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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Numbers Game: Minutes Per Point

Traditionally, points per game (PPG) is a statistic used to gauge player performance. Obviously, we want to see the elite players scoring more than a point per game. Daniel Alfredsson is leading the league in PPG, scoring 1.42 PPG. Spezza is close behind with 1.38, followed by Crosby at 1.37 to round out the top 3.

However, some people argue that the PPG statistic fails to paint an accurate picture of actual performance. Specifically, PPG does not incorporate the player’s ice time into the equation. A better indicator of player performance would, therefore, be minutes per point; that is, how often a player scores a point. More effective players will score a point more frequently.

Top 30 MPP (click to enlarge)

Looking at each player’s minutes per point (MPP) does, in fact, paint a different picture. Crosby is first in the league in MPP, scoring 1 point every 15:04. Alfreddson sits in 4th at 15:56.

Mike Ribeiro is 11th in league scoring with an impressive (and unexpected) 67 points in 60 games. Scoring 1.12 PPG, Ribeiro ranks 16th in the league. However, he receives only 18:26 minutes of ice time, compared to over 20:00 that most of the scoring leaders play. With a 16:31 MPP, Ribeiro actually ranks 5th in the league in MPP.

The problem with the MPP statistic, however, is that it places too much emphasis on a player’s ability to produce points and does not factor in other important roles they might play, specifically penalty killing. The obvious objective of penalty killing is to prevent a goal from being scored and not necessarily scoring one.

Martin St. Louis, for instance, plays over 24 minutes a game. He is also one of the Lightning’s top penalty killing forwards, averaging almost 2 minutes in PK time per game. Even though he has scored 71 points in 59 games (ranked 9th in PPG), he is ranked 28th in the league in MPP. Conversely, Mike Ribeiro has played a TOTAL of 1:06 on the penalty kill in 60 games. St. Louis’ value goes far beyond his goal scoring ability and you aren’t going to find a single GM that would rather have St. Louis in their lineup.

Total minutes per game, therefore, is not a good indicator of player performance. It would be valuable, however, to look at minutes per point in even strength and power play minutes, where a player is expected to produce points. Check back on Thursday for that analysis.

For Illegal Curve, I am Adam Gutkin.

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