Monday, 30 January 2012

Good Players on Bad Teams

One of the things Point Allocation gives us is a limit on how much value can attributed to the players on a particular team, based on how successful that team was. Looking at only an individual players, without considering the team results and the contributions of all the other players on the team, can lead to one or many of the players on a team being overrated.

To illustrate, let's for a moment discuss Paddy Moran, the Hall-of-Fame goaltender for Quebec City who played senior hockey from 1902 to 1917, and who will be profiled here in the next little bit. He was a great player (assuming the Hall of Fame voters got it right) who generally played for pretty bad teams. His career senior-level W-L-T record was only 99-107-2. Even though he generally played in leagues with only four to six teams, being below .500 doesn't scream Hall of Fame.

Not only were his Quebec clubs typically mediocre, they were also typically below average defensively. If you're a poor defensive squad despite having a great (or at least very good) netminder, that means your skaters must be pretty poor. The logic is inescapable.

Take the 1908/09 ECHA season as an example. Of the four teams involved, Quebec allowed the most goals. The Wanderers (with Riley Hern in net) had a 5.03 GAA, Ottawa (with Percy LeSueur) was 5.19, the Shamrocks (Bill Baker) were 8.58 and the Bulldogs with Moran allowed 8.83 goals per 60 minutes. As such Quebec gets credit for relatively few defensive points, since they allowed so many goals. Moran, being a Hall of Fame goaltender, gets the lion's share of these.

The two Quebec defencemen were Art Leader and Joe Power, who both had respectable defensive reputations. So they get some points as well, though not as much as you might assign them were you looking at them in isolation. There's basically nothing left for the forwards (Herb Jordan, Chubby Power, Joe Malone and Jack McDonald), regardless of their defensive reputations.

As it happens, of those four only McDonald has anything resembling a solid defensive rep. In this team's case, I think that has as much to do with style and tactics as lack of ability (which will be addressed when discussing Moran and Jordan). But if you didn't start with the team results and work down, you'd want to reward Paddy Moran, and Joe Power, and McDonald and Joe Malone (another Hall of Famer) and would end up giving too much credit for defence on a team that was not very good at preventing goals.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Amby Moran - The Moose

You want more about Regina defencemen from the 1920s, you say? Alright, one more.

Amby "Moose" Moran was a Winnipeg boy, beginning his senior career there in 1919/20. The origin of his nickname was presumably his frame; he was a 6-foot, 200-pounder at a time when such things were pretty rare. He was a big boy, certainly, and a rambunctious one, even being arrested once in 1923 for assaulting a police officer.

He was, however, a very good hockey player for a number of years. He turned pro in 1921 with Regina of the new WCHL. He faded fast in his thirties, though, so by the time the NHL absorbed the western league, Moran wasn't the player he once was. But in his prime, he was a force to be reckoned with.

In the January 12, 1923 edition of the Regina Morning Leader, Moran was compared to future Hall of Famer Herb Gardiner in a discussion of who was the best left defenceman in the WCHL at the time. We know that Gardiner was effective offensively and outstanding on defence. He was awarded the 1927 Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, in the first season after the eastern league absorbed the western one. Here's what the Leader had to say about them:
...[W]hen the relative virtues of the two players were compared, we came to the conclusion that the Calgary playing manager [Gardiner] earned the call because of his superior polish.
Defensively, Gardiner has a slight edge on Moran. He is faster on the check and knows the breaking-up art from A to Z. On the attack he is also a valuable asset to his team, although not a prolific goal getter.
Moran's value to the attack lies more in his ability to score one goal regularly every game, rather than in his ability to help out the forwards. Amby undoubtedly packs a much more wicked shot than the Bengal captain, is a more dangerous man to rush; but it is seldom that he steadies down the forwards as Gardiner does; he rather attempts to do everything on his won. And while he acquires a certain amount of glory for his unquestionably spectacular rushing, his offensive play is colorful rather than effective.
I think we can discount the comment that Gardiner has a "slight edge" on defence to a degree of homerism. Moran was a starting blueliner for Regina at the time, and he was probably getting a home-team boost here. That being said, Moran was certainly not a liability on defence in his WCHL years. But ultimately, he was known as a big, rough, rambunctious rusher with a wicked shot.
Amby Moran, stocky defenceman of the Maroons, got in some of his Firpo-like rushes. Boston got an extra two minutes on his penalty for a display of temper. (Regina Morning Leader, 19 Jan 1926)
[Moran] instigated an individual rush straight up the centre of the ice, and when just beyond the defense, let go a rifle shot that whizzed past Talbot a mile a minute. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful game. Moran's drive was the fastest of the night, and the twine sagged before its momentum. (Regina Morning Leader, 5 Jan 1922)


SeasonClubLeaguePosGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1920Winnipeg HCWSHL34010001.22.4-0.13.53.50
1921Brandon Wheat CitiesMAHL37318252.93.4-0.45.93.23
1922Regina CapitalsWCHL38020000.34.5-0.24.62.30
1923Regina CapitalsWCHL37518754.03.2-0.36.93.68
1924Regina CapitalsWCHL3379250.43.0-0.13.33.57
1925Regina CapitalsWCHL317425-0.20.4-0.20.00.00
1925Vancouver MaroonsWCHL6438602.50.6-0.32.83.26
1926Vancouver MaroonsWHL38020000.02.9-0.32.61.30
1927Montreal CanadiensNHL322550-0.31.4-0.20.91.64
1927Moose Jaw MaroonsPHL53286250.40.0-0.20.20.32
1927New Haven EaglesCAHL315375-0.5-0.1-0.2-0.8-2.13
1928Chicago Black HawksNHL34210500.30.0-0.20.10.10
1928Moose Jaw MaroonsPHL3379250.01.8-0.41.41.51
1929Tulsa OilersAHA3681700-0.72.9-0.41.81.06
Career6571613510.326.4-3.533.22.06

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Being Fair to Players From Earlier Eras

Here are two facts about hockey history that are essentially self-evident:

1. Objectively speaking, as far as we can be objective, the average quality of high-level hockey players has increased since organized hockey began; and

2. Since organized hockey began, old-timey players have talked about how players in their day were better.

How do reconcile these two contradictory statements? That's easy; only the first is true, while the second is the result of human cognitive biases. But that's not why I'm bringing this up. I really just want to discuss the first point, as it applies to the Point Allocation system.

This is important because one of the objectives of the system, one of the main reasons for its very existence, is to allow players from different eras to be compared to each other on something resembling equal footing. Some might ask the question, "Should we even be doing this? If modern players are objectively better than historical ones, why would we put the historical ones on the same footing? Shouldn't they be ranked lower than modern players?"

My answer to that is no, they should not. Why not? Because we have to consider the reasons that modern players are better. It's all about the context. Modern players are better for a variety of reasons: better training, better equipment, better coaching, better almost everything. These are all facts. But they don't matter. Historical players did not have access to these advantages. Why in the world would we punish them for not having things that didn't exist in their day?

The best we can do is analyze each player in the context in which he actually played. Anything else is unfair to one or more groups of players. It's almost certainly true that some players, if they were transported from their own era to another, would be either better or worse off in the new playing context. But that's irrelevant, and any such consideration would ultimately be guesswork. All we can do is recognize the context the player actually played in, and evaluate him based on that.

This means that according to the Point Allocation results, the very best players in an era will be valued at approximately the same level as the very best players in any other era. Doing otherwise would be inherently unfair. Players have no control over the conditions of the game at the time they played. Why in the world would we include those in the evaluations?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Percy Traub - the Value of the Stay at Home Defenceman


Percy Traub, a blueliner who played mostly with Regina in the 1920s, is an excellent example of a player whose value can really be revealed by the historical Point Allocation system.

