Hitting and Winning Games

datsyuk

It’s frequently stated that physicality and a strong hitting game lead to winning. With that in mind, I decided to look at how the five highest hitting teams each season over the past decade compared with the five lowest hitting teams.

To make things fair, I’ve ranked them using only hits recorded in road buildings, since the standards for hitting can vary widely depending on who is tracking them – by using only road statistics, each team is judged by a wide field and half the data isn’t coming from their home rinks. All information comes from NHL.com.

I also inserted the average point total for teams pre- and post-lockout..

Top Five Hitting Teams

  • 2008-09: TB, NYR, PHI, LA, BOS – Total Points: 455
  • 2007-08: ANA, NJ, BOS, PHI, OTT – Total Points: 484
  • 2006-07: ANA, NYI, WSH, TOR, NYR – Total Points: 457
  • 2005-06: ANA, OTT, TOR, PHI, CGY – Total Points: 505

Post-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 95.1

  • 2003-04: PHI, CAR, COL, ATL, CBJ – Total Points: 417
  • 2002-03: COL, SJ, EDM, NYR, CGY – Total Points: 423
  • 2001-02: CGY, COL, NJ, EDM, FLA – Total Points: 425
  • 2000-01: COL, NYR, SJ, BOS, LA – Total Points: 465
  • 1999-00: NYI, CAR, EDM, LA, ATL – Total Points: 363
  • 1998-99: NYI, BUF, VAN, EDM, CHI – Total Points: 355

Pre-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 81.6

Bottom Five Hitting Teams

  • 2008-09: COL, DET, MIN, FLA, VAN – Total Points: 463
  • 2007-08: MIN, COL, EDM, LA, DET – Total Points: 467
  • 2006-07: COL, DET, MIN, VAN, TB – Total Points: 510
  • 2005-06: TB, COL, DET, MIN, NJ – Total Points: 496

Post-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 96.8

  • 2003-04: MIN, DET, TB, SJ, DAL – Total Points: 499
  • 2002-03: CHI, MTL, DET, BUF, OTT – Total Points: 451
  • 2001-02: DET, TB, MIN, WSH, MTL – Total Points: 430
  • 2000-01: MIN, CHI, NSH, ATL, DAL – Total Points: 385
  • 1999-00: NSH, STL, DET, BOS, OTT – Total Points: 460
  • 1998-99: DET, NSH, DAL, BOS, PIT – Total Points: 451

Pre-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 89.2

Final Tally

  • Hitting Teams: 86.98 points per season
  • Non-hitting Teams: 92.24 points per season

To borrow a quote, who saw that coming?

As for what it means, I think the implication is obvious.

  • lj

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    I just think that 20 years old is too young to give up on a Defenseman. I mean, was Tom Gilbert considered that great of a prospect when he was 20? I dont recall that he was.

  • lj

    TGIF random talk time:
    Would someone hurry up and sign Claude Lemiuex in our conference so that we can watch a few more Theo Peckham rematches?
    I could watch that all day. Especially the PPV version where you got to see Claude grind his helmet into Theo's face which is why the refs let them go for a tilt. I couldn't find that version last time i hunted on Youtube.

    Well… FFS it appears he has retired now that i look.. lame.

  • lj

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    I just think that 20 years old is too young to give up on a Defenseman. I mean, was Tom Gilbert considered that great of a prospect when he was 20? I dont recall that he was.

    I don't disagree at all. It's aweird move, and if I had to bet I'd guess there was a personality ocnflict or off-ice issue somewhere along the line.

    I have no proof of that, mind you, but that would be my guess.

  • lj

    @Willis

    I seem to remember you being a history buff, so correct me if I'm wrong, but can't a small victory (like a fight or a "big" hit) turn morale around on a team who feels nearly defeated?

    The thing your stats don't take into consideration (and honestly, I'm not sure how I'd work these numbers out if I tried to myself) is how "down-and-out" the hitting team is when the big hit happens. No, I don't think a big hit or fight will change anything in a moderately lopsided game. If the ice is tilted heavily, but the scoreboard is not, there's a good chance that it *will* have a big impact psychologically. Also, a big hit or fight will also likely have some level of impact in a game that's effectively a stalemate.

    All of these things have been shown to be militarily/psychologically true, and while the study you cite about fights says the opposite, it's answering a different question than (I think) you're asking: "Does it ever make a real difference?"

    The long and short of it is that you're using a very broad measure to say a very specific thing about psychology (sure, you can dress it up as "who wins more games" but given team schedules and conferences I'm not sure the argument holds water) and I think it's a stretch. In general, I think you're right, and that it doesn't make a difference. That doesn't mean it doesn't make a difference in certain cases and reducing the "big hit," "big goal," or "big fight" to "it doesn't lead to more points" is doing a disservice to your own analysis.

