Recently we've been looking at ways to measure a player's defensive contributions, and specifically trying to find a single measurement that encompasses all of the various things players such as Ryan Jones, Scott Walker and Andrew Murray do to keep the puck from going into the net. They may win faceoffs, throw hits, rush the shooter, or block shots, but however they do it, the end result is always the same: they keep the puck from going into the net.
At the other end of the ice, there are talented offensive stars whose job it is to put the puck into the opposing team's net. We already have well-established ways to measure the two most direct ways of generating offense, which are actually scoring the goal with one of your shots (goals) and setting up that player (assists). These two statistics, as old as the game itself, are combined in a 1-to-1 ratio to form points, which is what's generally accepted as the ultimate measure of a player's offensive contributions.
Are scoring and/or setting up goals the only ways players generate offense? Perhaps we can use a measurement that would include winning faceoffs, throwing key hits, screening goalies, drawing penalties or virtually any act that ultimately results in more pucks going into the opposing team's net. If the SDP measurement can rate players defensively, the same type of measurement can help us rate players offensively.
Let's define OGP, or offense-generating play, as being equivalent to SDP, but for offense. To calculate OGP, take the number of even-strength goals per sixty minutes scored while a player is on the ice, with a 0.2 goal bonus for every penalty drawn, and combine it with the number of power-play goals per sixty minutes, in that same 4-to-1 ratio. According to this simple statistic, the players who were on the ice when the most offense was generated were not Evgeni Malkin or Alexander Ovechkin, but rather fellow Russians Alexander Semin and Pavel Datsyuk.
GP: Games Played
ESGFA: Even-Strength Goals For Average
PPGFA: Power Play Goals For Average
PD: Penalties Drawn
OGP: Offense generating play, read it like a goals for average
Player Team GP ESGFA PPGFA PD OGP
Alexander Semin Washington 62 4.31 11.82 19 6.02
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit 81 4.38 11.59 23 6.01
Tomas Holmstrom Detroit 53 3.60 12.73 13 5.62
Marian Hossa Detroit 74 3.92 10.33 28 5.47
Alexander Ovechkin Washington 79 3.74 11.22 31 5.46
Mike Green Washington 68 3.89 10.82 17 5.41
Tim Connolly Buffalo 48 4.09 9.92 9 5.39
Bobby Ryan Anaheim 64 3.91 10.01 20 5.37
Nicklas Backstrom Washington 82 3.51 12.33 10 5.35
Alex Tanguay Montreal 50 3.70 9.31 22 5.18
(Minimum 20 GP, 2 MIN PPTOI/GP, 10 MIN TOI/GP)
Evgeni Malkin, this year's Art Ross winner as the league's highest scorer, did not even make the top ten. Nor did high scorers like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise or Ryan Getzlaf, though Getzlaf's linemate Bobby Ryan came in 8th overall. That means that based on their goals and assists, we may be getting an exaggerated sense of their offense generation, relative to those that do more of the unrecorded intangibles.
Judging that 7 of the top 10 come from only two lines, Washington's Alexander Semin, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Marian Hossa, it's obvious that playing on the right line is certainly key to a good OGP. These players obviously play well with one another and do what it takes to get the puck into the net. When studying the top ten list of players using the equivalent defensive statistics SDP we didn't find the same clustering of lines, suggesting that your linemates have greater influence over offense generation than they do defensive contributions.
Two questions come up from this first analysis. First, is using the goals-for-average a reliable way to measuring offense generation, and secondly, when a whole line appears clustered together, how can we tell who is most responsible for the offense? Fortunately we can answer both questions at the same time by looking at every NHL player's combined even-strength goals-for-average for all post-lockout seasons.
Player Team GP ESGFA
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit 242 4.02
Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh 242 3.74
Thomas Vanek Buffalo 238 3.74
Daniel Alfredsson Ottawa 226 3.71
Jason Arnott Nashville 212 3.70
Alexander Ovechkin Washington 243 3.68
Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh 209 3.62
Martin Havlat Chicago 172 3.60
Dany Heatley Ottawa 235 3.59
Jason Spezza Ottawa 225 3.59
(Minimum 100 GP)
Judging from his commanding lead, Pavel Datsyuk is obviously the key offensively to Detroit's amazing first line. While he has always been blessed with great offensive linemates, he sits more than a quarter of a goal ahead of the nearest player, Evgeni Malkin (there he is!). While it's certainly no doubt that Alexander Ovechkin is largely to credit for Washington's amazingly potent top line, it's pleasing to see the statistics verify the obvious by leaving his linemates off this list. In fact, the only complete line that appears in this top 10 is Ottawa's top unit of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, who were somewhat quieter in 2008-09.
This analysis was as much a test of the equivalent defensive SDP statistic as it was a hunt for the league's top offense generators. Given the other statistics that already tell us who those are, we can test the viability of this type of measurement. Since it correctly identified Pavel Datsyuk and company as the top offense generators in the league, we can be reasonably confident that SDP's appraisal of Andrew Murray was comparably accurate.
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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