We know he was a very able defender. For example, when the Regina Leader was naming its 1923 All-Star team for the 1922/23 WCHL season, it named Bullet Joe Simpson as the league's best overall right defenceman (due to his offensive ability), but notes that "[t]here is none better than [Traub] at the art of checking and intercepting..." (11 Jan 1923). His obituary in the 8 May 1948 edition of the Edmonton Journal said:
Back in the early 1920's when the Western Canada Professional Hockey League was in its fullest flower and fragancy [sic], “Puss” Traub was one of the circuit's outstanding defencemen with Regina Caps...Traub was the steady rock at the Regina blue line. Never a showy player – he couldn't carry the puck like Joe Simpson, Red Dutton or Harry Cameron for example – Traub nevertheless was a standout in most games in which he played because of his checking. He could “lay the body” and it was seldom a forward got past him without being tagged in some degree...It's seldom they come as rugged and durable as the late Percy Traub.
So Traub was a steady, hard-hitting, stay-at-home defenceman, which we know has a great deal of value to a hockey team, now as then. But if we look at his traditional stats, we see that in 262 major-league games, he recorded 21 goals and 22 assists, along with 451 minutes in penalties. Nothing noteworthy. His Point Allocation, results, however, help to reveal his true value:

SeasonClubLeaguePosAgeGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1916Regina VictoriasSSHL119481200-1.15.2-0.23.93.25
1917Regina 217th BattalionSHL320802000-1.9-0.9-0.7-3.5-1.75
1918Regina DepotRMHL321802000-2.12.6-1.0-0.5-0.25
1919Regina VictoriasSIHL322561400-0.76.3-0.15.53.93
1920Regina VictoriasSSHL323802000-0.88.9-0.47.73.85
1921Regina VictoriasSSHL3247518750.95.9-0.36.53.47
1922Regina CapitalsWCHL3258020000.65.9-0.36.23.10
1923Regina CapitalsWCHL3266917250.95.0-0.35.63.25
1924Regina CapitalsWCHL3277218001.06.8-0.67.24.00
1925Regina CapitalsWCHL3287418501.26.0-0.76.53.51
1926Portland RosebudsWHL3297518750.43.3-0.92.81.49
1927Chicago Black HawksNHL330761900-0.13.1-1.11.91.00
1928Detroit CougarsNHL331802000-0.25.4-0.74.52.25
1929Detroit CougarsNHL332802000-0.95.6-0.44.32.15
Career102525625-2.869.1-7.758.62.29

There you have it: Traub was just below replacement level on offence, but was all kinds of good in his own end, especially during his peak years. His utter lack of scoring ability prevents him from ever being one of the very best blueliners in the game at any time, but he had very real value that is not captured by traditional stats. One of the purposes of Point Allocation is to reveal the value of players below the level of the Hall-of-Famers, and Traub is a nice example of that.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Powers That Were

The Quebec Hockey Club was often an also-ran squad in Canada's highest senior hockey league in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Before Joe Malone came on the scene in the Ancient Capital, little attention was paid to the team in the blue and white stripes. In the early 1900s the team had the famous Paddy Moran in goal, and Herb Jordan at centre, a man with an excellent claim to the Hall of Fame.

Filling much of the rest of the Quebec roster for several of those years were the Power brothers. There were three who played regularly for the senior Quebec side between 1903 and 1909: James Rockett Power (b. 9 Feb 1883), Joseph Ignatius Power (b. 11 Jan 1885) and Charles Gavan Power (b. 18 Jan 1887). These three had a younger brother Frank, who also played hockey for Quebec, but never at the senior level, and an elder brother William, who did not play hockey at a high level so far as I can tell. Following are brief bios of the three brothers and their career Point Allocation records, starting with the eldest.

Rockett Power

Though James was his given name, he went by Rockett, which was his middle name and his mother's maiden name. He was often referred to as Rocket in the papers, and this led some researchers to assume it was a nickname, until his biographical information was uncovered.

Of the three brothers, Rockett was the most professional in terms of being a hockey player, going where the work was, from Quebec City to Montreal, to Waterloo, to Cape Breton and even Edmonton. Rockett was a solid but unspectacular defender.
Rocket Power used his body to advantage and blocked well. (Quebec Chronicle, 9 Jan 1905)
Rocket Power was a sure check and stole the puck repeatedly from the Westmount forwards while his long shots on goal were a feature. (Quebec Chronicle, 20 Feb 1905)
Like his brothers, Rockett was a swift skater, but for his career was really only a serviceable defenceman. Like many Quebec players from the time, he was perhaps more focused on offence than he should have been;
team was often near or at the top of the league in goals, but also in goals allowed. They must have been very exciting to watch, at the very least.

SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1903Quebec AthleticsCAHL25714250.20.3-0.20.30.21
1905Quebec AthleticsCAHL2441100-0.13.4-0.13.22.91
1906Edmonton ThistlesASHL45310600.10.0-0.4-0.3-0.28
1907Edmonton ThistlesASHL28020002.11.7-0.13.71.85
1908Quebec BulldogsECAHA17318000.33.9-0.33.92.17
1910Waterloo ColtsOPHL24611500.21.3-0.51.00.87
1910Quebec BulldogsCHA213325-0.30.7-0.10.30.92
1911Montreal CanadiensNHA2401000-0.63.7-0.13.03.00
1911Quebec BulldogsNHA1307500.91.1-0.21.82.40
1912New Glasgow CubsMPHA1801600-3.33.3-0.2-0.2-0.13
1913Quebec BulldogsNHA24100-0.10.30.00.22.00
Career52012310-0.619.7-2.216.91.37


Joe Power

Joe Power, for a few years at least, was a big-time goal-scorer, and he had sufficient defensive chops to be moved to cover-point midway through his career. He was known for his humour and wit, and was called Joe the Joker from this school days onward.

In his first full season in 1904, Power played left wing and finished second on the team in goals (behind Herb Jordan), and was second among league left wings in goals (behind Hall-of-Famer Blair Russel). Quebec were league champions in 1904, and Power was their captain. In 1905, Power moved to rover, and exploded for 22 goals, a total exceeded by only one man: Hall-of-Famer Russell Bowie, the best pure goal-scorer of his generation. In 1906, Power again outscored teammate Herb Jordan with 21 markers, and tied for fourth in the league in goals, this time behind Harry Smith, Russell Bowie and Frank McGee, probably the three best goal-scorers of the generation.

Power switched to cover-point the following season, and in 1908 he scored 13 goals in 10 games at the position, a figure which was ninth in the league, but first among defencemen. By comparison, Cyclone Taylor and Didier Pitre both played 10 games at cover-point in the same league; Taylor scored 9 goals and Pitre but 3. After another full season in 1909, Power played only a few more games before calling it a career. In 1913, he revealed that he had retired from the game due to suffering from pleurisy, an inflammation of the lungs which makes breathing itself painful. He later served in the Parliament of Quebec.

