Email Question: Is Scott Darling A Number-1 Starting Goalie?

My email is open 24/7 for questions. Email yours to BlackhawksBreakdown@gmail.com

An emailer asks:

“Scott Darling previously stated that he never wants to leave Chicago and he’s content with being a backup goalie. Now that there is talk he could be a number one starting goalie do you think his mind set is changing and will be looking elsewhere at the end of this season? Or do you think the Hawks will trade Crawford to keep Panarin thus giving Darling the starting spot?”

I will first start with the Crawford trade question. Since he is a top-5 in the NHL goalie and also has a full no move clause, I will default to Chicago will not trade him. Even if they wanted to trade him, Corey could simply decline the trade. The only team I could see Crawford wanting to play for is his childhood team the Montreal Canadians, and we know that team doesn’t need a goalie anytime soon.

As always, anything can happen. I don’t operate on a 0% or 100% level. I put the chance of Crawford being traded this offseason at around 5%. It shouldn’t happen, but one never knows.

Now let’s move on to Scott Darling.

I do not think he’ll be a number one goalie next season. He’s played amazing lately, and with recentcy bias, people are going to claim he’s a number-1 starting goaltender in the NHL. There is a chance he could be, but there are so many goalies nowadays that might be starters. The goalie market is saturated. Think of economics class when learning about supply and demand. The supply of quality goalies in the NHL is high, therefore the demand for goalies is low.

Lets look at each NHL teams goalie depth chart.

Screen Shot 2017-01-08 at 12.22.51 PM.png

I hypothesized that Darling could be the starter next season for Carolina and Dallas. Even then, Dallas still has two goalies under contract for a high price, both performing better this season. Even if a team needed a starter, there are plenty available. Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre-Fleury, Jimmy Howard, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott are a few that could be finding new homes this offseason. All have played many games in net which GM’s usually value.

The best bet I see for Darling is to try to receive a 2-years, $1.5-$2M contract to be the 1B option for a team. Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, St. Louis, and Vancouver could use Darling as a tandem goalie next season. But also remember, Darling isn’t the only available goalie this offseason. The market is full of goalies for these teams to choose from.

Another possibility is for Darling to become a backup for a non-elite goalie. Teams like Arizona, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto,  and Winnipeg could all afford to use some extra cap for a good backup in Scott Darling.

One last thing to note about the above table, it doesn’t include all the young goalie prospects that are ready to make the jump into the NHL, further saturating the market.

Lets dive into some player evaluation.

Screen Shot 2017-01-08 at 11.54.46 AM.png

The above chart comes from Ian Fleming and his Dispelling Voodoo website. It illustrates many goalie stats from the 2015-16 season. These include:

  • Goalies age
  • Ice Time
  • Goals Saved Above Average per 60 minutes
  • Save %
  • High, Medium, & Low danger save %
  • Above Average Appearance % = the percentage of a goalie’s appearances in which they saved an above average number of goals.

In the above chart, there are black reference lines to note league average. The blue bar protruding to the outside of those lines indicates the goalie is above league average in that stat. Red bars that do not reach the black line indicate the goalie was below league average in that stat.

Last season, Scott Darling was a slightly below league average goalie in 29-games played.

This season has been a special one for Darling. Let’s check out the 2016-17 stats.

SAVE 16-17.png

This season, Scott Darling is above league average in everything except for Low-Danger Save %. He has been an elite goalie through 19-games played this season.

With recency bias, everyone will think he’s an elite goalie, but we can’t forget about his subpar play in the 2015-16 season.

I still think Darling is a good goaltender and definitely capable of being a more involved backup or tandem goalie option for another NHL team next season.

The problem with Chicago is they have no money to pay a backup goalie. The Blackhawks model is to pay money to the necessities and find cheap value contracts to fill in the rest. Darling has probably proven enough to receive a contract the exceeds $1 million per season. I’m not sure if Chicago can afford that.

So my final answer is this.

I do not think Scott Darling is a number 1 NHL goalie.

I do think Darling has priced himself out of Chicago. To stay in Chicago, he would have to take a pretty big discount. Not big in the sense of total dollars, but big in the sense that he might half to cut the salary he could get in half.

I think Darling could find a gig that pays him $1.5 million to play with Robin Lehner, Jake Allen, Chad Johnson, or Jacob Markstrom next season. He would receive more money and more playing time than if he played for Chicago.

The Blackhawks would likely want to get him in under $1M and he would again be backing up a top-5 NHL goalie. In a pure career move, this would be idiotic for Darling. However, his emotional ties to the area and team may be strong enough for him to return at a discount, which would be very beneficial for Chicago.