Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hall of Fame Standards for the Major-League Era (Part Two)

This year's new edition of the Hockey Abstract includes a lengthy chapter on the Inductinator, which is a system I devised to determine implicit standards for the Hall of Fame, trying to figure out why each Hall of Fame player was selected as such. It may not be that the best or most deserving players are inducted according to your personal standards or indeed mine, but the Inductinator proceeds with the assumption that the Hall of Fame Selection Committee acts in a reasonably rational manner, and has a reason for each of its selections, even if the justification for using such a reason might be weak.

Last time we had a look at goaltenders and defencemen who played in what I call the Major-League Era, specifically the years 1912 to 1929 when the Stanley Cup became the domain of only a top few hockey leagues. Today we'll be looking at the forwards from this era. Remember that the system is designed so that every player with an Inductinator score of 100 or more meets the implicit Hall of Fame standards.

For most players, the criteria are pretty straightforward. If we look at the top man as an example, Newsy Lalonde. He earns 22 points for the senior-level hockey games he played in excess of 200, and another 42 points for the points he scored in excess of that number. He earns 67 points for his senior career points-per-game average; anyone in excess of 0.95 gets points for this, up to a maximum of 70. Lalonde receives 43 points for his 19 seasons of senior hockey; 14 is the minimum number to earn any points in this category. Newsy earns a ridiculous number of points for his top-four finishes in major-league scoring. He led a major league in scoring three times, was second once, third once and fourth four time, resulting in 112 points. Only Joe Malone (with four) and Fred Taylor (with five) led a major league in scoring more often during this period. Lalonde also served as a player-coach in the major leagues for nine seasons, and earns 60 points for that, giving him a total of 346. He was also head coach in the NHL for seven seasons after his playing career was over, but only those players with at least nine such seasons earn any points for it. It may seem odd to reward a player for something that happened after his playing career, but without this category there would be no way to explain Jack Adams' induction into the player category in 1959.

This isn't the only post-career accomplishment that has to be considered in this era to explain some player selections. You might notice Conn Smythe on the list below, with 60 points on the scale despite playing literally only a handful of senior games. All of these points come from the fact that he was the coach of a Canadian Olympic hockey team (in 1928). Without this massive amount of points, you could not explain Frank Rankin's induction; he was the coach of the 1924 team. Ranking was quite a good player, but had a very short career. His high career points-per-game gives him 47 points, and the other 60 come from the Olympics. It's even worse in the case of Steamer Maxwell, who is recognized as the coach of the 1920 Olympic team, and receives 100 points on the Inductinator scale for this. You can explain the extra 40 points either because he was the first Olympic coach, or because he had a longer senior career than Rankin or Smythe. Once again, Maxwell was a good player in his day, though he never played professionally. He was an extremely fast rover, but he used his speed largely in defence, and never scored very much. He's nowhere near the Hall of Fame purely as a player.

There are some other kludgy work-arounds needed in this era, awarding a large amount of points to a player for an accomplishment that would not seem to be worth that much at first glance. Shorty Green is probably the best example. Based on his playing career alone, his Inductinator score would be precisely zero. He was a decent player, but nothing special. There are two things for which he might be renowned, both of which arise from his captaincy of the 1924/25 Hamilton Tigers. This was the first (and to date, only) NHL club that went from worst to first in the span of a single season. Green was also the leader of the Hamilton player strike before the 1925 playoffs, which earned them a good deal of fame. So we can assign arbitrary values to these events, and give Short Green 50 points for each of them to get to the Hall. It's not terribly satisfying, but it works.

Rusty Crawford is another one. Based purely on his career numbers, despite his very long career Crawford would score only a 50. The only thing that sticks out about him at all, that other players cannot match, is the range of his major-league career. He is the only player from this, so far as I can tell, to have played for a major-league team in every Canadian province that had such a team (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Québec). He played for the Vancouver Maroons, Calgary Tigers, Saskatoon Crescents, Toronto Arenas, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs in his career. I can't find anyone else who meets this criteria. Newsy Lalonde missed out Alrberta and Tommy Dunderdale didn't play in Ontario. They're Hall of Famers nonetheless. Art Gagne and Eddie Oatman both also hit four provinces, but not five; Gagne missed BC and Oatman, Saskatchewan. So if we give Crawford 50 points for this feat, his induction makes sense.