While playing cover-point, Joe was credited as being an effective defender, but again there's only so much stock we can put in that given Quebec's defensive results at that time. He was primarily an offensive player, even when playing a defensive position. He was the rover on the All-Star team that played the Montreal Wanderers in the Hod Stuart benefit game in 1908.
In the centre of the ice Herbie Jordan and Joe Power proved a great pair. Some neat combination was engineered between them and their quickness in passing and shooting fooled Waugh a number of times. (Quebec Chronicle, 6 Feb 1905)
Joe Power shone brilliantly on the line, his goal getting ability being displayed in a marked manner. (Quebec Chronicle, 20 Feb 1905)
[Paddy Moran] was given all possible protection by Rocket Power and Joe Power, who both played very heady games, making the defence almost invincible. Rush after rush of the Ottawa line came to grief without a chance to shoot when they reached the first line of defence. Joe Power's rushes were also a feature of the game, and a number of goals were due either to his initiative of to his own shooting. (Quebec Chronicle, 6 Jan 1908)
Joe Power then came down single-handed and with a beautiful shot scored the final game of the match... (Quebec Chronicle, 20 Jan 1908)
SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1903Quebec AthleticsCAHL4346801.2-0.20.01.01.47
1904Quebec AthleticsCAHL68016004.80.80.05.63.50
1905Quebec AthleticsCAHL48016007.70.3-0.37.74.81
1906Quebec BulldogsECAHA48016005.50.3-0.15.73.56
1907Quebec BulldogsECAHA246414801.41.0-0.12.31.55
1908Quebec BulldogsECAHA28020004.91.8-0.76.03.00
1909Quebec BulldogsECHA28020000.22.9-0.32.81.40
1911Quebec BulldogsNHA410200-0.40.20.0-0.2-1.00
Career5081116025.37.1-1.530.92.77


Charles Power

Charles "Chubby" Power had the briefest of careers of the three brothers, before he began his military career, and eventually his political one which was quite extensive, serving as Minister of National Defence for Air from 1939 to 1944.

Chubby took over the rover position from his older brother when Joe moved full-time to cover-point for the 1908 season. The younger Power was a fast, aggressive, dashing player. A physical one, too, who often came under the eye of the referee for his rambunctious nature. So while he was an effective player for his short career, he was probably too aggressive to be among the greats, and surely was not in position to backcheck effectively. That being said, his work along the boards and in the corners was noteworthy, and he produced good value for Quebec when he was in the lineup.
Fitting in with him at centre ice in splendid fashion was “Chubby” Power, who proved a worthy successor to his brother “Joe” at rover. (Quebec Chronicle, 6 Jan 1908)
[Herb] Jordan gave a singularly pretty exhibition of stick-handling and his shooting was deadly. A particularly clever shot was passed out to him from the side by Chubby Power. Although covered by two men, he managed with that funny poke of his to elude both of them and lifted the puck right into the nets. Chubby Power also starred brilliantly and besides finding the nets several times himself, also materially assisted Jordan in combination which proved effective. (Quebec Chronicle, 20 Jan 1908)
Chubbie Power was an improvement [over Joe Malone] on the wing and played the boards in fine style. (Quebec Chronicle, 8 Feb 1909)
The Quebec forward line as a whole worked splendidly and hard, Herbie Jordan, of course, displaying all the qualifications of a gilt edged hockey player and being well assisted, though recklessly, by Joe Malone and Chubby Power, who figured prominently in the scoring and on the fence. (Quebec Chronicle, 22 Feb 1909)
Chubby Power once more came under the technicalities of the law and was relegated to the fence for checking with unwarranted ardor. (Quebec Chronicle, 22 Feb 1909)
SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1907Quebec BulldogsECAHA48160-0.10.00.0-0.1-0.63
1908Quebec BulldogsECAHA48016005.40.8-0.35.93.69
1909Quebec BulldogsECHA48016004.1-0.1-0.43.62.25
Career16833609.40.7-0.79.42.8

Friday, 20 January 2012

Abbie Newell


Abbie Newell is a forgotten defenceman from the 1920s. Never a star player, Newell was nevertheless an important contributor to major-league teams for a number of years. At first glance, it might seem that Newell was an offensive specialist. Beginning his senior hockey career in Manitoba, as so many Western Canada league stars did, he was second in goals among defencemen in 1917/18, and improved to first in assists and second in points among defencemen in 1918/19, playing in a league which included names such as Harry Oliver and Bullet Joe Simpson, both Hall-of-Famers.

Moving from there to the Saskatchewan senior league, which two seasons later would provide two teams to the newly-formed WCHL, Newell led all defencemen in points in 1920/21, and led the entire league in assists. Now he was in a league playing against Rusty Crawford, Dick Irvin and George Hay, among others. The following season he again led all defencemen in points.

In the WCHL in 1922/23, Newell was third in blueliner points per game, behind only Joe Simpson and Red Dutton. In 1924/25, he was fifth in points per game, behind Herb Gardiner, Joe Simpson, Bobby Trapp and Harry Cameron. In 1926 he left to play in the California professional league with several other Canadian star players, and led that league in goals.

But he was more than a scorer. When his Regina Capitals had the best defence in the league in 1923/24, Newell was one of the starters on the blueline, playing ahead of Duke Dukowski, who was used as a substitute. The following quotes demonstrate his solid defensive reputation. The last quote is interesting, showing that a young Eddie Shore was an adequate substitute for an injured Newell.
Newell, in addition to supplying one of Moose Jaw's counters, played a sterling defensive game in combination with [Bobby] Benson. (Regina Morning Leader, 14 Feb 1922)
Besides playing sterling defensive hockey, Newell also came through with a goal, instigated the rush and made the pass for the goal which gave the Caps their overtime win on Saturday night. (Regina Morning Leader, 11 Feb 1924)
Caps will take the ice up north tonight without the services of Abbie Newell, star defence man. Newell is suffering from an injured hip and will not be able to participate in the game, but Eddie Shore will step into the vacant place in the line-up, and [the coach] declared he's satisfied with his substitute. (Regina Morning Leader 21 Jan 1925)
Although Newell was a left-hand shot, the evidence points to him playing right defence. He was a regular partner with Percy Traub, who was also a left-hand shot, and when Newell was injured he was replaced by Eddie Shore, a right-hand shot.

An examination of his Point Allocation record reveals a solid career, producing some offensive value as well as defensive. He was a journeyman, only twice playing for the same team two seasons consecutively, and this might be a reason that he is not better-known today. He's not easily associated with a particular team, and was not a superstar, but was always in demand when a team was in need of a blueliner.

SeasonClubLeaguePosGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1917Winnipeg VictoriasWAPHL220500-0.51.7-0.21.02.00
1918Winnipeg SommeMMHL21802000-0.75.8-0.24.92.45
1919Winnipeg ArgonautsMAHL18020002.53.8-0.45.92.95
1920Moose Jaw Maple LeafsSSHL38020001.14.6-0.35.42.70
1921Moose Jaw Maple LeafsSSHL38020002.24.6-0.56.33.15
1922Saskatoon CrescentsWCHL35313250.91.7-0.12.51.89
1923Edmonton EskimosWCHL3358751.60.9-0.42.12.40
1923Vancouver MaroonsPCHA3164000.61.00.01.64.00
1924Regina CapitalsWCHL36917252.24.2-0.36.13.54
1925Regina CapitalsWCHL37117752.84.3-0.96.23.49
Career5841460012.732.6-3.3422.88


What Did He Wear?

Regina Capitals, Western Canada Hockey League:

Vancouver Maroons, Pacific Coast Hockey Association:


Edmonton Eskimos, Western Canada Hockey League:

Saskatoon Crescents, Western Canada Hockey League:

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Catching Up on Some Numbers

Since we've started looking at career Point Allocation records for some players, we should catch up with the players previously discussed here who haven't had their records published. Don't forget to refer to this post to get an idea of the scale of TPAK rates: above 5.0 are the superstars, above 4.0 are the elite players. Zero is defined as a replacement-level player (in terms of the modern NHL).

