Hockey

HockeyBy the time I got to hockey, the system was pretty well worked out. Structurally similar to soccer, but with a much more extensive statistical record, it was a fairly simple matter to adapt the same formulas.

For the most part, hockey players don’t rate quite as high as other sports, with only Wayne Gretzky getting over the 30-point mark (I have some hope for Sydney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin). I attribute this to the huge rosters hockey teams use, coupled with the practice of constantly shuttling players in and out of the game at intervals of less than a minute. The end result is that even star players are on the ice for no more than a third of the game. It’s harder to dominate in those circumstances.

Offense 1 was simply goals scored divided by the league average. Offense 2, based on assists, was a bit trickier. Assists in hockey, as in basketball, have been defined differently through years. Unlike basketball, more than one player can assist the same goal, which means assist totals leaguewide are significantly higher than goals scored. Lastly, also like basketball, certain official scorers are more generous when deciding whether a particular star player has earned an assist. To account for all of this, the value of an assist is linked to the team’s assist-to-goals ratio.

On the other side was the usual question of divvying up credit for team defense. We don’t have individual ice time before the 1998-99 season, but we do have penalty minutes, which are a useful, if imperfect proxy for how involved a player is on defense. The obvious problem is fighting, which leads certain players (Maurice Richard, say) to have a outsized share of the team penalty minutes.

To make up for this, Defense 1 is a control, based on a theoretical maximum ice time by position — 20 minutes a game for forwards, 30 for defensemen. Defense 2 is divides team goals prevented according to a player’s percentage of team penalty minutes. These are averaged as usual, except that Defense 1 also acts a maximum, to keep the pugnacious types under control.

For goalies, it’s entirely different. Defense 1 is goals prevented, and Defense 2 is a bonus based on how much better or worse a goalie was than the other goalies on his team.

Centers Games Total Per 160 Sqr Root Sum Off Def
Wayne Gretzky 1788 190.32 17.03 13.80 30.83 30.36 3.71
Mario Lemieux 1022 116.53 18.24 10.79 29.04 32.76 3.73
Howie Morenz 589 71.98 19.55 8.48 28.04 32.97 6.14
Newsy Lalonde 316 41.42 20.97 6.44 27.41 36.36 5.58
Jean Beliveau 1287 123.22 15.32 11.10 26.42 24.03 6.61
Phil Esposito 1412 129.95 14.73 11.40 26.12 23.95 5.50
Joe Malone 259 32.11 19.84 5.67 25.50 34.56 5.12
Joe Sakic 1550 132.38 13.67 11.51 25.17 23.30 4.03
Peter Forsberg 859 83.39 15.53 9.13 24.66 24.74 6.33
Stan Mikita 1549 127.90 13.21 11.31 24.52 20.27 6.15
Steve Yzerman 1710 134.77 12.61 11.61 24.22 20.63 4.59
Mark Messier 2044 151.13 11.83 12.29 24.12 18.99 4.67
Marcel Dionne 1397 111.10 12.72 10.54 23.26 22.23 3.21
Sergei Fedorov 1431 109.38 12.23 10.46 22.69 19.18 5.27
Bobby Clarke 1280 99.15 12.39 9.96 22.35 17.69 7.10
Bryan Trottier 1500 109.66 11.70 10.47 22.17 17.27 6.13
Henri Richard 1436 104.95 11.69 10.24 21.94 16.77 6.62
Gilbert Perreault 1281 96.59 12.06 9.83 21.89 19.29 4.84
Syl Apps 492 42.71 13.89 6.54 20.42 23.87 3.91
Milt Schmidt 862 63.72 11.83 7.98 19.81 17.97 5.68

A few players have higher offensive averages than Gretzky, but only with substantially shorter careers, usually in the 1920s and ’30s. Nobody with more than 1,500 games is even close.

Lemieux is a fascinating what-if, because of all his health problems. For the most part, it’s almost impossible to keep up that kind offensive average. Too bad he didn’t get the chance.

For the modern players, 160-game values decline rather dramatically. There’s only handful of real, top-tier stars. I think this is due to the talent pool in hockey being almost entirely limited to Canada and a few Eastern European nations.

