How Important is Height in Hockey?

During my last recreational league hockey season, my captain had me play center. My favorite part (aside from face-offs) was the increased defensive responsibilities. I think it would be a fun idea to switch to defense for a season. However, I’m a bit concerned that at 5’7″ (67 inches) tall, I would be seen as too small to effectively play defense. I decided to check NHL stats and throw something together in R.

Based on my findings, it looks like there is a lot of variation across each position. Sure, the trend seems to be that players are taller the further back in the rink they are, but there is a lot of overlap in distributions of heights for each position.

  • Median heights across all players is only about 3-5 inches taller than average males
  • Roughly speaking, centers and wings are around the same height
  • Heights for defensemen closely resemble the spread of heights for forwards, but shifted up about an inch
  • Goalie is the one position where someone of my height playing the position would be a large outlier

After seeing the data, I don’t think that hockey has too much specialization based on height. Yeah, I’m not the tallest person, but especially for a rec league, I shouldn’t be discouraged from playing any position. I’ll sign myself up to play D next season.

Who are the Sharks’s Playmakers?

Similar to the last post, here is a visualization made with R of the players’ assists awarded over the last 5 seasons.  Graph only includes players with at least 5 full NHL seasons of data and is not adjusted for games missed due to injuries.

  • Note: Mikkel Boedker was traded this morning to the Ottawa Senators.
  • There weren’t any particularly notable exclusions from this list. Closest might be Kevin Labanc, who had a season high 29 assists last season, but only 2 full seasons of data to pull from.
  • I mentioned Patrick Marleau in the last post. If he were included in this post, he’d fall around where Mikkel Boedker or Logan Couture are listed: He has a median assists count of 23 with a 5-season high of 38 in 2014-2015.
  • John Tavares has a 5-season median of 42 assists with a high of 48 assists in 2014-205. If John Tavares were inserted into this graph, he’d fall right between Burns and Pavelski. Not bad!

Who are the Sharks’s Goal-Scorers?

There has been some off-season talk about the San Jose Sharks making a push to trade for John Tavares of the New York Islanders. Tavares has been a strong goal-scorer for the Islanders, having been in the top 3 on his team for goals scored every season since being drafted in 2009.

I wanted to better understand how goal scoring was distributed among the Sharks to make it easier to imagine Tavares being added to the line-up. I threw this visualization together using R to help out.

Data includes goals scored per San Jose Sharks player since the 2013-2014 NHL season. I only included current SJ Sharks players with at least 5 full NHL seasons of data. Data is not adjusted for games played, so games missed due to injuries are reflected in the graph. I think this is fair because a skilled goal scorer is useless if he isn’t also durable. Can’t put points on the board if you aren’t playing.

Thoughts:

  • Based on John Tavares’s last five seasons, the median for his goals scored would be 33 and his best was 38 in 2014-2015. If included on this graph, he’d be the 2nd strongest goal scorer, right after Pavelski.
  • Patrick Marleau was (sadly) traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of the 2017-2018 season. If he was never traded, he’d appear on this chart between Pavelski and Couture with a median goals scored of 27 and a season-high of 33 goals in 2013-2014.
  • Of the recent Sharks additions excluded from this list, the only skaters with decent goal counts for a single season are Timo Meier (21 goals in 2017), Chris Tierney (17 goals in 2017), Joonas Donskoi (14 goals in 2017), and Kevin Labanc (11 goals in 2017).  However, none of these are particularly impressive and these players will likely end up charted near the middle around Hertl or Boedker.
  • As expected, defensemen occupy the bottom of the list. The clear exception here, of course, is Brent Burns. Seeing him occupy the 3rd highest slot despite being a defenseman is impressive.
  • Admittedly, I didn’t realize Joe Pavelski’s production was that much higher than the rest of the team.
  • Washington Capitals’s Alexander Ovechkin’s 5-year running goal median is 50. Wow. The Sharks need one of those.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoff Conclusion

Capitals beat the Golden Knights 4-1. With the ongoing joke being that the Caps are just the Sharks of the Eastern Conference, I suppose I could say that my original pick for the winner was right all along, I just had the wrong conference. I’m very happy to see Washington finally get their win and I suppose the “Caps West” label for the Sharks can’t be applied anymore.