Tom Paton

SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1885Montreal Winged WheelersMWCG8048000.020.20.020.24.21
1886Montreal Winged WheelersMHTG6538710.03.30.03.30.85
1887Montreal Winged WheelersAHACG2212670.0-1.60.0-1.6-1.26
1888Montreal Winged WheelersAHACG8048000.022.70.022.74.73
1889Montreal Winged WheelersAHACG8048000.024.90.024.95.19
1890Montreal Winged WheelersAHACG8048000.022.20.022.24.63
1891Montreal Winged WheelersAHACG7042000.020.80.020.84.95
1892Montreal Winged WheelersAHACG6438400.013.90.013.93.62
1893Montreal Winged WheelersAHACG8048000.022.10.022.14.60
Career621371780.0148.50.0148.53.99

James Stewart

SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1884Montreal CrystalsMWC127675-0.94.40.03.55.19
1885Montreal CrystalsMWC127675-0.50.60.00.10.15
1886Montreal CrystalsMHT1601500-1.38.30.07.04.67
1887Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC1531325-0.84.70.03.92.94
1888Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC1802000-1.610.20.08.64.30
1889Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC1802000-0.38.60.08.34.15
1890Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC1802000-1.18.30.07.23.60
1891Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC18020000.011.20.011.25.60
1892Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC1481200-0.31.70.01.41.17
1893Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC17017500.27.90.08.14.63
1894Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC1328000.53.80.04.35.38
Career63715925-6.169.70.063.63.99

Allan Cameron

SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1885Montreal CrystalsMWC927540-0.9-0.80.0-1.7-3.15
1886Montreal CrystalsMHT2802000-1.09.60.08.64.30
1887Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC2531325-0.24.40.04.23.17
1888Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC2571425-1.85.70.03.92.74
1889Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC2691725-0.57.80.07.34.23
1890Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC27017501.45.50.06.93.94
1891Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC26015001.66.90.08.55.67
1892Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC216400-0.10.60.00.51.25
1893Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC28020000.98.40.09.34.65
1894Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC15614000.27.20.07.45.29
1895Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC21701750-0.45.70.05.33.03
Career63815815-0.861.00.060.23.81


Jack Campbell

SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1884Montreal WanderersMWC927540-1.0-0.40.0-1.4-2.59
1885Montreal FootballersMWC227675-0.90.50.0-0.4-0.59
1887Montreal VictoriasAHAC28020004.25.40.09.64.80
1888Montreal VictoriasAHAC28020009.12.80.011.95.95
1889Montreal VictoriasAHAC2641600-0.23.00.02.81.75
1890Montreal VictoriasAHAC28020001.44.70.06.13.05
1891Montreal VictoriasAHAC220500-0.30.40.00.10.20
Career378931512.316.40.028.73.08

Horace Gaul

SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1905Ottawa SenatorsFAHL5102000.80.00.00.84.00
1906Brooklyn SkatersAAHL9102000.0-0.10.0-0.1-0.50
1907Pittsburgh HCIHL76012001.02.0-0.52.52.08
1908Renfrew Creamery KingsUOVHL78016001.01.8-0.22.61.63
1908Brockville HCFAHL7204001.7-0.30.01.43.50
1909Haileybury MinersTPHL78016001.70.5-0.91.30.81
1909Pittsburgh DuquesnesWPHL727540-0.6-0.20.0-0.8-1.48
1910Haileybury MinersNHA78016004.61.2-0.85.03.13
1911Berlin DutchmenOPHL425500-0.40.00.0-0.4-0.80
1911Ottawa SenatorsNHA515300-0.90.9-0.2-0.2-0.67
1912New Glasgow CubsMPHA7711420-0.22.7-0.52.01.41
1913Toronto TecumsehsNHA76813600.82.1-0.72.21.62
Career546109209.510.6-3.816.31.49

Harry Smith

SeasonClubLeaguePositionGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1905Smiths Falls Mic-MacsOHA580160010.0-1.8-0.87.44.63
1906Ottawa SenatorsECAHA66412808.5-0.2-0.67.76.02
1907Ottawa SenatorsECAHA57214404.90.4-1.04.32.99
1908Pittsburgh BankersWPHL567134010.0-1.40.08.66.42
1909Haileybury MinersTPHL58016007.4-0.8-0.36.33.94
1909Pittsburgh BankersWPHL5377402.9-0.40.02.53.38
1909Montreal WanderersECHA5275402.00.5-0.42.13.89
1910Cobalt Silver KingsNHA75310605.4-0.2-0.44.84.53
1910Haileybury MinersNHA5204000.90.30.01.23.00
1911Waterloo ColtsOPHL56112201.1-0.20.00.90.74
1912Schreiber ColtsNOHL656513007.8-0.7-0.46.75.15
1913Toronto TecumsehsNHA56012002.61.0-0.63.02.50
1914Ottawa SenatorsNHA5122400.40.4-0.20.62.50
Career6981396063.9-3.1-4.756.14.02

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Being Fair to Goaltenders

One of the purposes of the historical Point Allocation system is to enable players from different eras to be compared on approximately the same basis. For example, we adjust every season's numbers as if the season was 80 games in length, regardless of how many game a league actually played in that season. This is to put everyone on the same footing, and to render the numbers in a form familiar to modern eyes.

This presents an issue, however, where goaltenders are concerned. For the first 70-plus years (or so) of the history of organized hockey, a team's goaltender was expected to play every game. Now, of course, that is no longer the case, and sometimes (in the 1980s, for instance), a starting goaltender would be expected to play only about 50 of his team's 80 games. So when we're comparing the careers of a goalie from the 1920s and one from the 1980s, they're not really on the same footing, because the earlier netminder will be given credit for a significantly higher number of games per season.

To account for this, when dealing with modern NHL goaltenders we don't calculate their effective games played based on a season of 80 games. Instead, we find the goaltender with third-highest proportion of minutes played in the league, and use that as the maximum instead of 80 games. So if league-season features goaltenders who played 64, 62 and 58 effective games for their teams, all goaltenders in the league will have their games played adjusted to 58 games rather than 80 (anyone with more than 58 is capped at 80 games, of course). This means that at least three goalies will be credited with the maximum 80 games for any season. There's no particular reason that it's the third-most rather than the second or the fifth, it's just an attempt to be fair. Most starters after the third-highest will be in the 70-plus game range, which is basically what we're shooting for.

The question is, when do we need to start applying this method, rather than just using the 80-game basis? Well, some teams have experimented with two-goalie systems at times. In 1912/13 and 1913/14, for example, the NHA's Ottawa Senators had both veteran Percy LeSueur and young Clint Benedict (both Hall-of-Famers), and went into both seasons intending to rotate them in the nets, rather than just keeping one as an emergency backup. In 1912/13, LeSueur played 18 games (994 minutes) and Benedict 7 games (215 minutes). Since the team played 20 games, that means there were five games in which one relieved the other. In 1913/14, they had only two shared games, but they still split the team's netminding duties; Benedict played 9 games (474 minutes) and LeSueur 13 games (773 minutes). But this was a very unusual situation.

What we really want to know is when teams, as a whole, no longer expected their goaltenders to play every game. As late as 1957/58, three of six NHL teams had goalies who played all 70 games of the schedule. Goaltenders still normally played every game. In the next two seasons, Glenn Hall was the only goaltender to play every game, but there were also two or three other guardians who played almost every game. So it seems that they were still expected to play every game, it's just that over a long 70-game schedule, that's not always going to be possible.

When we get to 1960/61, we still have Hall playing every day. However, no other goaltender played more than 59 of his team's 70 games. And then two seasons later we have no goalies playing every game, though several missed only a few games. In 1964/65, Roger Crozier played 70 games, but the next-highest total was only 53.

