Friday, March 4, 2011

Time on Ice per Point

So, the one argument that rational people against playing Sean Avery make is that despite all of his good play, he doesn't produce enough. It's a tale that summarizes the whole team's woes of late, but they say Avery gets lots of chances but can't find the back of the net. With only three goals on the season, it's a compelling one (of forwards that have played at least 10 games, only White, Boogaard, Drury, and Newbury have fewer). So, I decided to call on our old friend math, to see if he (or she, ladies!) couldn't help me sort this one out.

Math says that Avery has tallied 3 goals and 20 assists this season, for a total of 23 points. Math (by which, in this case, I mean also says that Avery has clocked 772:43 of ice time this season. This means that he has been good for 1 point every 33:36 that he is on the ice. How does that add up against other Rangers? Math and I had a party, to find out, for you.

Turns out: it adds up to comparable to everyone else. Avery's "Time on Ice per Point" (a statistic I just made up, that everyone everywhere should be using) is third worst among Ranger forwards, but it's actually right in the main mix. Let me explain.

On the "unreasonably good" side, we have Marian "yes, Ranger fans, he actually is still that good" Gaborik, good for a point every 22:57 of ice time. Second, boosted by what those in the statistics business call a small sample size, is Vinny Prospal with a point every 23:39. That will go down over time, it represents only 8 points in just under 190 minutes of play, and it will become a more reasonable number as the season goes by. He's good, but he's not that good.

On the "unreasonably bad" side, we have Brandon Prust, whose "ToIpP" is 39:52. This is largely to be expected: let's remember that this only measures numeric productivity and total ice time, which does not account for things like defensive play. For example, if a dude is a great penalty killer, and finds himself on the ice for every goddamn PK (and is still somehow pulling an even +/- for the season), that's gonna count against him, because it's a lot of minutes that he's on the ice doing a very good job, but not scoring goals. Just under him is the worst forward of the lot, Ruslan Fedotenko, with a 40:31. I don't really have a great excuse for this one, maybe he justs sucks a lot more than some people think he does.

Other than those four outliers, we have a pack of Rangers forwards all huddled together - all 9 remaining forwards (I did not include Alex Frolov, Chris Drury, Derek Boogaard, Todd White, or anyone with fewer games than Prospal) range between Callahan's 27:31 and Avery's 33:36 (Artem Anisimov, for example, edges Avery out by only 7 seconds per point).

So what have we learned? Well, obviously, ToIpP is not a tell-all statistic. It's good to show us how much offense a player tangibly puts on the board, but it doesn't account for a lot of play setup that he might do, or for a lot of defense that he might play. But it does tell us something if a player is grossly outside of where everyone else is (like Prust, who has a good reason for it, or Fedotenko, who maybe doesn't). And it does give us a solid argument against anyone who says a particular player doesn't put enough tangible points on the board, if we can see that his numbers are actually comparable to everyone else's.

OK, so in the name of offering some sort of hope using numbers, there is one statistic that is still good news for us: goal differential. Yes, teams below us, the Devils especially, are winning lots of games, and we're not. Yes, if teams below us won their games-in-hand over us, we'd be outside the playoff picture right now. But our +19 goal differential remains good for fourth in the East (by a comfortable margin of 10 goals) and tied for eighth in the league. Bill "Pythagoras" James tells us that we should be winning some more games here pretty soon.

Without getting into the boring details, the Pythagorean expectation formula tells us we're about 3 points in the standings behind where we should be, based on goal differential. Meanwhile, the 'Canes are about 8 points ahead of where they should be, by the same logic. So, there's some hope in that. It's all meaningless in terms of who makes the playoffs, of course; and in the New NHL, where the majority of teams have winning records, teams are constantly outperforming their Pythagorean expectations. But still, it's something. Maybe better things are to come?


  1. Interesting..

    If you try to factor special teams out some and only use even strength TOI and even strength points, it looks even better for 16, he's sixth among forwards.

    Excel graphy:

    Fridays are fun.

  2. Now THAT is interesting. I'm gonna post to the front page. Isn't spending time at work making graphs about hockey instead of working the best?