Highlights of this series for me:

  • Devante Smith-Pelly was a joy to watch. You could see him putting in max effort during every shift, and it paid off. In only 24 playoff games, Smith-Pelly matched his goal count of 7 goals that he scored during the regular season.
  • Braden Holtby’s “The Save” + nervous Ovi during the final moments of game 2. It gave Washington their first win may have very well been the source of the momentum that carried them through their next 3 wins.
  • The simple fact that we had a Las Vegas vs Washington D.C. match-up. I’m always in favor of anything that spreads awareness of of this sport that I enjoy watching and playing. Having a finals between a brand new hockey market (Vegas) and a team fighting for their very first championship (Washington) will likely bring in new fans.

Predictions/Hopes for next season

  • Healthy Joe Thornton at 1C and contributing as he did before his injuries
  • Sharks do not win any major trades or acquisitions (e.g. Tavares or Kovalchuk) but their 3rd and 4th forward lines and bottom defensive pairings blossom in the 2018-2019 season. Boedker has a breakout year.
  • Injury-free Evander Kane
  • Joe Pavelski evolves his playing style. As legendary as he is at fighting for space in front of the net and tipping shots, I worry this play style is diminishing in effectiveness. Pavelski’s goal counts have almost monotonically decreased since 2013-2014. With the projected 2018-2019 top line being Kane-Thornton-Pavelski, the Sharks run the risk of having a very slow top line. I’d like to see a bit more symmetry between Kane’s and Pavelski’s speed of movement so there’s always someone opening up for Thornton to feed.

2018 NHL Playoff Predictions Finals Update

See last post here.

Wowwwww. Vegas Golden Knights vs Washington Capitals in the NHL Stanley Cup finals. A team making it to the finals in its inaugural year + a team that has been in the finals 27 times since 1974 but has never won the Stanley Cup. A historic year for hockey and a treat for sport fans that value league parity (contrast with the NBA finals, where the Golden State Warriors have faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals every year since 2015).

Anyway, let’s keep the prediction post organized like the previous ones.

What went right

Washington did beat Tampa Bay. Prediction accuracy for the last round was 1 of 2 (50%).

What went wrong

Winnipeg fell to Vegas after 5 games. My hope of a Jets sweep was far off.

Thoughts on the Finals

Las Vegas (1) vs Washington (1)

Capitals, take my ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つSHARKS FAN energy

Vegas’s depth > Caps’s depth. Also Fleury > Holtby. However, Caps in 4 because that’s what I want. Or 5. Or 6. Or 7. Pls

 

 

2018 NHL Playoffs Predictions 2nd Round Update

Ooof. Owie. First round predictions weren’t bad. Second round? Not good.

What went right

Really not a whole lot to say, here. Tampa Bay did end up beating Boston to fix that quadrant of my bracket, but that’s about all I got right. Prediction accuracy in this round was 1 for 4 (25%).

What went wrong

  • RIP Sharks. I knew the Golden Knights were going to be a tough team to beat and that if the Sharks were going to win, it would take a full 7 games. Sadly, San Jose didn’t make it that far; Vegas took the series in 6 games.
  • Caps beat the Penguins! I’m happy to have gotten this one wrong.
  • I thought that Nashville would dominate Winnipeg but Winnipeg ended up winning the series after 7 games. I know very little about Winnipeg but they must be doing something special to have survived against what I consider to be a very stacked team. I’m looking forward to using this as an opportunity to learn more about the Jets.

Thoughts on next matchups

Las Vegas (1) vs Winnipeg (2)

I’m on the Jets bandwagon. I can’t even name more than 3 players on the roster but I’d love to watch them eliminate Vegas. It would be educational to see what it finally took to knock out the Golden Knights. Jets in 4 because that’s what I want.

Tampa Bay (1) vs Washington (1)

Go Sharks East Capitals! Washington in 6.