Rewinding a bit, there are a number of things that Newsy Lalonde missed out on for Inductinator points. Players who won at least three Stanley Cup championships earn points for the feat, while Lalonde had only one. Captaining a Stanley Cup championship, and scoring a Cup-winning goal also garner points. Playing and scoring goals in the Olympics are also rewarded, as are Allan Cup accomplishments. The Hart and Byng awards are also valuable, though they arrived relatively late in this time period.

As you can see from the table below, there are a number of players who could just as easily be Hall-of-Famers as not. Bernie Morris, Corb Denneny, Harry Smith and Dubbie Kerr are all only a few points off of the 100 threshold. Personally I would have put each of these men in before Rusty Crawford among others, but the Inductinator is not about merit, about who should be in the Hall of Fame. It's about explaining who is in the Hall. It's an attempt to shed some light on history, not to call down the efforts of the selection committee.

We'll finish up our look at the Inductinator next week, when we examine the Hall-of-Fame players from the Challenge Era, up to 1911.

Newsy Lalondeyes34634444394537806
Joe Maloneyes27727834573418221
Fred Tayloryes242206218110328219
Frank Nighboryes231438255119374324
Didier Pitreyes23134431379392457
Cy Dennenyyes17739831090400450
Dick Irvinyes16032436793460409
Ernie Russellyes15110017616192299
Duke Keatsyes150301234117351764
Frank Fredricksonyes145366246112358499
Harry Broadbentyes14138522463287829
Frank Foystonyes14036725582337206
Tommy Dunderdaleyes14030226074334609
Mickey MacKayyes138422274118392334
Jack Walkeryes13844426299361129
Hobey Bakeryes130416533982
Billy Burchyes12741216673239255
Jimmy Gardneryes1201699029119431
Frank Rankinyes10721630630
Scotty Davidsonyes10749521870150
Harry Watsonyes1066094201142
Gord Robertsyes10617120744251325
Tommy Smithyes10521336533398359
Jack Darraghyes10425820873281355
George Hayyes102410208118326145
Jack Adamsyes10229724956305518
Babe Dyeyes10128121648264221
Moose Goheenyes1011436515800
Barney Stanleyyes10126519094284257
Steamer Maxwellyes1003720123263
Shorty Greenyes100126751893183
Rusty Crawfordyes10030316569234435
Harry Hylandyes10015519234226398
Bernie Morrisno9923720283285139
Corb Dennenyno9835022572297365
Harry Smithno921122468254229
Dubbie Kerrno9116619145236340
Eddie Oatmanno85320198101299456
Tony Conroyno8418654146880
Art Gagneno8239517990269434
Louis Berlinguetteno803469257149304
Odie Cleghornno7729923165296444
Herb Druryno72294591675205
Cully Wilsonno6535520485289814
Fred Harrisno6128217581256449
Conn Smytheno6052020
Bert McCaffreyno5232110349152202
Jack McDonaldno3424419559254179
Carson Cooperno333412157428997
Ty Arbourno3137013769206184
Don Smithno2718918927216359
Billy Boucherno2525211641157442
Sibby Nicholsno219910227129150
Harry Meekingno1727410641147330
Charley Tobinno1420115439193139
Jimmy Herbertno112388933122255
Ken Mallenno1018218227209277
Harry Scottno91231787185182
Alf Skinnerno925711732149432
Carl Kendallno86733195252
Skene Ronanno513810825133244

Monday, 18 August 2014

On His Own Side of the Puck - New Formats

Earlier this year I published On His Own Side of the Puck, the first book discussing the origin of the rules of ice hockey. I'm happy to announce that it is now available in a wider variety of formats.

You can get the paperback or Kindle edition from Amazon here, or you can download a PDF copy here.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Puckerings archive: Effect of Rest of NHL Team Performance (10 Sep 2001)

What follows is a post from my old hockey analysis site puckerings.com (later hockeythink.com). It is reproduced here for posterity; bear in mind this writing is over a decade old and I may not even agree with it myself anymore. This post was originally published on September 10, 2001 and was updated on November 12, 2002.

The Effect of Rest on NHL Team Performance
Copyright Iain Fyffe, 2002

What effect does the amount of rest an NHL team has before a game have on the outcome of the game? We would probably expect that the more rest a team has, the better they will do. However, there is the possibility of too much rest leading to teams being “rusty”, and not performing as well. This simple study examines this question.

