Monday, June 12, 2006

Drawing Penalties

I didn’t have a dog in the hunt this spring. My post-season dreams were crushed sometime between the ink drying on Allison’s contract and the Buds going 0-9 last January. Yeah, the coup de grace may have slid off the stick of Martin St. Louis around the 80 game mark, but the slab in the morgue was prepped for ’05-06 Leafs a long time ago.

I’ll admit I was pretty damn happy to see the Sens crash and burn (I jumped out my seat and yelled when Pominville lit the lamp) and I was hoping the Oil would make the finals, but I certainly wasn’t living and dying with any of these teams. There was no yelling at the TV, cursing refs, relying on silly pre-game routines to keep a win streak alive (knowing full well that I couldn’t have less to do with the outcome of the game).

On the whole, the notion of supporting a second team strikes me as keeping an eye on a special someone just in case you become a widower.

Other than the lack of ulcers, the best thing for me not having the Leafs in the post-season this spring is the perception that I can watch the games in a more rational, less biased way. For example, in G3 on Saturday night I thought the second period had way too many marginal penalties called. Sadly, I started cheering more for the even-up call than for the play on the ice.

I was talking about this rash of penalties with some pals and we got to wondering why the NHL doesn’t keep stats on penalties drawn (or I guess, more accurately, track those players who cause a player on the opposing team to be penalized).

You could call it PD. It would be incredibly easy to do – the player that got dumped, slashed, hooked or pummeled is way more obvious to the statisticians than a lot of what’s currently being tracked such as hits, takeaways, turnovers and, in some cases, second assists.

Who wouldn’t want to know a player’s penalty +/- rating? To know who causes more powerplays than short handed situations?

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that some teams are already tracking this sort of stuff.

On a more psychological level, it would also be fascinating to find out if keeping such stats actually changed on-ice behaviour. Think of the Hawthorne effect or the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

If certain players were near the top of the league in PD, would refs hesitate to make certain calls or would calls go their way? Would we see more diving calls or would players be more likely to dive to pad their PD stats? Would the league leaders in PD be the pests like Ville Nieminen and Matthew Barnaby; stars like Jagr, Ovechkin and Kovalchuk; or some plugger that would surprise us all?

It makes me wonder what other parts of the game can be easily tracked yet remain neglected...


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