Comparing minutes played to points scored

By Chris Boucher
Statistics are interesting. They can be made to clarify aspects of the game, but they can also be used as a tool of misinformation.

One case in point is the point-per-game statistic. It is an incredibly telling piece of information when used properly, however the minutes-played per game statistic now allows us to break a player’s point-per-game average down even further. Thereby allowing us to adequately compare all skaters, regardless of ice time. For example, a player averaging nearly a point-per-game is almost exclusively a first or second line player. As a top-6 forward, he should be averaging somewhere between 16 and 21 minutes per game. Therefore, if we break that statistic down to its raw value we find that the player in question is contributing 1 point for every 17 to 21 minutes of ice-time.

Of course this statistic doesn’t take into account quality offensive minutes; quality minutes are normally classified as powerplay time. What it does allow though, is a clearer indication of the offensive contribution offered by players playing on teams’ third and fourth lines, thereby allowing us to compare the offensive contribution of all players; from the top line center to the fourth line right winger.

The calculation is performed by taking a player’s average ice-time-per-game and multiplying it by the number of games played. This result should give us an approximation of the player’s total minutes played this season. We then divide that amount by the individual’s point total. That gives us an indication of how many minutes a player needs to play in order to produce 1 point. The lower the number, the higher the offensive contribution.

As stated above, statistics aren’t perfect, and of course this statistic has its limitations. That said, it is simply an interesting experiment with equally interesting results.

Using this formula on the Canadiens’ roster, the top-5 offensive forwards are Donald Audette, Aaron Asham, Mike Ribeiro, Yanic Perreault, and Brian Savage. Audette has the Habs’ best minutes-played-per-point average with a point scored for every 19.9 minutes of ice time. Audette contributed some much-needed offense immediately after arriving in MontrĂ©al from Dallas. His ice time in Dallas was significantly lower, which likely contributed to his number 1 ranking.

Asham takes second spot with a point scored for every 21.6 minutes of ice time. The recently recalled right winger’s placement at the top of this list is a result of his low minutes played, combined with the recent offensive outburst he experienced while playing on a line with Ribeiro and Richard Zednik. Asham has not received much powerplay time, which makes his strong showing even more impressive.

Ribeiro has seen his quality ice-time increase since his latest recall, which is the biggest factor in his strong offensive showing this season. He’s averaging one point for every 25.1 minutes of ice time. Along with success has come confidence, and along with this confidence has come some impressive creativity.

Perreault has the fourth best minutes-played-per-point average. He averages one point for every 25.7 minutes of ice time. The league’s top face-off man, Perreault gets the Habs’ control off over 60 percent of his draws. And in hockey, puck possession is the key to scoring goals.

Savage has the next-best rating, as he averages one point for every 28.4 minutes of ice time. Savage suffered through a significant offensive drought recently, but has a well-established history of scoring in streaks; when the left winger scores once, he often scores twice.

As far as the defense is concerned, Andrei Markov leads the pack. He averages one point for every 33.1 minutes of ice time. Patrice Brisebois, the Habs leading point producer among defensemen is a distant second with one point for every 50.7 minutes of ice time.

Markov will make his share of defensive mistakes. Not so much down-low in the defensive zone, but more often as a result of a poorly timed pinch at the offensive blueline. But on a team with a struggling offense, whose powerplay currently sits in the middle of the NHL pack, a player like Markov can sometimes be the difference between a win or a loss.

As said earlier, this statistic has its limitations. It doesn’t take into account quality ice-time, and players who play fewer minutes against the other teams’ third and fourth line trios have a slight advantage over first-liners. However, it does allow us a somewhat tangible comparison between players who average 20 minutes per game and those who average 10.

**RECENTLY UPDATED** **Click on the Canadiens’ logo at the top left of the page to see a listing of the Habs’ top prospects. Including biographical information, up-to-date stats, and game by game statistical reviews on selected top prospects. (more coming soon)

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