Using data from 1998/99 and 1999/2000, I compiled the records of all NHL teams based upon the number of days off since their last game. For comparability’s sake, I ignored the “1 point for an OT loss” rule that came into effect in 1999. Here are the results:

 Tot  Tot  98/99  98/99  99/00  99/00
 Days rest  GP  Pct  GP  Pct  GP  Pct
 0  850  .450  410  .456  440  .444
 0  850  .450  410  .456  440  .444
 1  2130  .503  1041  .500  1089  .506
 2  899  .526  463  .531  436  .521
 3  378  .525  180  .492  198  .556
 4  130  .519  60  .575  70  .471
 5 or more  70  .600  33  .530  37  .662

The results match our expectations quite well. Teams perform the worst when they played the night before, having no time off. There is some suggestion that too much time off may not be good, since at four days off there is a drop in winning percentage. It is a small drop, and is probably not statistically significant. But remember, we would actually expect an increase in percentage, so it seems the benefits of additional rest are offset by the effect of rust, shall we say.

There is one more interesting thing to note in this study. The average NHL team had 108.3 days of rest between their first game of the season and their last game. This average is identical in 1998/99 and 1999/2000. However, the range of days off among teams went from (103,112) in 1998/99 to (104,111) in 1999/2000, and the standard deviation dropped from 1.8 to 1.4 days. Therefore, the NHL schedule got a little fairer in 1999/2000, with teams having more similar amounts of days off.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

In-Depth Review: L'histoire du hockey au Québec, Part 5

We're up to part five of my in-depth review of Donald Guay's 1990 book L'histoire du hockey au Québec: Origine et développement d'un phénomène culturel avant 1917 ("The History of Hockey in Quebec: The origin and development of a cultural phenomenon before 1917"). We're still working through the quite extensive third chapter; after this post we'll about one-third of the way through the book.

Today I'm going to look at Guay's discussion of the development of the major eastern senior hockey leagues from 1886 to 1917. On page 77 he gives us a nifty graphic representation of the subject matter, which I cannot provide a scan of without ruining my copy of the book. So instead, I re-created it below.
The Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC), which was formed in 1886, went along fairly swimmingly for the first decade of its existence. In 1897, the executive of the league passed a fateful resolution, but one that made a good deal of sense. With this resolution, the champion team of the AHAC intermediate section for a year could apply for admission into the senior ranks the following season, subject to the majority vote of all AHAC clubs (senior, intermediate and junior).

The Ottawa Capitals had, the season before, applied for admission into the senior AHAC. The Capitals were the champions of the Central Canada Hockey Association (CCHA), but as the AHAC did not recognize that league as a senior one, the Capitals instead joined the AHAC intermediate division for 1897/98. They were intermediate champions in 1898, and that's when the fun began.

As was their right, the Capitals applied to join the senior ranks of Canada's greatest hockey league. Guay notes that after a long debate and appeals to fair play, the team was admitted by a vote of 23 to 11. All of the intermediate and junior clubs were in favour of the motion, as were the senior Shamrocks. The older clubs - Ottawa, Québec, AAA and Victorias - were all vigorously opposed. So, they exhibited the very best in amateur sportsmanship, and took their pucks and went home. These four clubs withdrew from the AHAC, and formed the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL).  The Shamrocks eventually joined them, which was really their only option, and Guay notes that when drafting the CAHL constitution, the new executive made sure that it would require a unanimous vote to admit a new club to the senior level.

Guay states that after this split, the AHAC ceased operations entirely, but this not accurate. Michel Vigneault's dissertation on the history of hockey in Montreal makes it clear that the AHAC continued to operate at the intermediate and junior levels for several seasons, meaning that it should not be included at all in the illustration above since they were not senior. Guay's illustration is also inaccurate since it shows the Capitals splitting off to play in a league with Brockville and Cornwall. But this is a reversal of history; these three teams made up the CCHA before the Capitals joined the AHAC. At the senior level, there was no split; the senior AHAC became the CAHL.

Guay then discusses the Federal league, and notes that le National de Montréal were the first senior-level French-Canadian hockey club. When this club transferred to the CAHL in 1905, they were replaced by the Montagnards. The author suggests that the battle between the CAHL and FAHL that ensued in the mid-nineteen-oughts is the reason that the French teams became accepted in senior hockey. The Nationals had been rebuffed by senior hockey before, but with a rival league to battle, establishing a French-Canadian fanbase was important. I certainly cannot argue against Guay's conclusion here, and it's a very interesting observation.