It seems to me, then, that 1960/61 serves as a good demarcation point to begin using the "modern" system for calculating netminders' games played for Point Allocation purposes. That's the dividing line that will produce the fairest results.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Meritorious Men of the 1910s

To finish up our look at players from hockey's early years who merit the honour of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, we look at players whose careers centred on the 1910s. We start with the very best from that decade:

1910s Players Who Likely Merit the Hall of Fame


RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
1Taylor, Cyclone1906-192342116.5Yes
2Lalonde, Newsy1905-19265113.4Yes
3Pitre, Didier1904-192372110.3Yes
4Johnson, Moose1904-192236108.1Yes
5Patrick, Lester1904-192634103.5Yes
6Gerard, Eddie1910-192336103.1Yes
7Smith, Tommy1906-19205102.9Yes
8Vezina, Georges1911-1926G102.7Yes
9Lehman, Hugh1907-1926G101.9Yes
10Malone, Joe1909-19245101.7Yes
11Cleghorn, Sprague1910-19263297.0Yes
12Holmes, Hap1910-1926G96.9Yes
13Foyston, Frank1912-19265696.0Yes
14Walker, Jack1908-19264695.7Yes
15Cleghorn, Odie1910-19267594.8No
16Cameron, Harry1912-19263294.5Yes
17Darragh, Jack1910-1924789.5Yes
18Irvin, Dick1913-1926589.2Yes
19Hall, Joe1901-19193788.6Yes
20Morris, Bernie1911-19255788.6No
21Prodger, Goldie1911-19253688.6No

The Hall of Fame committee has done a very good job in recognizing the best players from this era. The top 14 players by the HOFPA (Hall of Fame by Point Allocation) method are all in the Hall, as are 18 of the top 19. The most notable player who's not in is Odie Cleghorn, who should have followed his brother Sprague into the temple, but did not for whatever reason. Sprague certainly made more noise with his career, for better or worse, but Odie was nearly his equal on the ice.

Bernie Morris is no surprise, here. As a member of the perennially powerful Seattle Mets, Morris led the PCHA in goals, assists and points on different occasions, and played in three Stanley Cup finals, including one with the Calgary Tigers.

Goldie Prodger is an interesting player, who will get a writeup here in due time, like all of these players. George Prodger is a pretty obscure player; it was many years before researchers even got his name consistently right - he was often called Prodgers in the past. I believe it was Jeff Klein and Karl-Eric Reif, in their Hockey Compendium, who first noticed that when Prodger joined a team, it got better immediately, and when he left a team it fell just as quickly. He skated for eight different high-level professional teams and was versatile, mostly playing defence but also manning either left wing or right as the team's needs dictated.

1910s Players Who Possibly Merit the Hall of Fame
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
22Harris, Smokey1911-1925687.8No
23Griffis, Si1902-19193487.0Yes
24Rowe, Bobby1903-19263785.8No
25Cook, Lloyd1913-19253285.4No
26LeSueur, Percy1904-1916G85.1Yes
27Dunderdale, Tommy1907-19244585.1Yes
28Stanley, Barney1912-19266283.6Yes
29Shore, Hamby1905-1918283.1No
30Laviolette, Jack1904-19181782.4Yes
31Roberts, Gord1910-1920679.7Yes
32Ross, Art1905-1918178.8Yes
33Oatman, Eddie1910-19264778.8No
34Hyland, Harry1909-1918778.1Yes

The next group finds eight of 13 players in the Hall of Fame. How many of these deserve to be there? Several at the top of this list were missed by the committee; and all were largely western players, so perhaps that's not a coincidence (though if there is an eastern bias in the membership of the Hall, it's not a large one). But if Si Griffis, Percy LeSueur and Tommy Dunderdale deserve the honour, so do Smokey Harris, Bobby Rowe and Lloyd Cook.

Where do we draw the line here? I would put it under Barney Stanley. While his career strikes me as Hall-worthy, Hamby Shore's really does not. So there the line goes, cutting out (just barely) Jack Laviolette, Gord Roberts, Art Ross and Harry Hyland. Laviolette and Ross certainly got boosts from their hockey activities off the ice, and Roberts and Hyland, while excellent scorers, just don't quite have enough.

1910s Players Who Likely Do Not Merit the Hall of Fame
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
35Patrick, Frank1904-19243776.3No
36Loughlin, Clem1911-19263275.8No
37Crawford, Rusty1911-1926675.3Yes
38Smaill, Walter1905-19182475.0No
XRankin, Frank1911-1915462.1Yes
XBaker, Hobey1912-1916460.3Yes
XDavidson, Scotty1912-19147255.8Yes
XMcNamara, George1907-19171747.1Yes
XRuttan, Jack1909-1918246.8Yes
XMaxwell, Steamer1910-191546.7Yes

Although the committee did a good job according to the top of this list, they did a fairly poor one according to the bottom. Rusty Crawford had a very long pro career, first playing in Saskatchewan in 1910 and lasting until the 1929/30 season in Minneapolis. His selection is certainly not a terrible one. It's the names at the bottom of the list that are problematic.


Hobey Baker we've discussed before, and won't rehash here. Scotty Davidson us a very similar case, a player with a few very good seasons who was killed in World War I. If he had continued to play at a high level when he returned, he might very well have a case. But once you start playing "what if" with these things, it's rather hard to know where to stop.


Fred "Steamer" Maxwell had a short and unremarkable senior career in Winnipeg. That he coached the Winnipeg Falcons to the very first Olympic hockey gold medal surely had nothing to do with his presence in the Hall as a player, right?

By a remarkable coincidence, the coach of the second team to ever win an Olympic gold medal in hockey, Frank Rankin, was also a Hall of Fame-calibre player. He wasn't actually, of course. Although he was far more effective on the ice than Maxwell was, he was not one of the very best. Subsequent events have a way of affecting people's memories of earlier ones.

George McNamara also helped his case with his coaching career, winning the 1924 Allan Cup as Canadian senior champs. George and his brother Howard were big (over six feet at a time when that was rare) bruisers as blueliners, laying the body with gusto likely unmatched at the time. They were called the "Dynamite Twins", and played for a number of pro teams. (A third brother, Harold, also played professionally, but was not in the same class as the other two.) As such, they had big names to match their big frames, but this was not necessarily equaled by their actual performance on the ice. In fact, George may not have even been the best player in his family. He recorded 27.1 TPA in 644 effective games played, while Howard put up 28.8 in 669.

I've never been able to find the reason that Jack Ruttan was enshrined. He had a short, decent senior career in Winnipeg, won the 1913 Allan Cup as a player, went to war and coached and refereed in Winnipeg for a few years after his playing days were done. He's not the worst selection ever made, but he could be the most puzzling. There's no easy explanation for why he was picked out of any number of senior players from his day.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Etymology of a Nickname

The farming town of Taber, in southern Alberta, is associated with the nickname "Chiefs" for hockey purposes. A variety of teams have borne the moniker in the town's history, from senior to junior to minor hockey, back into the 1920s at least. There is often a temptation, when researching historical hockey results, to think of teams in terms of their modern nicknames, even if such names didn't actually come into use in later years.

An interesting example is the Taber senior hockey team that competed in the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association in the 1910s. This team is often referred to (as much as the team is actually referred to) as the Chiefs. But they were not actually known as the Chiefs at the time. They were the Chefs.

I'm not kidding. Some game reports for the team referred to the club as the Chefs. But there's a good reason for that; the team's main nickname was the Cooks, for the simple reason that almost everyone on the team was named Cook. Albert, Arnold, Ernest, Leo, Lloyd and Wilbur Cook, a collection of brothers and cousins, manned the Taber hockey team from about 1911 to 1913. And a good team they were. Ernest and Albert went on to have brief senior careers in the "big city" (Calgary and Edmonton), Leo played a few unremarkable years in the PCHA and WCHL, and of course Lloyd won the Stanley Cup with Vancouver in 1915 and has a very strong case that he should be in the Hall of Fame.


I believe that someone, when researching this team, saw the reference to "Chefs" and, knowing that Taber later featured teams called "Chiefs", assumed it was a typo and decided the 1910s team should be called the Chiefs as well. That would be a reasonable assumption to make, but the "typo" was persistent, and the team was also called the Cooks. Sometimes you can be too clever, and what's on the page in front of is exactly what it seems. As strange as it sounds to modern ears, this team was the Chefs; Chefs that could skate wrings around many teams.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Meritorious Players of the 1900s

Continuing the examination of the players who should (probably) be in the Hall of Fame from hockey's early era, we now apply the HOFPA (Hall of Fame by Point Allocation) method to players whose careers centred on the 1900s.

