Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Paddy Moran - A Mediocre Hall of Famer?

Patrick 'Paddy' Moran is one of the more interesting goaltenders in the Hall of Fame. He played senior-level hockey from 1901/02 to 1916/17, playing for Quebec with the exception of the 1909/10 season, when that club did not operate for a full season. Although inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958, a cursory look at Moran's career numbers raises more questions than it answers. His won-lost-tied record is 99-107-2, and in 16 seasons he led his league in goals-against average only once. Now, he played in leagues of between only four and six teams throughout his career, which makes a below-average winning percentage more understandable, but which also makes his GAA record less impressive, since he has fewer teams to beat.

But we can look at his career in more detail. From 1910/11 to 1915/16, Moran (or more properly Moran's team) had the best goals-against average in the league only once. However, it's probably worth noting that the starting goaltender of nearly every team he finished behind is also a Hall-of-Famer, and that he finished ahead of several Hall-of-Famer seasons as well. Being in the middle of the pack amongst Hall-of-Famers is hardly a point against you.

Here are the GAA leaders, in order, for each of these seasons, finishing with the lowest-ranked Hall-of-Famer that season. Non-Hall-of-Famers are in brackets.

1910/11: Georges Vezina, Percy LeSueur, Riley Hern, Paddy Moran
1911/12: Georges Vezina, Paddy Moran, Percy LeSueur
1912/13: Paddy Moran, Georges Vezina, [Art Boyce], Percy LeSueur, Hap Holmes
1913/14: Georges Vezina, Hap Holmes, Percy LeSueur, Paddy Moran
1914/15: Clint Benedict, [Charlie McCarthy], Georges Vezina, Paddy Moran, Hap Holmes, Percy LeSueur
1915/16: Clint Benedict, Georges Vezina, Paddy Moran, Percy LeSueur

Of the 12 team-seasons that were ahead of Moran, 11 were recorded by Hall-of-Famers. And Moran finished ahead of seven other Hall-of-Famer seasons as well.

If this was the case throughout his career, there would be no mystery to Moran's reputation. However, earlier in his lengthy career, the same analysis shows much different results:

1901/02: [Bill Nicholson], Bouse Hutton, [Archie Lockerby], Paddy Moran
1902/03: [Bill Nicholson], Bouse Hutton, [Jim Nichol], [Patrick O'Reilly], Paddy Moran
1903/04: Bouse Hutton, Paddy Moran
1904/05: [Nathan Frye], [Oliver Waugh], Paddy Moran
1905/06: [Henri Menard], [Billy Hague], [Fred Brophy], [Nathan Frye], Paddy Moran
1906/07: Riley Hern, Percy LeSueur, [Nathan Frye], [George White], Paddy Moran
1907/08: [Bill Nicholson], Percy LeSueur, Riley Hern, Paddy Moran

These results don't make Moran's case seem very strong. He was behind all kinds of other netminders, only one of which (Big Bill Nicholson) has anything close to resembling a Hall-of-Fame career. But the fact is, if Moran was really that bad, he wouldn't have lasted at this level long enough to record the more impressive results he did in his later seasons. Moran played for some bad teams, especially early in his career. And even when he had a good team in front of him, it tended to be a team focused on defence rather than offence, so he was often the last line of defence when his skaters had abandoned him in an effort to fill the other net. It is easy to overstate this effect, though. For his Quebec career his team had a tendency towards offence, but not a huge one. Here are Quebec's Marginal Goals score (MG), Marginal Goals Saved (MGS) and the percentage that MG is of the total (MG%):


However, one could certainly argue that if Moran was a lesser netminder, this percentage would be even higher than it is. Perhaps they only saved as many goals as they did because of their spectacular goalie.

So to a certain extent, it appears that the responsibility for Quebec goal prevention was left to Moran, while his mates went forward in search of goals. On top of that was Moran's unique style, which we'll discuss in the next post when we give Moran a proper profile. We've already seen that Moran likely deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame, which means the Point Allocation system can reasonably be bent to agree with the his reputation. As such we have no reason to refute the opinion that he was a great goalie. Next time, we'll see just how good the system thinks he is.

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