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Official benefits: How NHL teams have been drawing and taking penalties since the lockout

Jul 24, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

Tuomo Ruutu, Joe Corvo, Bryan Rodney, Ray Whitney, Niklas Backstrom

Last night’s foray into the land of non-traditional stats focused on special teams, power play and penalty kill plus minus totals for the 2010-11 season, but perhaps to little surprise, it sparked a deeper journey down the numerical rabbit hole.

The Special Teams Plus/Minus post featured a bonus stat that I called “Special Teams Opportunity Plus/Minus.” Much like the others, this stat is resoundingly simple: you just subtract the power play opportunities a team receives minus the times that team goes shorthanded.

It seems like an interesting stat for the 2010-11 season, but even an 82-game campaign can bring about some anomalies. One could imagine that at least a small set of fans for all 30 NHL teams feel like officials are “out to get them” so I felt the need to take the experiment a little further.

With that in mind, I decided to see which teams have benefited the most (or suffered the greatest) from officials’ calls by combining the opportunity plus/minus totals from every post-lockout season. Naturally, it’s important to note that this list doesn’t necessarily prove that a team has a preferential relationship (especially considering how NHL teams’ schemes vary in aggressiveness). It’s just interesting food for thought – and yes – maybe a little fuel for the fire.

Special Teams Opportunities +/- since the lockout

Team Total 2010-11 2009-10 2008-09 2007-08 2006-07 2005-06
CAR 362 74 12 73 65 52 86
SJS 296 15 -18 54 64 80 101
NJD 206 -4 34 -17 6 96 91
LAK 158 16 3 -2 58 31 52
DAL 137 29 40 24 0 50 -6
BUF 122 -21 29 22 33 21 38
TBL 110 34 -10 -62 -16 69 95
DET 91 1 40 26 34 -10 0
MIN 87 -16 3 37 8 38 17
TOR 79 51 27 22 -9 -17 5
PHX 51 -7 -3 51 7 -25 28
COL 39 -49 7 0 34 21 26
NSH 28 -3 28 -20 23 21 -21
PIT 26 -13 -1 13 21 44 -38
NYR 20 33 -17 17 27 6 -46
ATL 6 4 -4 -9 -38 16 37
EDM -29 -17 -4 16 -22 -9 7
VAN -39 -16 5 -14 1 -29 14
STL -48 0 -35 -6 -25 -33 51
CGY -72 36 -37 9 -37 -13 -30
OTT -101 -37 -28 -7 -52 9 14
BOS -104 0 -7 7 -13 -30 -61
MTL -110 -37 -50 4 32 -41 -18
CHI -145 22 29 33 -20 -79 -130
WSH -158 -36 -3 -50 -3 -6 -60
CBJ -172 -13 -26 -24 -22 -15 -72
PHI -181 -18 -18 -77 -3 -44 -21
NYI -199 -8 6 -41 -45 -85 -26
ANA -209 -20 -24 -76 -47 -12 -30
FLA -251 0 22 -3 -61 -106 -103

***

source: Getty ImagesAs it turns out, the Hurricanes’ 2010-11 lead in this category was far from a fluke. Now, before you hatch too many conspiracy theories, it’s important to note that Carolina is a team that is known for pushing the pace of play. That being said, two playoff berths since the lockout seems like an underachievement when you consider their steady stream of advantages.

Update: The Panthers had the worst relationship, but the most interesting/disturbing part is that most of the damage was done in the first two seasons (-209 disparity between 05-06 and 06-07).

The Maple Leafs have their own drought to worry about, but they came in at No. 10 with 79 more calls going their way. Sidney Crosby haters might be disappointed to see that the Penguins are almost exactly in the middle of the pack at 14th with +26.

Want to see the sheer number of power plays and penalty kills for all 30 NHL teams? Here it is. (This list is sorted by most power play opportunities received.)

