What is the measure of a Hockey skater’s contribution to his team? Plenty of statistics define goaltenders and their contributions. But what about the players who skate in front of them? While highly knowledgeable Hockey fans will say such enlightened comments as ‘it depends on their position and how they play it,’ many others will tell you it’s how many points they rack up.
At On Goal Analysis, we have a tradition of looking at things with a different twist. While we like to key on points, sometimes they are misleading because theoretically speaking the leading point scorer in the NHL still might play on a team that does not even make the Playoffs. And yet, maybe points themselves just need a slightly different emphasis to make their true significance understood.
That’s why we are recommending for your consideration Points Per Shift – PPS – as a new statistic to use when analyzing who is the most productive player on the ice. PPS analyzes 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. It also makes Shifts Per Game (SPG) more relevant to the average fan of the game.
Looking at the current Top 30 scorers and from them determining the Top 10 players in terms of their PPS is our aim today. We will also delve into the top Defensemen and Rookies to see how they compare.
Points Versus Points Per Game
After going to NHL.com’s statistical section, it is easy to view all statistics for scoring and provide a list of Top 10 Scorers. As of games ending on Super Saturday night, 5 December when 28 of 30 teams hit the ice, the Top 10 in terms of points were:
1 Joe Thornton
2 Marian Gaborik
3 Sidney Crosby
4 Anze Kopitar
5 Henrik Sedin
6 Corey Perry
7 Patrick Marleau
8 Dany Heatley
9 Nicklas Backstrom
10 Brad Richards
This is where most people would stop in their analysis of who produces the most for their team.
Some, however, prefer to place their money on PPG because not all of the players above have had an equal chance to get on the ice. (From this list you have a high spread of 31 games for Joe Thornton down to 26 games for Marian Gaborik.) So if you were looking at PPG instead, you would have the following Top 10 list of players:
1 Marian Gaborik
2 Alex Ovechkin
3 Ilya Kovalchuk
4 Joe Thornton
5 Evgeni Malkin
6 Sidney Crosby
7 Brad Richards
8 Corey Perry
9 Ryan Getzlaf
10 Henrik Sedin
These stats tell you who is giving the best overall effort per game. Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin and Getzlaf are not in the Top 10 points getters but provide a Top 10 PPG for their team.
Management, Coaches and Scouts, however, are either in constant search of who can produce the best effort each and every shift, or try to wring it out of them when they play. Their statistic of choice should be Points Per Shift, the PPS.
Points Per Shift – The Top 10
As stated earlier, PPS = PPG / SPG. Of note in conducting this analysis are a few facts. First is that the average SPG for the Top 30 scorers as of 5 December is 24.8767. Getting 24+ SPG in almost every case means a player is on the Power Play, the Penalty Kill or both. Otherwise, 45 second shifts for teams rolling four lines would be 20 SPGs per player in a game.
A second note is that the Top 30 scorers’ average PPS is .04559 for games ending 5 December. You have to use the five digits to separate players’ rank without ties as this is a very finite statistic to decipher. It also became apparent when crunching the statistical analysis the more games and shifts a player has, the lower his PPS tends to go.
Based on the Top 30 players’ stats as of 5 December’s games, here is how the Top 10 PPS rank:
Scoring Rank Player PPS
14 Alex Ovechkin 0.07186
27 Ilya Kovalchuk 0.07065
22 Evgeni Malkin 0.05860
29 Maxim Afinogenov 0.05556
2 Marian Gaborik 0.05468
3 Sidney Crosby 0.05368
9 Nicklas Backstrom 0.05182
10 Brad Richards 0.05148
5 Henrik Sedin 0.04835
1 Joe Thornton 0.04813
There are a few points to discuss from the table above. First and most obvious is the actual players’ scoring rank to their left with 40% of the list NOT among the Top 10 point-getters in the NHL. Also of note are the PPS’ for both Ovechkin and Kovalchuk. Harking back to the post by OGA’s Big Tex entitled “Maurice Richard and the Myth of 50 in 50 (Part 2)” a new stat was offered called Statistical Supremacy. In terms of goals, it was “…scoring a minimum of 50% more goals than the nearest competitor….” I offer PPS displays Statistical Supremacy by netting a PPS 1.5 times or more greater than the data set of players’ average PPS. In the Top 10 above, both Ovechkin and Kovalchuk display Statistical Supremacy as their PPS’ are 1.58 and 1.55 times the Top 30 scoring average respectively.
