October 15 2012 09:06AM
Photo: Michael Miller/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
Late last week, I wrote about individual point percentage, and specifically about the individual point percentage of forwards during five-on-five play in the 2011-12 season. As a brief refresher of the concept (for those who don't like clicking through), individual point percentage is a calculation of the number of times an individual player gets a point (either a goal or an assist) relative to the number of total goals scored while he's on the ice. So, for example, if a player is on the ice for fifty goals-for during five-on-five play over the course of the season and he gets a point on forty of them, his individual point percentage would be 80%.
The idea is that this statistic will tell us which players were driving play in the offensive zone. One of the problems is that, because of the small sample size at the level of the individual season (no player was on the ice for more than 87 goals-for), the results are swamped by luck, which is how you end up with Kyle Brodziak and Matt Halischuk finishing second and third respectively. In order to move the conversation forward, I think we need to have a better sense of how players do over several seasons, which should help to deal with the sample size problem, and give us a sense of what a reasonable range of looks like.
As such, I calculated the IPP of all of the forwards in the NHL over the last five seasons. There were 929 different players who played in at least one game (including about forty named Mike), but just 283 who were on the ice for at least 100 goals-for, and that's the group I'll be talking about here. The average individual point percentage in that group is 70.0% and the median is 69.5%, while the standard deviation is 5.5%. Compared to the individual season, the standard deviation is much lower, which is expected. That the median is exactly the same surprised me a little -- I thought it would be higher since we're looking only at players who established themselves over at least a couple of seasons. Before any further comment, let's take a look at the chart (the raw data comes from Gabriel Desjardins' behindthenet.ca):
There are far fewer surprises on this list than there was in the list for a single season. The eight players at the very top are two standard deviations away from the mean, and are led by Sidney Crosby, the only player with more goals-for while he's on the ice than games played. All eight players are extremely talented, but I don't know that there would be too many people able to guess that group off the top of their head. With Jordan Eberle and Logan Couture, I'm still somewhat skeptical. Both barely made the cut-off, and I could easily see them falling out of this top group going forward.
There are, of course, still some pretty major suprises. Players like Jamal Mayers and Jordin Tootoo simply don't look like they belong. Of course, both players are also consistently played on the lower lines, and it's possible that they're simply better offensive players than their linemates (though even that's tough to believe).
This group has been above-average over the last five years, and it's quite interesting to me because the list includes a couple of players who are generally regarded as clear passengers. Devin Setoguchi checks in at 71.7%, which is well below Joe Thornton, and only slightly lower than Joe Pavelski. I suppose it's possible that Thornton's penchnat for passing helps to keep Setoguchi's number up, but I was expecting him to be down the list. Alex Burrows pops in at 72.3%, which is well below either of the Sedins, but still a very good showing. Milan Lucic shows even better at 75.2%, which is only slightly behind oft-linemates Marc Savard and David Krejci, and is well ahead of Nathan Horton.
One of the things we discussed in the comments of the last post was players on lower lines making their way up this list by virtue of being clearly better than their linemates but still not all that good. The example of the Vancouver Canucks, then, is pretty curious. The majority of their middle six options are in this list: Ryan Kesler (69.2%), Jannik Hansen (68.4%), Mason Raymond (68.2%), Manny Malhotra (66.4%), Chris Higgins (65.6%), Max Lapierre (65.2%), and Mikael Samuelsson (64.2%) is just slightly off in the wrong direction. I don't recall the Canucks having a much more active defense than most, but it's tough to know how else to explain what's going on here.
This last list has quite a few of the more famous "checking" centers in the league. Martin Hanzal, Stephen Weiss and Dave Bolland for sure, but also players like Boyd Gordon, Jarret Stoll, Sammy Pahlsson, and Eric Belanger. This makes a lot of sense. If these players are being told to emphasize the defensive aspects of the game, they're not going to be hanging around too long in the offensive zone to take advantage of turnovers.
As for Jerred Smithson... who knows. It's not a typo.