The Seattle Kraken are off to a 4-12-1 start, ahead of only Ottawa and Arizona in the league’s basement. On Friday night, the Kraken hosted the Colorado Avalanche, losing 7 to 3 in their worst game of the season. In net for the last three of those Avs goals was ex-Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer, who is the biggest reason why the NHL’s newest franchise has stunk coming out of the gate.
Grubauer is currently the worst goalie in the league, by a lot.
Below is a plot of all NHL goalies who have played at least five games. The higher they are, the more goals we’d expect them to give up. The further right they are, the more goals opponents have actually scored against them. Their performance is shown in their distance from the diagonal line: goalies above it are doing well, goalies below are doing poorly. Poor Grubauer is way out of bounds.
That’s 42 opponent goals when just 26.5 opponent goals were expected. So Grubauer’s goals saved above expected is minus-15.5, nearly two times worse than his closest competition (Chicago’s Fleury at minus-7.0 and Dallas’ Khudobin at minus-8.7).
That’s a terrible performance, costing his team multiple wins, and it looks only worse when you look closer. Grubauer’s workload is easy. Of roughly that same cohort above (52 goalies with at least 160 minutes of 5v5 played), Grubauer faces the second lowest rate of opponent expected goals (1.84 per hour, compared to an average of 2.32). He’s seeing the lowest rate of unblocked opponent shot attempts in the league right now at 35.9 per hour. That’s cushy.
Natural Stat Trick has a fun feature where it can report opponent attempts by danger (high, medium, and low). Stacking up those goalies again, Grubauer has an easy job.
This is corroborated by HockeyViz’s heatmaps, which show big blue blobs indicating fewer opponent chances from close to the net.
Micah’s xG model says that the offense Grubauer faces is almost a quarter less dangerous than league average.
Independent of their goalies, Seattle is unremarkable. They control 50.5 percent of shot attempts during five-on-five play, just about even. They’re not bad; they’re just boring, with some of the lowest offense rates (and stingiest defense) in the league. Think of the bottom square of this plot below as the “dull” square.
Dull is the domain of the Kraken, which is a fine strategy as long as your goalies aren’t a disaster. Except Grubauer is a disaster.
This is doubly unfortunate as Grubauer was Seattle’s biggest free-agency signing. Grubauer’s deal will earn him $5.9 million per season through 2026-27. But at this rate, I’m not sure he should be playing in 2022. Seattle must either hope he’ll quickly and dramatically fix whatever is ailing him, or they need to make a drastic, painful move.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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