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Monday, December 14, 2009

Away From The Puck Statistics – The Colonel

Last week, we spoke of who the most productive player in the NHL was by offering the statistic of Points Per Shift (PPS). Using this stat, we endeavored to analyze, “…how many Points Per Game (PPG) each player provides divided by the average number of shifts he takes in order to tell you what he brings to the Great Game each and every time he goes over the boards….” When we could provide that answer, we would be able to tell you who the most productive player in the NHL is at any given, measured point in the season.

Or so we thought.

We read the many comments posted about this blog and came to the conclusion a few folks were not quite satisfied by this offering. Some said the best stat to use is Points Per 60 Minutes because that measures everyone equally. Others argued some players, like Ilya Kovalchuk, skate for fewer, but much longer shifts like they used to do in Phil Esposito’s day which gives him more of an opportunity to score. A couple of things give us pause with those sentiments.

First is that one man’s 60 minutes is not another man’s equal time on the ice. Differences such as first line time and situations do not compare to that of the average fourth liner over the same 60 minutes because they are not tactically used in the same manner come to mind here. And theoretically, the longer a player skates in a single shift, the more tired they become, decreasing their output for the team. In a nutshell, it is not an equal measuring stick no matter how it is billed.

So we still prefer to measure our statistic against each shift. Not an overall, average number of shifts per player because that would not represent what each individual player does for their team. The top 60 scoring players in the NHL as of games ending Saturday, 12 December averaged 24.39167 Shifts Per Game (SPGs). Twenty-five of the top 60 scorers (or 41.7%) skate less than that average. In our estimation, measuring Per Shift more accurately defines that player’s contribution to 100% of his team’s effort in all games.

We do, however, bow to the suggestion that a statistic based on PPG alone does not measure a players’ complete, positive effort toward his team’s victory. This is because it does not quantify their effort away from the puck that results in a potential transition to offense. Such an effort is indeed important because it is what nine of 10 skaters are doing at all times the puck is in play. Said another way, it is most of the entire game of Hockey.

But in measuring the away-from-the-puck effort, we choose not to count statistics that either skew the statistic significantly or do not positively contribute to a score which in turn produces victory. A stat that significantly skews this component of the game is Shots On Goal (SOG). This is both because defensemen do not shoot as much as forwards as a general rule, and because some role players do not shoot nearly as much as they would if they were a top six forward. And an example of a statistic that does not contribute to a score for a player’s team is Giveaways. Their opposite, Takeaways, contribute to a team moving up ice toward the opposing goal and are a positive component to measure. Giveaways are the antithesis, assisting an opponent’s attempt to influence a game’s outcome.

To add to our attempt to explain who the most productive player in the NHL is, we therefore offer Defense Per Shift (DPS). This is not a measurement of the times a team traps in the neutral zone. Instead, it is a measure of actions taken to avoid a score against a player’s team that potentially leads to a goal. At any given time, a key Hit, a Blocked Shot (BkS) or a Takeaway (TkA) can change the direction of the puck toward the opponent’s goal so stand as On Goal Analysis’ yard stick for DPS.
Below with comments are the Top 16 players in terms of DPS. You might instinctively know these players contribute a lot to their team’s success because you see them in and around the puck for a majority of the time they are on the ice. You just may not know which player contributes the most.

Tomorrow’s blog will combine DPS with PPS from games ending 12 December, providing you with the Comprehensive Player Index, or CPI, our measurement of who truly is the most productive NHL player.

A Measurement of DPS

To give the equation, DPS is Hits + BkS + TkA divided by Games Played (GP), all of which are divided again by a players’ SPG. Dividing our three, key stats away-from-the-puck by GP gives us the average number of these total incidents each player provides in each game. We then further divide it by the number of Shifts Per Game in order to relevantly combine it with PPG in the end. In the end, it tells us what percentage of each shift a player contributes some action – other than scoring – toward his team’s goal of winning the game.

For those games ending on 12 December, the average number of Hits + BkS + TkA is 76.71 per player. Once you divide that by average GP and SPG, you get an average DPS of .10481. This list has five Centers, four Defensemen, four Left Wings, and three Right Wings on it with no more than three players from any given team. It also takes us down to Number 16 in order to reach the NHL’s Number 1 scorer. So who are our Top 16 DPS players?

The Top 16

1. Matt Greene of the LAK leads the pack and all Blue Liners with a DPS of .22965 on his below-average 21.9 SPGs. His high DPS is largely based on 109 Hits, 61 BkS and 1 TkA, making him one of three players with DPS Statistical Supremacy.

2. Cal Clutterbuck of MIN is in second place with a .22857 DPS, also on a below average SPG of 21.7. The strength of his ranking also lies with his three, away-from-the-puck stats of 108 Hits, 8 BkS and 8 TkA. He is the top Right Wing on the list and the second of three players with DPS Statistical Supremacy.