The author proceeds with the development of the CAHL into the Eastern Canada league, but his illustration does not take note of the cross-pollination that occurred between the CAHL and FAHL, as Ottawa defected from the CAHL to the FAHL, and then went back, taking the Wanderers with them. Guay does correctly describe that the Eastern Canada league did not undertake a smooth transition to the NHA. In fact, arguably, the direct line of descent of AHAC to CAHL to ECAHA to ECHA ends with the Canadian Hockey Association, which began the 1909/10 hockey season but did not complete it, being absorbed by the National Hockey Association mid-season.

Guay's direct line between the Federal league and the NHA is really also invalid. Only one team from the 1908/09 FHL season actually played in the NHA in 1909/10. The Wanderers came over from the ECHA, and the Canadiens were an entirely new team. The greatest representation in the inaugural NHA season was actually from the Temiskaming Professional Hockey League (Cobalt and Haileybury), thanks to J. Ambrose O'Brien's money. The NHA was not a continuation of any league when it first started, it was assembled from bits and pieces, but Guay's direct line from the Federal league to this one would suggest otherwise. With the NHA and CHA merged into one, senior hockey in Canada was well in the hands of the professional leagues.

Overall, Guay gets quite a lot of the details wrong in the development of senior hockey in eastern Canada into the professional game in the 1910s. I can't give him a failing grade, but I can't say that I'm impressed:

Monday, 11 August 2014

Hall of Fame Standards for the Major-League Era (Part One)

Any longtime fan of hockey knows that the identity of the players in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and of the players who have not been inducted, can be a source of great debate among the faithful. Almost everyone has a favoured played they really feel deserve the honour, and can name several players already in the Hall that probably shouldn't be there, especially not ahead of their preferred hockeyist. These disagreements arise not only because of the selection committee's opaqueness when it comes to the selection process, but also because there are obviously no objective standards as to who should be a Hall-of-Famer and who should not. You cannot look at a player's career, add up all his awards and accomplishments, compare the total to a chart, and arrive at a “yes” or “no” answer. It's just not that simple.

However, even though there are no objective standards, we can try to figure out whether the Hall of Fame selection committee has any implicit standards; that is, standards that can be determined based on who has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and just as importantly who has not, in a sort of reverse engineering of the selection standards. Such a system could be used to discuss past selections, but perhaps more interestingly it could also be used to predict future inductees based on the career records of active or recently-retired players. So, can we examine the career statistical records of Hall-of-Famers and non-Hall-of-Famers, and come up with a formula that represents the basis the selection committee apparently used to select the players for the honour?

As it turns out, we can derive these standards, and we call the resulting system the Inductinator. The Inductinator calculates a score for every hockey player, and any player who achieves a score of 100 or more meets the implicit standards of the Hall of Fame selection committee. It's important to remember that this system is not concerned with who should or should not be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but rather to determine whether there are any set of standards that the selection committee could have used for the honourees. It's descriptive rather than prescriptive; it does not deal with what should be, but what is.

The Inductinator results for players whose careers were primarily after 1930 make up the bulk of my contribution to Hockey Abstract 2014, available now. Here at Hockey Historysis, I'm going to take it back even further, and today we're going to look at the Inductinator for players whose careers primarily spanned 1912 to 1929, which I refer to the as the "major-league era" here, since it was the first time that competition for the the Stanley Cup was restricted to the major professional league or leagues (NHA, NHL, PCHA, WCHL and WHL).

Like later eras, the system addresses forwards, defencemen and goaltenders separately. Later eras are generally easier, because of greater consistency in the statistics (since top players only played in one league for the most part) and because of the existence of annual individual awards. So while I was able to arrive at implicit standards that perfectly discriminate between Hall-of-Famers and non-Hall-of-Famers for 1930 and beyond, it's to be expected that earlier eras are more difficult. And indeed, there are some players from this era that I am not able to statistically make a Hall-of-Famer without also elevating dozens of other players who have not been honoured to the minimum score of 100. But it's actually only three players that I cannot account for, although a couple of others require something of a cheat to get them in, as we'll see. Just like in the Hockey Abstract, I'm going to go position-by-position, starting in goal.

