Interesting exercise using 1981 playoff games
In an attempt to test the system using players from the past, I've scouted 2 playoff games involving the pre-dynasty Edmonton Oilers. The games are from a 1981 quarter-final series against the New York Islanders. The upstart Oilers had just come off a shocking 3-game sweep of the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs were 2-years removed from a run of 4-straight Stanley Cups, while the Islanders were 1 year into their own 4-year run.
The players I scouted during the game were 19-year-old defenseman Paul Coffey, and 20-year-old forwards Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri. The specific games scouted were a 5-4 overtime loss in game 4 and a 5-2 series-ending loss in game 6.
The games used to scout were edited versions of 2 games. The ice-time used to calculate risk/reward include only the ice-time viewed. In other words, Gretzky might have actually played upwards of 23 minutes in the game. But, I was only able to view 17 of those minutes. In order to use actual data and not extrapolate, Gretzky's risk/reward is based solely on the 17 minutes viewed and not on his total ice-time.
It is because of these very limitations that this whole process remains simply an exercise. There are too many variables to hold these numbers against ratings calculated while watching current games in their entirety.
The numbers shown are the totals from both games. This is an attempt to be as accurate as possible considering the circumstances; the more data included, the more likely statistical anomalies will be leveled out.
#7 Paul Coffey
#11 Mark Messier
#17 Jari Kurri
#99 Wayne Gretzky
Kurri had the top overall grade, but engaged in the fewest events. Kurri's grade was also helped by the fact that he did not kill penalties. He also had the best plus/minus rating of the group, to go along with 2 points. Messier's grade was hurt by a limited offensive output, a minus-2 plus/minus rating and 5 attempted shots that were either blocked or missed the net entirely.
Coffey's grade hurt my a minus-5 plus/minus rating and a defensive-zone puck-battle winning percentage of only 45%. Gretzky's grade was hurt by his work in the faceoff circle. The Great One won only 41% of his faceoffs.
Hundreds of individual games have been scouted using this system. Comparing these grades to the average, we find that Coffey's grade is equal to the average, while Messier's grade is 6 percentage points below average. Kurri's grade is 4 points above average, while the greatest player ever to play the game of hockey comes in with a grade only 2 percentage-points above average.
Keep in mind that these are players playing against an NHL team in the midst of a dynasty, and are themselves still young enough to play junior hockey.
For new readers: here is an explanation of how risk/reward ratings are calculated
Overall Risk/Reward Ratings
Gretzky had the top overall risk/reward rating. This tells us that Gretzky makes approximately 3 plays with positive outcomes for every one play he makes with a negative outcome. Gretzky was also the most involved of the 4 players, as he engaged in over 5 events per-minute of icetime. Risk/reward does not take into account faceoffs, so this also helped Gretzky's number.
Overall risk/reward ratings over 2.00 are not very common. They are usually produced by highly-ranked NHL prospects playing against Junior-age competition. So, for Gretzky to produce that number against the New York Islanders of the early 80's, and at the tender age of 20, is quite impressive.
|EVENTS/ MIN||4.66||4.25||4.11||5.09||EVENTS/ MIN|
Offensive-zone Risk/Reward Ratings
As expected, Gretzky's rating was carried by his work in the offensive-zone. He won 62% of his puck-battles (he weighed just 165 lbs). He completed 70% of his offensive-zone pass-attempts, while beating opposing players 1on1 (deak) with 69% of his attempts. Surprisingly, Kurri enjoyed a better passing success-rate than Gretzky.
Messier's rating was hurt by his inability to hit the net with his patented snap-shot coming down his off-wing. He also was successful with only 33% of his attempts to beat opposing players 1on1 (deak) while in the offensive-zone.
Coffey was most impressive when attempting to pinch-in at the offensive blueline
|EVENTS/ MIN||1.20||1.54||1.45||2.39||EVENTS/ MIN|
Defensive-zone Risk/Reward Ratings
Messier had the top defensive-zone risk/reward rating. He won only 53% of his d-zone puck-battles, but was successful with an incredible 92% of his defensive-zone pass-attempts. He had 2 defensive-zone takeaways, and blocked 2 passes.
Coffey's d-zone risk/reward rating was saved by his speed. Coffey routinely used his impressive wheels to beat forechecking forwards 1on1. He won only 45% of his d-zone puck-battles, while successfully completing 61% of his passes.
Gretzky was successful with 80% of his defensive-zone passes, and won 50% of his puck-battles. He had an active stick; blocking 3 d-zone passes, while managing 3 separate takeaways.
Kurri had the lowest d-zone risk/reward rating. He engaged in the fewest events and completed only 23% of his defensive-zone pass-attempts.
|EVENTS/ MIN||2.28||1.32||1.16||1.02||EVENTS/ MIN|
Neutral-zone Risk/Reward Rating
Coffey had the top neutral-zone risk/reward rating. His rating was carried by his ability to lead the transition through the neutral-zone. He completed an incredible 91% of his neutral-zone pass-attempts, while winning 64% of his n-zone puck-battles. He successfully carried the puck into the offensive-zone during 6 of his 8 attempts.
Kurri's neutral-zone risk/reward rating was the product of his n-zone passing percentage, as he was successful with 78% of his neutral-zone passes. He also won 67% of his neutral-zone puck-battles, but was only able to dump the puck deep into the offensive-zone with 1 of his 3 attempts.
Gretzky was able to carry the puck deep into the offensive-zone during 9 of his 12 attempts, while completing 83% of his attempts to beat opposing players 1on1 (deak). He also completed 1 successful dump-in.
As with his 3 teammates, Messier had a strong showing in the neutral-zone. He won 60% of his neutral-zone puck-battles, and completed 75% of his passes. He also managed 2 n-zone takeaways; both of which were products of his speed.
|EV/ MIN||0.62||0.64||0.67||0.71||EVENTS/ MIN|
Raw data from Games 4 and 6 of the 1981 Quarter-final playoffs versus the New York Islanders
|SKI +||6||8||4||9||SKI +|
|PK DUMP+||4||0||2||0||PK DUMP+|
|PK DUMP-||2||0||0||0||PK DUMP-|
|PS THRU||4||3||4||4||PS THRU|
|OZ PS BL||2||5||2||2||OZ PS BL|
|POINTS X2||2||2||4||6||POINTS X2|