Monday, February 18, 2008

Who are the power players?

People who stop by here regularly know that I like to poke around on Behind The Net quite regularly. But what I often wonder is just how many NHL teams are using that data (or some just like it) in evaluating player personnel.

If I was on a team staff, one of the things I would really look at is using rate statistics to determine how to configure special teams units. After all, Power plays and penalty kills make up a short portion of every game, an average of about 12 per cent each, but teams score 28 per cent of their goals with the man advantage.

In other words, every minute counts.

Here are the top 10 players who improve their teams' power plays the most when they're on the ice:

1 JERE LEHTINEN DAL 6 12.33 5.11 7.22
2 MICHAEL NYLANDER WSH 18 7.99 1.61 6.38
3 JAROME IGINLA CGY 21 7.98 1.66 6.32
4 ROSTISLAV OLESZ FLA 5 9.14 2.90 6.24
5 MICHAEL PECA CBJ 20 8.94 3.18 5.76
6 ANDREI MARKOV MTL 1 10.24 4.53 5.71
7 CHRIS DRURY NYR 23 8.07 2.96 5.11
8 DANIEL ALFREDSSON OTT 11 8.44 3.48 4.96
9 SCOTT NIEDERMAYER ANA 24 7.76 3.07 4.69
10 RYAN MALONE PIT 4 10.55 5.95 4.6

Now, some of these are no-brainers. If you're the coach of the Flames, or Senators, or Canadiens, Iginla, Alfredsson and Markov are always your first option guys.

But look at the success Mike Peca and Chris Drury have had this season on the man advantage on teams that have very poor power plays. The bigger special teams minutes have gone to Sergei Fedorov and Jaromir Jagr despite the fact they've struggled mightily in those minutes, with their teams scoring, on average, three or more goals less per 60 minutes on the power play.

That's a pretty simplified way of looking at things, especially considering some of these secondary players are seeing secondary penalty kill units, but the numbers don't lie.

On the flip side, here's a look at players who have struggled the most on the power play this season (among players who have averaged at least a minute a game on the man advantage):

1 JEFF TAFFE PIT 4 2.36 9.23 -6.87
2 TODD FEDORUK MIN 13 0.00 6.68 -6.68
3 JEFF HALPERN DAL 6 0.86 7.11 -6.25
4 DAVE BOLLAND CHI 26 2.01 8.14 -6.13
5 ROMAN HAMRLIK MTL 1 4.73 10.84 -6.11
6 JAN HLAVAC T.B 9 1.67 7.71 -6.04
7 OWEN NOLAN CGY 21 2.20 7.83 -5.63
8 ROB NIEDERMAYER ANA 24 1.00 6.43 -5.43
9 RANDY ROBITAILLE OTT 11 2.84 7.94 -5.1
10 RENE BOURQUE CHI 26 0.00 4.78 -4.78

These are the worst of the worst — and those are some ugly numbers. Fedoruk, who is now in Minnesota, inexplicably played about 45 minutes on the power play for the Stars and his team didn't score a single goal.

Someone like Nolan, meanwhile, is playing more than two minutes a game on the power play and accomplishing very little.

If I'm coaching any of these teams, none of these fellows see the ice 5-on-4 the rest of the season — let alone a minute-plus a game.

Here's a different take on the same idea, a look at players' points per minute while on the power play this season. As I mentioned above, teams generally only have about 12 per cent of their games played when up a man, or a little more than seven minutes, and rate statistics matter that much more:

1 JERE LEHTINEN DAL 6 29 3.02 8.22
2 ALEX KOVALEV MTL 1 59 3.75 7.86
3 T.J. HENSICK COL 29 27 1.77 7.54
4 R.J. UMBERGER PHI 2 56 1.57 6.82
5 LADISLAV NAGY L.A 8 38 2.86 6.62
6 EVGENI MALKIN PIT 4 58 4.58 6.33
7 JASON WILLIAMS CHI 26 20 4.27 6.32
8 BRENDAN MORRISON VAN 14 30 3.61 6.10
9 TOMAS PLEKANEC MTL 1 59 3.39 6.01
10 HENRIK ZETTERBERG DET 3 53 3.82 5.92
11 MARC SAVARD BOS 12 57 3.76 5.87
12 SERGEI GONCHAR PIT 4 54 5.16 5.82
13 DANIEL ALFREDSSON OTT 11 52 3.96 5.82
14 JEFF CARTER PHI 2 58 2.32 5.80
15 MICHAEL PECA CBJ 20 45 2.54 5.78
16 DANIEL BRIERE PHI 2 58 4.73 5.69
17 DANIEL SEDIN VAN 14 58 3.83 5.67
18 ANZE KOPITAR L.A 8 61 4.00 5.66
19 JASON SPEZZA OTT 11 53 4.01 5.64
20 DUSTIN BROWN L.A 8 57 3.75 5.62

Kovalev's had a phenomenal season on the power play, and is one of the big reasons Montreal is where they are in the standings so far.

