Delivering the Sauce: Numbers Game

As the saying goes, the numbers rarely lie. Plus-minus is probably the statistic that is least representative of performance, but it does serve a purpose (when used in the proper context). Advanced statistics have a place in hockey, especially in terms of evaluating underperformers and overperformers. That being said, there are many simple-to-calculate and readily available statistics that are often ignored. I play a lot of fantasy hockey, and two numbers that I often pay attention to are zone starts and power play ice time. Starting in the offensive zone versus starting in the defensive zone has a huge impact on overall production (duh), while power play ice time can be the difference between a 40-point and a 60-point season for a second line forward. The two best resources on the net are Behind the Net and DobberHockey’s Frozen Pool Tools.

As I said above, there is still a place for the often used statistics, especially these interesting ones that haven’t received a lot of attention.

13 – Dan Hamhuis’ point total, to date. He is on pace for seven goals and 44 points, the latter of which would be a career high. Hamhuis has finished between 20 and 27 points in each of the last five seasons. What gives? Hamhuis is playing 2:18 per game on the power play. The loss of Christian Ehrhoff combined with the constant injuries to Sami Salo has opened up a few open spots on the back end. Hamhuis has looked great on the point – he sees the ice really well, he is good at holding the line, and he can get his shot on net.

Last season, Hamhuis played only 1:34 of power play time per game. In 2009-10, his final season in Nashville, he played an average of only 0:25 per game on the power play. His role with the Predators changed with the emergence of the Shea Weber-Ryan Suter pairing. In his previous best offensive season (38 points way back in 2005-06), Hamhuis played over 3:00 per game with the man advantage. The numbers don’t lie – more power play ice time means more points for Hamhuis.

2 – Keith Ballard’s point total, to date. Ballard is on pace for eight points (or about $500k per point), and his level of play has been sporadic, much like last season. He has had two NHL seasons with 34 points or more, and recorded at least 21 points in every season he spent in Phoenix or Florida (he had nine last season with the Canucks). Ballard is averaging 0:12 per game on the power play, one second less than he did last season.

In his two best offensive seasons, he played 2:20 (2008-09 in Florida) and 2:37 (2005-06 in Phoenix) per game on the power play. Has he earned the ice time in Vancouver? Probably not, but it is one major reason as to why his production has tanked.

984 – David Booth’s career NHL shot total (in 323 games). A lot more goes into being a good hockey player than shooting the puck, but it is nearly impossible to score with any sort of frequency without shooting the puck a lot (high shooting percentages are unsustainable for the most part). Booth got off to a slow start with the Canucks, but he has played great recently (especially in the last three games against Phoenix, San Jose, and Columbus).

In Booth’s best NHL season (2008-09), he scored 31 goals on 246 shots (a shooting percentage of about 13). Vancouver’s three highest scorers that season were Daniel (31 goals and a 10.9 shooting percentage), Burrows (28 goals on 16 percent of his shots), and Kesler (26 goals on 14.5 percent of the shots he took). In summary, more shots = good. Now that Booth seems to be finding the rest of his game – speed, tenacity, forechecking, positioning – he’ll be better able to take said shots from better areas on the ice.

1 – The number of points that Darren Archibald has registered in his AHL rookie season (17 games). Back in the summer, I wrote a glowing piece on Archibald after getting to watch him play a few times last season. His struggles this season highlight the huge gap between junior hockey and the AHL – the speed of the game, and the size and strength of defenders, most notably. Archibald scored on his very first shot of the season, and has put up absolutely nothing since then.

Archibald was signed as an undrafted free agent, so the risk to him not turning out is only the contract spot he takes up (NHL organizations can have up to 50 contracts signed at any given time). However, his slow start is a bit concerning, especially considering how strongly he finished his junior career.

0 – The number of games that Joe Cannata’s Merrimack Warriors have given up more than two goals in a game. Cannata, who I wrote about last week, is sporting a Cory Schneider-like 1.32 goals-against-average and .944 save percentage. He doesn’t get a lot of press in Vancouver because of Luongo, Schneider, and Eddie Lack. However, if the team was desperate for a goalie in the next few years, we’d be hearing a lot more about this Hobey Baker candidate.