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11-19-2012, 01:03 AM
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The Assassination of Bill Durnan and Turk Broda

Originally Posted by ContrarianGoaltender View Post
Some voters seem to be getting frustrated with the continued fall of Bill Durnan, and as one of the voters who has not yet ranked Durnan in any round so far and does not currently plan to rank him in the top four this round either, I wanted to point out again the reasons why I strongly suspect that Durnan may be largely overrated in a historical context.

The biggest reason is that I think Durnan's actual performance relative to the competition is much less impressive than his trophy case suggests that it was. A big part of Durnan's case is based on those awards, as pretty much every summary of his career talks primarily about his Vezina Trophies and All-Star selections, and all those things certainly would have had an impact on rating his performances.

However, I am not a trophy counter (because I think the voters don't always get it right and because one season is really not a large sample size for goalies), and therefore I don't put very much weight at all on Vezinas or All-Star Team selection. Durnan's career also falls smack in the middle of the period where the GAA leader was always the 1AST (as long as they played at least 75% of the games), which means there is even less information encapsulated in his award history than usual. All that means I believe there is good reason to put a much heavier weighting on Durnan's numbers than on the awards he won.

I prefer to look at saves and goals against over multiple seasons rather than single season awards, and on that score there are definitely reasons not to be completely sold on Bill Durnan. I already presented some save percentage evidence, which was fairly questioned based on the issues of completeness and unofficial recording, but I think you can adjust for the missing data and assume some scorer undercounting in Montreal and still have to conclude that Durnan's save percentages were not dominant relative to the rest of the league in 1948-49 and 1949-50.

Even leaving those numbers aside, however, when you look at Durnan's actual GAA numbers vs. the rest of the league he is not quite as much of an outlier as one might expect given the number of times he led the league in that department. Looking at the five non-war years he played in the NHL, Durnan posted a 2.38 GAA compared to the league average of 2.95, meaning he allowed 19% fewer goals against than average. That is certainly excellent, but it's not an absurd number for a five season stretch, even among goalies who are generally ranked below Durnan. From 1928-29 to 1932-33, Tiny Thompson was also 19% better than league average (1.87 vs. 2.32). George Hainsworth from 1926-27 to 1930-31 was 27% below average (1.56 vs. 2.14). Yet because those periods overlapped, neither of those goalies was able to lead the league in GAA year after year like Durnan did. Nor were they able to rack up All-Star selections since the official awards didn't exist until 1930-31.

Other examples from this group would be Johnny Bower, 15% below league average over a ten year stretch from 1958-59 to 1967-68 (2.48 vs. 2.93), and Tony Esposito and Bernie Parent, who both had five year stretches at over 30% below league average (albeit in an expanded league).

From there we can get into discussions about team defensive strength and the depth of the talent pool and quality of the other goalie competition in the league. Maybe some points can be made there in favour of Durnan relative to some of the others mentioned, but the point is that the GAA vs. league average over multiple seasons framing puts Durnan at a very different starting point relative to the competition than if we begin the discussion with Vezinas and All-Star Teams.

To further support the argument, here are prime GVT numbers for the six goalies in this round who had their entire careers in the GVT era (1943-44 onwards). I took a minimum of five consecutive seasons for each goalie, and extended the period for goalies who performed at a consistent level for a longer period of time:

Parent: 5 seasons, 169.5 GVT in 262 GP, 0.65 GVT/GP
Bower: 7 seasons, 190.0 GVT in 345 GP, 0.55 GVT/GP
Esposito: 7 seasons, 223.1 GVT in 433 GP, 0.52 GVT/GP
Durnan: 5 seasons, 147.7 GVT in 283 GP, 0.52 GVT/GP
B. Smith: 10 seasons, 199.8 GVT in 419 GP, 0.48 GVT/GP
Belfour: 5 seasons, 138.4 GVT in 309 GP, 0.45 GVT/GP

In terms of GVT/GP, Durnan doesn't really stand out from the pack at all. Factoring in length of prime, playoffs, the size of the talent pool each goalie was competing against and possible shot prevention/shot undercounting for Belfour, I think there might well be a reasonable argument to rank Durnan last out of the six.

