Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Adjusted Assist Scoring: Career

Over the summer, I have been looking at the sabremetrics and hockey problem of adjusting scoring from different eras. I have been using the normalization formalism of the hockey outsider (Peter Albert). I have posted the single season goals, assists and points leaders, as well as the career goals leaders. These lists are all quite interesting.

The single season assist leaders list is filled with players from the 1920's and Wayne Gretzky's best seasons. The 1920's players dominance is from a mathematical false normalization of the low assist totals from that era. This lead to a discussion of strength of competition adjustments as an effort to set up a formalism that that will not have this problem.

Since the 1920's player had much shorter careers than the more recent ones, this problem is somewhat solved by looking at career numbers.

Here are the top 10 adjusted career assist totals:

Top 10 Adjusted Assist Scoring Careers of All Time
Name Teams Seasons Adjusted Assists Actual Assists
Wayne GretzkyInd(WHA) Edm(WHA) Edm LA StL NYR2117652027
Gordie HoweDet Hou(WHA) NE(WHA) Har3114701383
Ron FrancisHar Pit Car Tor2511871249
Mark MessierCin(WHA) Edm NYR Van2611061203
Adam OatesDet StL Bos Was Phi Ana Edm1910621079
Ray BourqueBos Col2210551169
Paul CoffeyEdm Pit LA Det Har Phi Chi Car Bos2110061135
Steve YzermanDet2210001063
Joe SakicQue Col17930915
Frank BoucherOtt Van(PCHA) Van(WHL) NYR19926294

Assists from this season are not included in the calculation, so Joe Sakic's 9 assists to date are not included (he is the only active player on the list).

It is no surprise that Wayne Gretzky leads by a significant margin. He is the only player who is not from the 1920's who was able to make the single season list and he did it four times. He is by far the best player in NHL history when evaluated by assists. This list is biased toward the 1980's and 1990's and biased against the original six era when there was a higher calibre of opposition (with only six teams) and thus high scoring was much rarer. The only original six player on the list is Gordie Howe, but given the record length of his career, that is no suprise. The only holdover from the 1920's era is Frank Boucher. He is a rare example of a player from that era who had a long enough career to crack this list. I think he is overrated here due to the false assist normalization from that time. Each career assist Boucher had was worth 3.15 adjusted assists whereas for the other players on the list, each assist was worth roughly one adjusted assist (usually slightly less than this). This list is much more successful than the single season list for assists because the 1920's players who are given unreasonably high ratings on the single season list rarely had long enough careers to make a career list.

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