Marty Turco Revisited: A Statistical Look Back

The 2007-08 Dallas Stars had just gone to the Western Conference Finals with new acquisition Brad Richards. We all know the next phase of the story. The two-headed monster brings in Sean Avery, most of the defensive core of the team crumbles, and the team misses the playoffs for three seasons running. Marty Turco's career coincidentally appeared to begin a downward spiral at the same time, and he took a lot of heat. How much of that was fair though?

Does Marty Turco deserve more credit for the Stars fall from grace, or was he a victim of circumstance? The conclusion I came to is that Turco had a confluence of bad situations come together. Marty played a ton of minutes, saw a ton of shots, and got old very quickly. Follow the jump to see exactly what happened.

What we first need to do to tackle this question is to determine what Marty Turco was before the franchise sunk into the abyss. Below you will find a simple table chronicling Turco's GVT by season for his Stars career.

 

Marty Turco GVT by season
2001 2002 2003 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
12.3 10.7 34.6 13.9 9.5 19.6 8.6 -7.3 9.0

 

Two seasons really jump out at you when first glancing: one good, one bad. The 2002-03 Marty Turco was the best goalie in the NHL. The 2003 season was Marty's first season as the Stars #1 goaltender, and he didn't disappoint. Marty had a 1.72 GAA to go with a .932 SV% in 55 games. Turco's 2003 was the 57th best goaltending season since 1967 (as far back as the stats go) in terms of GVT, and the best in Stars franchise history. That season set unreasonably high expectations for Turco, but despite that he was still really good in 2004.

The 2008-09 season was a different animal entirely. Marty was coming off of a solid, but unspectacular regular season. The Stars went on their deepest playoff run in 8 years, and Marty was in net for all of it. Then in 2009, Marty played the second highest minute total of his career. Only 31 goalies have ever topped 4300 minutes in a season. Marty's 4327 minutes is the 24th highest goalie minute total in NHL history. He topped that total once in his career earlier, at age 28. Marty played the 2009 season at 33.  

Remember those 31 instances where a goalie was on the ice for 4300 minutes? Nine of those belong to Martin Brodeur. Four of those belong to Mikka Kipprusoff. Three of those belong to Arturs Irbe. Two each belong to Grant Fuhr and Marty Turco. Twelve goalies in NHL history have seen that many minutes. Only four goalies have seen that many minutes at age 33 or older, and only one of those four continued to play at a high level (Brodeur...and even he plays behind what is considered a very tight defensive system).

Five years is a long time in professional sports, and the time frame between 28-33 is generally considered the prime of an athletic career. It appears that the minutes took a significant toll on Turco over the course of the year. However, the minutes Turco played in 2009 don't tell the entire story. There aren't enough examples to draw a definitive conclusion stating that the minutes Turco played took THAT much of a toll on him. The Stars defense really was bad, and how quickly they fell can be seen in the amount of shots thrown at Turco.

Two intuitive ideas should govern how many goals a goalie will give up in a given season. The quality of shots a goalie faces and the amount of shots a goalies faces should tell us what his GAA should be. Unfortunately, there is no way to currently detect a teams ability to alter shot quality, so we will have to lean primarily on shots against.

What happened after the Western Conference Finals appearance? Well, the Stars defense allowed rubber to be thrown at Turco at a rapid pace. Marty went from, on average, seeing about 24 shots per game in his career leading up to 2009, to seeing 28 shots per game in 2009. He subsequently saw about 31 shots per game in 2010. The chart below illustrates the rising shot totals.

Marty Turco Shots Against
Year GP Time on Ice GAA Shots SA/60
2001 26 1266 1.90 532 25.21
2002 31 1519 2.09 670 26.46
2003 55 3203 1.72 1359 25.47
2004 73 4359 1.98 1648 22.68
2006 68 3910 2.55 1624 24.92
2007 67 3764 2.23 1564 24.93
2008 62 3629 2.31 1543 25.51
2009 74 4327 2.81 1993 27.64
2010 53 3088 2.72 1605 31.19

 *Note: Post lockout GAA #'s are higher due to more than just Turco. The new rules inflated goal scoring. SA/60 is the shots against per 60 minutes.

Basically, as Turco's shots against and minutes went up with his age, so did his goals against average. It looks like Marty was simply beaten down from all the pucks thrown at him. Another way to put the shots he saw in context is to apply the 2009 rate of shots he saw per minute to the amount of ice time he accumulated in 2008.

How many extra shots would Turco have seen in the Western Conference Finals season if the next season's rate of shots against were applied? 130 more in 12 less games.

Like I said, we all know what happened in 2009, but I don't think we fully appreciate just how quickly things went south,  and how much of a burden fell on an aging Marty Turco. Outside of a couple years he was never a top top top tier goaltender so when the talent in front of him evaporated his collapse seemed much more pronounced than it really was. We need to remember Marty for what he was: a very good goalie who ended his tenure in Dallas under some less than fortunate circumstances.

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