I propose the need to change one aspect of NHL statistics in a small but important way that I don’t think anybody has previously considered. I write here in the unlikely hope that this humble message in a bottle reaches the shore of some influential NHL type.
Currently, if team A receives a power play, only to take a penalty five seconds later (as happens after face offs), no team really enjoys a man advantage, yet stats will indicate that both teams failed to score on a power play opportunity. Each team is 0-1 on the PP. This is wrong.
Also, if team A, in that same game let’s say, receives a power play in the game’s final seconds (as happens in those silly, harmless scrums during lopsided games where a losing team, hopeless for 59 minutes, suddenly finds their courage and “makes a statement”), they might have a ten second power play, yet the stats won’t bear this out. They may be 0-2 now, despite only having well under a minute of power play time. Also, the other team must not get 2 minutes of credit for ten seconds of penalty killing.
On the flip side, if team A fails to score on a five minute man advantage, the stats do not distinguish between this glorious opportunity and the severely abbreviated power plays mentioned above. One is five minutes, one may be five seconds, but they both count as 0-1. This is obviously not the same failure. This is very misleading.
This may seem insignificant, but consider how central statistics are to general managers and coaches in baseball and football. In hockey, it’s said you win or lose with special teams, so we ought to know precisely how they’re faring. Despite how much emphasis is put on a team’s power play, league-wide percentages seem kind of negligible: only 4.5% separates the first from the tenth best power play, and only 3.5% separates the eleventh best from the twentieth. You would expect a wider disparity, as anyone who watches hockey knows that whoever beats their opponent on special teams has a far from negligible advantage. This truth very well might be borne out in the statistics if only they were more accurate.
The solution requires a discussion. All fully served two minute power plays, or those resulting in a goal, should be recorded as before, but interrupted power plays should be tallied up at the end of the game and rounded to the nearest two minutes. Example: if a team has a 45 and a 30 second power play in the same game, and fails to score on each, it should count as going 0-1. As of now, it would register 0-2, even though this time doesn’t even add up to the length of one full power play, let alone two.
On the other hand, a 30 second power play alone would register as 0-0 on the PP; while it seems wrong to round it down out of existence, this is more accurate than calling it a full two minute power play. The injustice of not putting a brief power play on the record is offset by no longer giving full credit to the other team for killing an abbreviated penalty.
Five minute penalties should perhaps count as more than one power play, or at least must categorized differently because more than one goal can be scored during it. Whatever the solution here, and in all these examples, these PP stats should be changed.
The ramifications for the way NHL teams are assessed could be considerable, and even if the increased accuracy is only slightly beneficial it is still worth adjusting. Statistics should always aspire to be more accurate whenever possible, and there are currently some glaring problems.
I hope that someone reading this finds it a worthy idea and is in a position to take it up. In this most unlikely event, my sincerest thanks!