At the very least, this shows how Durnan needs to have his two war years (1943-44 and 1944-45) considered to be elite, all-time great seasons just to support the claim that he had a better prime than the goalies he is up against even in this round of voting. Durnan definitely had dominant stats in those two seasons, but the difficulty is that it is hard to isolate his individual contribution given that the Habs were just so much better than the rest of the league.

It was briefly mentioned as well last thread about Dick Irvin possibly being a coach that rode his players hard during the regular season, which would help a goalie's regular season stats. The Canadiens were less effective in the playoffs than their regular season results suggested, even though Durnan's regular season vs. playoff split was fairly typical for the period. To me that suggests that it was more of a team failure than a Durnan failure, which may mean that he shouldn't bear much of the blame for those playoff losses. Unfortunately, the flip side to that is the implication that Durnan's regular season stats may have been boosted. Newspaper articles during Durnan's rookie season talked about the Canadiens' backchecking and strong defensive play and debated how much Durnan was responsible for his ridiculous numbers. Durnan did not get to the NHL until relatively late in his career and he quit relative early, which just adds more uncertainty to his overall record.

In summary, I am still not sure that Durnan's peak really stands out that much among this group of goalies. That's a big problem given that he is giving up a big longevity edge to all of them and has a less distinguished playoff record than most. As a result, I still don't think that it is a open and shut case for Durnan being a top 16 all-time goalie.
Rather tragic that the assassination of two of hockey's greatest goaltenders is allowed to continue unchecked and unsanctionned.

CG presented rather incomplete and biased data previously. HE WAS CAUGHT.

Now there is another introduction of the mystery hand to support or bring down certain goalies. The undercounting of shots as in the case of Belfour,.

This first started with Martin Brodeur - victim of CG"s blog, now the tactic is extended to Belfour,Durnan, maybe others. So according to CG, SOGS and SV% cannot be trusted because of undercounting or incomplete or inaccurate data. But CG is constantly presenting data based on SOG and SV% yet somehow this data is not tainted.Factor in that he was caught presenting incomplete data - five minutes of work short of completion, that presented a false picture.

CGs points are based on multiple conspiracy theories.

1.) That there was a demonstrable effort to name the Vezina winner as the first AST goalie. But what was the numerical gap in goals allowed between the Vezina winner and the runner-up and/
or third place goalie? Why would writers or coaches engage in such a practice? What would be the actual benefit to coaches to do so? What goes around comes around - coaches especially would only be hurting their own players - payback voting at other positions. What would be the benefit to GMs to game the Vezina voting?
Three conspiracies would have to hold - writers, coaches and GMs over a period of well over 70 seasons for this to have legs.

2.) Undercounting first Brodeur now Durnan and Belfour. Throw in Nashville, maybe Florida so 4 out of 30 teams are not reliable, app 14% of the goalie stats - SOGs, SV% since 1993-94 are unreliable.
Interesting conspiracy amongst 4 NHL arenas. To what benefit? Who benefits from such undercounting? Well CG benefits by using the generated stats as if they were accurate yet disclaiming them when it is necessary to promote or denegrate a goalie.

The Durnan undercounting argument is especially interesting. Two considerations. Same era as the "phantom assists" awarded Red Wings to the detriment of Maurice Richard - long disproven. Then there is the debate about frequency of assists in the various NHL from the 1920s thru the O6 era. Why would the stat keeping in a rink be so inconsistent? What is the benefit? Again if Durnan's stats are tainted then so are the stats of all the goalies who played against him. Yet only Bill Durnan gets punished.

3.) Coaching. CG the Dick Irvin factor in Montreal, mentioned last thread. Does he do additional research or provide additional evidence? No. Does he look at the coaching factor for the other five teams. No. Such research requires a lot of work.
Will look at the Leafs and Hap Day in the next segment.

