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Charline Labonte Named CWHL Goalie Of The Year

At Friday night’s awards dinner, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) announced that Les Canadiennes du Montreal goaltender Charline Labonte won Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season, beating out Erica Howe of the Brampton Thunder and Genevieve Lacasse of the Boston Blades.

The decision to go with Labonte over Lacasse has generated a degree of understandable controversy. Lacasse’s season was notable for the sheer amount of rubber she faced — more than 1100 shots in 22 games. Whereas Labonte played behind one of the top two teams in the league, Lacasse’s Blades were outmatched every single game. Still, she did perform just below league average on those shots, posting a .904 compared to the league save percentage of .907.

Labonte, in the other hand, averaged fewer than 20 shots a game. That comes with its own challenges and Labonte told Jared Book of Habs Eyes on the Prize that it was an adjustment for her. Nonetheless, Labonte’s numbers were better than Lacasse’s by a fair bit. In fact, among starters (goalies who played more than 12 of 24 games) no one posted anything close to Labonte’s .925.

It comes down to how we measure performance. Is a .904 on 51 shots per game a better performance than a .925 on 19 shots per game? It is tough to say yes unequivocally. Were the kinds of shots Lacasse saw all difficult ones? Were the ones Labonte saw all easy? We have no way to measure the shot quality mix for the CWHL. From impressions, the difference in quality was likely not as extreme as the difference in number. Exactly how much weight should be put on workload over results?

The Blades definitely asked a lot of their netminder and she handled it with grace and enthusiasm. That is not, however, an evaluation of performance and if the award is about performance, surely Labonte’s stellar numbers are meaningful as well.

In the end, these are both gifted, technically skilled goalies working under their own sets of challenges. Each had a case for winning the award and nothing about goaltending is hard and fast. It was a very tough decision to make.

What do you think? Did the league get it right?

About The Author

Clare Austin

Clare Austin is a reluctant “stats nerd” living in Nashville, where she has never worn a cowboy hat or boots.

3 Comments

  1. MRH

    How can you seriously even ask that question? That decision is a joke. It is one thing to have a relatively “easy” 50 shot game (it can happen) – it is another to face an AVERAGE almost 50 shots/game. Any team that only gives up an average of only 20 shots/game is rarely giving up many Grade A scoring chances. Any team that is so weak that it gives up an average of 45+ shots/game is giving up quality scoring chances EVERY game – and lots of them. And, yes, I do understand that it is a challenge for goalies that are not busy and then facing a quality chance. Focus is key. But don’t even talk about the .904 vs. .907. That is completely meaningless. 1100 shots in 22 games is a ludicrous workload for any goalie. Even Carey Price does not win the Vezina – let alone the MVP – if he faced that many shots/game.

    Reply
    • Clare Austin

      At some point, though, you have to have the results. I’ve run this by several smart goalie people under various circumstances and there’s a considerable number of people who said that it’s tough to ignore just how big a gap there is between those numbers. It’s not a ridiculous question at all.

      Reply
  2. Bovey

    Agree with the above comment. Recently sitting with some D1 scouts and the same topic came up on a couple of AAA goaltenders in our state. One plays for the best team ( by far) and sees an avg of 11 shots a game! Numbers of course are outstanding. GAA under 1 Save % of 9.5 something. Other tender plays for the bottom of the heap (still AAA) and is seeing 48 shots a game avg. Crazy. GAA 2.58 and Save percentage 9.17. Obviously there are a million other things to look at but if everything else is equal who is the better goaltender?

    Reply

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