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Vulgar Statpinions: Twenty Goal Scorers

02/19/12
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There’s one thing that we know about elite NHL goal scorers; they’re streaky.  They’ll have a stretch where it seems like every shot finds the back of the net and they rack up five goals in four games, and then they won’t score again for two weeks.  Given that we know and accept this, I began to wonder if it was perhaps more viable to compile a team of mid-range scorers instead.  Sure you lose your elite guys, but you also lose your bottom feeders good for 5 goals a year and nothing more.  We’ve certainly seen teams with one elite line get shut down repeatedly (Sabres, Buffalo), and it seems that every Stanley Cup winner has significant scoring depth.  If that depth extends through every line, is that better?  Is it even possible to do that and come in under cap?

In short, yes.  Yes it is.  Given a $64M salary cap, a roster of 23 players, and the assumption that 14 of those will be forwards, a rough estimate for a forward cap would be $39.976M.  Working with that comes to about $2.85M per player, which certainly seemed doable (note: it was).  Without further ado:

I’m sure I could have done better in terms of overall points as there were 50-60 players that would have fit, but I wanted to make sure I got a few legitimate faceoff-capable centers into the mix. Those guys are at a premium (at least within that payclass) so that drove everything else. I also wanted to make sure I avoided leaning too much on rookies or young players that are criminally underpaid. Teams have to rely on a few of those guys to be successful and stay under cap each year, but you don’t build entirely with them (cough*Edmonton*cough).

This goes against seemingly every philosophy of putting a team together. The thought is that you need some mix of a line of elite players, a line of two way players, and a line or two of energy players depending on how your roster is built. No one (to my knowledge) has tried to put together a team of even scoring while making sure there are enough defensively-minded guys to match up against elite lines and play the penalty kill. (Perhaps it is simply too difficult to put so many goal scorers on the same team) but if it is possible, I think it would be worth trying.

There is a second half to this analysis, one that is a bit more dubious. Again the inspiration for this was that goal scorers are streaky and relying on a few of them to be not so seemed illogical. So I looked at the game logs from last season for this set of forwards to see how evenly distributed the goals would be across a season (filling in the extras as injuries dictated). That breakdown looked like this:

  • 0 goals scored – 1 time
  • 1 goal scored – 6 times
  • 2 goals scored – 7 times
  • 3 goals scored – 24 times
  • 4 goals scored – 9 times
  • 5 goals scored – 14 times
  • 6 goals scored – 8 times
  • 7 goals scored – 10 times
  • 8+ goals scored – 3 times

With that, I figured the (VERY roughly estimated) breakdown between wins, losses, and shootout losses would look something like this for each total (and if someone finds an actual statistical breakdown of this, please let me know and I’ll adjust accordingly):

  • 0 goals – 0% / 99% / 1%
  • 1 goal – 1% / 90% / 9%
  • 2 goals – 25% / 60% / 15%
  • 3 goals – 50% / 30% / 20%
  • 4 goals – 75% / 15% / 10%
  • 5 goals – 90% / 5% / 5%
  • 6 goals – 98% / 1% / 1%
  • 7 goals – 100%
  • 8+ goals – 100%

That would get you a team that finishes somewhere around 54-20-8 for 116 points which is about what you’d expect from a team whose starting forwards generate 272 goals.

Final Thoughts:

Again, this was solely driven by the question of whether or not it was even remotely realistic to assemble four lines and two scratches worth of 20+ goal scorers and come in under cap.  Once that was proven, I was just playing around with what that could potentially mean.  I like this method of building a team mainly for one reason: no one else seems to be doing it.  In sports often the team that figures out how to be successfully different first often puts themselves ahead of the competition.  The only caveat is that without a bona-fide offensive talent, you MUST make sure the rest of the team is well rounded.  You can get away with a guy who does one thing good and nothing else if that one thing is scoring 50 goals.  You can’t if he scores 20.  Which is what the Sabres are finding out with virtually every non-top line forward.

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