Diminishing Returns – Part 2


The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the few teams with four high priced forwards.  It is a very interesting strategy in a salary cap driven league.  The question is “is it a sound strategy?”  Is it better to have a few high priced players?  Or should a team “spread out” the salary cap space over a broader group of players?  Quality or Quantity?

To attempt to determine an answer to that question I have looked at the correlation of a player’s salary cap cost with various performance numbers.  I have used XY splatter graphs and looked at trendlines to view the correlation of salary cap costs with “Goals per 60,” “Points per 60,” “Goals For per 60” and “Goals Against per 60.”  And I think I have come up with some interesting results.

Comparing the Blackhawks to the other Playoff Teams.

Click on the thumbnail above to view the graph.  In this graph I added a Chicago Blackhawks’ trendline alongside the Playoff Team’s trendline.  This is individual player’s “Goals/60” data.  Looking at the two trendlines shows that the Chicago Players average a better performance per cost than the rest of the combined Playoff Teams.

I have also done the same for points.  Looking at this graph shows some interesting observations:

The four Chicago players above the Blackhawks trendline are Bryan BickellPatrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

The only two Chicago Players below the Playoff Team’s trendline are Troy Brouwer and Dave Bolland.

Bolland’s performance crosses the Playoff Team’s trendline at the 2.5M mark.  So from a strictly offensive points point of view you could say that Bolland is ~800K overpaid.  That means you are paying an 800K bonus to have one of the premier defensive players on your team.

I have also looked at some of the “new guys” on the Chicago Blackhawks.  I looked at where Rostislav Olesz and Michael Frolik crossed the non Playoff Team’s threshold for their stats on the non playoff Florida Panthers.  They both crossed the threshold around the 2.25M mark.  So it was interesting to me that Frolik was signed for around that cap hit.

And yes, Olesz is totally overpaid since he has not found a scoring touch in the NHL.  And from a points production point of view he is around 800K-1M overpaid.  It will be interesting to see if Olesz can make up that difference on a better offensive team like the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Goals/60” are the goals from that particular player.  “Goals For/60” are the goals scored when that player was on the ice.  Using “Goals For/60” there are only two players on the Chicago Blackhawks below the Playoff Team’s trendline: Fernando Pisani and Marian Hossa.

Hossa is interesting because his personal “Goals/60” and “Points/60” numbers are both above the Playoff Team’s trendline.

However, Hossa’s “Goals For/60” which is for the entire line is below the Playoff Team’s trendline.  Looking at the percentage of “Goals For/60” where Hossa had a point shows why.   If Hossa wasn’t involved then the Hawks 2nd line pretty much wasn’t scoring.

This tends to show the catch 22 of so many large forward contracts.  It is hard for Hossa to justify his large contract without good teammates.  And it is hard for the Hawks to add good teammates to the Hawks second line because of Hossa’s contract.

Now the Chicago Blackhawks “Goals Against/60” trendline is fascinating to me.  Pat Foley talked often in the 2009/10 season that the Chicago Blackhawks were a “defensive team that just scored a lot of points.”  From this data you can see that that is not the case.  At least from last years point of view.  The Hawks scored more than the average Playoff Team’s players and were scored upon at a higher frequency than the average Playoff Team’s players.

Note that the trendlines get slightly worse as the cap hits increase.  This is almost entirely do to the fact that better players tend to play better players.  And less than 1M players tend to play equivalent players that aren’t as good offensively.  So Bickell’s position on the trendline is a little misleading since he is indeed playing the other team’s top end talent.

Chicago players below the Playoff Team’s “Goals Against/60” trendline in salary cap order were: Bickell, Victor Stalberg, Brouwer, Kopecky, Sharp and Kane.  It is really not hard to see why Kopecky and Brouwer are no longer on the team.  The Hawks had significant defensive issues when Kopecky was on the ice.  And Stalberg had better offensive and defensive numbers than Brouwer.  Couple that with Brouwer costing more to retain and it is easy to see why the Hawks decided to keep Stalberg over Brouwer.

In the next part of this article we are going to compare the Chicago Blackhawks’ trendline to the two Stanley Cup Finalists.  Here we can look at how the Chicago Blackhawks four big forward contracts compare and what impact they have on the rest of the team.

The intro to the Diminishing Returns articles can be found here.

The salary cap information came from capgeek.com.

And, per usual, the advanced hockey stats used here are 5on5 and come from behindthenet by Gabriel Desjardins.