1900s Players Who Likely Merit the Honour
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
1Bowie, Russell1899-19104136.7Yes
2Pulford, Harvey1894-1908199.6Yes
3Marshall, Jack1900-19175199.1Yes
4Smith, Harry1905-1914595.5No
5Phillips, Tommy1901-1912691.2Yes
6Walsh, Marty1903-19125486.8Yes
7Russell, Ernie1905-1914586.7Yes
8McGee, Frank1903-1906586.0Yes
9Moran, Paddy1901-1917G86.2Yes
10Stuart, Hod1899-1907282.0Yes
11Jordan, Herb1903-1911581.7No
12Westwick, Rat1895-1909481.3Yes

Russell Bowie is far and away the player with the most notable career from this era. He had several seasons that are simply massive, with his best being 1901, when he scored 24 goals despite missing one of his team's eight scheduled matches. The next-highest goal-scorer had 10 goals. Bowie scored more goals in seven games than the entire Quebec team did in eight games. The result it a TPAK of 8.57, which is far and away the best single season for the data set I currently have, which goes up to 1926. He also has the third-, seventh- and seventeenth-best seasons as well. I haven't done the calculations for Wayne Gretzky yet, but it's possible Bowie might approach the Great One's level of dominance. He was that good.

As you can see, the Hall of Fame committee did quite a good job at honouring the very best players from this decade.  Among these very best players, only Harry Smith and Herb Jordan have not been recognized by the Hall. I've posted about Smith before; Jordan has likely been overlooked since he played for Quebec in an era when Quebec rarely had a championship team. Jordan was sometimes the only really good player on his team.

1900s Players Who Might Merit the Honour
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
13Russel, Blair1900-1910678.6Yes
14Boon, Dickie1900-1905276.9Yes
15Lake, Fred1903-19151675.8No
16Breen, Billy1901-1909475.5No
17Hern, Riley1897-1911G75.0Yes
18Smith, Alf1895-1909774.7Yes
19Stuart, Bruce1900-19115474.1Yes
20McGimsie, Billy1899-1907573.7Yes
21Hutton, Bouse1899-1909G70.0Yes

Among the maybes, most have been honoured by the Hall already. I would personally draw the line after Alf Smith. I think he deserves the honour, while Bruce Stuart probably does not. Hod's brother has too many mediocre seasons on his resume to be considered one of the best of his era, in my opinion.

This line would mean that both Fred Lake and Billy Breen deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. I would certainly support the induction of Breen, a Winnipeg hockey superstar, but Fred Lake is something of a surprise here. Lake started his pro career as something of a nomad, playing mostly left wing in the IHL, then later in Manitoba. He then joined the Ottawa Senators in 1909, and played point (the second-most important defensive position) for a defensively dominant team for several years, and these seasons are really what elevate his career to this level.

1900s Players Who Likely Don't Merit the Honour
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
22Hooper, Art1902-1904469.9No
XRichardson, George1904-1909665.5Yes
XHooper, Tom1902-19082761.2Yes
XGardner, Jimmy1901-1915659.2Yes
XWhitcroft, Fred1907-1910448.7Yes
XScanlan, Fred1898-1903648.2Yes
XGilmour, Billy1903-19097434.4Yes

Here is where we see where the Hall of Fame committee went wrong, as seen by this method. Tom Hooper was inducted due his playing for the Kenora Thistles, alongside Tommy Phillips and Si Griffis (two legitimate Hall-of-Famers), and Billy McGimsie (who's also in but probably doesn't quite deserve it). If the team really had that many of the very best players at the time, they would likely have won more than they actually did.

Fred Scanlan was apparently a matter of completing the Montreal Shamrocks line with Harry Trihey and Art Farrell, and only Trihey really comes close to deserving the honour.

George Richardson was an OHA player who later fought and died in World War I. War heroes have a history of being honoured by the Hall of Fame, regardless of what their hockey career actually entailed. Later events make their career seem better that they actually were.

Jimmy Gardner had a long pro career, but a mid-level one. However, he played an important role in the founding of the game most historic franchise, and this association apparently made his playing career look better in retrospect.

Billy Gilmour is a puzzler. He really only had a couple of good years in Ottawa, and they were only good, not great.

Fred Whitcroft is another head-scratcher. He made as big name for himself for a brief period by signing with the Kenora Thistles in 1907, and then heading to Edmonton to play for the pro team there, playing in three Stanley Cup challenges all told. But he has little more than name recognition going for him; he was a good player for a few years, but not nearly at the level needed to be considered one of the best of his time.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Comparing Point Allocation to GVT

As you may know, Point Allocation, which we've been discussing lately, is not the only comprehensive player valuation system available. Perhaps the best-known system is Tom Awad's Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), used extensively at Hockey Prospectus. If you're familiar with the scale and range of GVT values for modern players, you might be interested in how these figures would translate into their equivalent Point Allocation (PA) values. So here's a quick and dirty system you can use to convert between the two systems.

First, you have to realize that GVT is normalized to 82 games and does not normalize for minutes played, whereas PA used an 80-game basis and normalizes a player's minutes to 20 per game for forwards and 25 for defencemen. That's the first adjustment that needs to be made.

When that's done, you need to multiply the resulting GVT by 0.4 for forwards, 0.7 for defencemen or 0.8 for goalies. (If you're going from PA to GVT then the multipliers are 2.5, 1.4 and 1.25 respectively). The fact that there is not one constant multiplier that works for each position indicates that GVT and PA value positions differently. Specifically, from PA's perspective it seems that forwards are overvalued by a significant degree. But by using these differing multipliers, you can account for some of the systematic differences between the results.

To illustrate, let's convert Martin St. Louis' 2003/04 season from GVT to PA. We know he played 82 games and 1,686 minutes and recorded 27.3 GVT. First we adjust for the games and minutes, giving 80 games, and 1,600 minutes, and 25.9 GVT. We then multiply this by 0.4 (since he's a forward), which results in 10.4 Total Points Allocated (TPA). This is a rate of 6.50 TPAK (TPA per thousand minutes), which as we already know is certainly the level of a superstar performance, indeed at the upper range of that.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Herbert "Bert" Russell - A Big Rough Brute

One of the near-misses in terms of 1890s players who merit induction into the Hall of Fame from the last post is Herb (or Bert) Russell. As promised, each player mentioned in that post will eventually be profiled here. So here's some information on Russell, who played both left wing and defence, in both Ottawa and Pittsburgh, from 1892 to 1902.


Russell was a gifted scorer and playmaker, a diligent checker, and a rough, physical forward very much unlike the stereotype of the era's players, who we think of as slight, quick little men. Paul Kitchen, in his book Win, Tie or Wrangle, describes him thusly:
Described by a Quebec supporter as “a big rough brute,” the Geological Survey draughtsman was more like a charging bull than a water bug when he got hold of the puck ... His best effort came in January 1894, when the scored all Ottawa's goals in a 5-1 win over the Montreal Victorias at the Rideau Rink. His ten goals that season tied him for the scoring title with Quebec's Dolly Swift, one of the most prolific players of the time. Though Russell could mete out thundering bodychecks when he felt so inclined, he was sometimes reluctant to use his size and strength to full advantage. Surprisingly fast, he rushed the puck well and shot accurately. He was also unselfish, preferring to pass to an open teammate rather than trying to score himself. And he followed back diligently.
So it seems Russell was a multi-talented player who had no particular weakness. A look at his Point Allocation record reveals only one truly exceptional season (1895), but with many others in the "merely" very good range. It seems he also "lost it" quite quickly at the end of his career, when he was a part-time player in the Western Pennsylvania league after the turn of the century, when he dipped below the level of a replacement-level player. We are missing a couple of seasons (1897 and 1898), where he might have been playing somewhere (but more likely living somewhere that no game was available), and this apparent period without playing high-level hockey might have contributed to his rapid decline in Pittsburgh.

