Some of you expected it, others didn’t see this coming: Jonas Hiller is returning to Switzerland and joining EHC Biel-Bienne. This is actually an intersting case. Biel had the second worst goaltending last season behind Bern. So any change to that position should be an improvement. But how much of an improvement is Hiller going to be? I tried to find that one out.
Compiling data of the last 4 seasons (2012-13 to 2015-16) shows that on average, a team gets 75 points and each goal scored equals around 0.4608 points towards the standings. Or the other way around: each goal against costs your team 0.4608 points towards the standings. The graph where I did this calculation is shown below. This caluclation is actually pretty reliable as 92% of a team’s points come from its goals scored and only 8% depend on other factors (e.g. happenstance).
Getting back to Biel, we can see that they had a goal differential of -47 in 2015-16 with a Sv% of .895. League average goaltending was .905. Assuming Biel would have gotten at least league average goaltending last year, they would have conceded only 154 goals against instead of 175. Taking what we know about goals against and points, Biel’s goaltending cost them around 9 points towards the standings last year.
Back to Hiller: Predicting his performance is somewhat difficult as he last played in the NLA 9 years ago and his journey the last few years has definitely seen some turbulence. But the numbers he posted with the national team have been consistent so we can assume that he should be among the league’s elite which should put him between a save percentage of .915 and .920. If Biel still plays the same way next year as they did in 2015-16, having Hiller in goal is going to improve them a lot:
Having that kind of elite goaltending is going to make a difference of up to 20 additional points and this definitely puts Biel into payoff contention. This acquisition is well worth the price and this investment should pay off for Biel. They just made their team significantly better with only one transaction. Now they need to get to work to build a proper supporting cast to bail their goalie out once he’s having an off-night.
Building your team from the crease out has been proven a successful strategy time and again and Bile just did that.
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