    Besides, it's sure to be skewed in an Ice Hockey way – some teams like 3 fat guys, some teams like 3 skinny guys. Are the skinny guys fast enough to get around the fat guys? Is the coach compensating for that? And besides, Detroit has classically been enough of a point outlier that I don't think you can just add their points to Florida and call it a wash IMO.

  • lj

    Dallas wrote:

    That being of note what is Alex Plantes chances of making the team this year a few players like him and I bet our hitting stats would go up

    I think Plante's got at least a year in the AHL ahead of him, and I like the guy. I think we should be looking at a progression like Theo Peckham's – next season he might get one callup, followed by a cup of coffee stint in 2010-11, and then a shot at a regular role in 2011-12.

    That's just off the top of my head.

  • lj

    Dallas wrote:

    That being of note what is Alex Plantes chances of making the team this year a few players like him and I bet our hitting stats would go up

    He is not close. He will probably go to Springfield this year. Plante isn't overly physical just yet, so I don't see him coming to the NHL and being a brusing D-man.

    He will need a few years to mature and learn the pro game. He probably plays at least two full seasons, maybe more, in the AHL before he is close to being a regular in the NHL.

  • lj

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    @ Archaeologuy:
    I’m not going to say anything else about the Transformers movies. People either loved them or hated them, and I’m on one end of the scale.
    Alright, one thing. I’m on the Roger Ebert end of the scale.

    I'd just like to say that I fall into neither category. I enjoyed it for what it was (a balls out action movie with lots of eye candy), but I still found the writing and plot delivery to be some of the worst seen on a big screen in awhile. So I'd be right between love and hate.

  • lj

    Great job, Jonathan.

    I think the key here is what kind of hockey do you want to see? Pu$$y euro-hockey or good hard-nosed Canadian hockey?

    I wholeheartedly agree that hits do not result in goals, or prevent goals against. Hits are about pride. And being a man.

    When the Hockey News named Niklas Lidstrom as the 2nd best defenceman of all time, I almost puked in my soup.

    Defencemen shouldn't be able to play at that level at 39 years old, i get it. But when you shy away from physicality your entire career, you could probably play into the early 40's.

  • lj

    Okay, there are two possible issues that could be affecting this. One is PIM; Ethan Moreau types, the kind who aggresively play a physical game and presumably rack up hits, also rack up short-handed opportunities for their team. Is there any correlation between teams that throw the most number of hits and put up the most amount of non-coincidental PIM (remember, if an enforcer puts up five PIM on a fight, it doesn't hurt his team, because they keep playing five on five)?

    The other is your theory. Maybe teams that are more physical employ more purely physical players who are liabilities in both ends of the rink are also the ones that put up the hits, but tend to ice some weak lines. That would be a much harder theory to prove, because you would have to go through the third and fourth lines throughout the league, and determine with players you've possibly never heard of whether they have a tangible defensive game or not.

  • lj

    DanMan wrote:

    I think the key here is what kind of hockey do you want to see? Pu$$y euro-hockey or good hard-nosed Canadian hockey?

    Hockey where my team wins?

    Yep, that's my answer.

  • lj

    @ DanMan:

    How many Cups has Lidstrom won as a number one defenseman?

    You may not like his physical game, but it's brought him and his team success – and that's the most important thing.

  • lj

    I noticed there is a very obvious trend when you sorted the hitting vs non-hitting teams. It looks like, for the most part, 4 out of 5 "top hitting teams" are from the east each year and 4 out of 5 "top non-hitting teams" are from the west each year. That surprised me a little bit considering most of the "top end talent", who generally hit less (minus Ovechkin), are in the eastern conference.

    LOIL

  • lj

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    He is not close. He will probably go to Springfield this year. Plante isn’t overly physical just yet, so I don’t see him coming to the NHL and being a brusing D-man.
    He will need a few years to mature and learn the pro game. He probably plays at least two full seasons, maybe more, in the AHL before he is close to being a regular in the NHL.

    I hope he is improving. Because I will never forget when I went to a Rebels/Hitmen playoff game the year the Oilers drafted Plante and watched in horror as he was benched for the entire second and third periods of a must win game for his team. Not what I would hope to see from one of our first round picks but not surprising given the Oilers history at the draft haha.

  • lj

    […] had an interesting take on how hits relate to success, and while some of the top teams can get away with not being as physical, a team like the Oilers […]