Team Total PP Total PK
CAR 2450 2088
PIT 2333 2307
LAK 2309 2151
VAN 2280 2319
DAL 2264 2127
SJS 2242 1946
PHX 2227 2176
TOR 2216 2137
ATL 2213 2207
DET 2211 2120
BUF 2200 2078
CBJ 2176 2348
CGY 2175 2247
STL 2164 2212
EDM 2161 2190
TBL 2160 2050
WSH 2157 2315
NYR 2153 2133
NSH 2151 2123
MTL 2140 2250
PHI 2133 2314
ANA 2133 2342
OTT 2107 2208
MIN 2100 2013
CHI 2080 2225
COL 2075 2036
NYI 2056 2255
BOS 1992 2096
FLA 1945 2196
NJD 1943 1737

***

In case you’re wondering, the Blue Jackets took the most penalties (2,348) followed by the Ducks (2,342). Meanwhile, the Devils were whistled the least (1,737) by quite a margin; the Sharks were a distant second with 1,946. There probably weren’t many people out there holding onto this thought anyway, but those numbers should show that New Jersey could adapt/maintain their reputation as a responsible defensive team despite the post-lockout rule changes.

(Want even more specifics? Click here for a spreadsheet that includes all the yearly numbers.)

***

Again, I want to emphasize that this post isn’t meant to “prove” that some teams get preferential treatment while others get the short end of the stick. Feel free to argue for or against such possibilities in the comments, though. (Something tells me Red Wings fans might be a little bummed out to see that Detroit came in at +91, even if this post won’t stop their loudest factions from concocting elaborate conspiracy theories anyway.)

  1. derpdederpdederp - Jul 24, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    interesting post, but I would also like to know which referees are calling the most minor penalties. with guys like Kerry Fraser retiring it’s hard to know which officials to groan about when you hear they’re officiating your team’s game

  2. polegojim - Jul 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    No conspiracy at all James.

    Red Wings explanation is clear – +91 in special teams opps; #5 in league in producing PP opps….but #23 in goals against ave. That’s the disparity.

    Their +91 opps had to make up for their weakness at even strength 5:5 defense and goal tending. Howard had a weak season – #5 in record but #36 in goals against. Wings offense had to rescue weaker D and Goal-tending.

    Jimmy’s coming into his own and performed better in the playoffs. 2011-12 he’ll return to 2.20 ave.

  3. quizguy66 - Jul 25, 2011 at 2:43 AM

    Totally not surprised that the Devils were last in both Power Play opportunities as well as Power Plays against. Woulda bet $ on it before even seeing the stats. I go to a ton of Devils games and penalty-free periods are the rule more than the exception it seems.

    For all the complaints about the Devils “ruining” hockey with the trap, we’ve always played clean in terms of clutching and grabbing (see Florida for the opposite example) and these numbers bear that out. I’ve always thought the lack of penalties committed by the Devils has hurt us in terms of infractions called against the other team (the dreaded “evening out” as it were). For the hell of it, I looked at the correlation between PF and PA in the above table and found a +.21 positive correlation (basically meaningless).

    I would be curious what the distribution of penalties called across all games – to see how often teams get the same number close to the same number of power plays.

    -QG

  4. quizguy66 - Jul 25, 2011 at 2:44 AM

    As a side note, I’m now terrified of what’s going to happen penalty-wise for my Devils given that they’ve just hired the Panthers former coach!

    -QG

  5. quizguy66 - Jul 25, 2011 at 3:21 AM

    “The Panthers had the worst relationship, but the most interesting/disturbing part is that most of the damage was done in the last two seasons (-209 disparity between 09-10 and 10-11). ”

    Um, unless the chart has the wrong headers, the Panthers were -209 in the FIRST 2 years after the lockout 05-06 and 06-07.

    I am now a bit less worried about DeBoer (unless of course, you know, those headers are wrong).

    -QG

    • James O'Brien - Jul 25, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      Thanks for catching that.

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