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Good goals and bad goals

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Posted: Tuesday October 02, 2001 4:11 PM

 

By Marc Foster and Chris Apple, Special to CNNSI.com

Scoring has always been recorded in the simplest fashion possible. Someone gets the goal, a player or two gets an assist, and from there we move on. There's traditionally been only two ways to measure this: the straight tally (Pavel Bure scored 59 goals last season), and dividing that tally by the number of games played (playing 82 games, he averaged 0.72 goals/game).

But we can do better.

If goals (or assists, or points) per game are being used as the traditional measure of scoring effectiveness, wouldn't breaking this down by ice time be better? After all, not everybody actually plays the same amount within a given game. Top defensemen are on the ice for up to 30 minutes, while top forwards may log between 18 and 23 minutes. Not only would ice time be comparing apples to apples, but it would allow us to further subdivide the analysis into even strength and power play situations.

First we'll start with minutes per goal. Let's start with the top ten goal scorers from the 2000-01 season.

 

Top goal scorers
2000-01 season stats
No.  Player  Team  GP  TOI  Goals  G/GP 
Pavel Bure  Fla  82  2203  59  0.72 
Joe Sakic  Col  82  1887  54  0.66 
Jaromir Jagr  Pit  81  1888  52  0.64 
Peter Bondra  Wsh  82  1705  45  0.55 
Alexei Kovalev  Pit  79  1862  44  0.56 
Alexander Mogilny  N.J.  75  1266  43  0.57 
Markus Naslund  Van  72  1371  41  0.57 
Milan Hedjuk  Col  80  1589  41  0.51 
Jeff O'Neill  Car  82  1503  41  0.50 
10  Patrik Elias  N.J.  82  1535  40  0.49 
GP -- Games played
TOI -- Time on ice
G -- Goals
G/GP -- Goals per games played
 

With a few exceptions, most of the leading scorers played in every or nearly every game this season (logically, the more games, the more goals). What this does, however, is force goals-per-game to become a simple extension of goals, since the denominator stays nearly the same in all situations.

But now let's look at it compared to the minutes played. Bure, forced to carry the offensive burden for the Panthers, racked up about 16 percent more minutes than any of the other top scorers. He averaged nearly 27 minutes a game. At that rate, that amounts to more than 11 extra games. If you ranked the top 22 goal scorers by min/goal, he comes in ninth.

 

Scoring efficiency among players
with 35 or more goals
2000-01 season stats
No.  Player  Team  GP  TOI  Goals  Min./G 
Alexander Mogilny  N.J.  75  1266  43  29.45 
Mario Lemieux  Pit  43  1046  35  29.90 
Markus Naslund  Van  72  1371  41  33.44 
Joe Sakic  Col  82  1887  54  34.95 
Brett Hull  Dal  79  1413  39  36.23 
Jaromir Jagr  Pit  81  1888  52  36.31 
Jeff O'Neill  Car  82  1503  41  36.68 
Petr Sykora  N.J.  73  1294  35  36.99 
Pavel Bure  Fla  82  2203  59  37.34 
10  Peter Bondra  Wsh  82  1705  45  37.90 
GP -- Games Played
TOI -- Time on ice
G -- Goals
Min/G -- Minutes per goal
 

Probably the first thing you notice is that Mario Lemieux jumps out. Tied for 19th in goals scored, he ranks second in efficiency. There is a good chance this season that with a limited schedule he'll end up in a similar situation as well.

Of course, we should not take away from the leader, Alexander Mogilny. Both he and Lemieux need about three to four fewer minutes to score goals than anyone else.

