Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pnep's Hall of Fame Monitor for Defenders

On Tuesday, I presented pnep's hall of fame monitor for forwards. Its imperfect, but it is an interesting method to compare the careers of NHL forwards. Today, I will look at defencemen. Defenders are harder to rate because more of their value (when compared to forwards) is from defensive play, which is very hard to quantify. Nevertheless, here is the formula pnep presents.

"HHOF Monitor" formula for DEF =
Adj Games/10 +
Adj Pts/10 +
PO Games +
PO Pts +
Top 5 DEF in Goals after Season - 5 pts +
Top 10 in Assist after Season - 15 pts +
Top 5 DEF in Assist after Season - 5 pts +
Top 10 in PTS after Season - 30 pts +
Top 5 DEF in PTS after Season - 5 pts +
# 1 in "+/-" after Season - 50 pts +
# 2 in "+/-" after Season - 35 pts +
Cup - 50 pts +
Final - 25 pts +
All Star Game - 20 pts +
HART - 175 pts +
HART Runner Up - 150 pts +
1 ALL STAR TEAM - 75 pts +
2 ALL STAR TEAM - 50 pts +
CALDER - 35 pts +
CALDER Runner Up - 20 pts +
CONN SMYTHE - 200 pts +
NORRIS - 150 pts +
NORRIS Runner UP - 125 pts +

When compared to the forwards, the first thing I notice is that several of the awards are worth more for defenders then they are for forwards (for example a Hart trophy is worth 175 points for defenders and is only worth 150 for forwards). Regular season points (adjusted by the Total Hockey method) are worth a lot less for defenders then they are for forwards (a factor of 5 times less). Defenders also get points for being in the top scorers among defenders but it is far less then forwards get. I suppose this might be necessary to keep the Paul Coffey type offensive defenders from running away fro the Doug Harvey types who were better overall players but played in their own zone a lot more. This large discrepancy seems rather arbitrary. It is even worse when playoff points are scored much higher then regular season points. Is a goal in a regular season game really worth one tenth what it is (after adjustment) that it is in the playoffs? That seems wrong. Further, unlike for forwards, merely having a game played is worth points for defencemen. Regular season games played are adjusted (the percentage of games played in the season multiplied by 82 games each year). This helps to account for the fact that earlier players played in less games in a season. This seems inconsistent. The discrepancy between playoffs and regular season remains. A playoff game is worth ten times a regular season game. This serves to make playing on a team that goes deep in the playoffs (and playing in the modern era of four playoff rounds) very important. A good player on a weaker team that does not have playoff success will fail according to this formula. Defencemen also get points for +/- ratings (which have only existed for a little over 30 years). Being one of the top two defenders in +/- is worth points. In order to finish high, a defender must play on a top team. Teams that allow more goals then they score will not have the top +/- players in the league. Again, the problem that scores are cumulative meaning players who had long careers will put up points when they hang on with little value to their team, but an equivalent player who retires young stops gathering points. Also, I think the problem of rating defensive players in highlighted by this method since questionable stats like games played and +/- are used for defenders (but not for forwards) and the problem of calibration with forwards is also highlighted since points or trophy winning has different values for forwards and defenders. Another problem that needs highlighting is that other people's opinions are used in this ranking. Trophy winning is based on voting by people who sometimes make mistakes. A good sabermetric theory should be able to say who should have won the trophy instead of requiring the input of the potentially flawed vote. Nevertheless, it is an interesting effort. Lets look at the top 10 defenders by this formula.

1. Ray Bourque 4664.82
2. Bobby Orr 4037.97
3. Doug Harvey 3467.36
4. Paul Coffey 2958.37
5. Red Kelly 2925.27 (Kelly is rated as a defender although he played about half his career as a forward)
6. Denis Potvin 2618.40
7. Al MacInnis 2491.13
8. Nicklas Lidstrom 2473.00
9. Pierre Pilotte 2411.71
10. Chris Chelios 2331.12

I feel that this list is far worse then the top 10 forwards list. That goes beyond the problem of rating Red Kelly as a defender when he played as a forward part of his career. I think any list of defenders that does not conclude that Bobby Orr is the best ever reached an incorrect conclusion. In this case, Orr is underrated because his career was too short. Also, I think the fact that Eddie Shore did not make this list is also incorrect. He's one of the 3 or 4 best defenders of all time, But in this time when careers were shorter in length and less trophies existed and there were less playoff games in a season, players are underrated by these types of formulas.

This is an interesting attempt. It came up with ten very good defenders, but this list is not a realistic list of the ten best defenders of all time in order. This showcases how hard sabermetrics and hockey can be, especially when we try to rate defensive play.

Red Kelly,s HHOF Points:
Red Kelly,s HHOF Points as Forward (655,05) + Red Kelly,s HHOF Points as Def (2270,26) = 2925,27 HHOF Points
In my new version of "HHOF Monitor" I plan to make some changes:

"PO Games + PO PTS" ---> "Adj. PO Games/5 + Adj. PO PTS/5"

Also I shall use projected trophy winners for early NHL seasons (based on Hart Trophy Voting Results)
Hello Pnep

The important question is why do you plan to make the changes that you plan to make? Its clear that sometimes you try to rank players and you get results that are incorrect. But if you just make an arbitrary change its not going to fix anything. The problem is this looks too much like you tried something and it didn't work out so you arbitrarily chose to divide by 5. And if that doesn't work you can arbitrarily chose something else. And then something else after that. The method is flawed.

You need to start with some kind of approximate value of a player to his team including all offensive and defensive contributions and statistics in the NHL are not inclusive enough to allow this to be done.

Until then you can divide playoff points by any number you want and it wont make anything any better.
It's great to see hockey bloggers start to do these type of statistical studies again! A year or so ago I was doing 'number studies' like where all players in NHL history came from and the draft success of all teams based on the stats of their draftees - definitely have to be in the right mood to go through all the data. Maybe you're efforts will get hockey bloggers doing statistical studies instead of ranting about the lockout more...good job!
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