Looking individually at the Top 10 produces some additionally interesting notes:
1. Alex Ovechkin has a PPS average of .07186 in only 21 injury- and suspension-riddled games this season. Ovie’s games played (21) and SPG (19.9) are both below the average which contributes to his high SPG. Also of note here is that in 21 games, Ovechkin has less than a minute total of PK time which lowers his SPG a bit. If you go strictly on scoring totals he comes in with a Number 14 ranking, but he stands as our most productive player at 5 December’s conclusion based on PPS.
2. Ilya Kovalchuk’s PPS is .07065 stacking him in the mix at Number 2 based on 20 total games with days dressed lost for injury. Kovalchuk does this on an average of only 18.4 SPG, a number along with total games played that rest below the overall Top 30 scorer averages. He also skates less than 10 seconds per game on the PK. Based on our measurement of PPS, Kovy is currently the second most productive player in the NHL despite being only the Number 27 scorer.
3. Evgeni Malkin ranks as the Number 3 most productive player with a PPS of .05860 over the span of an injury-shortened 23 games. His SPG of 21.5 and PPS are better than the norm, and he stands as the highest of the Top 30 scorers to average 20 or more SPGs. Malkin skates in all situations which aides his point totals, but otherwise might normally harm his overall PPS. This fact gives you more insight into his overall team value.
4. The fourth most productive NHL player is Maxim Afinogenov. What? you ask. The same Afinogenov we saw not producing last year? Yes, that Maxim has a PPS average of .05556 in 26 games. He is the only one of the top four players in this Top 10 list who has not lost any games to injury. He nets this PPS while averaging only 18.0 SPG, the least of any of our pool of scorers. Between this player and the top three above, he also holds the least average Time On The Ice (TOI) on the PK (1 second per game) which is likely aide in increasing his PPS average.
5. At Number 5 is the current goal scoring leader, Marian Gaborik. He has given the Rangers a PPS of .05468 over 27 games through 5 December with one game lost due to injury. Gaborik provides this with the second highest SPG average on our Top 10 List at 26.7. This high SPG number at his PPS tells you he provides a huge personal effort for the Rangers on the ice. Were his shifts to be cut back and his performance remain on average at its current pace, he would rank higher on our list.
6. Number 6 in PPS and Number 3 in total points is Sidney Crosby. He holds a PPS of .05368 in 29 games. Crosby does this in an average of 23.1 SPG while playing in all situations. He, too, has lost games for injury this year.
7. Nicklas Backstrom of WSH skates in at Number 7 with a PPS of .05182 PPS in 29 games. He is one of only three in this group whose SPG is higher than the average (25.8), again telling you how much he contributes to his team’s success.
8. Brad Richards comes in at Number 8 with a .05148 PPS in 27 games. Richards plays in all situations, averaging 23.7 SPG, which makes all of his stats better than average. He is also the last of our Top 10 listing to carry a PPS of .05 or greater.
9. Standing as the Number 5 scoring forward in the NHL after 5 December’s games, Henrik Sedin holds down the Number 9 spot in our group with a .04835 PPS in 29 games. Like the majority of our Top 10 PPS’, he rests below the Top 30 Scorer average with only 24.2 SPG.
10. And rounding out our list at Number 10 is Joe Thornton was the leading assist-getter in the NHL after games completed on 5 December. Of note with him is that his PPS of .04813 in 31 games comes in with the highest SPG (26.8).
On Goal Analysis offers the statistic of Points Per Shift (PPS) as a measure of how much a player provides for his team each time he hits the ice. The Top 10 players’ PPS is interesting in that does not follow right down the line with who has simply scored the most points. In fact, the top four on our list rank between Number 14 and Number 29 in overall scoring. That is because in addition to providing true relevance to the Shifts Per Game statistic, it tells us in general that a lower number of SPG for players than the average allows them to provide more effort for their team each time they skate. In particular for this list at this point in the season, it also shows us that both Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk display Statistical Supremacy in this marker over their peers. AS a bottom line, PPS serves to underscore that each of these 10 players is a leader in productivity on their team.
On Tuesday, 8 December, in “PPS Part 2” we will discuss the PPS of Defensemen and Rookies who have played 20 or more games…
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