The goaltenders for the Pacific Division are Martin Jones of the San Jose Sharks and Mike Smith of the Arizona Coyotes. Was Budaj snubbed?
Jones has a couple more wins, a slightly higher save percentage, and marginally more Goalie Point Shares than Budaj. The Kings netminder has a better GAA, a couple more shutouts, and a slightly better Quality Start Percentage than Jones.
It’s extremely close between the two of them, so much so that one going over the other shouldn’t elicit powerful reactions.
I’m surprised that Budaj was left off, though, simply due to the fact that Los Angeles is hosting the game January 29.
It might not be the most egalitarian way to break a tie, but Budaj getting to play in his first All Star game in Los Angeles seems like a powerful enough prospect to have bumped him over the edge.
It’s not to say that Jones isn’t deserving, because it’s impossible to say that one is deserving while the other isn’t, considering how comparable their stats are.
Smith is the one who looks out of place on the roster, but the rule states that each team must have a representative.
I think that the rule is a good one; all fans have an opportunity to tune in and see a player from their favorite team.
It just means that more deserving players have to be left off for players who might not have the same type of stats, but come from teams without as many eye popping individual performances.
The Coyotes have been terrible this season, but they need a representative. Smith has a higher save percentage than both Jones and Budaj, so it’s easy to justify his selection from that perspective.
The other possibilities for the Coyotes were Radim Vrbata as a forward or Oliver Ekman-Larsson as a defenseman.
Vrbata has 24 points this season. That would have made him the lowest scoring forward on the Pacific Division team.
Among forwards named to the Pacific Division team, the ones that the easiest cases could be made for a Vrbata replacement are Johnny Gaudreau from the Calgary Flames and Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks.
The problem is that those two are both the only representatives from their teams. The Flames could have sent Mikael Backlund as a forward, Dougie Hamilton as a defenseman, or Chad Johnson as a goaltender.
Johnson has the highest save percentage in the division. Backlund’s case is hurt by having as many points as Gaudreau in far more games. Hamilton has 1 more point than Cam Fowler, who made it as a defenseman for the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks also sent Ryan Kesler as a forward, who is a lock. So he’d be the guy from the Ducks if they only got 1 representative.
The gap between Fowler and Hamilton is smaller than the gap between Gaudreau and Vrabata, so that choice checks out.
However, Johnson has better statistics than Smith in goal. Johnson has a better save percentage, more wins, and more shutouts than Smith. The gap between Johnson and Smith is big.
Vrbata has 24 points in 40 games, and while Gaudreau has 27 points in 33 games. Tough calls have to be made under the rules that require a player from each team.
The Coyotes also could have sent Ekman-Larsson, who has 20 points in 40 games this season. He would have gotten the spot over Fowler. Although Fowler has had a better year than Ekman-Larsson, the gap between those two is smaller than the one between Smith and another goaltender who he took the place of.
Cam Talbot of the Edmonton Oilers has as many wins as Jones, more shutouts than Jones, a better save percentage and GAA than Smith, and the most Goalie Point Shares in the division.
The Oilers sent Connor McDavid, who will also serve as captain for the Pacific Division. The Oilers have no other representatives.
There are numerous goaltenders in this division who deserve to be there over Smith. Probably the easiest solution would be to send Ekman-Larsson in place of Fowler and then get either Budaj, Talbot, or Johnson to replace Smith.
Horvat is the most logical choice to represent the Canucks. None of their defenseman have worthy numbers for selection, and Ryan Miller takes a backseat behind other goaltenders in the division.
In a vacuum, Alec Martinez had a viable case for the year he has had with the Kings. Martinez is tied for 12th among NHL defensemen in points with 23, but it’s a crowded field for him to get in, even if Los Angeles is hosting the game. Burns and Doughty are locks, and Fowler seems the most negotiable.
I agree with Jones making the team as one of the goaltenders, but not Smith. Take Smith out, replace him with either Budaj, Talbot, or Johnson, swap Fowler for Ekman-Larsson to fulfill the Arizona quota, and I’d be content with that.
The Smith selection bothers me because the guy has 7 wins, a 2.83 GAA, and a .918 save percentage. The save percentage is respectable, and I understand that he faces a lot of shots per game playing for a bad team, but Badaj, Talbot, and Johnson have numbers that dwarf his. Talbot and Johnson even have better save percentages than him.
The gap between Ekman-Larsson and Fowler is much smaller than the one between Smith and any individual out of the trio of Budaj, Talbot, and Johnson.
Does Budaj deserve the nod above both Talbot and Johnson? You could even throw Jones into the debate because Joe Pavelski made the squad from the Sharks and is a lock.
Johnson starts out at an immediate disadvantage because he only has 24 games played this season.Talbot has 37, and Jones and Budaj each have 35.
Johnson has the best save percentage amongst them, but the lowest Quality Start Percentage. And because of his relative lack of playing time, the wins totals aren’t as impressive.
If Johnson is taken out of the equation, it allows Gaudreau to remain and represent the quota of the Flames, which is absolutely fine.
Talbot has as many wins as Jones, and more than Budaj. He has a higher save percentage than both of them, but a higher GAA than both of them as well. Talbot has more shutouts than Jones, but less than Budaj. He also has more Goalie Win Shares than both of them, but a lower Quality Start percentage.
With McDavid, Pavelski, Carter, and Doughty all locks, there’s no quota that has to be worried about. Two of those three best goaltenders should be chosen regardless of team affiliation.
It’s a tough decision, and choosing any two of those three could be justified. I’d probably keep Jones on the squad and give the other nod to Budaj with the tiebreaker of the game being in Los Angeles.
Overall, the Pacific Division roster seems like solid selections. My only issue is with Smith as the second goaltender. Ekman-Larsson should have been the Arizona representative as a defenseman. Fowler would unfortunately have to be left off, and Smith would be replaced by Budaj. Talbot would also be acceptable, but preferably Budaj.