Left Wing Games Total Per 160 Sqr Root Sum Off Def
Bobby Hull 1653 155.71 15.07 12.48 27.55 24.62 5.52
Cy Denneny 408 46.82 18.36 6.84 25.20 29.95 6.77
Aurèle Joliat 700 70.18 16.04 8.38 24.42 26.55 5.53
Brendan Shanahan 1708 130.64 12.24 11.43 23.67 18.00 6.48
Frank Mahovlich 1555 121.46 12.50 11.02 23.52 19.38 5.61
Ted Lindsay 1201 98.34 13.10 9.92 23.02 19.47 6.73
Luc Robitaille 1590 114.18 11.49 10.69 22.18 18.98 4.00
Keith Tkachuk 1290 98.25 12.19 9.91 22.10 19.26 5.12
Ilya Kovalchuk 848 69.49 13.11 8.34 21.45 22.76 3.46
Johnny Bucyk 1664 110.89 10.66 10.53 21.19 17.76 3.56
Dickie Moore 854 68.37 12.81 8.27 21.08 18.80 6.82
Dave Andreychuk 1801 113.31 10.07 10.64 20.71 15.24 4.90
Bill Barber 1032 73.82 11.44 8.59 20.04 17.70 5.79
Steve Shutt 1029 73.62 11.45 8.58 20.03 16.36 6.54
Michel Goulet 1259 84.41 10.73 9.19 19.91 17.31 4.33
Busher Jackson 704 53.71 12.21 7.33 19.54 19.81 4.60
Toe Blake 635 49.43 12.45 7.03 19.49 20.40 4.51
Sweeney Schriner 543 41.20 12.14 6.42 18.56 19.97 4.32
Doug Bentley 589 42.22 11.47 6.50 17.97 19.97 2.97
Bob Gainey 1342 57.35 6.84 7.57 14.41 7.39 6.29

The decline is even more dramatic when we come to the left wingers. After Bobby Hull, we have a couple of guys that played in the ’20s and then free-fall. And even Hull doesn’t measure up to the top centers.

Right Wing Games Total Per 160 Sqr Root Sum Off Def
Gordie Howe 2421 220.34 14.56 14.84 29.41 23.02 6.10
Jaromir Jagr 1837 162.42 14.15 12.74 26.89 23.39 4.90
Bill Cook 641 70.77 17.66 8.41 26.08 30.17 5.15
Maurice Richard 1111 108.11 15.57 10.40 25.97 23.75 7.39
Brett Hull 1471 121.67 13.23 11.03 24.26 22.35 4.12
Mike Bossy 881 81.53 14.81 9.03 23.84 24.53 5.08
Teemu Selanne 1581 124.77 12.63 11.17 23.80 21.18 4.07
Guy Lafleur 1254 105.50 13.46 10.27 23.73 21.07 5.85
Bernie Geoffrion 1015 88.44 13.94 9.40 23.35 21.64 6.24
Jarome Iginla 1555 119.24 12.27 10.92 23.19 19.63 4.91
Pavel Bure 766 68.16 14.24 8.26 22.49 24.76 3.71
Charlie Conacher 508 47.48 14.95 6.89 21.84 25.24 4.67
Jari Kurri 1451 103.17 11.38 10.16 21.53 18.96 3.80
Alex Mogilny 1114 85.37 12.26 9.24 21.50 20.71 3.81
Mike Gartner 1635 109.39 10.70 10.46 21.16 16.41 5.00
Yvan Cournoyer 1115 82.85 11.89 9.10 20.99 18.51 5.27
Babe Dye 286 27.98 15.65 5.29 20.94 27.63 3.67
Andy Bathgate 1134 80.64 11.38 8.98 20.36 18.91 3.84
Cam Neely 819 61.13 11.94 7.82 19.76 18.03 5.85
Lanny McDonald 1228 77.57 10.11 8.81 18.91 15.73 4.48

Things are a bit better at right wing; you go legitimately five-deep here. I don’t want to sound like I’m down on hockey. My point is that it is sustained by a relatively small number of big stars and it is more dependent on rank-and-file players to provide the day-to-day excitement.

I toyed with the idea of not including Gordie Howe’s return from retirement in the WHL, but he actually comes out a bit ahead in the end.

I think Jagr is retired. I may still have to update him.