Hall of Fame Standards for Major-League Era Goaltenders
As it turns out, the goaltenders for this era are really, really easy to develop implicit standards for. So easy, in fact, that there is an almost limitless number of ways in which you could do it. Also, you could do it with a single one of a number of statistics.

For example, as you can see below, for goaltenders who played primarily in this era, there are only five netminders who played at least 333 top-level games, and they're all in the Hall of Fame. So you could say that any goalie who played at least 11 major-league seasons is a Hall-of-Famer. You could even say that any goalie who won a Stanley Cup as a starter is a Hall-of-Famer. There are other goalies who won a Cup in the years 1912 to 1929, however their careers were primarily after this era, and so are not included in this group.

Of course I did not want to use any of these simplistic ideas for the Inductinator, so I put together something that seemed reasonable, considering not only the Hall-of-Famers but other goalies as well. I'll use Georges Vezina to illustrate. Vezina played 15 seasons of top-level hockey; he gets seven points for each of those seasons beyond the eighth, for 49 points. He gets 40 points for winning at least one Stanley Cup as a starter, and since he had at least one win for every two games played, he earned points there as well. He receives one point for each .001 that his winning percentage (wins divided by games played) exceeds .460, for 67 points. He died tragically in mid-career, and the Hall of Fame loves that kind of thing, so he gets 40 points for that as well. He also gets the maximum 30 points for his career games played. This brings his total to 226, well above the 100 minimum and more than any other netminder of the era. Note that for career statistics, for seasons before 1926/27 we consider professional stats, and after that season NHL stats only.

The only thing Vezina misses out on is points for his GAA relative to league average. He had a career GAA of 3.40, which the league average for the seasons in which he played was 3.41. He would have received points if his GAA was .90 of the league average or less. Alec Connell, for instance, meets the Inductinator standard with his GAA alone, earning 114 points that way. It should be noted that while Percy LeSueur and especially Paddy Moran look bad by GAA, they played largely in earlier times than the others, when scoring was much higher. For the first half of Moran's career, he played in leagues that featured more than six goals per game.

Georges Vezinayes2263281733.41
Alec Connellyes2054171931.91
Clint Benedictyes2034402392.44
Hugh Lehmanyes1814222203.29
Percy LeSueuryes178170984.31
Hap Holmesyes1404091982.81
Paddy Moranyes107206985.24
Hal Winklerno832031002.28
Bert Lindsayno64150665.37
Jake Forbesno26210852.76
Charles Stewartno1877302.45
Hec Fowlerno17186833.64
Bill Lairdno1053302.96

Hall of Fame Standards for Major-League Era Defencemen
Defencemen are a much more varied group than the goaltenders when it comes to Hall-of-Famers. There are 15 honoured defenders from this era, compared to five goaltenders. It is worth noting that  players are included in this era if they had even one full season after 1911. This is the only way we can make sense of the inclusion or exclusion of certain players.

Defencemen receive points from many things for their Inductinator score. Games played (adjusted to consider any seasons missed due to military service), points scored and points per game are all important. The number of senior seasons played, and the number played at the highest level are also considered. Stanley Cups won, and being the captain of a Stanley Cup champion are also very important. The number of years that the defenceman was a player-coach is included, and if he had a very long career as a coach after his playing days were over, he received some points for that. Players whose careers were ended early by injury or death have an adjustment for this fact.

Since Québec-born Francophone players and US-trained players were fairly rare in this time period, such players receive a bonus to their Inductinator scores. Without this adjustment, it would be extremely difficult to see how Jack Laviolette had a Hall-of-Fame career.

One player from this era that you might have wondered about is Gordon "Phat" Wilson, the great senior player for Port Arthur. Wilson never played professionally, and never played in the best senior leagues either. What he did do, and what it seems the Hall of Fame selection committee wished to reward, is be in the Allan Cup playdowns year in and year out. His teams qualified for the Allan Cup eight times and won the championship three times, and Wilson played 41 Allan Cup matches, scoring 29 points as a defenceman. No one else from this era can match these accomplishments, and as such it seems clear that Allan Cup play is what earned Phat Wilson his place in the Hall.