Now let's perform the same exercise using points. First the top ten scorers:

 

Top point scorers
2000-01 season stats
No.  Player  Team  GP  Pts.  Pts./GP 
Jaromir Jagr  Pit  81  121  1.49 
Joe Sakic  Col  82  118  1.44 
Patrik Elias  N.J.  82  96  1.17 
Alexei Kovalev  Pit  79  95  1.20 
Jason Allison  Bos  82  95  1.16 
Martin Straka  Pit  82  95  1.16 
Pavel Bure  Fla  82  92  1.12 
Doug Weight  Edm  82  90  1.10 
Zigmund Palffy  L.A.  73  89  1.22 
10  Peter Forsberg  Col  73  89  1.22 
GP -- Games played
Pts. -- Points
Pts./GP -- Points per game played
 

Then the top ten by efficiency:

 

Most efficient scorers
2000-01 season stats (minimum 79 points)
No.  Player  Team  GP  TOI  Pts.  Min./Pt. 
Alexander Mogilny  N.J.  75  1266  83  15.26 
Jaromir Jagr  Pit  81  1888  121  15.60 
Petr Sykora  N.J.  73  1294  81  15.99 
Patrik Elias  N.J.  82  1535  96  15.99 
Joe Sakic  Col  82  1887  118  16.00 
Zigmund Palffy  L.A.  73  1443  89  16.22 
Peter Forsberg  COL  73  1517  89  17.05 
Luc Robitaille  L.A.  82  1533  88  17.43 
Brett Hull  Dal  79  1413  79  17.89 
10  Pierre Turgeon  Stl  79  1487  82  18.14 
GP -- Games Played
TOI -- Time on ice
Pts. -- Points
Min./Pt. -- Minutes per point
 

In the offseason, Toronto and Washington picked up the two most efficient scorers in the league with Mogilny and Jagr. The Red Wings picked up two from the top ten.

Now, what happens if we look only at points scored during even strength situations? Beyond the obvious rankings, one notices the synergy within certain scoring lines. It becomes more obvious when you look at a top 25 list (which we have posted at our Web Site, see the link below).

 

Most efficient scorers in Even Strength Situations
2000-01 season stats
No.  Player  Team  GP  TOI  Pts.  Min./Pt. 
Mario Lemieux  Pit  43  711  43  16.53 
Jaromir Jagr  Pit  81  1350  78  17.31 
Patrik Elias  N.J.  82  1108  64  17.32 
Jason Arnott  N.J.  54  705  40  17.65 
Petr Sykora  N.J.  73  953  54  17.66 
Pavol Demitra  Stl  44  606  34  17.84 
Alexander Mogilny  N.J.  75  1055  54  19.54 
Joe Sakic  Col  82  1329  66  20.14 
Petr Nedved  NYR  79  1165  56  20.82 
10  Mike Modano  Dal  81  1183  56  21.13 
GP -- Games Played
TOI -- Time on ice
Pts. -- Points
Min./Pt. -- Minutes per point
 

Now, in most cases this is a statistical measure biased towards forwards. But when you look at power play efficiency, you finally start to notice some defensemen, though none cracked the top ten (Nicklas Lidstrom topped out at 14th).

 

Most efficient scorers in Power Play Situations
2000-01 season stats
No.  Player  Team  GP  PPTOI  Pts.  Min./Pt. 
Alexander Mogilny  N.J.  75  201  29  6.94 
Joe Sakic  Col  82  392  46  8.54 
Adam Oates  Wsh  81  359  42  8.56 
Patrik Elias  N.J.  82  250  29  8.63 
Zigmund Palffy  L.A.  73  345  40  8.63 
Mario Lemieux  Pit  43  279  32  8.72 
Sergei Fedorov  Det  75  323  37  8.75 
Chris Drury  Col  71  274  30  9.14 
Peter Forsberg  Col  73  329  36  9.16 
10  Brendan Shanahan  Det  81  331  36  9.21 
GP -- Games Played
PPTOI -- Power Play Total Ice Time
Pts. -- Points
Min./Pt. -- Minutes per Point
 

For what itšs worth, Robitaille was 11th and Hull 25th, so the Red Wings already potent power play looks to be getting stronger and deeper.

So who's the best scorer? Hard to say, but at least wešve got a new way to look at it.

Marc Foster is a research analyst in Fort Worth, Texas. Chris Apple is a database analyst/Internet specialist in Lincoln, Neb. Together, they operate HockeyResearch.com, and hope to one day elevate statistical research in hockey to the level seen in other sports.


 
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