Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shootout Length: Model vs Actual

Here is the data from 2005-2009 shootouts compared to my simple model (assume all shooters have a 33% chance of scoring.) Short shootouts are far more likely to occur than predicted:

This isn't surprising - there is tremendous talent variation among shooters and goalies in the shootout. So the first two pairs of shots are often significantly tilted in one team's favor, leading to an early exit. Why does this inefficiency persist? Well, there aren't many options in goal, first of all. As for shooters, I haven't looked at shootout data in a long time, but initial returns indicated that coaches had not properly assessed the true shootout talent of their players. You'd have to take a lot of penalty shots in practice to figure out who's a 40% scorer and who's a 30% scorer, and for one or two points in the standings per season and no impact in the playoffs, it may not be worth the time.


Historical Tax Rates


Monday, March 9, 2009

Average Number of Shots in the Shootout

A friend of mine asked me how many shots their were in an average shootout. I'll admit that I gave a wildly incorrect guess, but I wanted to know the answer to his question, so I wrote a little simulation to get the answer. Here's the average number of shots in the shootout versus the likelihood of scoring:
Intuitively, the trend makes sense: if you never score, the shootout will never end; the same is true if you always score.

How does the model compare to reality? The average scoring rate over the past four seasons in the NHL is 33.1% - the simulation predicts just slightly over seven shots on average. The real average has been 4058 shots in 588 shootouts, or 6.9.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Look up NHL standings for any day, 2003-2008

ESPN has this feature for baseball standings, but apparently not for the NHL. Here's what I put together:

Standings for 12/21/2003

So you can see that the Leafs were inexplicably tied for first place in the East on Dec 21, 2003.

I've broken out Wins and Losses by Regulation, OT and SO.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Can't Buy a Goal!

[To appear in "The Committed Indian", the unofficial Chicago Blackhawks game day program.]

During the 2004 lockout, I watched former NHLer Eric Cairns play for the London Racers of the English Ice Hockey League. At six-foot-five, Cairns was a bruising defenseman who the Penguins traded for to protect Sidney Crosby - he'd better be an enforcer: even in the English League, against a team that had only dressed two lines, Cairns appeared to lack mobility and stick-handling skills. When I looked up his career stats, I was somewhat amazed to find that after finishing junior hockey, from Age 20 to Age 32, he had scored just 18 goals. Not 18 NHL goals. 18 goals in 639 games at all levels of hockey. Think about that - Eric Cairns scored a goal every 35 games. If he scored one goal in a season, it was pretty unlikely that he would score a second. It over him over 100 games in the NHL to score. Among players who were good enough to play in the NHL, Eric Cairns was a legendarily bad goalscorer.

But with yet another ill-advised New York Islanders call-up this year, we have a contender for Cairns' title: 21-year-old Joel "Wrecker" Rechlicz. Rechlicz, if you can believe this, has just one goal in 166 games since he turned 17. As you might imagine, he does have 567 penalty minutes per goal over that time frame. This got me wondering who the all-time worst goalscorers have been in the history of the NHL. I don't care what level you score at - even if a goal in Junior B translates to 5% of a goal in the NHL, I want to know which players have such stone hands that they'll be mobbed by their teammates if they somehow put the puck in the net. Well, here's our top nine, standing an average of 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds:

Name Years GP G PIM PIM/G
Joel Rechlicz 2009 166 1 567 567
Trevor Gillies 2005-2006 704 14 2934 210
David Koci 2006-2009 585 10 1948 195
Boris Valabik 2007-2009 373 10 1441 144
Ken Baumgartner 1987-1999 954 23 3280 143
Bennett Wolf 1980-1983 477 18 2488 138
Kim Clackson 1979-1981 547 16 2159 135
Wade Brookbank 2003-2009 632 20 2668 133
Garrett Burnett 2003-2004 525 26 3416 131

Why nine and not some normal round number like 10 or 15? Well, it turns out that disastrously bad goal-scoring skills are harder to come by than you might think. There are a few players who racked up 3000 or 4000 penalty minutes but were clearly great scorers in midget hockey and matured (if you can call it that) into goons. Or there are players who couldn't score but clearly got to play a little bit on the power play and so got in on the glory of goal-scoring just a little bit. So this just a list of players who can't score, can't pass, and get into fights all the time - yet got to play in the NHL!

In case you're wondering, there is another player who's threatening to make the top of this list: Rechlicz's brother Marc (currently toiling in the CHL), who has had plenty of fights since he left high school hockey - but has been credited with exactly zero goals and zero assists.


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