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Can Cory Schneider Win the Vezina This Year?

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To many, Cory Schneider is still very much an unknown. He has yet to have a full season as the undisputed starter. Will he break down as his number of games played breaks 50? However, if you compare his numbers to another star, he could be great.

Bruce Bennett

As all of you know, this year the New Jersey Devils no longer have the historic backbone of the franchise, Martin Brodeur.  Needing to move on from the not-so-great .901 save percentage over the last two seasons, the team inked Cory Schneider to a 7 year, $42 million dollar deal.  Clearly, he is going to be the guy for the present and future.  Many people, including myself, are very happy about this.  Schneider has proven himself to be a quality, even potentially great NHL goaltender over the previous few seasons.  He will most likely give the Devils top-10 goaltending for a decent amount of years to come, and could potentially even be a regular top-5 goalie.

However, recently I read an article from Bleacher Report where the author, Dave Lozo, gave bold predictions for each team in the NHL.  For New Jersey, he predicted that Schneider would win the Vezina this year.  At first, I definitely thought that to be a bold statement, given that Schneider has never played a full season as a number one, and therefore there is not enough evidence to really back that up.  But Lozo was quick to compare Schneider's situation to Tuukka Rask's.  Rask sat behind Tim Thomas in Boston for several years before finally getting his chance to shine as a full-time number one goaltender.  He even got a massive contract before ever playing a full 82 game season as the starter.  Of course, Rask played the lockout shortened season as the starter, and helped lead his team to a Stanley Cup finals berth before getting that contract, but nonetheless neither player played a full, non-lockout shortened season as starter before receiving their deals.  And, of course, Rask won the Vezina this past year for Boston, in his first full season as a starter for the team.

Therefore, can Schneider win it?  Of course he can, but I wanted to look more closely at Rask's numbers as compared to Schneider's to see how similar they really are before getting behind that thought.  All numbers that you are about to read in this article are courtesy of www.hockey-reference.com.

Rask's Numbers

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Looking at those numbers, Rask did not crack the NHL on a major basis until the 2009-2010 season, when he split time with then-incumbent Tim Thomas.    He actually played more games than Thomas that year, the former only playing 43 while Rask played 45.  And his numbers were great, posting a .931 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA, which are still the best numbers of his career.  Thomas, on the other hand, only posted a .915 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA.  Nonetheless, despite those numbers, Rask was relegated to a secondary role the next two seasons, playing only 52 games combined while Thomas played a whopping 116 and lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship after the 2010-2011 season, winning the Conn Smythe trophy in the process.

After the 2011-2012 sesason, Thomas departed, leaving Rask as the undisputed number one.  And he earned that spot, having at that point posted a .926 save percentage over the previous three seasons.  His first season as a starter, the 2013 season, only saw him play 36 games thanks to the lockout.  He still did well, rocking a .929 save percentage, just above where his numbers were to that point.  Then, finally, his first full-season as a starter came this past season, his age 26 season.  And he made the most of it, posting a .930 save percentage and a 2.04 GAA, winning the Vezina.

Seeing these numbers, and knowing the history, let's now check out Cory Schneider's numbers, and see how they compare.

Schneider's Numbers

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Schneider cracked the NHL as a regular backup in Vancouver to Roberto Luongo during the 2010-2011 season, when he played 25 games and posted a very solid .929 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA.  He would top that the following season, rocking a .937 save percentage and 1.96 GAA in 33 games played.  In the lockout shortened season, he played 30 games and came slightly back down to earth, although a .927 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA are still really darn good.

Despite these excellent numbers, Vancouver decided to trade their young protégé to New Jersey and stick with Luongo.  Today, they now have neither goalie, and instead employ the services of Ryan Miller.  Schneider, being the 1A last season next to Marty, put up a .921 save percentage and 1.97 GAA in his first season in the red and black, playing 45 games.  He now enters his age 28 season.

Comparing these Numbers

To make this easier to read, I decided to put their numbers up side-to-side in a chart to really see how similar they were for their first few seasons in the NHL.  I am comparing their first four years in the NHL, or at least their first four years playing more than a token number of games.

Year / Stat

Tuukka Rask

Cory Schneider

1st year GP

45

25

1st year SV%

.931

.929

1st year GAA

1.97

2.23

2nd year GP

29

33

2nd year SV%

.918

.937

2nd year GAA

2.67

1.96

3rd year GP

23

30

3rd year SV%

.929

.927

3rd year GAA

2.05

2.11

4th year GP

36

45

4th year SV%

.929

.921

4th year GAA

2.00

1.97

Then, here is a chart that averages out these numbers:

Stat

Tuukka Rask

Cory Schneider

Average GP

33.25

33.25

Average SV%

.927

.928

Average GAA

2.17

2.07

Conclusions

After looking at those charts, I think that it is pretty clear that these two goalies have had nearly identical numbers over their first four seasons in the NHL.  Since both started as backups for their respective clubs, both have an identical average of games played over their first four seasons, at 33.25.  Their save percentages are also nearly identical over that same span, with Schneider just barely taking Rask in that category.  Schneider performed better in the GAA category as well, but again only slightly, winning by .10.

What does this all mean?  Well, I think it means that Schneider could definitely win the Vezina this year.  Those numbers for Rask include all his major seasons in the NHL except for last season, his first as the full time starter for an 82 game slate.  And in that season, he won the Vezina.  Schneider has nearly identical numbers, if not better.  If Rask won the Vezina in his first full season as the undisputed number one, why can't Cory?

The main argument against, of course, would be that Rask had a better team in front of him last year than Cory does this year.  And that can definitely be argued.  Having a better team in front of you will certainly boost your numbers to a degree and help you perform better.  A great defense will lower a goalie's GAA, and perhaps can help to raise his save percentage as well, if the opposition is forced to take lower quality shots.  However, I still think that Schneider could do it.  And heck, even if he doesn't win the Vezina, he could easily be one of the top goalies this upcoming season.  No one questions Rask's position as one of the best goalies in the NHL today.  I definitely believe that after this season, no one will question Schneider's position as well.

Your Thoughts

What do you think?  Do you think Schneider has a legitimate chance to win the Vezina trophy this year?  How about just to be a top 5 goaltender?  Or do you think that comparing him to Rask is not a smart endeavor?  Please leave your comments below, and thank you for reading.