Saturday, April 25, 2015

Playing Time

I wrote a few days ago about one idea I had recently about sports statistics. The only other good one I've ever had came to me more than ten years ago; I remember speaking with my son Dominic about this as we were playing darts in the Calgary house we then shared; it must have been around 2004 or 2005. The Vancouver Canucks' Sedin twins sparked the idea. They were both in the top 20 in scoring and I noticed that they were each being given no more than 15 or 16 minutes per game by then-coach Marc Crawford--while most of hockey's other leading scorers were playing 4 or 5 minutes more than that per game. I got out my calculator and figured out that if the Sedins had been playing 20 minutes per game, they would both (assuming the same rate of scoring) be among the league's top handful of players--not merely the top twenty. Why didn't hockey have a statistic that took time into account when measuring productivity?

Now it does, of course; that's been one of the statistics that have been developed in recent years as the sport has become much more sophisticated statistically.

The thought of those numbers and the Sedin twins came back to me this week. For the first few games of the Canucks series against the Calgary Flames the twins were being played for only 15 or 16 minutes. With the Flames were up 3 games to 1 current Canucks' coach Willie Desjardins changed tactics, and played them for roughly 20 minutes each in game 5; it worked, with Daniel scoring and the Canucks winning 2-1. And tonight in game 6? Daniel played for 20:36 minutes, Henrik for 22:18; neither scored and both were minus-2, with the Canucks season ending as the Flames won 7-4. Good as they are, the Sedins aren't the players they were ten years ago. In more than one way, time has to be taken into account.


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