100-Point NHL Seasons Going the Way of the Dodo?

I was sitting here reading an article about the Thrashers Jets and their demise, and I saw a mention of Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk being the team’s first bona fide superstars. Out of curiosity I clicked on their names to look at their stats while with the Thrashers and WOW. I had forgotten how crazy their stats were. 50 goal seasons? 100+ point players? These guys can barely crack 70 points these days! I started to wonder how much of it was their own dropoff and how much was relative to the league. What I found was interesting.

It’s been widely reported how hockey scoring is down, but did you realize just how down it is? In 2006, the player who was 40th in points would have been 12th in 2011! So when we hear things like “Player X should be a 20 goal scorer” or “Player Y is a point per game player,” we should really take it with a grain of salt. I wonder if we’re still judging players based on 2006 levels of scoring. Check out these stats:



Now, I find this particularly interesting as a Kings fan, because I see SO often on Kings boards how Kopitar isn’t improving because he hasn’t reached the 90 point or 40 goal mark, or they’ll moan about how badly Doughty’s point totals dipped this year; but when you look at it through this new lens, you realize how harshly these guys are being judged.

Let’s take Kopitar for instance. He was a point per game player up until he got injured. If he had played all 82 games, he would have likely ended up with 82 points. That would have put him in the top 10 in scoring. Relative to the top 40 players, he had 82/75.56, or, 108.52% of the average. If he had produced at 108.52% of the top 40 average in 2006, he would have had 97 points. And let’s not forget, he’s also one of the best two way players in the league. He spends an enormous amount of time backchecking, and while this helps the team immensely, it deflates his scoring numbers even further. It’s unfortunate for Kopitar that he’s entering his prime in an age of depressed scoring because he may never get his due in comparison to the guys who hit their primes in the inflated scoring years. It’s even worse if you go back to the 1980s when 200 point seasons were possible. Kopitar would have been scoring 140+ points per season for sure.

Let’s also take a look at Doughty’s off year this year. His scoring totals dipped from 62 points in 82 games to 43 points in 76 games, or, .756 PPG to .566 PPG. This constitutes a 25% drop in scoring. But if you look at him in comparison to the league’s top 40 players, he went from 62/80.67 (76.86%), to 46/75.56 (if he had played all 82), or, 60.87% of the league leader total, a 16% dropoff. So he definitely had a dropoff, but it’s not as horrible as it looks on the surface. If scoring had stayed constant, he’d have had 49 points, so 6 of the 19 points he lost can be attributed to scoring suppression and 3 of the points can be directly attributed to his injury (more can probably be indirectly attributed to that injury). Add it all up and 9 of the 19 points he lost were not his fault at all – they could be entirely contributed to injury and the overall decline in scoring.

I think we need to keep these things in mind as we evaluate the Kings’ players, and players throughout the league. Being a point per game player used to be relatively common, but today, it makes you absolutely elite. When management says they’re bringing in a 20 goal scorer (ahem, Poni), you can expect at least a 10% decrease in those numbers. And when we see a guy who has the same numbers as last year, we can actually realize he made improvement relative to the league.

And there you have it.

*Hint: keep this in mind when you’re projecting Simon Gagne’s stats this year!


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