Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The NHL's 50-20 Rule: Do the Rangers Underperform?

Dr. Mark J. Perry, a professor of of economics and finance, has the blog Carpe Diem. He points out that the top 20% of NBA players score 80% of the points. This is an application of the Pareto principle (also termed the 80-20 rule). It is a statistical principle that frequently applies to human activities.

Does this 80-20 rule apply to the NHL? Are 80% of the points scored by 20% of the players? Probably not, because of the way ice time is allocated in the more physically demanding NHL game. NHL scoring leaders don't get as much playing time per game as do NBA stars.

So what is the scoring distribution for the top 20% of the players on an NHL team. Just taking a look at two teams: the NY Rangers and the Pittsburg Penquins might lead you to believe that something like the "50-20 Rule" applies in the NHL. Meaning that 50% of your total points are scored by the top 20% of your players.

For example, the NY Rangers top 5 players (20% of the 26 who registered stats) had 48% of the total points scored (286 of 596) last season. The top 5 Rangers scorers were: Jagr, Gomez, Drury, Shanahan, and Straka. Three of whom are now gone by the way.

For the Pittsburg Penguins, their top 6 players (20% of the 31 who registered stats) had 59% of the total points scored (423 of 715). Their six top scorers were: Malkin, Crosby, Hossa, Gonchar, Sykora, and Malone. Going five-on-five, shows that their top five scored 52% of the points. Four percentage points better than their Ranger counterparts.

It's just a guess, but the NHL team average might fall somewhere between the numbers for these two teams, which would therefore be around 50% of the points for the top 20% scorers.

If this 50-20 Rule is true for the NHL then a case could be made that the Rangers big money stars underperformed last season. Which, if you are a Rangers fan rings true. We know that Jagr was coasting most of the season. It also raises the question of whether Tom Renney defensive style hockey goes against the normal pattern for NHL winners.

Obviously, some more number crunching needs to be done. But, it's an interesting idea to explore.

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  • Section 335 said...

    Mike, I do not buy into this rule. I pick another.

    I believe that in any major sport under a salary cap your team is as good as your top five players, plus or minus one. Any major sport. If you talk about goal production, you forget the value of a great defenseman. If you talk about homers, you forget about pitchers. So, I do not buy into this rule.

    The team that spends its money wisely on the top five players can fill in the holes.

    The Rangers have put their money into Redden, Drury, Gomez and Henrik. Someone has to step up, as that list is not going to do it.

  • jb said...

    Section 335,

    To try and quantify your "Salary Cap rule", which we'll call the "Section 335 Corollary".

    Would it be something like:

    The top 5 salaries on a professional sports team should account for 80% of the team's performance (wins)?

    The top 5 Rangers salaries currently are:

    Scott Gomez - $7,357,143
    Chris Drury - $7,050,000
    Henrik Lundqvist - $6,875,000
    Wade Redden - $6,500,000
    Michal Rozsival - $5,000,000

    Which raises the very point, about whether the Rangers have over or mis-spent on defense (Renney hockey). The Redden/Rozsival salaries versus what we'll get from those two looks very scary.

    This salary focus looks like fertile ground for more number crunching.

  • jb said...

    Just wanted to add this: The top five Rangers salaries that I listed account for 54.4% of the total payroll ($32,782,000 of $60,247,500).

    Who wants to argue that this is a bargain?

  • Section 335 said...

    Mike, excellent point. We have way under spent on offense.

  • jb said...

    section 335,

    I'm just "jb" - Mike's loyal and hardworking contributor. Mike is on his way back from Mexico. He's left me in charge of the salt mine until his return.

    He said I'd better mine my weight in salt or he's going to trade me to a Siberian blog that follows the KHL.

  • mike said...

    section 335-Back from Can Cun, Mexico and nothing ends a vacation faster than talking about the Rangers and their off season stupidity. You are correct about that four man list and add Rozsival and it becomes more dismal and daunting.

    The Stealth has given coach clueless a paper defense and he thinks that is what will drive this team. Lundqvist will be under siege this year with the New York Mr. Softees.

    Pay no attention to jb's comments. Without a doubt he is the best blog researcher in the business and that is why The Ranger Pundit looks good even when he is spouting nonsense.

    Stay loose. The pre season will be quite interesting for the Broadway Blues. If we could get the Rangers in the mid season form that Section 335 is in, we might make some noise this year.