Defensemen Games Total Per 160 Sqr Root Sum Off Def
Bobby Orr 731 81.92 17.93 9.05 26.98 25.37 10.49
Ray Bourque 1826 132.05 11.57 11.49 23.06 15.95 7.19
Paul Coffey 1603 119.84 11.96 10.95 22.91 16.97 6.95
Denis Potvin 1245 99.73 12.82 9.99 22.80 15.42 10.21
Al MacInnis 1593 113.41 11.39 10.65 22.04 15.52 7.26
Nicklas Lidstrom 1827 117.69 10.31 10.85 21.16 13.63 6.98
Eddie Shore 659 55.39 13.45 7.44 20.89 18.14 8.76
Brad Park 1274 90.28 11.34 9.50 20.84 13.10 9.57
Chris Chelios 1917 118.09 9.86 10.87 20.72 9.59 10.12
Scott Stevens 1868 111.24 9.53 10.55 20.08 8.94 10.12
Chris Pronger 1340 87.15 10.41 9.34 19.74 11.78 9.04
Brian Leetch 1300 84.65 10.42 9.20 19.62 15.70 5.14
Dit Clapper 915 65.66 11.48 8.10 19.58 15.91 7.05
Larry Robinson 1611 97.37 9.67 9.87 19.54 10.52 8.82
King Clancy 653 50.67 12.42 7.12 19.53 17.04 7.79
Red Kelly 1480 91.41 9.88 9.56 19.44 14.16 5.61
Scott Niedermayer 1465 85.62 9.35 9.25 18.60 10.86 7.84
Doug Harvey 1250 75.17 9.62 8.67 18.29 9.91 9.33
Tim Horton 1572 78.90 8.03 8.88 16.91 7.21 8.85
Pierre Pilote 976 55.46 9.09 7.45 16.54 10.54 7.97

Talk about what-ifs … Bobby Orr was really on his way to something amazing.

I often hear that the Golden Age was dominated by defensemen. But by my math, Eddie Shore and King Clancy didn’t have a patch on contemporary forwards. Unless crippling opponents is an admirable skill …

Goalies Games Total Per 160 Sqr Root Sum Off Def
Dominik Hašek 854 97.19 18.21 9.86 28.07 0.43 35.99
Martin Brodeur 1471 146.37 15.92 12.10 28.02 0.70 31.15
Patrick Roy 1276 130.63 16.38 11.43 27.81 0.65 32.11
Ken Dryden 509 58.88 18.51 7.67 26.18 0.68 36.33
Jacques Plante 980 94.99 15.51 9.75 25.25 0.16 30.85
Ed Belfour 1124 103.95 14.80 10.20 24.99 0.49 29.11
Tony Esposito 985 92.58 15.04 9.62 24.66 0.35 29.72
Bernie Parent 743 71.98 15.50 8.48 23.98 0.27 30.73
Clint Benedict 475 45.01 15.16 6.71 21.87 0.00 30.32
Bill Durnan 428 41.13 15.38 6.41 21.79 0.05 30.71
Glenn Hall 1021 81.36 12.75 9.02 21.77 0.15 25.35
Terry Sawchuk 1077 80.42 11.95 8.97 20.91 0.12 23.78
George Hainsworth 609 51.16 13.44 7.15 20.59 0.00 26.88
Turk Broda 730 58.72 12.87 7.66 20.53 0.00 25.74
Billy Smith 812 61.66 12.15 7.85 20.00 0.26 24.04
Lorne Chabot 449 37.00 13.18 6.08 19.27 0.00 26.37
Georges Vezina 358 30.27 13.53 5.50 19.03 0.00 27.06
Frank Brimsek 582 44.41 12.21 6.66 18.87 0.00 24.42
Chuck Gardiner 337 27.50 13.06 5.24 18.30 0.00 26.11
Grant Fuhr 1018 59.58 9.36 7.72 17.08 0.79 17.94

Terry Sawchuck is probably the biggest surprise. He was great for his first five years, but then declined after that, mixing in the occasional season at his old level with a lot of mediocrity.

The tiny offensive numbers come from occasional assits.

Soviet Players Games Total Per 160 Sqr Root Sum Off Def
Vladislav Tretiak 482 64.00 21.24 8.00 29.24 0.00 42.49
Vladimir Petrov 595 69.27 18.63 8.32 26.95 29.58 7.67
Boris Mikhailov 580 60.44 16.67 7.77 24.45 26.64 6.71
Sergei Makarov 977 90.28 14.78 9.50 24.29 23.41 6.16
Valeri Kharlamov 435 46.86 17.24 6.85 24.08 26.77 7.70
Alexander Yakushev 567 49.58 13.99 7.04 21.03 22.27 5.71
Igor Larionov 1528 101.10 10.59 10.05 20.64 15.63 5.54
Slava Fetisov 1140 73.81 10.36 8.59 18.95 10.82 9.89

Communist sports leagues are a bit sketchy, due to state interference, but I thought it was worth it to include these guys. I didn’t count international games because the quality of competition is all over the place. I tossed around the idea to include post-professional games, but then the NHL boycotted the 2018 Olympics and I decided it wasn’t worth it.

If anyone has detailed numbers for Anatoli Firsov, I’d love to see them.

To do list:
Pat LaFontaine
Bernie Nichols
Eric Lindros
Woody Dumart