As you can see, most of the players here, like Kovalev, are playing big minutes on the power play, but some are second-unit types like Umberger who deserve promotion to the No. 1 group.

The worst point-per-minute power players (among players with three minutes or more per game on the man advantage): Bryan Little, Kris Russell, Joni Pitkanen, Jason Blake, Sheldon Souray, Cory Murphy, Kyle Calder, Bill Guerin, Marty Straka, Paul Gaustad, Maxim Afinogenov, Filip Kuba, Scott Walker, Miroslav Satan, Dustin Byfuglien, Alex Edler, Francois Beauchemin, Matt Carle, Mathieu Schneider and Brett Clark.

Let's take Blake as an example, given he plays for one of the teams with an awful power play. Blake's playing about 3:07 at 5-on-4 a game, the Leafs are 28th in the league on the PP and when he's on the ice, they average just 3.58 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-4.

Meanwhile, the Toronto power play has fired at a rate of 6.24 goals per 60 minutes when Nik Antropov is on the ice.

Blake's scored 0.33 power-play goals per 60 minutes; Antropov's scored 2.81 per 60. And yet, both have played relatively similar minutes with the man advantage this season.

By the numbers, that doesn't make any sense. Even someone like Matt Stajan has outperformed Blake in half the power-play minutes.

And there are plenty of other examples around the league where players, rate wise, have outperformed those playing the big minutes.

Couldn't coaches benefit from these kinds of numbers?


At 2:04 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger Marchantfan said...

Sigh. Why are the Oilers players always on the "worst of" lists that you produce.

I poke fork in my eye.

At 2:10 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger chewbacca said...

Weird, i'm getting 23% of TOI on special unit. :|

At 2:11 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I haven't even gotten to my GMs list.

At 2:13 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Not sure what you're getting at Chewy.

At 3:22 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger chewbacca said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3:24 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger chewbacca said...

I look at behindthenet numbers and i'm getting around 46 min of even strength and 14 min of special unit time in average in the league. 14/60 = 23%.
So having 28% of goals on special units isn't that big of a deal with 23% of minutes when compared to 12%.
Or maybe i'm reading BtN stats wrong. :)

At 3:50 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

When I say 12 per cent, I'm talking about only power-play minutes. There are 12 per cent of the minutes on the power play and 12 per cent on the penalty kill, on average.

28 per cent of the goals are scored only on the power play, during that 12 per cent of the game.

At 5:25 PM, February 18, 2008, Blogger The Falconer said...


Last summer I took a look at the Power Play scoring rates of many NHL players and I will say that there is much more variation from season-to-season then in a player's Power Play productin rate(PP) copared to his even strength (ES) scoring rate. My hunch is that factors such as quality of team mates, hot streaks (i.e. confidence or lack of thereof), and just plain old luck play a larger factor in PP production than ES production.

When you thik about it this makes sense. Player X receives 50 minutes of PP TOI in two seasons in one season the PP unit gets two fluky deflection goals and they don't get those in the following year. Because there are fewer PP minutes the absence of those two fluky goals shows up a significant decline in Player X's PP production rate when really it was just a function of randomness.

What am I trying to say here. While I love using the production statitics in the long run ES production is much more reliable of a way to construct your roster--you have to factor in that the PP production is just not going to remain from season-to-season (or month-to-month) for that matter.

At 10:53 AM, February 19, 2008, Anonymous MathMan said...

One thing I've noticed is that it pays to be careful when comparing these statistics to see who is a difference-maker. Second-unit PP guys are going to end up with a lot of goals being scored by the first unit while they're off the ice, negating a power play before they get a crack at it. The better the first unit, the worse the differential of the second unit will be.

My example would be Roman Hamrlik. He gets a terrible negative rating in the minus chart, but it is more a function of replacing Markov on the point on the second unit than any real fault of his own. Montreal's first PP unit is extremely productive, so everyone who is NOT on the first unit ends up a huge GFOFF/60 stat on the power play. Hamrlik's individual production is reasonably good for a second-unit guy, it just doesn't measure up to the first unit on his team so his differential is deeply negative.


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