The anatomy of a winning team
The keys to building a winning hockey team can be found in studying the anatomy of past hockey teams that have had success. It isn't just one facet of each team that allowed it to be successful, but rather a combination of different pieces to that ever-elusive puzzle.
Yes, defense wins championships. I do not venture to argue against that statement. In fact, I will write a piece in the future focusing on just that aspect. That said, the basic goal in every hockey game is to score more goals than the opposition. But, how many goal scorers does it take? How many 30-goal scorers does it take? How many 10-goal scorers does it take?
MAKING THE PLAYOFFS
The salary-cap has created a situation where teams are limited in the number of established 40-goal scorers they can have on their team. The ability for a team to have multiple 40-goal scorers on their rosters are restricted by such factors as salary-arbitration, free-agency, and of course self-imposed team-budgets.
Researching the past 4 seasons, I found that 27 teams have had one player with at least 40 goals. Of those 27 teams, nineteen have made the playoffs. Expressed differently, this shows that 70% of teams with a 40-goal scorer have made the playoffs.
General Managers also have to make a decision as to how to spend their money. Do you want multiple 30-goal scorers instead of a single $7 Million superstar?
Researching the past 4 seasons, we find that 35 teams have had a minimum of two players with at least 30 goals. Of those 35 teams, twenty-seven have made the playoffs. This shows us that 77% of teams with at least two 30-goal scorers have made the playoffs.
The Top-6 Forward
Teams with depth win. Injuries, are a huge part of every NHL season. The ability to have multiple players with the ability to score goals and fill in can be the difference between making the playoffs, or participating in the draft-lottery.
Over the past 4 seasons, sixty teams have had a minimum of 4 player with at least 20-goals. Of those 60 teams, forty have made the playoffs. In other words, 67% of teams with at least four 20-goal scorers have made the playoffs.
The Third and Fourth-liner with Offensive-Upside
Teams fill out their roster with players making the minimum salary. The decision they have to make is whether to fill that spot with a warm-body, an enforcer, or a young player with offensive-upside?
Over the past 4 seasons, 58 teams have had a minimum of ten players with at least 10-goals. Of those 58 teams, forty-one have made the playoffs. Expressed differently, this shows that 71% of teams with at least ten 10-goal scorers have made the playoffs.
On the other side of the coin, only 23 of 62 teams without at least ten 10-goal scorers have made the playoffs over the last 4 seasons. In other words, only 37% of teams without at least ten 10-goal scorers have participated in the playoffs.
Combination With the Best Odds
The past four seasons have shown that the combination with the best odds of making the playoffs consists of at least two 30-goal scorers among at least ten 10-goal scorers. Over the past four seasons, only one of the sixteen teams with that combination missed the playoffs. In other words, 94% teams with this combination have participated in the playoffs.
SUCCESS IN THE PLAYOFFS
My "ten 10-goal scorer rule" also translates to the playoffs. Without depth, teams just don't advance in the playoffs. Data from the last 4 Stanley Cup Playoffs prove this.
Only 4 of the 16 teams that have made it through to the third round of the playoffs have not included at least ten players with a minimum of 10-goals during the regular season. To further the matter, no team has played in the Finals without having had at least ten 10-goal scorers during the regular season.
This study is still in its early stages. In this article I shared the data I've gathered to date, as well as my early findings. Keep in mind, this is only 1 piece to the puzzle, and is not meant as the complete answer in regards to building a winning hockey team. The greatest challenge remains fitting this combination into a team budget.
Edit: I oversimplified the math when trying to express the results as simply as possible. Adjustments have been made.