4.) Team factor. This touches Turk Broda and Bill Durnan. Sad part is that no one has researched this elusive team factor while making unsupported claims about team strengths and influences.

Will start with the Maple Leafs and Hap Day. Hap Day's biggest strength was that he knew how to build a playoff ready team during the regular season. Playing for the Leafs under Dick Irvin Sr, he saw first hand how playoff series were lost after successful regular seasons. He also knew Dick Irvin's tactics. The reverse was not true.

Turk Broda gets criticized for not being a good regular season goalie under Hap Day while he is praised for being an outstanding playoff goalie during the Hap Day era. Conversely Broda is seen as a solid regular season goalie in Toronto and a weak playoff goalie under Dick Irvin. Rather ironic

Facts. 1940-41, under Hap Day when the Leafs had a solid team, Broda won the Vezina, losing in the playoffs to the Bruins even though the Leafs outscored the Bruins and Brimsek 17-15. 1947-48 Broda won his only other Vezina when the Leafs had a solid team.
1941-42, 2nd place, 2nd in Vezina, won the SC, 0-3 comeback. 1942-43thru 1945-46 Leafs were transitional, winning a SC in 1945 failing to make the playoffs in 1946.

1946-47 Leaf liquidated their old defensemen going with a young defence:

Bill Barilko(playoffs) and Jimmy Thomson were 19 while Gus Mortson was 22.Turk Broda was instrumental getting the young defensemen to work as part of the unit during the regular season and playoff ready where the team won the first of three cups.

1947-48 Leafs, first,Vezina and another SC. Doubt that you could say that Broda did not have a good season. This was the season that brought Max Bentley to the team - at a cost of five players

But Syl Apps retired after the successful season.

1948-49 Leafs 4th, Broda was 3rd in GA, but the team won the SC.
Loss of Apps hurt offensively(-35 GF) and defensively(+18 GA), similar to the Canadien in 1972 after Beliveau retired. The team was playoff ready and won its third consecutive SC. Hard to see why Broda gets the blame for the regular season drop in team performance.

1942-43 Canadiens coached by Dick Irvin with Paul Bibeault in nets allowed 191 goals:

1943-44 Canadiens coached by Dick Irvin with Bill Durnan in nets allowed 109 goal. The core defensemen were the same both years - Emile Bouchard, Glen Harmon, Leo Lamoureux. Mike McMahon replaced Jack Portland at the start of the 1943-44 season. Maurice Richard was healthy the whole year. Team won the SC. unless you believe that Maurice Richard made the difference with his backchecking and Mike McMahon was the big difference then the only major change was Bill Durnan.

1944-45 Canadiens, same coach, basic team, Frank Eddolls replaced Mike McMahon as a core defenseman. GA rose to 121. Team finished first but lost in the SF to Toronto:

Team defense fell apart in the last ten games trying to get Maurice Richard to 50 in 50. First 40 games, 93 GA, last 10 games, 28 GA

Playoffs saw Bill Durnan and Maurice Richard play at their regular season level.

1945-46 additions include Ken Reardon and Mike McMahon on defence, plus support forwards:

Team was first overall, in GA, 3rd in GF, won the SC. Durnan allowed 104 goals in 40 games, injury replacement Paul Bibeault allowed 30 goals in 10 games.

1946-47 thru 1949-50.Dick Irvin coached, offence disappeared once Toe Blake had to retire due to injury -1947/48 season, GF were 5th,6th,4th and 5th. Defence was solid especially once Doug Harvey was added forming a core of Bouchard/Harmon/Harvey/Reardon. With Bill Durnan in nets they finished 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st in GA.When they made the playoffs during this era, the Canadiens were always the weakest team offensively:

Yet in three of the four season Bill Durnan outperformed the other goalies in the league in terms of GAA despite rarely having the same offensive support that they enjoyed.

The other coaches recognized this and properly gave him the AST honours he deserved.

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