a rookie.

I think the main reason Nabokov does not want to play for the Islanders is that it would reveal that he is not as good as some think he is

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