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Is Schneider Elite Again?

Schneider was unquestionably elite last year. The Devils have improved last year so that has the potential to mask possible decline in Schneider's production. Let's see. Also: ever wonder why Candians are lefty?

Is Schneider Elite? He at least looks good.
Is Schneider Elite? He at least looks good.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Last year Cory Schneider was the 2nd best goalie in the league. According to the WAR-on-Ice WARboard, Schneider was the 2nd most valuable goalie behind Carey Price, and the 3rd most valuable player behind only Price and Joe Pavelski. According to Hockey-Reference's Point Shares (anyone else noticing you need a hyphen in your URL to be taken seriously?) He was the 2nd most valuable overall player behind only Price. According to Hockey Prospectus's GVT, he was the 3rd most valuable overall player in the league behind only Price and Dubnyk.

By 3 of the premier rating systems in the sport, Cory Schneider was objectively one of the 3 most valuable players in the league last year.

I've had a couple people talk to me about how Schneider has been just okay this year, pointing out that he isn't at the top of any of the NHL leaders lists. As an example:

Statistics Section

Schneider is 18th in the NHL in Sv% (5th last year). He's also 14th in the NHL in GAA (10th last year). So is he getting worse?

Absolutely not. His Sv% and GAA are almost identical to last years. The rest of the NHL is just higher. Actually. His Sv% went down ... barely (.925 to .922). And his GAA has actually improved (2.26 to 2.16). According to WOI's Adjusted Sv% he's also virtually identical to last year.

That ranking difference pays him back in shootouts though, where his percentage has dipped from .666 (lol) to .600, but ironically that is good enough for top 10 in the league this year. He is also #1 in shootout saves and that has helped make the Devils tied for first in shootout wins.

Not Statistics Section

(with a paragraph-long tangent on American vs. Canadian handedness)

That's all for stats. From a non-statistical vantage point, I've seen a few good things worth mentioning. The two actual improvements I've noted are his blocker side and his stick-handling (kind of).

Schneider's always solid blocker has become one of the elite ones in the league. He has made a few great saves on that side this year. Of the ones I can remember, I found video of his shootout save against Okposo. For those who have never tried on goalie gear, hold your arms sideways to make a "T" with your body. Now turn your wrists so that your palms are facing forward. That's a glove save. Now turn your wrists so your palms are facing backward. That's a blocker save. It's a reall tough motion to get used to and I've seen Schneider make that save like its easy 5 or 6 times this year.

Stick-handling is a slightly different story. Schneider was never good at it. Many American Goalies actually have a tough time with it because of handedness. Americans and Canadians are both predominantly right-handed, but Canadians put their dominant hand at the top of the stick and Americans put if at the bottom. It's a quirk of hockey that some have theorized explanations to, but I don't know that one has been agreed upon. The most popular is that since Americans take up the sport later, they are strong enough to use their off-hand to hold the stick with one hand and their on-hand (almost a word?) to aim. I picked up hockey when I was 3 and I am a natural righty who plays lefty so this logic makes a lot of sense to me. The NYT actually did a story on this subject. Due to the orientation of goalie equipment, this makes stick-handling very difficult for many American goalies. That was supposed to be a shorter explanation ... I have no clue how that became it's own paragraph ... I apologize ... ... THE POINT I was trying to make is that Schneider's stick-handling was and is a work in progress. But, I've seen the progress. Those boneheaded plays are happening less and less, he's getting in the way of the puck behind the net during dumps, and the team has been able to throw it back to him in the 3-on-3 OT without panicking because of his work. Time with Brodeur and Terreri may finally be paying off.

Conclusion and Thoughts?

While the rest of the league has statistics flying all over the place, waiting for the sample size to help them settle into their means, Schneider has been the model of consistency. He has been the known variable that the Devils need him to be through what could be a chaotic season or two of roster/leadership/philosophy turnover. One stat I didn't mention is the one that matters most. Schneider has the second most wins in the league.

What do you guys think? Has he been every bit as good as last year? Is he elite until otherwise stated? Did you like my paragraph-long tangent on American vs. Canadian handedness? Should I try to focus more in the future? Is this stream of questioning sort of compounding the issue? Oh look something shiny!