3. Brooks Orpik of PIT is third on our list with a .2227 DPS over an above-average 24 SPGs. Since the season began, he has provided the Penguins with 101 Hits, 49 BkS and 5 TkA. He is our third DPS Statistical Supremacy player.

4. The NYR’s Ryan Callahan is the Number 90 scorer, but the fourth-ranked DPS player at .20935 in 24.5 SPGs. He has racked up 111 Hits – the most of any forward on the list – and adds another 30 BkS and 18 TkA.

5. DAL’s Stephane Robidas comes in at Number 5 with a DPS of .20104 over a Top 16 List-leading 30 SPGs. Do not underestimate this statistic – if Robidas executed the same actions over Matt Greene’s 21.9 shifts, his DPS would be a .2754, or he would be banging, blocking or stealing almost 1/3 of the time he was on the ice. While only the Number 572 leading NHL scorer with 19 points, he tops the NHL in Hits with 116, our list of Top 16 players with 65 BkS, and throws in another 12 TkA for good measure. All combined he leads all players on our list with 193 actions away-from-the-puck. He is also our last player above a .20 DPS ranking.

6. Mike Fisher of OTT is the leading Centerman here and stands at Number 6 with a .19835 DPS over 22.6 SPGs. Fisher bangs for 80 Hits, 33 BkS and 17 TkA and is the first player on this list to garner more than 20 points so far this season with 26.

7. Alex Ovechkin comes in at Number 7 as the first Left Wing on this list. His DPS ranking of .19394 on the strength of 67 Hits, 6 BkS and 23 TkA merely adds to his Number 5 rank on the scoresheet. There is no doubt Ovechkin’s overall ranking is influenced by his list-tying lowest average of 19.8 SPGs. But you cannot underestimate Ovie’s propensity to bang, too – I personally saw him play last year against BOS and he hit big Zdeno Chara four times away from the play.

8. Half-way through our list is the LAK’s Dustin Brown with a .18034 DPS in 24.3 SPGs. Brown is also a banger with the second highest total of Hits at 115, and adds 13 BkS and 21 TkA.

9. At Number 9 is a player I frankly thought was going to be higher on the list based on his feverish play on the ice. Ryan Getzlaf is a force of nature for ANA with a .1723 DPS over an average of 26.3 SPGs. He has produced 93 Hits, 34 BkS and 18 TkA and plays a game very similar to this year’s version of Mike Fisher in OTT.

10. Rounding out the Top 10 on this list is Ryan Malone of TBL with a .16067 DPS in 25.9 SPGs. He is the last of our players with 100 or more Hits at right on the century mark, and throws in an extra 16 BkS and 13 TkA to boot.

11. At Number 11 on our list is DAL’s James Neal with a .15086 DPS over a less-than-average 23.2 SPGs. His 27 points on the season is a pleasant addition to the Stars’ scoresheet, and he adds 62 Hits, 12 BkS and 24 TkA.

12. Number 12 is WSH’s Mike Green, our lowest ranked Defenseman on the list. He sports a .1371 DPS over 25.3 SPGs and chips in 47 Hits, 50 BkS and 14 TkA. He stands as the leading scorer for Defenders in the League at present, but when away-from-the-puck actions are added, he is only Number 4.

13. Green is followed at Number 13 by teammate Nicklas Backstrom with a .11398 DPS in 21.8 SPGs. He also provides a balanced 28 Hits, 29 BkS and 25 TkA. Backstrom is the third Capital on this list, the most from any NHL team.

14. Evgeni Malkin rounds out a pair of Penguins at Number 14 with a DPS of .10912 in 21.5 SPGs. Despite it not being his primary mission on the team, he chips in 27 Hits, 10 BkS and 24 TkA.

15. OTT Centerman Daniel Alfredsson ’s .10563 DPS in 22.6 SPGs falls a bit behind Mike Fisher’s numbers but is well ahead of many other NHLers. He also contributes to the transition of his team to offense through 28 Hits, 18 BkS and 28 TkA.

16. And rounding out our list is the NHL and SJS’s Number 1 scorer, Joe Thornton. His .10024 DPS is our last marker above .10, and he gets this done over an above average 26.7 SPGs. Thornton also bangs old school style with 58 Hits, 13 BkS and 20 TkA.


The DPS measures Hits, Blocked Shots and Takeaways over the number of Games Played and average Shifts Per Game. It serves to provide a measure of defensive, away-from-the-puck actions that potentially transition a game toward the goal of putting pucks in the net each and every time a player hits the ice. It also is a representation of a percentage of each shift that a player attempts to positively influence his team’s fortunes.

Tomorrow’s blog will combine this measurement with Points Per Game to produce the On Goal Analysis Comprehensive Player Index, a new measurement of who is the most productive NHL player.

Take me to www.ongoalanalysis.com

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