Size Has No Impact On Faceoff Percentage: 2009-10 Data

 

A question that has come up a few times is whether big players tend to have an advantage when taking faceoffs. There is a certain logic to the idea that they do: after all, bigger, stronger players should be able to outmuscle their smaller counterparts in the faceoff circle.

The data, however, suggests something else entirely: that there is no advantage to being big when it comes to taking face-offs.

I went back to the 2009-10 season, and took every NHL centre who had taken 100+ even-strength face-offs. Then I plotted three charts, one comparing even-strength faceoffs to height, another to weight, and a third to “size” – just the product of height and weight. I used even-strength faceoffs only to make for a fair comparison, as it’s easier to win faceoffs while on the man advantage and harder while killing penalties.

Face-offs vs. Height

Correlation: -0.02 (Scale of -1 to 1)

Face-offs vs. Weight

Correlation: 0.03 (Scale of -1 to 1)

Face-offs vs. Size

Correlation: 0.01 (Scale of -1 to 1)

Conclusion

There is no noticeable advantage or disadvantage granted by size in the faceoff circle. The best faceoff men in the game last season varied from small (Scott Nichol, Kyle Wellwood, Vladimir Sobotka, Todd Marchant) to large (David Steckel, Wayne Primeau, Paul Gaustad, Vincent Lecavalier) and the worst faceoff men varied from small (Oscar Moller, Andrew Cogliano, Daymond Langkow, Toby Petersen) to large (Brian Boyle, Eric Staal, Michael Rupp, Nik Antropov).

It’s one of the few areas in the game where the playing field is relatively level.

  • Horcsky

    Funny, I guess the biggest impact on faceoffs this has is any psychological advantage gained when guys are apprehensive about their ability to beat big guys. Oh well, not the FIST time stats have shown us the light.

  • Jiri Dopita

    This isn’t too suprising to me. Faceoffs have more to do with timing. I think the advantage of size comes in when you are trying to scramble the draw and tie up the opponent.

    Maybe it’s just that I’m a small guy myself but I think in general size is overrated in hockey. being successful has more to do with decision making. It’s definatly not a liability to be big. It’s just overrated. I think small guys get passed over in the draft just because of size which is a mistake.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I would argue that size is often overrated, but that smaller players need to be better in order to be successful. You can have a 6’2, 200lb, average-skilled, average skater with average decision-making who does reasonably well as a 3rd liner, for example. You take that same set of traits and put it inside a 5’9, 160 lb body and the guy isn’t going to do so well.

      Basically, my thinking is that size can help cover for a lot of mediocrity or deficiencies in a player’s game. If they’re going to be even moderately successful and small, they have to be some combination of smart/fast/agile/skilled.

  • Jiri Dopita

    Yanic Perrault was a perennial 65% FO man and he’s about 5’10 190lbs. A good faceoff man has technique and extremely quick hands.

    btw. Ryan O’Marra seems to have found his niche finally. It seems he’s read all the scouting reports on what type of pro he was projected to be and has embraced the role. Could become a decent bottom 6 forward for Edmonton

  • Peca was a demon on the dot.

    Not a large man by any means but effective none the less.

    Why not dust the guy off,strap some scates to him and make every player spend an hour a day with the lil fellow?

    Worked for Stoll.

  • wiggs22

    Now we have it…fast hands which we know cogs does not have…

    we always talk about how fast he is and how he speeds by defenders but that his hands are too slow and he looses the puck and breaks up the play…slow hands!!

    I sir wiggs have finally uncovered the truth behind cogs and his woeful face off powers!

    ” goes back into hiding in closet untill next game”

  • Jiri Dopita

    Interesting article. Quite counter-intuitive. I agree with some of the comments about quickness being the main factor in determining face-offs wins, but you’d think that a bigger player with quick hands would have an advantage over a smaller player with quick hands owing to his superior strength. Maybe smaller players tend to focus more on their technique knowing that they can’t rely as heavily on strength. Who knows!

    Jonathan – A bit off topic, but do you have a preferred website and/or software for your scatter plots (and other graphs) and calculating correlation coefficients? I need to do some really basic stuff for work and school, but am finding that a lot of the web-based tools are far more complex than I need.

    Thanks.

  • @ Coco crisp:

    Is your indifference a product of your lack of intellect (i.e. inability to grasp charts) or your lack of intellect (i.e. inability to see why the non-relationship between size and faceoffs might be relevant on a hockey website)?

    Please consider the options carefully before answering.