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12-12-2012, 07:23 PM
  #115
ContrarianGoaltender
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quoipourquoi View Post
I suppose the major crux of my argument would be that the Islanders did not find success in the playoffs with any other goaltender after 1975 (Smith's first - and probably only bad playoff) despite occasionally giving Resch and Melanson several games, whereas the Oilers did well without Fuhr. From 1983-1987, Andy Moog was 18-5 in the playoffs for the Edmonton Oilers, which is to say that he pretty much won every game that was not the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals. And then they trade Moog for Ranford, and Ranford wins a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe. I mean, you don't see Chico Resch walking around with that on his resume. I think Smith had a bigger role in the Islanders dynasty than Fuhr did in the Oilers dynasty.
Sure, but the counterargument is that the Islanders team offence had little success outside of the Cup years, while the Oilers were dominant in scoring throughout the decade. Yes, other goalies in Edmonton with similar levels of support also won games, but it can be argued very easily that no other goalie in New York got anything near the level of playoff support that Billy Smith did from 1980 to 1983.

Here are the Islanders' goals per game and goals against average in the playoffs, all adjusted based on the regular season average to a scoring environment of 3.6 goals per game:

YearGPGGAA
19752.943.00
19763.473.15
19773.272.91
19781.992.44
19792.752.14
19804.183.09
19815.122.53
19823.932.40
19834.452.51
19842.742.61
19852.292.48
19861.243.11
19872.342.60
19882.823.60

What's amazing is that the Islanders had a below-average playoff offence in every single playoff season of Billy Smith's career, with the exception of the four Cup years when they suddenly became Edmonton Oilers-level dominant. It seems awfully hard to say that had much to do with Smith's goaltending. In contrast, Chico Resch had a career playoff GAA of 2.49 in New York, a better rate than Smith, but his win/loss record was only 17-17 because he never got much offensive support. I see no reason at all to believe that Resch couldn't win a Cup if his team was scoring 5 goals per game in front of him. It is notable that the Islanders' goal prevention was very consistent from 1978 to 1987, and what made the difference was almost entirely based on their goalscoring.

Compare that to the Oilers, who were above league average in scoring in every playoff season from 1982 to 1990 except for 1989 (same average-adjusted stats to the same 3.60 scoring level as above):

YearGPGGAA
19813.673.57
19824.074.60
19834.742.84
19844.632.76
19855.172.90
19863.822.70
19874.162.63
19884.572.89
19892.853.42
19904.022.55
19913.183.30
19923.243.57

Ranford won the Conn Smythe in 1990, but he still got a ton of offensive support in doing it. The Oilers were pretty consistent both offensively and defensively throughout the 1980s, making it very unsurprising that they won with different goalies in net.

I don't think either Smith or Fuhr were crucial to their team's dynasties. Smith seems to get a lot more credit for his contributions in New York, but unless somebody is able to prove he was unusually clutch or he majorly helped his team offensively it still looks to me like he was a major beneficiary of circumstance in that he happened to be the goalie in the early '80s when for four years Trottier & co. scored goals like Gretzky & co. I think it is quite possible that Smith was still more important to the Islanders' dynasty than Fuhr, but I think looking just at other goalies' results overstates the gap, and overall I am leaning towards ranking Fuhr ahead of Smith.

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