April 11 2013 11:13AM
Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images
For a variety of reasons, most notably his slender build and the fact that he had a tremendous run of awful puck luck in 2010-11, and followed up on it with a disappoiting season in 2011-12 coming off of a serious back injury, Mason Raymond catches a lot of flack from Canucks fans. He's a perimeter player who falls down a lot is the general critique - nevermind the solid underlying numbers - and his offense dries up in the playoffs.
But does it really when you break it down? In comparison with your average NHL player, does Mason Raymond have a unique habit of suddenly becoming an ineffective offensive player once the playoffs begin? I'll look into it on the other side of the jump.
To figure this out we'll pivot off of Eric Tlusky's fine work over at NHLNumbers.com last fall in a post titled "Do Some Players Elevate Their Games in the Postseason?" Using Eric's methodology, which is brilliant in its simplicity, let's take Mason Raymond's career production per minute, and extrapolate an "expected total" for postseason points. We can then see how well he's performed against reasonable expectations set by his own performance over the course of his career.
So far Mason Raymond has put up 175 points while playing 5570:22 minutes of regular season hockey in his career. That gives him a scoring rate of .031 points per minute. In the postseason, Mason Raymond has played 845:52 of hockey, so based on his career regular season scoring rate we'd expect him to have 26 career postseason points.
Now here's a statistical quirk, when Eric added up all of the expected points for every player in the league since the lockout, he found that expected playoff point totals outpaced actual playoff point totals league-wide by about 12%. Eric posits that "the mix of better defenses and fewer penalties actually suppresses scoring slightly in the playoffs," and that strikes me as compelling. It also gives us a sort of playoff production "translation number" of 0.88.
When we apply that translation to Mason Raymond's pace, we'd expect him to have put up 23 playoff points in his career so far, which is better than the number of points he's actually produced. That number is 16 points, by the way. So Mason Raymond has under-performed his expected offensive output in the postseason by seven points.
Here's the rub: Raymond isn't underperforming his own regular season production in the playoffs by a sufficient amount for it to be all that meaningful statistically speaking. After all, we're talking about a fifty-one game sample and, as we know, variance and random chance can greatly impact results over a relatively small sample of games(*). To account for the impact of random chance, Eric used a "standard error" which is basically a tool that allows us to ferrett out whether or not a deviation in our expectations is just variance, or something more sinister.
(*) Yes, I consider fifty games a small sample when it comes to judging an individual's true talent - if you don't believe me, I own a perfect replica of Steve Mason's Calder Memorial Trophy for you to spit shine.
So to calculate a "standard error" for Mason Raymond's playoff production, we simply find the square root of 23: sqrt (23) = 4.79. We can then determine that Raymond's actual playoff production is only one and a half standard deviations away from where we'd expect it to be. That's a slim enough margin for us to reasonably presume, based on the current evidence, that it's mostly "bad luck" in Raymond's case.
The evidence supporting that conclusion becomes even more compelling when you consider that his personal shooting percentage is a third lower in the playoffs than his career regular season shooting percentage. Also that his lack of production mostly stems from an unsustainably low 4.58 on-ice shooting clip during Vancouver's extended 2010-11 playoff run...
That Mason Raymond falls within a standard deviation and a half of his expected career playoff production also makes him, quite unremarkably, like 95% of other NHL players. So in comparison with every other player in the league, Raymond isn't a meaningful outlier on the "he just doesn't produce in the playoffs" spectrum at this point in his career.
Here's a fun table of every current Canucks skater with more than 10 games of playoff experience, and how they've performed offensively in the postseason when set against expectation based on their record of regular season production since the 2005-06 season:
|Skaters||Actual Playoff Points||Expected Playoff Points based on regular season production|
So here's a list of other Canucks who have underperformed in the playoffs offensively when judged against their "expected" totals: Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins, Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre. Hansen and Higgins have both underperformed their expected totals by a full standard error.
So where are the articles and the tweets bemoaning the inability of those players to produce in the playoffs? If your answer is that "such statement would be silly because those players haven't underperformed expectations by much," you're right. Such statements would be silly.
By the way, here's the information from the above table in graph form. You might notice that the plotted data has a rather linear look to it. If there are any outliers among current Canucks skaters, well that's certainly not obvious:
Look, I'm not saying that Mason Raymond will for sure be a reliable offensive threat in the postseason, anything can happen over a small sample of games. But I do think it's significantly more likely that Raymond's limited postseason production so far in his career is a result of variance and chance, rather than some vague, inherent inability Raymond is presumed to possess that prevents him from producing offense in the playoffs...