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An In-Depth Look at Team Depth

A further foray into the realm of team depth.


Yesterday we had an excellent article about Goal Scoring and Team Depth, which compared the Penguins to other teams in the league by looking at the Goal scoring attributed to Top 6 vs Bottom 6 production. I expanded upon that in the comments by posting charts that also included Points, Shots, Fenwick, and Corsi from individual player contributions. We did this mainly to examine the premise that the Pittsburgh Penguins were a top heavy team in 2013-14.

The reason we both used in focusing on individual player stats rather than the on-ice team based metrics is that we wanted to avoid the double and triple counting that would occur when trying to compare them. Since every event that occurs would result in an event being recorded for all players on the ice, and Top 6 skaters tend to mostly play with other Top 6 skaters, then a single shot/goal would be counted 2 or 3 times when we add those numbers all together. So this will result in an even wider gap than we should really expect to see, as the already positive teams will increase and the already negative ones will decrease due to double or triple counting the results.

However, despite the obvious shortcomings of looking at team-based metrics, people were not happy with the results that used individual player contributions. So ignoring my misgivings about the data getting double or triple counted I went ahead and threw the numbers together. I hopefully was able to minimize the double counting effect, but I'd still like to go with the caveat that these results should all be taken with a grain of salt.

Goals Scoring

<a href="" target="Goals"><img src=""></a>

The percentage of Goals For does show a clear indication of teams' preference for being top heavy in regards to goal scoring, which is something we saw in the other article. The numbers range from Anaheim at 57.3% to Edmonton at 77.9%, with a mean of 68.6% and a median of 68.7%. So on average one can expect the Top 6 to contribute over 2/3 of the total offensive production from a team's forwards. Our own Pittsburgh Penguins are exceptionally top heavy though, as they came in at #2 with 77.2% of the GF coming from the Top 6.

The percentage of Goals Against also shows a clear indication of teams being top heavy, which should make sense because the Top 6 is going to be on the ice more often, thus they are going to be out for more Goals, both For and Against. The numbers range from St. Louis at 53.9% to Colorado at 71.7%, with a mean of 62.7% and a median of 62.4%. So on average we can expect the Top 6 to be responsible for nearly 2/3 of the total goals against allowed by a team's forwards.Our own Pittsburgh Penguins are fairly high up the list, coming in at #10 with 63.6% of the GA being against the Top 6.

Obviously one wants their GF to be high, and while all teams show a preference for Top 6 scoring it is those further down the list that demonstrate depth throughout the lineup and the ability of their Bottom 6 to chip in offensively. But it is worth keeping in mind that a high Goals Against is a bad thing, so from a perspective of examining depth one can posit that a team that places higher up the chart thus has a more defensively responsible Bottom 6.


<a href="" target="Shots"><img src=""></a>

The percentage of Shots For also shows compelling evidence that teams are top heavy throughout the league, albeit slightly less so than they are from a Goals perspective. The numbers range from Anaheim at 56.4% to our own Pittsburgh Penguins at 72.1%, with both a mean and a median of 64.3%. We are #1 by a fairly sizable margin, although I imagine the double counting effects make for a starker contrast than one should really expect to see. However, it is apparent that this past season at least the Penguins were indeed quite top heavy.

The percentage of Shots Against also continues to demonstrate the trend of top heavy being the norm in the NHL. The numbers range from Anaheim at 56.3% to our own Pittsburgh Penguins at 66.1%, with a mean of 62.2% and a median of 62.7%. So just like with Goals Against we see the Penguins Top 6 being responsible for allowing a higher proportion of the opponents' attempted shots than most other teams in the league, which in turn means their Bottom 6 was thus one of the more defensively capable squads.

The remaining possession numbers follow a similar trend, the only difference being the specific numbers change slightly. We see that the average NHL team can expect almost 2/3 of their overall possession to come from their Top 6, which as pointed out makes sense since those players tend to be on the ice far more often than their Bottom 6 teammates. What becomes interesting is when examining the implied meanings. A team low in For thus has a more successful offensive depth, because their Bottom 6 is able to contribute nearly as much offensively despite spending less time on their ice. However a team low in Against has less successful defensive depth, because their Bottom 6 manages to give up nearly as much defensively despite being on the ice less often.

<a href="" target="Fenwick"><img src=""></a>

Fenwick For ranges from Anaheim at 55.8% to our own Pittsburgh Penguins at 72.9%, with a mean and median of 64.3%. Fenwick Against ranges from Los Angeles at 56.6% to Colorado at 66.2%, with a mean of 62.1% and a median of 62.3%. Our own Pittsburgh Penguins come in at #3 with 65.5%.

<a href="" target="Corsi"><img src=""></a>

Corsi For ranges from Anaheim at 55.6% to our own Pittsburgh Penguins at 72.8%, with a mean of 64.2% and a median of 64.3%. Corsi Against ranges from Anaheim at 56.7% to Philadelphia at 65.8%, with a mean of 61.8% and a median of 62.1%. Our own Pittsburgh Penguins come it at #6 with 64.3%.