The only one that I simply cannot explain with any kind of implicit standards is George McNamara. Although he was a very famous player in his day, especially in conjunction with his brother Howard with whom he shared the moniker "Dynamite Twins" due to their powerful body-checking, there is nothing remarkable about his career. If anything, his brother Howard had the more impressive career, and yet it is George who is in the Hall of Fame. Here he scores a big fat zero on the Inductinator as a player, and I cannot provide any reason for him to have been inducted based on his days as a player.

The only thing that makes him stand out from his brother is that after his career, he was the coach of an Allan-Cup winning team, with Sault Ste. Marie in 1924. For some early players, the selection committee clearly did consider post-playing career accomplishments, as we will see. But it would be incredible to say that an Allan Cup championship as a coach for a former player would be worth, by itself, selection to the Hall of Fame. This was during probably the toughest era for the Allan Cup, since it was after a formal playoff system was instituted for the Allan Cup, and before the establishment of minor-league hockey which siphoned off so many quality senior players. Moreover, Eddie Carpenter, who scores at nine on the Inductinator for his playing career, was the coach of Port Arthur as they won two Allan Cups in 1925 and 1926. So if McNamara were to be enshrined for this accomplishment, surely Carpenter would have been as well. This strongly suggests tells us that this was not the implicit standard that McNamara benefited from. I gave both McNamara and Carpenter 20 points for this accomplishment, but that only puts George up to 20, though it does move him ahead of his brother who scores 17 based on his playing career.

McNamara's score of zero as a player led me to a deep search for anything that made him stand out. I decided to check newspaper reports from the time that he was selected for the Hall of Fame, and made what could turn out to be a rather startling discovery. I checked several different Canadian newspapers from April 28, 1958, and they all say the same thing when discussing the newly-elected members of the Hall of Fame for that year. Here is an example from the Regina Leader-Post:


Those added were:

Builders. Senator Donat Raymond, Montreal; the late George McNamara, Toronto; George Dudley, Midland, Ont.; the late Jim Norris Sr., Detroit; Conn Smythe, Toronto; Al Pickard, Regina; and Lloyd Turner, Calgary.

Players with the teams they were most closely identified with. Frank Boucher, New York; Frank (King) Clancy, Ottawa and Toronto..."
George McNamara was listed as a builder, not as a player. Now, it remains entirely possible that the media was given erroneous information, and that McNamara was in fact supposed to be listed as a player. Indeed the Hockey Hall of Fame itself lists him as an Honoured Player. Frankly, his selection would make a great deal more sense in the builder category. A SIHR member related to me that McNamara contributed a substantial amount of cash toward the construction of the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston, and that he was generally quite philanthropic after his playing career was done, so it would make a great deal more sense as a basis for his induction than what he did on the ice.

However, it seems that this is ultimately a red herring, that the player category is where McNamara was inducted. This was confirmed by a SIHR member via a contact at the Hall of Fame. But yet another SIHR member, Andrew Ross, actually blogged about the McNamara induction a few years ago. He noted that in a letter, Frank Selke Sr. (who was a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee) wrote that "when George was admitted [to the Hall] Howard's wife told a friend of mine that George could not carry Howard's skates. I asked [Art] Ross and Lester [Patrick] about this and they said, which one was Howard?"

So perhaps it was supposed to be Howard. He would certainly have been a better choice based on his playing career, but the Inductinator still would not have been able to justify it. The McNamaras were a bit larger than life, and perhaps their reputation was all that was needed. Regardless, the selection of George McNamara is surrounded by quite a bit of confusion.

Next time we will look at the forwards from this era.

Eddie Gerardyes24925017076246325
George Boucheryes21849615191242927
Sprague Cleghornyes209377174105279849
Lester Patrickyes20622716971240187
Harry Cameronyes18035022095315490
Reg Nobleyes173541195109304982
Art Rossyes1641859834132563
Joe Hallyes14124015940199913
Moose Johnsonyes10925712250172505
Herb Gardineryes1092777647123147
Jack Lavioletteyes1022359834132489
Joe Simpsonyes10039712776203274
Si Griffisyes1001498343126181
Phat Wilsonyes100117562480148
Bobby Roweno9929112356179567
Goldie Prodgerno9123411540155262
Frank Patrickno8812410538143106
Clem Loughlinno803838044124342
Art Duncanno803829669165406
Lloyd Cookno7423111459173210
Walter Smaillno6814010135136231
Hamby Shoreno6718912131152566
Bert Corbeauno603418355128939
Billy Coutuno57300452167532
Percy Traubno51318323466551
Leo Reiseno503298054134276
Duke Dukowskino423566648114424
Muzz Murrayno421264445269
Gord Fraserno30279633194495
Eddie Carpenterno29192521264330
Bobby Trappno28257474592264
Harry Mummeryno27239623294602
George McNamarayes20139371754291
Slim Haldersonno192186244106318
Howard McNamarano17152542074456

