Saturday, September 02, 2006

Adjusted Point Scoring: Single Season

One issue I have looked at this summer in sabermetrics and hockey posts is the adjustment of scoring from different eras. I have listed the top 10 adjusted goal scoring seasons and the top 10 adjusted assist scoring seasons according to a normalization method devised by the hockey outsider (Peter Albert). This normalization method is the best method I have seen to date to solve this problem, but it has problems with false normalization of assists in the 1920's when there were significantly less assists than today and lacks an adjustment for the quality of opposition the player plays against.

Here are the top 10 adjusted point scoring seasons:

Top 10 Adjusted Point Scoring Seasons of All Time
Name Team Year Games Played Adjusted Points Actual Points
Cy DennenyOtt1924/252817945
Wayne GretzkyEdm1985/8680172215
Wayne GretzkyEdm1984/8580170208
Mario LemieuxPit1988/8976169199
Wayne GretzkyEdm1983/8474166205
Duke KeatsEdm - WCHL1921/222516555
Howie MorenzMon1927/284316351
Wayne GretzkyEdm1982/8380161196
Wayne GretzkyEdm1981/8280159212
Wayne GretzkyEdm1986/8779159183


This list shows the dominance of Wayne Gretzky. Six of the ten highest adjusted point scoring seasons are his. That shows his incredible dominance, but he may be somewhat helped that he played in the 21 team era and not the six team era. There are no original six team era players anywhere near the top 10. The highest ranking in the hockey outsider list is the 1952/53 95 point season Gordie Howe had that translates to 129 adjusted points and 33rd place. The original six (which is the era of the highest level of opposition calibre) is significantly underrepresented by this normalization system.

Also appearing in the top ten are Mario Lemieux's 199 point season in 1988/89. This year is deserving. There are also three years that are carryovers from the problems of false normalization that significantly increase 1920's adjusted assist totals. Three players make the list because of that problem. They are Duke Keats, Howie Morenz and Cy Denneny. Denneny is the most embarrassing of the three because he is ranked number one. There is no legitimate way to argue that Cy Denneny's 1924/25 season was the best point scoring season of all time. In fact, Denneny did not even win the NHL scoring title that season. He placed second to Babe Dye of Toronto. Dye scored 44 points and Denneny scored 42. It seems ridiculous to claim that the best scoring season of all time was not the best scoring season in the year where it occurred. The mistake occurs because Denneny scored 15 assists in an era when there were very few assists. This led the NHL. Babe Dye scored on 6 assists (which was good enough for 7th place in the entire league) but had more goals. Assists are overvalued by the normalization method in the early years of hockey because there were so few of them. If a player got a lot of assists (relative to the rest of the league) his point totals are normalized upwards well beyond the level they deserve. Denneny got 15 assists, but the normalization method considers this the equivlaent of 128 assists. It isn't. Fifteen assists can at most influence 15 goals. That isn't in the same ballpark as the number of goals and hence games that 128 assists would influence.

The adjustment of single season totals is interesting, but the false normalization of assists has led to some suspect results.

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