2018 NHL Playoffs Predictions 1st Round Update

Update from my playoff predictions post now that the 1st Round has ended.

What went right

  • Correctly guessed the winner in 7 of 8 matchups (87.5%)
  • Sharks did end up beating the Ducks despite being the lower seed. Not only that, they swept.

What went wrong

  • Boston (2) vs Toronto (3). I wanted Toronto to win this one despite being the lower seed. Series ended up going 7 games and Toronto fell apart in the last period of game 7.
  • I was all over the place in my predictions for how short/long series would last. Some examples: In both the Kings vs Golden Knights and the Sharks vs Ducks series, I predicted they would last a full 7 games. In both cases, the winning team went undefeated and finished the series early at 4. My predictions for series length were only correct in 2 of the 8 matchups (25%)
  • Joe Thornton did not make an appearance as I predicted.

Thoughts on next matchups

Nashville (1) vs Winnipeg (2)

Again, I find Nashville to be the dominant team. I’d say Nashville in 4 but Colorado took 2 games from them in the previous round so I’ll adjust my prediction to Nashville in 6.

Las Vegas (1) vs San Jose (3)

Uhhh Las Vegas is spooky but I underestimated how San Jose would do in the last round. Scattered thoughts: San Jose never once beat the Golden Knights during the regular season. Sharks have more depth (IMO) than they have ever had in recent memory so if they are going to win this one, it might take 7 games.

Tampa Bay (1) vs Boston (2)

Boston knocked out my Round 1 prediction so I want Tampa Bay to win to fix my bracket. Boston looked like a strong playoff team against Toronto but Tampa Bay has had plenty of time to rest whereas Boston’s series went 7 games. Tampa Bay in 6.

Washington (1) vs Pittsburgh (2)

Oh boy! Big matchup. I’m not as familiar with the Capitals’s top lines/pairings as well as I am with the Penguins’s, but I know the Penguins’s top lines/pairings are scary. Pittsburgh in 6.

2018 NHL Playoffs Predictions

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs start today. I’m going to embarrass myself but whatever…here are my predictions.

First Round Predictions

Nashville (1) vs Colorado (WC)

Nashville is OP. Preds have more depth and playoff experience. This it the only match-up that I predict will end in 4 games.

Winnipeg (2) vs Minnesota (3)

I know next to nothing about these teams but I know that Minnesota’s Ryan Suter is out with a late season injury. Based on that and the two teams’ regular seasons stats, I give Winnipeg a big edge.

Las Vegas (1) vs Los Angeles (WC)

Kings have superior players but the Golden Knights have better depth. I’m predicting a long, low-scoring series between these two teams and believe the bottom lines/pairings will win it.

Anaheim (2) vs San Jose (3)

Ducks are spooky but go sharks! I’m predicting that this one will be a tough series, Joe Thornton will play in at least one of the home games, and a lot of penalty minutes but not many power-play goals from either team.

Tampa Bay (1) vs New Jersey (WC)

Taylor Hall will go HAM and New Jersey’s top line will give Tampa Bay a hard time, but Tampa Bay is the stronger team. New Jersey not having a solid starting goalie situation will also hurt them.

Boston (2) vs Toronto (3)

Boston is a stronger team on paper but I want Toronto to win. Predicting Boston’s defense will not be enough to contain very spread-out scoring between Leafs skaters.

Washington (1) vs Columbus (WC)

I am expecting some Panarin highlight-reel goals but Capitals’s top two lines are too strong. Washington in 5.

Pittsburgh (2) vs Philadelphia (3)

Penguins have too much offensive talent, playoff experience, and leadership to lose this one. I hear Claude Giroux had a spectacular season but the Flyers never once managed to figure out how to beat the Penguins in the regular season. I think it will be a good match up and the games will be close but they will lose in 5 or 6 games.

Comparing Costs of Roller Hockey vs Ice Hockey

I started playing recreational roller hockey in 2014. I was under the impression that roller would be more affordable than the alternative. I joined an adult beginners roller hockey league at Dry Ice in Oakland and played once a weekend between late 2014- mid 2017.