SeasonClubLeaguePosGPMINOPDPPPTPATPAK
1892Ottawa GeneralsAHAC148018852.25.30.07.53.98
1893Ottawa GeneralsAHAC18020001.55.70.07.23.60
1894Ottawa GeneralsAHAC68016005.50.70.06.23.88
1895Ottawa GeneralsAHAC68016008.20.30.08.55.31
1896Ottawa GeneralsAHAC66012002.71.30.04.03.33
1899Pittsburgh DuquesnesWPHL2671675-1.16.90.05.83.46
1900Pittsburgh BankersWPHL222550-0.8-0.60.0-1.4-2.55
1901Pittsburgh DuquesnesWPHL2401000-1.80.6-0.2-1.4-1.40
1902Pittsburgh BankersWPHL161500.1-0.10.00.00.00
Career6215151166016.520.1-0.236.43.12

Russell is the type of player whose value is really revealed by the Point Allocation method. He was not one of the absolute best players, but he was pretty close, and it's a shame that he is not better-known today.

And, of course, here's a rendition of the Ottawa sweater Russell is wearing in the above photo:

Monday, 9 January 2012

Hall of Famers from the Earliest Years

In a previous post I wrote that players from the earliest days of organized hockey have largely been left out of the Hall of Fame, not because they are undeserving, but because those voting players into the Hall were unfamiliar with them. The 1890s (and before) have more to offer than Graham Drinkwater, Dan Bain and Mike Grant.

This is one issue that historical Point Allocation results can really help us address. We can use Point Allocation records to develop a career rating system, to determine who likely merits induction into the Hall of Fame. There's no way to develop a definitive answer, of course. On top of the flaws inherent in numerical player valuation systems such as Point Allocation, there's also the balance between peak value and career value to be considered. What's better: having a few truly exceptional seasons, or having a lengthy career full of merely very good seasons? There's no one answer to that question.  As such, we have to strike an arbitrary balance between these two aspects of a player's career, something that seems right while bearing in mind we can never get it objectively right.

The Hall of Fame by Point Allocation system (HOFPA, or "Jimmy"), is made up of four parts:

1. The player's Total Points Allocated per Thousand Minutes (TPAK), for his senior-level career, times five.

2. The player's single-season best TPAK, times four.

3. The sum of the player's five best seasons by TPAK.

4. The player's career TPAK times his senior-level effective games played, divided by 120.

Add these up, and you get the HOFPA score. Let's have a look at the players whose careers were primarily in the 1890s to begin with, since we don't have any actual Hall-of-Famers from the 1880s. (The Hall? column indicates whether the player is currently in the Hall of Fame.)

1890s Players Meriting Induction
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
1McDougall, Bob1894-1899798.2No
2Bain, Dan1895-1902586.4Yes
3Grant, Mike1894-1902281.1Yes
4Swift, Dolly1887-18994578.7No
5Young, Weldy1891-1899278.0No
6Routh, Havilland1892-1897477.6No
7McKerrow, Clare1896-1899476.5No
8Howard, Atty1891-19067276.0No

The player with the most notable career in the 1890s, by this method, is Montreal Victorias right winger Bob McDougall. Dan Bain and Mike Grant, who are both in the Hall, come next. They are good selections. The five remaining players on the above list should have been given good, long looks for the Hall, and should probably be in. (There is no realistic chance of them getting in now - the process for induction requires someone on the current committee to champion a player to even get them on the ballot, and no one really cares about players from this era anymore.)

All of the men mentioned here will get profiles on this site eventually. This post is just laying groundwork.

1890s Players Possibly Meriting Induction
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
9Armytage, Jack1891-19014574.8No
10Trihey, Harry1898-1902573.2Yes
11Davidson, Cam1896-1900571.1No
12Russell, Herb1892-19026270.6No

Another 1890s Hall-of-Famer, Harry Trihey, is a maybe here. He's probably deserving, which means we should also include the Winnipeg Vics' Jack Armytage, who was essentially Dan Bain before there was a Dan Bain. I would personally draw the line below Trihey. This, of course, would exclude...

1890s Players Probably Not Meriting Induction

RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
13Drinkwater, Graham1893-1899468.1Yes
XFarrell, Art1897-1901758.9Yes

Drinkwater is certainly close enough that his selection is not a terrible one, seen through the lens of this method. Art Farrell, of course, wrote the first real hockey book (Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game), which I've quoted from frequently here. He played with Trihey on the mighty Shamrocks from the turn of the century, and his authorship made him a well-known name. Being a well-known name can often be enough to get you inducted when you played a long time ago, as we'll see as we get into later years.

So the Hall of Fame committee seems to have only produced one real false positive from the 1890s, but of course they also overlooked seven players who probably deserve the honour, including the single most outstanding player of the decade. They could have done much worse, but also so much better.

Now we can go back into the 1880s. As it turns out, there are really only three players from that decade to have the value and consistency required to rank highly by this system. They should be familiar names to regular readers by now:

1880s Players Meriting Induction
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
1Stewart, James1884-1894186.4No
2Cameron, Allan1885-1895286.1No
3Paton, Tom1885-1893G84.5No

We've discussed each of Stewart, Cameron and Paton before. It seems you can add "should-be Hall-of-Famers" to their resumes.

1880s Players Possibly Meriting Induction
RankPlayerSeasonsPositionScoreHall?
4Arnton, Jack1884-18901964.9No
5Campbell, Jack1885-1891262.3No
6Hodgson, Billy1885-1888955.9No

We've also talked about Jack Campbell. Although he had a very high peak value, said peak was very short, too short to merit real consideration for the Hall of Fame. These players are so far behind the three Winged Wheelers mentioned above that that triumvirate are the only deserving men from the 1880s.

In coming posts we'll look at the 1900s and 1910s in terms of Hall of Fame players as well. The committee did a better job with these later players, which makes a good deal of sense when you're relying solely on personal knowledge of the players involved.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Class of 1945...and a Few Others

The Hockey Hall of Fame provides a brief summary of each of their Honoured Members at their website. Today I'm going to point out a few errors that have crept into their biographies of certain players, who are listed among the original group of 1945 inductees.

Dan Bain: The very first player (alphabetically) they have listed as being inducted in 1945 (the first year of the Hall) in Winnipeg Vics great, Dan Bain. The problem is, he was not inducted in 1945. He was inducted in 1949. All of the inductees in 1945 were posthumous, whereas Bain lived until 1962.

The only other issue I note with Bain's bio is the reference to the Manitoba Hockey League, which did not exist in Bain's time. He played in a league called the Manitoba and Northwest Hockey Association (MNWHA).

Russell Bowie: Third on the alphabetical list of the original 1945 inductees is Russell Bowie, one of the absolute all-time greats. Problem is, once again the induction year is wrong. Bowie was not honoured until 1947, in the second round of inductees. Like Bain, Bowie was still alive in 1945, and only deceased greats were honoured that year.

Bowie's bio also states that he retired from the game when the professional National Hockey Association was formed in 1909. That's not true; he ceased playing hockey at the very highest level after the 1907/08 season, when the Eastern Canada Hockey Association (ECHA) became a fully professional body. His Montreal Victorias, and the Montreal AAA club, both dropped from Canada's highest league and joined the new Inter-Provincial Amateur Hockey Union (IPAHU), a mildly successful effort to unite the top senior amateur players in the country. Bowie played two seasons in the IPAHU, tallying 27 goals in eight games.

Tommy Phillips: I'm not sure where they got the story that Phillips played right wing (instead of his usual left wing) because Alf Smith was ensconced on the left side. Alf Smith was a natural right wing, and always played that position so far as I know. And when I researched the 1907/08 ECAHA season myself some years ago, the game summaries had Phillips on the left and Smith on the right.

