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HomeColumnsHockey needs to put points in the penalty box

Hockey needs to put points in the penalty box

Since it’s impossible to watch and analyze every game and every player, statistics are useful tools in sports. “Stats don’t lie” is a common phrase but the fact of the matter is some of them absolutely do – including points.

Hockey needs to stop counting individual points as a statistic to evaluate players.

Points combine goals and assists into one number and are often used as the marquee stat to assess a player. Using points to judge an individual player misleads fans about the overall impact that player has on the team’s success.

Both goals and assists are important but it’s silly to fuse those two stats together as goals are significantly more valuable than assists. Of course setting up a goal has value but finishing that set up is harder, that’s why there are more shots than goals in the NHL. Every pass is not going to lead to a goal.

In soccer, the combination of goals and assists is not the premier statistic used in player evaluations. Basketball also does not merge points and assists into one apex stat. There is a clear distinction between the value of each of those stats.

Assists in hockey are dumb.

Soccer and basketball require players to directly contribute to a scoring play before being given an assist, hockey is much more lenient.

The last player to touch the puck before their team scores is given a primary assist, the second to last player to touch the puck before their team scores is given a secondary assist. Both these types of assists are worth the same number of points: one.

The problem with secondary assists is it’s difficult to know if a player can sustain the rate at which they score them since the player is not usually directly contributing to the puck going into the net.

The vast majority of the game is played at even strength, with five players on each team not including the goalies (5v5). One of the few times they’re not playing 5v5 is on the powerplay. Points scored at 5v5 and on the powerplay are both worth the same to a player’s stats.

On the surface that sounds reasonable, but it’s not.

While powerplay goals still count and coaches aren’t declining penalties to score “real goals,” powerplays are often loaded with a team’s most dangerous offensive threats against only four (sometimes 3) defenders.

So it’s easier to score.

The impact a player has on their team is skewed when looking at just point totals in all situations, especially since fewer penalties are called in the playoffs when it matters most.

Defence is half the game, but defensive value is completely ignored when looking at points. It’s fair to say points are only an offensive stat but they’re almost always used as the stat for judging a player’s value to their team.

In a sport where the objective is to score more than the opponent, it’s natural for people to rely on the main stat used to track scoring to evaluate a player.

Points need to be abolished to avoid misdirection.

Evolving-Hockey is an advanced hockey statistic website that tracks data to create charts beyond what the NHL makes available publicly.

The organization’s Goals Above Replacement and Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus models are an excellent way to see a more accurate portrayal of a player’s effectiveness at 5v5, on the powerplay, on defence and how much value they bring to their team. Other stats such as expected goals can also be helpful.

Goals and assists are obviously vital in hockey and should remain commonplace but it’s best if they remain as separate stats to ensure more accuracy in player evaluation.