Friday, 8 August 2014

Puckerings archive: Isolating Team Defence (01 Aug 2001)

What follows is a post from my old hockey analysis site puckerings.com (later hockeythink.com). It is reproduced here for posterity; bear in mind this writing is over a decade old and I may not even agree with it myself anymore. This post was originally published on August 1, 2001 and was updated on April 10, 2002.

Isolating Team Defence
Copyright Iain Fyffe, 2002

Probably the most difficult aspect of hockey to quantify is defence. Among official stats, we basically only have goals-against average (team) and plus-minus (individual). I will not discuss plus-minus, as my emphasis here is on team defence. Another way of looking at defence is by using marginal goal analysis, which forms the basis for the Point Allocation system. This essay details another way of examining team defence, Defensive Winning Percentage.

Goals-against average is not sufficient for the evaluation of team defence, for two reasons. First, it varies with the level of goal-scoring in general, making direct comparisons across years difficult. Second, and most important, goals-against average is made up of two things: team defence and goaltending. What we need is a method for separating the two.

The DWP method stems from the Neutral Winning Percentage system for goaltenders. In that essay, we arrive at a winning percentage for goaltenders that is (for the most part) attributable only to the goaltender, not to the team he plays for. And since offence is relatively easy to quantify, that leaves only one facet of the game not measured: defence.

What we need now is a formula that combines all of the following elements: team winning percentage, offence, defence, and goaltending. No such formula exists, but we can adapt one for our use. Bill James developed a Pythagorean Winning Percentage formula for baseball, which uses offence and defence together to calculate an expected winning percentage. It works quite well. Marc Foster of the HRA adapted this concept to hockey, and the formula (for modern times) looks something like this:

TWP = GF^2 / (GF^2 + GA^2)

Where TWP is the team’s (expected) winning percentage, GF is goals for and GA is goals against. The exponent is more accurately set at 2.03, but for our purposes, we will use the simpler exponent of 2.

Goals against are determined by two things: defence and goaltending. For our purposes (creating a measure of team defence), we will make an assumption on how to separate the two. Since at any time there are (usually) five players on the ice who are responsible for defence, and only one for goaltending, we will assume that defence is five times more important than goaltending in determining goals against.

To keep the presentation constant, we will work only with winning percentages. This has the additional benefit of making numbers from one year directly comparable with numbers from another. We have team winning percentage (TWP) and goaltender (neutral) winning percentage (GWP) so far. In order to calculate defensive winning percentage (DWP), we will first need to calculate offensive winning percentage (OWP).

To calculate OWP, we use a method similar to the one used in calculating GWP. First, we compile the records of all teams in the league for each level of goals scored (0, 1, 2, 3, etc.). This gives us a winning percentage determined by the number of goals you score, independent of how many goals you allow. Thus, it measures only offence.

Second, we compile the number of times each team scores each number of goals. However, since we want this to be free of any bias created by the opponent’s defence, we must make an adjustment. For each opponent, we calculate a multiplier based on their goals-against average relative to the league goals-against average. Thus, if a team allows 3.00 goals per game, and the league average is 2.50, this team will have a multiplier of 0.83 (2.50/3.00), reflecting the relative ease with which you can score on this opponent. So if you score 5 goals against this opponent, you get credit for only 4.15 (5 x 0.83), which is rounded off to 4.

Now, using the winning percentages for each number of goals and the number of times each team scores each number of goals, we can calculate a weighted-average winning percentage. This is the OWP, and it (in theory) reflects only the quality of team offence.

Now, we can express the Pythagorean Formula as follows, bearing in mind the assumptions we have made thus far:

TWP = OWP^2 / {OWP^2 + [1- (5/6 x DWP + 1/6 x GWP)]^2}

With some simple algebraic manipulation, the formula for DWP is:

DWP = 1.2 - .2 x GWP - 1.2 x OWP x (1/TWP - 1)^.5

One of the nice things about using the Pythagorean Formula is that it captures the synergies that exist in hockey. Winning is not linear; the results of above-average goaltending, offence, and defence is greater that the sum of the individual parts. With this method, having a .500 OWP, GWP and DWP will produce a .500 TWP. However, if several of these factors are above-average, the TWP will not increase linearly. Results for 2000/01 are included at the end of this essay; examine them to see what I mean.

