FUN W1TH NUMBER5!
Sometimes, I really miss hockey.
…And when I say I miss it, I’m not referring to the fact that we’re currently mired in the dog-days of summer with little more than table-scrap free agent signings to whet our appetites – I realize it’s only a few more rain-soaked weekends until the start of camp.
No – what I mean is, I often miss the luxury of being a blissfully ignorant Leafs fan, surrounded entirely by blissfully ignorant Leafs fans. I miss being a fan whose hard-line opinions could be formed and passionately defended while unencumbered by the onus of empirical evidence to qualify or substantiate my views. There were, after all, plenty of intrinsic and unequivocal truths that no sane Leafer would have ever dared question.
Our adopted Kelvingtonian son was canonized for, among other things, destroying everyone in his path from a tender young age – culminating with turning Marty McSorely’s face into minced meat for leveling Dougie Gilmour in a pivotal Campbell Conference final.
Our Manson-eyed, pit-bull Darcy Tucker etched himself into Leafs lore for his post-season tormenting of the entire Senators franchise, his strategic submarining of pain-in-the-ass Mike Peca and damn-near decapitation of Sami Kapanen.
How were Tie Domi’s zone-adjusted possession numbers? Who gives a shit…he once made a one-punch piñata out of Ulf Samuelsson. What’s not to love?
What was Wade Belak’s WOWY effect on linemates? How ‘bout f*** you – he was a warrior and thoroughly beloved by everyone in the room and the thousands in the seats. God love him.
Despite the visceral euphoria these and countless similar memories gave to warm-blooded Leafs fans, our inevitable evolution in the information age has, willfully or not, herded us into an era which often renders such highly romanticized moments as antiquated, world-is-flat reasoning when it comes to assessing the players we should cheer for. As time passes, it seems a thinking fan can only fondly refer to these chapters in Leafs history as charming but largely frivolous bits of nostalgia. Our need to now scrutinize and quantify what our lying eyes tell us forces us to sniff past what we once considered watershed Leafs moments, and even question our own loyalty to the players who delivered them. For the sake of truly objective analysis, enlightened hockey circles implore us to marginalize, if not dismiss many of the same Leafs moments that we’ve seen bring our youngest sons to tears and lift our eldest fathers to their feet.
We’re smarter now.
But hey – let’s dial back the melodrama a touch shall we? It’s not all bad.
Truth is, I’ve long considered myself rational enough to accept and embrace the numbers revolution that has belatedly vaulted hockey fandom into the twenty-first century. Like many, my early aversion to the heavy reliance on quantitative hockey analysis came more as a result of the completely repulsive demeanor of some of its proponents than disbelief that the data itself held any value. Most fans are now able to happily choose from a large variety of helpful stat resources and form their own views based on the data they uncover. Some of the blogosphere’s self-anointed fancy-stat pioneers and their lemmings who often stake an early claim to the analytics movement – when not piously pontificating on a wide spectrum of western socio-political matters – are now only a handful among many bright, tolerant stat minds whose continued work enables mainstream acceptance among hockey fans and analysts.
It’s actually a great time to be a Leafs fan and the enormous amount of data at our disposal only enhances our fan experience as we move into an exciting and promising rebuild. We now have so many more tools with which to track and analyze the growth and development of our remaining players and prospects as we inch towards what will hopefully be a contending team.
That’s kind of the point of this piece, numbers can not only be used as a compendium to our own armchair scouting, but they can also be fun. I often take quick peeks at various Leafs’ stats and figures when inspired by Twitter debates as to the merits of players and why we should keep or trade them. I find it entertaining to search and share numbers to argue points that I don’t agree with or reinforce my own opinion. The wonderful part about these data-mining exercises is that you can easily uncover metrics to support whatever opinion you have that day.
Are you a Reimerholic? You can quickly find metrics to show he’s trending towards a Vezina.
Is Uncle Leo your favourite Leaf? Readily available evidence shows he’s an upper echelon 5v5 forward.
