A friend of mine recently asked me whether there was any way to measure if the NHL was faster and less physical now than it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. We all know that the number of fights has plummeted, but is there any other data that we can go on? And what does it mean for fantasy hockey now and in the future?
Generally, I am going to look at hits, as we have all seen that penalty minutes have gone down, but I can't remember anyone going over hit totals. Through the Frozen Tools Reports page, I was able to browse the data all the way back to the 2007-2008 season. This should be able to show any obvious trends from recent history, while the data from anything earlier is generally incomplete where you can find it, or just completely unavailable.
One thing to be aware of is the changes in rules and parameters that played roles in how the game is shaped today. The rolling out of new rules on occasion, especially after the 2005 lockout, provided new freedom to the skilled players, and was widely considered to be the beginning of this "faster" era. If the players say the game is faster, that is probably the best indicator. They would know better than any of us, and likely better than any number could show. However, we're going to look into a few numbers anyways.
With regards to the hits data, the expectation would be that the numbers are slowly declining as the game gets faster, and more focused on offence. In theory, this would make the top hits producers a rarer and more valuable commodity in fantasy leagues. On the contrary however, the hits numbers are fairly consistently in the low to mid-40s. The number of top hits producers fluctuates, but it doesn't have any dominant trends. For the top hit producers, I arbitrarily used over 200 in a season to show us the upper echelon. There are both peaks and valleys, but they don't seem to be much rarer now than any period in the last dozen seasons.
*For the shortened seasons, I paced the league