DWP is really only a rough measure. When examining it, please remember the following points:

(a) it absorbs all the error present in the Pythagorean Formula,
(b) it assumes defence is fives times as important as goaltending in preventing goals,
(c) it assumes the GWP and OWP calculations are accurate, and
(d) it indicates only how defence was played, not the potential for defence; it can be influenced by strategy.

2000/01 NHL Results
 Anaheim  .372  .404  .487  .473
 Atlanta  .354  .446  .485  .380
 Boston  .488  .498  .467  .494
 Buffalo  .591  .483  .585  .600
 Calgary  .421  .445  .492  .475
 Carolina  .518  .451  .512  .576
 Chicago  .402  .461  .459  .433
 Colorado  .650  .609  .536  .557
 Columbus  .396  .406  .523  .494
 Dallas  .634  .535  .559  .600
 Detroit  .652  .566  .531  .598
 Edmonton  .549  .554  .484  .501
 Florida  .348  .436  .526  .379
 Los Angeles  .543  .557  .507  .485
 Minnesota  .384  .375  .563  .517
 Montreal  .390  .465  .499  .402
 Nashville  .470  .418  .579  .552
 New Jersey  .659  .610  .517  .570
 NY Islanders  .299  .394  .438  .388
 NY Rangers  .433  .555  .435  .351
 Ottawa  .640  .595  .536  .557
 Philadelphia  .591  .521  .521  .576
 Phoenix  .530  .458  .561  .570
 Pittsburgh  .567  .591  .491  .482
 St.Louis  .598  .564  .519  .541
 San Jose  .561  .474  .586  .580
 Tampa Bay  .329  .428  .495  .368
 Toronto  .518  .490  .503  .532
 Vancouver  .506  .531  .429  .485
 Washington  .561  .508  .552  .550

Hockey Abstract 2014 - Out Now!

One project I've been working on this summer is contributing to a new edition of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract. I've known Rob for a very long time, since early on in the internet hockey analytics days when I was publishing research on Puckerings.com. He wrote and published the first edition of the Abstract last year. This year, he recruited me and another long-time chum of ours, Tom Awad (of GVT fame) to contribute to it. We're very excited to be able to work on a project like this together after all these years, and I think we've put together a very solid product.

Hockey Abstract 2014 is primarily devoted to the analysis of current players and teams, of course. However, my main contribution to the book is a thorough discussion of the players in the Hall of Fame. The Inductinator was a tool I developed at Hockey Prospectus, designed to predict future Hall-of-Fame inductees based on data from the modern (post-expansion) players who were already in the Hall. It was an attempt to discover implicit Hall-of-Fame standards; it is meant to predict who will be honoured, not necessarily who should be. Anyone with a score of 100 or more on the Inductinator is expected to be a Hall-of-Famer, with higher scores having shorter waiting times than lower scores.

For the Abstract, I first refined my model based on recent Hall of Fame inductions, but being me I wasn't happy just discussing the present and future, I wanted to go back in time as well. So I extended the Inductinator all the way back to 1930, when the NHL adopted essentially modern offside rules. Although I was initially skeptical that I would be able to do so, ultimately I was actually able to develop implicit standards for all players back to 1930 such that every player who is in the Hall of Fame scores at least 100, while every player who is not scores at most 99. So the Inductinator actually performs two functions: not only are we able to predict future Hall-of-Famers with it, but we can shed some light on past Hall-of-Famers as well, to see what the selection committee has apparently considered to be important in selecting players.

Although in the Abstract I only take the analysis back to 1930, I have also extended the Inductinator back to the beginning of the first hockey league in Canada, in 1886. I have not been able to achieve a 100% success rate at isolating Hall-of-Famers from the other players before 1930, however there are only a few exceptions. Next week I will be posting some discussion of early Hall-of-Famers so you can see what I mean.

In the meantime, please have a look at the 2014 edition of Hockey Abstract. I don't think you'll be disappointed. It's available in both print and PDF formats.
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