On many such stat searches, I’ve found myself surprised by some of the numbers I discovered. On more than a few occasions, underlying metrics have resulted in my revisiting and even changing my opinion on certain Leafs – which I guess the entire point of informing ourselves. In any event, I’d like to share some Leafs-centric factoids that I’ve found interesting, if not surprising. How much weight you choose to place on them is entirely up to you. I present them with no agenda or desire to change or battle your roster opinions. If nothing else, hopefully they provide some fodder for pleasant discussion as we all kill time waiting for “rebuild year two.”
Kindly keep in mind that the following statistical observations are for more casual consumption – to be enjoyed around a campfire or perhaps on the toilet. Either way, I apologize in advance if you were hoping for more complex analytics.
So without further ado, I present a few of my favourite Leafs nuggets that I’ve come across in the last year.
Wishing you and yours a fantastic offseason.
- Since 2012/13 Nazem Kadri has as many 5v5 points as Alexander Ovechkin.
- Over the last four years Dion Phaneuf has more points than Zdeno Chara, Erik Johnson and Brent Seabrook.
- Since 2013, Tyler Bozak has a higher 5v5 Assist/60 than Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin, Anze Kopitar and Ryan O’Rielly.
- James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel rank 859th and 860th out of all 864 active NHL forwards for +/- over the last four years.
- Over the last three years, Nazem Kadri has as many points as David Krejci and Jason Spezza, and more than Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny and Milan Lucic.
- Over the last two years, Jake Gardiner has a higher 5v5 Goals/60 than Dougie Hamilton, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo and Drew Doughty.
- Over the last two years, Morgan Rielly has a higher 5v5 Points/60 than Drew Doughty.
- Over his last two years as a starting goalie, Jonathan Bernier’s Sv% is .002 less than Braden Holtby’s and is higher than Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, Jaroslav Halak, Eddie Lack and Devan Dubnyk.
- Over the last three years, the four forwards (min. 750 mins played) with the highest 5v5 CA/60 in the entire league were Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk.
- Since 2012/13, Nazem Kadri has a higher 5v5 Primary A/60 than Henrik Sedin, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews and Claude Giroux.
- Over the last three years Nazem Kadri has outscored Chris Kunitz, Blake Wheeler, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Marleau.
- In the last three seasons, Phil Kessel had more assists than Henrik Sedin, Tyler Seguin, Pavel Datsyuk, Taylor Hall, Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron.
- For the last three years Nazem Kadri has been the second best 5v5 Leaf scorer on the road behind only Phil Kessel.
- Over the last two years Cody Franson ranks 5th among all NHL defensemen for powerplay points/60.
- In 2014/15 Tyler Bozak had a higher face-off % than Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Anze Kopitar and Ryan Getzlaf.
- In the last two years Morgan Rielly has more 5v5 points at home than Oliver Ekman-Larsson, P.K. Subban and Drew Doughty.
- Peter Holland led the Leafs last season in 5v5 Goals/60.
- Over the last three years, James Reimer has an identical sv% to Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard and Jonas Hiller.
- Since 2012/13, Joffrey Lupul has more goals/game than Matt Duchene, Ryan Callahan, Jordan Staal and Tomas Tatar.
- In the last three years, James van Riemsdyk is tied for points with Jaromir Jagr and Patrice Bergeron.
- Since 2012, Phil Kessel has more points than Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Evgeni Malkin, Corey Perry and Stevem Stamkos.
- Last season Tyer Bozak had more goals than Jakub Voracek, Marian Hossa, Alex Tanguay and Thomas Vanek.
- James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul join Cody Hodgson as the only NHL’ers to have a higher 5v5 FA/60 of over 50.
- In 2014/15 David Clarkson posted a higher CF% than Nikolai Kulemin.
- Last year Tyler Bozak posted a higher CF% than David Backes, Ryan Kesler and Tomas Plekanec.
- Last season Jake Gardiner delivered more hits than Francois Beauchemin. Roman Polak had more hits than both Jake Gardiner and Francois Beauchemin combined.
(Sources: quanthockey.com, hockeyanalysis.com, nhl.com, espn.com)