“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.”
It’s been a weird week in the Edmonton media. The mainstream guys seem to have taken a stand and suddenly, topics that were once confined to the blogs are suitable for public discussion. I’ll just dip into one piece of it, courtesy of Jim Matheson in today’s Journal:
He’s also a trade possibility because of his age (34) with the club in sell mode, and his hooking penalty in the Nashville Predators end in the last five minutes on Tuesday was mentioned by coach Pat Quinn in his post-game media session.
Quinn wasn’t crazy about the timing of it, just after the Oilers made it 4-2.
“It wasn’t a good play at all … that took us out of it (a possible comeback) right away,” said Quinn, who was thinking about pulling his goalie for an extra attacker.
But Quinn wasn’t dwelling on the play on Wednesday. Neither was Moreau.
“I try to turn pucks over … I don’t give it a second thought,” he said about penalties.
This is the sort of thing that makes a fellow’s head explode. I’ve written about Moreau’s taste for penalties at some length before – see here and here. In the more recent of the two, I made a point that I thought had been overlooked (by myself as well as others) and said:
Second – and this is mentioned in the PPro article that I linked too – the forwards have a positive penalty differential by and large, while the defencemen have negative ones. When you’re looking at Moreau’s projected -4.5 goal differential penalty cost over 82 games, you need to keep in mind that the average forward is likely to have a number in the black. Zero isn’t the right measuring stick here – I don’t know quite what it is exactly, but it’s not that.
I went and pulled the data from the last three years from Gabe’s site and tossed it into a spreadsheet. Gabe’s data has forwards playing 850,149.20 minutes of 5v5 hockey between the start of the 2007 season and today’s date. In that time, they’ve taken 0.88 non-coincidental penalties per 60 minutes and drawn 1.10. So the average penalty differential for a forward is +0.22/60. If you take as many as you draw, you’re hurting your team relative to an average forward, although you might make up for it elsewhere.
After pulling the data, I made a chart, as I sometimes do.
GP – Games Played
5v5 TOI – 5 on 5 time on ice
TAKEN – Penalties taken
DRAWN – Penalties drawn
TK/60 – Penalties taken per 60 minutes of 5 on 5 ice time
DR/60 – Penalties drawn per 60 minutes of 5 on 5 ice time
RELDIF/82 – The difference in penalties drawn less penalties taken between the player in question and the average forward over 82 games, assuming the same level of ice time. For example, in Ethan Moreau’s case, he took 1.78 penalties per 60 minutes of play and drew 0.75 penalties. So, for every 60 minutes of 5v5 he plays, he takes 1.03 more penalties than he draws. He doesn’t play 60 minutes a night though – he’s averaged 12.03 5v5 minutes per game since the beginning of 2007-08. For him then, an 82 game season would be 986.42 5v5 minutes long. That’s 16.44 hours. He’ll take 16.9 more penalties than he draws in that time. The average forward would be at 3.6 more penalties drawn than taken. This means that Ethan Moreau has, since 2007-08, generated 20.5 more power plays for the opposition in the course of a given season than would a forward who takes and draws penalties at average rates.
GAA/60: Goals above average/82. Minor penalties cost, on average, 0.2 goal differential. This calculation is easy: RELDIF/82 * .2. In Moreau’s case, it works out to -4.1. If you could slot Ethan Moreau’s twin into the lineup, identical in all but his penalty taking/drawing, at which he was league average for a forward, you’d expect the Oilers to be about four goals better over the course of a season.
As you can see, Moreau has been one of the worst forwards in the league when it comes to his impact on special teams opportunities since 2007-08. It’s an interesting collection of names – goons, checkers and the odd star. Applying the rule of thumb that five or six goal differential is worth a win, you can see that Moreau’s penalties cost the Oilers something like 0.75 wins per 82 games that he plays relative to the average forward.
If you accept the reasoning that hockey players – and particularly third or fourth liners – tend to make only modest contributions towards their team’s record over the course of year, then his problem with penalties is a huge drag on his value. Neither Craig MacTavish nor Pat Quinn are dumb guys and Moreau comes off as a well spoken insightful guy on a lot of issues. It blows my mind that nobody has ever sat him down and explained this to him. He has a problem and it’s been hurting the Oilers for years.
If the Ducks are interested in Moreau, then by all means, send him to the Ducks. He seems like a perfect fit for them – they’re notorious for taking a ton of penalties and complaining about it.
I can’t help but notice that Chris Neil makes the list of guys who hurt their team with their penalties. This is interesting to me because the Oilers were in a big hurry to throw money at him last summer – it’s like they fear the possibility of icing a lineup in 2011-12 and beyond that doesn’t feature a guy who is hurting the team with his penalties. There’s another old Branch Rickey line about your best moves being the ones you don’t make – the implication, whenever I’ve heard the reference, has been that some team avoided losing someone valuable. With the Oilers of the past few years, it seems to be that every move that’s fallen through has permitted them to avoid adding another anchor to this perpetual voyage of the damned. The real problem is that more moves haven’t fallen through.