Glenn Guzzo

Hockey Sense: A Reality Check for Team Strength

 

By Glenn Guzzo

 

            To evaluate your Strat-O-Matic hockey team, you could just check all the goals it scored and all that it gave up. If that’s too superficial, you could do a detailed analysis of each player’s shooting, passing, defense and penalty columns, with a bit of extra attention to faceoff, penalty-kill and intimidation ratings.

 

            But if you want something in between, here’s a quick way to determine whether you have an above-average team: Compare your player’s offense and defense ratings (from the top of their cards) to the norm in the card set.

 

            The Offense and Defense ratings have much to say about how many shots your team will take and yield – and the quality of those scoring chances – so it’s helpful to know where your team stands.         

 

A quick survey of the 16 regularly carded players on each of the 30 teams in the 2006-07-season ratings reveals how special the best players are and how ordinary the average players are.

 

            For instance, the forwards are primarily offensive-minded players. (For this study, we used only primary positions and even-strength defense ratings.) The most common rating for a center or wing is Offense-4, Defense-2. While defense is better and offense is scarcer on the blue line, defensemen don’t offer a lot of dominant defense, either. The most common ratings for defensemen are Offense-2, Defense-2 and Offense-3, Defense-2.

           

Closer scrutiny reveals more:

 

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Only 16 players have the elite Defense-5. Half are defensemen. Nine have the coveted Offense-4, Defense-5 rating (five centers, three defenseman and Dallas RW Jere Lehtinen).

 

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The five elite centers are Buffalo’s Chris Drury, Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour, New Jersey’s John Madden. Ottawa’s Mike Fisher and Detroit’s Kris Draper.

 

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The trio of top defensemen are the Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Detroit’s Niklas Lidstrom and Edmonton’s Chris Pronger.

 

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The only other winger with Defense-5 is New Jersey LW Jay Pandolfo (O-3 / D-5).

 

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The defensive-specialist forward is a myth. The Offense-1 combined with Defense-3, 4 or 5 doesn’t exist. Only two centers and one wing rate Offense-2 with Defense-4. None of them is Defense-5.

 

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All but two (both centers) of the 20 players with the Offense-4, Defense-1 combination are wingers. The rating doesn’t exist for defensemen.

 

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The merely solid Offense-3, Defense-3 rating is tough enough to achieve. Counting all who have Offense 3-4 and Defense 3-5, there are but 45 centers (1.5 per team), 62 wingers (2 per team) and 35 defensemen (barely more than 1 per team).

 

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Defense-2 and Defense-1 account for 57 percent of all regulars. But 67 percent of the regulars are Offense-3 or Offense-4.

 

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Therefore, the various ratings are not distributed evenly among the 480 regulars. For Offense ratings, 36 percent are 4s, 33 percent are 3s, 21 percent are 2s and 12 percent are 1s. … For Defense ratings, 3 percent are 5s, 20 percent are 4s, 20 percent are 3s, 43 percent are 2s and 14 percent are 1s.

 

By position:

 

Defensemen. Only 56 defensemen have Defense 5 or 4. And 34 of them (61 percent) are stay-at-home types with Offense-1 or Offense-2. Only 22 of these top defenders have Offense-4 or Offense-3.

 

More than half (59 percent) of the 150 regular defensemen are at least a Defense-3. But only 35 of those 88 blue-liners have at least Offense-3 to go with it.

 

Thus, on the typical team, two of its five regular defensemen are Defense-2 or Defense-1, and 32 of those 62 blue-liners have Offense-2 or Offense-1 as well.

           

 

Wingers. Good news: 47 percent of all regular wingers are Offense-4 and an impressive 79 percent are Offense-3 or better.

 

Bad news: Back-checking wingers are tough to come by: Just 30 of them have Defense-4 or better. Only 39 of the 104 wingers with Offense-4 have at least Defense-3. Eighteen wingers are Offense-4, Defense-1.

 

            Beware: 40 of the 222 regular wingers are strictly fourth-line types: Neither their Offense or Defense ratings are better than 2.

 

Centers. Most of the all-around talent is here. Nearly half (45 percent) of all regular centers are Offense-4. Nearly half (46 percent) of all regular centers are at least Defense-3. More significantly, 42 percent of all regular centers are both Offense-3 or better and Defense-3 or better.

 

            Only two of the 49 centers with Offense-4 have Defense-1 ratings.

 

            That creates one draft-day dilemma: Get your share of the two-way talent here or go for the scarcer two-way skill at wing and defense?

 

            Here’s another dilemma to make that choice tougher: Only 15 centers are elite, with Offense-4 and Defense-4 or 5.

 

            Twenty of the 108 regular centers are fourth-line quality with both Offense and Defense ratings no better than 2.