Goldipucks and the Three Skaters: Crunching the Numbers

Rick Roos

2021-02-10

Welcome back to Goldipucks and the Three Skaters, a play on words of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story. Here though, instead of there being three bowls of porridge, normally I cover three skaters and declare one too hot (i.e., doing unsustainably better than he should), another too cold (i.e., doing unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., producing where he should be). In addition, I normally also assign each a rating of 1-10, indicating just how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), or how cold (rated 1-4, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or how “just right” (rated 4-7, where 5.5 is the most “just right”) he is.

Why did I add the word "normally" twice above? That's because today's column won't be a normal Goldipucks. The issue is we're only a few weeks into the season, and either it's very apparent who is too hot (e.g., Joe Pavelski, James van Riemsdyk, Jeff Petry), too cold (e.g., Evgeni Malkin, Mika Zibanejad, Roman Josi) or just right (e.g., Kyle Connor, Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Point), or there isn't enough data to confidently make that type of evaluation. So instead of covering three players as I usually would, I'll go over the various metrics I use to determine if a player is too hot, too cold, or just right. With this information, you can make assessments on your own, although even after you're armed with my "secrets" I hope you'll continue to keep reading this column once it's back to business as usual.

 

Ice Time

Although there always can be outliers, ice time strongly correlates with scoring, especially for forwards. In the prior five seasons, there were 89 instances of forwards who played in 40+ games and averaged a point per game or higher. Of the 89, only two averaged less than 18:00 per game when doing so; and if we raise the threshold to 18:30 per game, we get only six more players. Even if we go by 0.75 points per game rate, translating to just over a 60 point full season scoring pace, the number of instances within the same time frame spikes to 308, but ice time remains key, as only 22 of those 308 averaged less than 17:00 per game.

This is important because some teams (e.g., Anaheim, Arizona, Montreal, Ottawa), don't lean on their top lines/players as much as others; so if a team's forward leader in TOI is getting around 18:00-18:30 per game and scoring at a 90 point pace, he's almost assuredly too hot. Not all ice time is created equal too, as factors such as a player's offensive zone starting percentage – discussed below – and quality of linemates also matter.