Drawing penalties – Who is good at it on the Canucks?

“Draw me like Nazem Kadri draws a tripping penalty” – How the line should have been delivered

This post is mostly related to two vilified wingers of past and future Vancouver Canucks teams, Mason Raymond and David Booth. Both of these players are pretty good at an overlooked part of hockey. At least Raymond was good before his injury sustained in the Finals, but I digress. I’ve covered Raymond pre-and-post injury enough, and the last thing this website needs is more people talking about how Booth is going to surpass measly expectations.

Powerplay percentages and penalty kill percentages are one thing, but what really matters is how many goals for and against you get in special teams situations. Last year, the Canucks were 8th in PK percentage but 10th in goals against while shorthanded. Why the small discrepancy? Because they took more penalties.

Minor hockey leagues have precious few stats, so when analysts feel the need to quantify the play of a defensive defenceman, they look at his penalty minutes. Only big, tough, defenders get penalties, anyway, and I guess it’s good to be big and tough? It’s fun information for poolies to play with as well.

But minor leagues count only penalties taken and not the player that draws the penalty. Take last night’s game, where Ryan Kesler, Andrew Alberts and Bo Horvat are all charged with minor penalties but Matthew Nieto, Tommy Wingels and Jason Demers don’t get any sort of credit for drawing the penalties beyond the boxscore. The NHL doesn’t officially record the data, but Behind the Net does. If you take a look at a list of league leaders in drawn penalties over the last three or four years you’ll find some very familiar names: players like Dustin Brown and Jeff Skinner and Darren Helm and Ryan Callahan. Eric T. at Broad Street Hockey has mentioned penalty differential as a “hidden talent”.

For our purposes, it would be fun to see how the Canucks stack up in this department. By using the data at Behind the Net for ice-times and penalties drawn and taken, I looked at qualified players and assigned a “replacement value” for penalty differential based on a player that is 70% as good at drawing penalties as the average player, and takes 130% more. I’ve seen “70% of average” thrown around on baseball forums as a quick means of calculating replacement-level, and the reason I’m not using the average is because I want to give an average player some value.

The table here is the player, position, penalties taken per 60, drawn per 60, overall differential per 60, and rate versus the replacement. A replacement forward gets a differential of -0.36 per 60 minutes and a defenceman is -0.61:

  Position Taken/60 Drawn/60 Differential Rate vs. Replacement
David Booth F 0.60 1.23 0.63 0.99
Chris Tanev D 0.18 0.50 0.32 0.93
Brad Richardson F 0.77 1.15 0.38 0.74
Chris Higgins F 0.42 0.66 0.24 0.60
Dan Hamhuis D 0.41 0.34 -0.07 0.54
Alex Burrows F 1.01 1.12 0.11 0.47
Ryan Kesler F 1.01 1.09 0.08 0.44
Daniel Sedin F 0.64 0.68 0.04 0.40
Jannik Hansen F 0.62 0.64 0.02 0.38
Alex Edler D 0.64 0.41 -0.23 0.38
Henrik Sedin F 0.92 0.86 -0.06 0.30
Kevin Bieksa D 1.08 0.74 -0.34 0.27
Yannick Weber D 0.74 0.37 -0.37 0.24
Jason Garrison D 0.59 0.20 -0.39 0.22
Andrew Alberts D 1.31 0.53 -0.78 -0.17

What should immediately stick out here is that David Booth is not just the best on the Canucks, but he’s in the top 40 in the NHL over the last three seasons, his contributions to the cause in Florida during the 2010-2011 season were probably worth about a point in the standings. It takes about seven or eight drawn penalties to have enough accrued that any powerplay could score a goal. Over three seasons, he’s drawn 45 calls and taken just 22 penalties. The overall difference, 23, divided by 8 is worth very close to three. According to hockey’s 3-1-1 rule (3 goals is worth a point in the standings and is worth one million dollars) on drawn penalties alone, Booth is worth close to $1-million.

If he stays healthy, of course.

The full list of Canucks is up there as well. Brad Richardson should do some spot duty while Mason Raymond, who would have been third on the list at 0.86 above replacement, is off the team. For all the abuse Keith Ballard took when kicking around Vancouver, he drew over one penalty per 60 minutes of play—1.03, while taking 0.89—meaning his differential is quite high when compared to a replacement and he’d have been the second highest defenceman, well-above Dan Hamhuis.

