Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Does Offensive Point Shares Underrate Gretzky’s 215 Point Season?

Lately, I have been looking into the point shares system published by Justin Kubatko at hockey-reference.com.  This is an attempt to credit the points teams have in the standings to individual players on the team.  I have first looked at offensive point shares and the top individual seasons by this method.  One of the more surprising results is that the season when Wayne Gretzky set the record for most points in a season in 1985/86 with 215 points is ranked tenth in the best all time seasons.  Five other Gretzky seasons, two Mario Lemieux seasons and two Phil Esposito seasons rank above it.

This has to do with the way the point share system treats assists.  When Gretzky set his point record he did so with a lot of assists.  Gretzky scored 52 goals and a record 163 assists for his 215 points in the 1985/86 season.

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Is Mario Lemieux’s 199 Point Season The Top Offensive Season Ever?

I have been looking at the offensive portion of the point share system as developed by Justin Kubatko of hockey-reference.com.  The idea is to determine how many points a team gained in the league standings because of the offence of an individual player.  The top season by this method is Mario Lemieux’s 1988/89 season.  This was Lemieux’s best offensive season of his career by raw numbers.  He played 76 games and scored 85 goals and 114 assists for 199 points.  This is the highest scoring season ever by somebody other than Wayne Gretzky and it was done in a lower scoring era than Gretzky’s prime.

While Lemieux was the top scorer that season, he did not win the Hart Trophy which went to Gretzky who finished 31 points behind Lemieux and was in his first year with the Los Angeles Kings.  He also did not win the “players’ MVP” the Pearson Trophy went to Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings who was 44 points back of Lemieux.  While it can be argued that Lemieux should have won both of those awards, it is not our emphasis here.  We are looking only at offensive contributions and while Lemieux clearly had the biggest offensive contribution in 1988/89, if he lost MVP awards to lower scorers it must have been because of contributions that made that were not offensive or because voters made poor choices.

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Top 20 Seasons By Offensive Point Shares

Lately I have been looking at the offensive portion of the point shares method that has been developed by Justin Kubatko at hockey-reference.com to attempt to credit the points teams get from winning games to their individual players.  The first test of the offensive portion of the system is to look at career offensive point share totals.  This test is not too difficult.  As long as it produces a list similar to the top scorers of all time, it appears to pass the test.  A more strenuous test is to compare individual seasons.  This will better force us to compare offensive seasons in different eras and see if the system has biases for or against certain eras.

Here are the top 20 individual seasons by offensive point shares as calculated by hockey-reference.com:

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Top 20 Careers By Offensive Point Shares

To get an idea how offensive point shares work, it is helpful to see who the career leaders are by this number and how they compare with the top scorers of all time.  The idea behind point shares is to credit team points to individual players on the teams.  Team`s points come from winning (and losing if you don`t do it in regulation), but on an individual basis they come from offensive play, defensive play and goaltending.  Today, we are only looking at the offensive portion.

Here are the top 20 individual careers by offensive point shares as calculated by hockey-reference.com:

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Calculating Offensive Point Shares

I started discussing point shares as developed by Justin Kubatko.  It is time to dive in and discuss the details of this calculation.  There are three parts to the point shares calculation: offensive, defensive and goaltending.  Goaltenders get point shares only from the goaltending portion and position players get them from the sum of the offensive and defensive portions.  I will start today by detailing the offensive portion of the system.

There are two ways to calculate the offensive portion.  From the year 1998/99 onward, there are easily available ice time numbers so ice time numbers are used.  Before that time, reliable ice time numbers are not easily available, so games played numbers are used as a proxy for ice time.  This is an approximation.  It would be ideal to have ice time numbers because we know that ice time does not scale perfectly with games played.

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Point Shares: A Sabermetric Goal

One of the big achievements in baseball sabermetrics is Bill James win shares system.  This is a system that assigns wins to the individual players on baseball teams. It works very well to rate individual players.  One goal in hockey sabermetrics is to come up with a similar system.  Of course there are differences between hockey and baseball which make building a hockey system more difficult, but that hasn`t stopped Justin Kubatko at hockey-reference.com from trying.  I am going to look at his system and its results.  I think it is an important goal, but we are not able to do it properly yet.  As a result, he has built an approximate system which can give unreasonable results in some cases.

Kubatko makes three conceptual changes from the Bill James system.  First in the baseball system, a win is worth 3 win shares.  In the hockey system one point in the standings is worth one point share.  The hockey version of this is problematic because of point scheme that the NHL uses.

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My Top 50 Players

For my top 50 players list, I use the question: Which 50 players would I most want on my team for the upcoming season? As a result this list is more of a projection toward next season than a ranking of last year’s results. That is not to say that a player who played well last year will not be ranked well, but that will only happen if I think they will keep up their results.

Usually, I like to compare my list to that of The Hockey News, but for the first time in years, they failed to publish a list this year.

Here is my top 50 player list:

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Brian Elliott Is Worst By Goals Versus Threshold

According to Tom Awad’s goals versus threshold system, Brian Elliott was the worst player in the league.  He split the season between the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche and posted a .893 saves percentage, in a league where the average saves percentage was .913.  Nobody played more games than Elliott (who played 55 games) and posted a worse saves percentage.  He also allowed six of eight shots against in shootouts.  This is a small sample size, but it directly cost his team points.  Brian Elliott had a poor season. 

Elliott has been an NHL starter for the last two years.  He played 55 games a season each year.  He has played himself out of the NHL starters pool.  As a free agent this summer, Elliott signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues for only $600,000 for one season.  This is a last chance for Elliott.  If he fails, he is likely out of the NHL.

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Worst 20 Players By Goals Versus Threshold

This week I posted the top 20 players by goals versus threshold.  Now I am looking at the flip side.  Which players cost their team the most goals when compared to a replacement talent.  I am using Tom Awad’s goals versus threshold system which attempts to rank players by one number, which is the number of goals a player is alleged to have been worth beyond that which a replacement level player could have produced.

It is easiest to rank goalies because saves percentage can be relatively easily converted into a number of goals prevented.  For position players, offence (or lack of it) is easiest to rank and defence is far more difficult.  Those position players who will appear on this list are players who had a lot of ice time without scoring.

Here are the worst 20 players in 2010/11 by goals versus threshold:

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A Quest For Goals

The Brendan Shanahan research and development camp that occurred last week is a potentially significant event in NHL history.  It is where the NHL tests all sorts of gimmicks to change the game.  The problem is that they are largely gimmicks and that they attempt to solve the wrong problem.  The main thrust of the NHL’s gimmicks has been to increase scoring.  In fact Mike Brophy writes that the NHL should have bigger nets.  That is a problematic idea that may lead to an asterisk season where old scoring records are beaten and goals mean very little. 

The main problem is that the NHL has been full of gimmicks designed to increase scoring.  There has been the trapezoid, points for losing, shootouts, phantom penalties in “obstruction crackdowns” and they haven’t worked so well and they haven’t significantly increased scoring.  Most of all they have not made hockey any better.

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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