Art Ross: Ross did not die until 1964, and we know what that means by now. He was not inducted in 1945, but 1949. They also mention Ross' scoring exploits in his first senior season (1905), when he scored 10 goals in eight matches, which would be very impressive indeed for a defenceman. However, although Ross would play defence only from 1906 on, in 1905 he was a rover.

Hod Stuart: Stuart did not play point, as they claim, but cover-point, which was where offensively-gifted defencemen played. Playing in front of the point, the cover-point had more freedom to join the rush with the forwards. Stuart also played a bit of rover in his career, but was almost always on defence. He is also called a clean player in his bio, which would be unusual for someone credited with delivering punishing bodychecks. His 28 penalty minutes in eight games in the 1902 season suggest he wasn't as clean as all that. He also had 50 PIM in 21 games in 1906. Great player, yes; clean player, no.

Of the 12 players the Hall of Fame lists on their site as being inducted in the first class of 1945, only nine actually were. That's not a very good record. This has been passed along to the Hall through SIHR channels, so maybe by the time you read this, they'll have already corrected those errors.

Maybe someone out there can clean this up on Wikipedia as well, which uses the Hall of Fame site's information instead of accurate information. Only these nine men were inducted in 1945:

Hobey Baker
Charlie Gardiner
Eddie Gerard
Frank McGee
Howie Morenz
Tommy Phillips
Harvey Pulford
Hod Stuart
Georges Vezina

In future I might go through the bios of the players from other years, to see if there are any issues to be cleared up there as well.

Friday, 6 January 2012

More on Defence in Point Allocation

Friend and colleague Rob Vollman had some questions about the Point Allocation system when it comes to defence. At his suggestion, here's some more detail with regard to a particular era of hockey history, using the 1925/26 Ottawa Senators as an example.

This team makes for an effective example for two reasons. First, they were an extremely good team but also an extremely defensive one. They finished first overall in the NHL with a winning percentage of .722, even though they scored a below-average number of goals. Only one of seven teams that season scored fewer than Ottawa's 77, yet the Sens finished comfortably ahead of the second-place Montreal Maroons. They won so many games by allowing only 50.6% of the league average in goals against. That would be something like recording 128 points in the 2010/11 NHL season by scoring 213 goals and allowing 116.

Second, the Senators had a very clear delineation between starting players and substitutes. I've written before about the transition between starter-sub to rolling-lines systems, and the Senators were still very clearly in the former at this time. Just look at their traditional counting stats; it's absolutely clear that the starting line (Frank Nighbor, Hooley Smith and Cy Denneny) and defencemen (George Boucher and King Clancy) played far more minutes than any other players on the team. (Note also that all five of these men, as well as netminder Alec Connell, are in the Hall of Fame).

PlayerPosGPGAPTSPIM
Denneny, Cy63624123618
Smith, Hooley7281692553
Nighbor, Frank53512132540
Clancy, King335841280
Boucher, George336841264
Kilrea, Hec653540412
Gorman, Ed72321312
Finnigan, Frank73620224
Graham, Leth610000
Duggan, Jack3270000
Smith, Alex33600036
Total367643119339

The starting forwards scored 86 points and recorded 111 PIM, the subs had 9 and 48. Starting defencemen had 24 and 144 versus zero and 36 for subs. There is obviously a great disparity between their relative playing times, much moreso that we see in the modern game between first-liners and fourth-liners.

Rob's question is, basically, how does Point Allocation avoid seeing the substitute players as historically-great defensive players? If you look at Hockey Reference's Point Shares results for this team, for instance, you get the following:

PlayerOPSDPSPS
Connell, Alec0.011.111.1
Denneny, Cy7.61.59.1
Boucher, George2.05.97.9
Clancy, King2.15.77.8
Smith, Hooley5.01.16.1
Nighbor, Frank3.81.45.2
Smith, Alex-1.45.94.5
Gorman, Ed0.03.83.8
Duggan, Jack-1.04.43.4
Kilrea, Hec-0.81.40.6
Graham, Leth-0.10.0-0.1
Finnigan, Frank-1.91.5-0.4
Total15.343.759.0

Where OPS, DPS and PS are Offensive Point Shares, Defensive Point Shares and Point Shares. Notice in particular that Alex Smith, spare defenceman, is considered to be just as important to the team defensively as Boucher and Clancy, two giants of hockey history. Jack Duggan also looks right good, but they have him as a defenceman rather than a winger.

Since Point Shares is intended to measure the same thing as Point Allocation, you might not be surprised to find that in most cases, the results are quite similar, at least on the surface:

PlayerOPDPTPA
Connell, Alec0.024.324.3
Denneny, Cy4.51.86.4
Boucher, George2.09.010.7
Clancy, King2.07.39.0
Smith, Hooley3.31.75.0
Nighbor, Frank2.53.76.8
Smith, Alex-1.05.84.8
Gorman, Ed0.82.83.6
Duggan, Jack-1.10.8-0.3
Kilrea, Hec0.52.32.6
Graham, Leth-0.10.0-0.1
Finnigan, Frank-0.81.70.9

Although most of the differences are relatively minor, that's actually an illusion, and the mirage is revealed by examining Connell's results. In terms of raw Point Allocation results, Connell is actually credited with 11.4 points, which is extremely similar to the Point Share results. This is because the Point Shares are presently wholly on a raw basis, while the Point Allocation numbers above are based on adjusted games and minutes. Point Shares uses only games played to allocated defensive points, while Point Allocation uses (estimated) minutes played. Connell has 11.4 defensive points in 2,251 minutes, which translates to 24.3 in 4,800 minutes, the basis on which his numbers are presented in Point Allocation.

Realistically, Alex Smith probably played only about 500 minutes in 1925/26, while Boucher played over 1,600; yet Smith is credited with equal defensive points to Boucher. This means that Smith must have been three times as good, on a per-minute basis, than George Boucher. This, of course, is just plain nuts.

Point Allocation therefore has Alex Smith with 5.8 defensive points, but in 2,000 minutes. That's 2.9 per 1,000 minutes (compared to 4.5 for Boucher), while the Point Shares results in about 11.71 defensive points per 1,000 minutes. The Point Allocation numbers are probably a bit high for Smith (remember to look at a player's career, or at least blocks of years instead of a single season), but the Point Shares results are completely unrealistic and totally misleading, in this case.

So, in addition to the defensive fudge factor which I've talked about before, the fact that Point Allocation uses estimates of minutes played also plays an extremely important role in reasonably crediting defensive points. It'll never be more than an estimate, as I've said many times before, but estimating minutes is far more accurate than not doing so, ironically. Now that I'm thinking about it, it's actually the more important factor of the two, and as such I should have mentioned before now. Sorry about that.

Just to illustrate the fudge factor, though, let's look at the Point Allocation results if it were not included. You'll see historic greats Boucher, Clancy and Nighbor much closer to the lesser players defensively, and that's the entire reason for the fudge. Also see Alex Smith being overrated, because the system interprets his lack of offence as an indication of good defence:

PlayerOPDPTPA
Connell, Alec0.024.324.3
Boucher, George2.07.89.8
Clancy, King2.07.59.5
Smith, Alex-1.08.67.6
Denneny, Cy4.52.06.5
Gorman, Ed0.85.36.1
Smith, Hooley3.31.64.9
Nighbor, Frank2.52.24.7
Kilrea, Hec0.52.93.4
Finnigan, Frank-0.82.31.5
Duggan, Jack-1.11.60.5
Graham, Leth-0.10.0-0.1

The final results are surely much more accurate than these. By combining the fudge factor and the ice time estimates, Point Allocation produces reasonably accurate results, which other systems may not.
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