A difference of 0.4 on this list should be worth about a powerplay goal, assuming a player plays 72 games and 15 minutes a night (since these are per 60 rates, ice-time matters as well).

What may be concerning is that Henrik and Daniel Sedin score pretty poorly by this. They’re elite possession players and play-drivers, but don’t draw a lot of penalties. Alex Burrows, who takes a bundle of penalties and is perceived as having a target on his back, scores quite well considering he, and Ryan Kesler, draw more than they take.

Furthermore, if you look at the Canucks bottom pairing, I imagine that Andrew Alberts’ ability to take dumb penalties washes out most of Chris Tanev’s value, which is that he can play long stretches of games without taking a minor penalty. He doesn’t draw an awful lot, but he still comes out well ahead.

Here are some of the recently deposed Canucks. Raymond, Ballard, and Cody Hodgson (!!) do well by this metric. Manny Malhotra does somewhat, but you can take Max Lapierre. He was a pretty terrible diver compared to Kesler and Burrows:

  Position Taken/60 Drawn/60 Differential Rate vs. Replacement
Mason Raymond F 0.50 1.00 0.50 0.86
Keith Ballard D 0.89 1.03 0.15 0.76
Cody Hodgson F 0.55 0.91 0.36 0.73
Manny Malhotra F 0.52 0.77 0.24 0.60
Derek Roy F 0.79 0.82 0.03 0.39
Max Lapierre F 1.05 0.86 -0.19 0.17
  • Peachy

    But seriously, I read the article.

    The Sedins aren’t too surprising. One thing the top penalty-drawing players generaly have in common in speed. The Sedins don’t have that.

    The million dollar (or more) question is: how can the Canucks improve by this metric over-all? Changes certainly won’t come from the same personnel. It’ll have to be systems play.

      • Peachy

        Man, if we were to do that AND somehow trade for Duncan Keith, we’d be immune to penalties AND suspensions!

        (I’m half serious. Keith’s suspension history is a travesty of justice.)

        • Peachy

          You forgot about trading for Milan Lucic.

          But seriously, it might be interesting to count the potential “missed calls” during a season, because even though I feel like the Sedins are subjects to a ton of grabing, hooking, and holding that goes uncalled on a regular basis, I have no data to support my hypothesis. And I’m definitely not going to go out there and do actual work to prove/disprove it.

    • DCR

      I did do a little research on last year’s officiating, and the numbers show that the Canucks drew an average of 3.44 PPs per game, and were shorthanded 3.52 times per game.

      I then compared these averages to those of the teams the Canucks played in the regular season to get the average PP differential, which I compared to the actual results.

      Everything worked out pretty much as expected, with no drop off in differential toward the end of the season. Taking San Jose as an example, the season averages would have predicted a differential of 0.27 PP/game in San Jose’s favor, and the actual results were 0.39 PP/game in San Jose’s favor.

      Then the Playoffs happened, and the numbers went screwy. Vancouver went from a 3.44 PP/game average (3.3 in the last 10 games of the season) to a 2.5 PP/game average, while San Jose went from 3.52 PP/game to 6.0.

      Something definitely changed in the post-season last season, and the team has to make sure it doesn’t happen again this season.

  • DCR

    Man I love Canucks Army. These type of posts are what make this site different that crap you read on team websites or in the paper.

    I’ve always wondered why the Sedins don’t draw as many penalties as say a Booth or Raymond. One perspective would say footspeed is the difference. Personally, I think it’s zebra perspective. For whatever un-humanitarian reason, the most zebras think the Sedins are divers. They just simply don’t get the calls.

    Yes I’m a Canucks fan, but I watch as much of other teams as I do the Canucks. And I’ve never seen 2 players take more physical abuse than the twins – shift in and shift out. They take the abuse, a lot of it cheap and/or illegal. But it rarely gets penalized. Some of the abuse is so clearly visbile, clearly against the rules of the NHL – yet no zebra blows a whistle. It’s a strange situation. I can’t figure it out.