Last summer after we moved to Utah, I decided to give ice hockey a shot. I signed up for an adult beginners ice hockey league at the Utah Olympic Oval and played about once a week through the fall and winter.

Now that I’ve experienced both, I can say that I found ice hockey to be much more enjoyable and more rewarding. I’m pretty sure I will be sticking with ice, but I want to take a deeper look into my original costs concern that steered me toward roller in the first place.

Initial Equipment costs compared (Winner: Roller but surprisingly not by much)

Roller hockey equipment cost estimate:

Helmet and shield: $80
Padded undershirt: $60
Elbow pads: $50
Gloves: $60
Roller pants: $30
Jock shorts: $60
Shin guards: $60
Stick: $50
Skates: $150
Bag: $25
Practice jersey: $15

Total: $640

Ice hockey equipment cost estimate:

Helmet and shield: $80
Shoulder pads: $80
Elbow pads: $50
Gloves: $60
Ice pants: $80
Jock shorts: $60
Shin guards: $60
Hockey socks: $10
Stick: $50
Skates: $130
Bag: $25
Practice jersey: $15

Total: $700

Regular maintenance costs compared (Winner: Ice)

The only regular maintenance cost for roller hockey was buying new wheels. Over the course of 3 years of playing, I probably had to buy somewhere between 12-16 new wheels to replace wheels that wore down or broke. Taking the middle value and with an estimated per wheel price of $10, that puts the maintenance costs at roughly $47 per year.

Skate sharpening for ice hockey was something I was worried would be expensive. Turns out, I only had to sharpen my skates once during my season; twice if you also count the initial sharpening when I bought the skates. At a $6 per sharpening and estimating four sharpenings per year (if I were to have played year round), maintenance costs would be $24 per year.

Skate time costs compared (Winner: Roller by a lot)

Open skate / stick & puck at the roller hockey facility in Oakland, CA charges $5 per session. Assuming you went to go practice about twice a month for a year, you would be spending $120 per year for skate time.

The two nearest ice facilities charge an average of $12.50 per session. Assuming you went to go practice about twice a month for a year, you would be spending $300 per year for skate time.

Having said that, roller beats ice by a mile in this area because roller can be practiced anywhere you have flat concrete. You could argue that makes roller $free.

Hockey league fee costs compared (Winner: Roller by a lot)

Fees will forever be your largest expense. Ice rinks cost much more to operate than roller rinks and that cost gets passed down to skaters in the form of team/individual league fees and annual usage fees.

From my experience, the annual fees between roller and ice have been comparable: around $40 a year. This cost is negligible compared to the individual/team fees you will pay.

For roller hockey,the most recent team fee looks to be around $3000 to register a team for a season. Assuming a full team of 13 skaters (3 lines of 2 forwards, 3 lines of 2 defense, and a goalie), that comes out to roughly $231 per skater per season.

For ice hockey, the most recent team fee in the same geographic area looks to be around $8500 to register a team for a season. Assuming a full team of 16 skaters (3 lines of 2 forwards + 1 center, 3 lines of 2 defense, and a goalie), that comes out to roughly $531 per skater per season.

Verdict

Estimated cost to start playing hockey for one full year in the SF Bay Area including first time purchases of all gear, all fees, maintenance costs, and paying to practice at the rink twice a month:

$1771 to play roller hockey vs $3188 to play ice hockey

Roller hockey saves significant amounts of money. If you are wanting to give hockey a shot, starting with roller hockey makes a lot of sense from a financial standpoint. You could pay the initial equipment costs (or even just a fraction of it) and get away with spending nearly nothing else for as long as it takes you to develop your skills enough to feel comfortable with joining a league:

Driveway hockey starter kit

Helmet and shield: $80
Elbow pads: $50
Gloves: $60
Shin guards: $60
Stick: $50
Skates: $150

Total: $450 + a practice ball/puck

With this setup, you can develop your skills and acquire new gear as you need it.

Also, you can always switch to ice at a later time. If you already own the full list of roller equipment, most of it will transfer over and you will only need to purchase shoulder pads, hockey pants, hockey socks, and skates. (~$300)