Frozen Tools Forensics: Power-Play Opportunities
Given we have been without NHL action for some time now, and it isn't entirely clear when we will have games to reference again, it seems appropriate to take a look at a few of our more hidden stats and reports. This week I wanted to dive into power plays a bit. Not necessarily the formations, or even too much into the players that excel on the power play. Just that I really wanted to get to opportunities.
Of course, with this topic like so many others I wanted to start with Big Board. When exported and organized we get a great summary of the top scorers in the league. In this view we are looking at it sorted by power-play points.
There is a lot here we already know. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid feasted on the power play and that Boston unit was lethal. I wanted to pause for a moment though and draw our attention to one additional feature – the team each individual is playing for.
If we sort by team, we can look at the number of players each team has in the top 20.
|Team||# of Top 20 Players|
There are a couple of surprises here. I mean we understand Edmonton and Boston (see comment above) but Vancouver? The Rangers? What do they have that Toronto doesn’t?
There are a ton of factors that go into a player's ranking here (player skill, time on the first unit, luck, etc.), but one thing we don't talk a lot about is team opportunities. We have to assume that a team who gets a lot of power-play chances is much more likely to have players who are putting up higher power-play numbers. Just look at the chart below – look at the difference in total time.
|Rank||Team||GP||Opponent Penalty Minutes|
This table shows the teams with the top opponent penalty minutes and the worst. The top five average 701 total penalty minutes from their opponents and the bottom five averaged 479. That is a huge difference. We are talking 232 minutes of power-play opportunity here. Maybe this can help us answer our question. The Rangers rank second in power-play minute opportunities, but Toronto ranks 30th with a difference of 245 potential minutes.
So the big question is: Do teams that have more potential minutes on the power-play have more players in the top 20? I think the answer is a resounding …maybe?
|Team||# of Top 20 Players||Rank in PP Minutes|
Only five teams have more than one player in the top 20. Four of them are in the top ten for total minutes, so that correlation seems pretty strong. Edmonton is the lone exception, ranked 21st. They might just be an exception to the rule here, though, as McDavid and Draisaitl were just so good this year. The rest of the teams have only one player, and in many cases, it is a player of prodigious skill that is clearly making up for a deficit in team opportunity.
The two other oddballs are Colorado and Tampa. Colorado ranks very highly in total time, but only Nathan MacKinnon ranks in the top 20. One potential explanation here is that Colorado dealt with some major injuries so guys like Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen who might otherwise be on this list played fewer games. That leaves Tampa as an odd man out, they have a ton of star power, and a lot of opportunity, but still didn't manage more than one player on the list.
It is clearly not a direct correlation between team totals and player point totals, and some of those reasons have been pointed out already. We have the efficiency of a power-play to consider, how the units are given time, injuries, etc. But I don't think we can escape the fact that some teams end up with a lot more opportunity than others. I mean, Columbus' top power-play producer is ranked 101st in power-play points (combination of low opportunity and poor power-play?)
So that brings us to the question of how do teams end up on the power-play? Well at some point an opposing player needs to do something illegal. A team system might be one answer for encouraging opponents to do so, but an individual players' style and skill is definitely another. We have some evidence that drawing penalties is a repeatable skill for skaters, and wouldn't you know it, Frozen Tools has a report for that. It is called Drawn Penalties. The table below shows the top 10 for 2019-20.
It is an interesting mix of skill players and agitators.
We can also sort by number of shifts per penalty (or put another way, how many shifts does a player need to take in order to draw a penalty) – here is that top ten (with minimum game number of 30).
|Name||Team||GP||Shifts||Penalties Drawn||Shifts / Penalties Drawn|
Here we definitely have a few skill players, but most of this list have a bit of edge to their game.
So how does all of his impact their fantasy value? Well at the end of the day most leagues don't count penalties drawn as a stat, so the direct impact is not high. A player's ability to draw penalties can definitely have an impact on their team's total power-play time, though, and that can have an impact on scorers who rely on power-play production.
At the end of the day there isn't much you can do, but it is certainly something to consider around trade/free agent deadline days as players are moving between teams. If you are holding a bunch of power-play guys on a team that just shipped off its two best penalty drawers, that might be good to know. Does it mean those guys will suddenly tank? Not necessarily, but as I often say in this column, opportunity is everything.
That is all for this week. Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there.
Want more tool talk? Check out these recent Frozen Tool Forensics Posts.
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