Reasonable Scoring Expectations: Centers

Is this guy a second line center? Photo Credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

Is this guy a second line center?
Photo Credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

One of the milestones used to judge players is goal scoring and point totals. We all hear the phrase “40 goal” player or “100 point” player used to describe elite players. But, in actuality, scoring is dropping to lows not seen since the Dead Puck Era as save percentages rise league wide. In fact, save percentages have increased from a league average of .901 in 2005-06 to a whopping .915 in 2014-15. The league save percentage record has been broken twice in the same time frame, first by Tim Thomas, then by Brian Elliot and it’s not unreasonable to think that one, or all, of Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask or Henrik Lundqvist could take a run at it next season. We live in a goalie dominated era right now, and because of that scoring is down. For the 5 seasons from 2005-06 to 2009-10, there were 83 instances of a player hitting 35 or more goals in a season, compared to 38 for the 5 most recent NHL seasons. For 100 points in the same time frame, there were 23 instances from 05-06 to 09-10 compared to just 3 from 2011-12 to 2014-15.

So, we need to stop calling for “40 goal” players, because, 40 goals is something that is now a show of a generational or even a lifetime talent. An easy way to look at this is, point per game is the new 100 points. When looking at centers, it’s actually quite easy to see just how much scoring is down. One of my favorite pieces to cite when writing prospect projections was this Fan Shot from Pension Plan Puppets that looked at scoring from 2008-11. In fact, seeing the change in Save Percentage over this time period is what inspired me to go down this path of research and see what scoring is really worth.

Below is a copy of the table for centers from that link:

Centres

1st Line

2nd Line

3rd Line

Good

Average

Poor

Good

Average

Poor

Good

Average

Poor

Points

85

70

60

53

49

44

40

36

31

Goals

34

27

23

21

19

17

15

14

12

 

 

Now below, are my findings from seasons 2010-11 to 2014-15:

 

Average G Average A Average P
Elite 1 C 32.3 51.3 81.2
Avg 1 C 25.1 41.6 66.2
Low 1 C 22.0 33.8 56.4
Elite 2 C 19.6 30.9 50.7
Avg 2 C 17.8 28.3 45.7
Low 2 C 16.1 25.0 41.2
Elite 3C 14.5 21.4 36.2
Avg 3C 12.8 18.7 32.1
Low 3 C 11.6 16.4 28.4

A little note on my methodology. For the values, I took the 4-5-6 slots in the league leader board for Goals, Assists and Points for top center, 14-15-16 for average top line center and 24-25-26 for low end, then I added 30 for the 2nd line centers and 30 again for the third liners. As noted in the Pension Plan Puppets piece, this means that injuries are taken into account. Also, this takes into account usage bias by coaches, by not adjusting any players. Essentially for a case like Sean Couturier, where his point totals are massacred by terrible minutes, there’s a Tyler Bozak who is boosted by playing way above his actual talent level. Basically that means, feel free to adjust players to see where the move up and down the chart. Also, this is flat out scoring, so again, feel free to adjust any individual player to optimize his minutes and PP time.

This brings us to an interesting case: Brayden Schenn.

One of the criticisms of Brayden Schenn was that he looked out of place playing as the top left wing with Giroux and Voracek. While we’ll delve into wings next week in this series, we can focus on Brayden Schenn right now as a center. Brayden Schenn’s 19G-28A-47P scoring line this past season puts him in above-average 2nd line center territory. This probably backs the eye test of many, including myself, that saw Brayden Schenn as a better fit with Couturier on the second line than with Giroux on the top line. In fact, should Brayden Schenn find himself the odd forward out in a trade, the Flyers can in fact sell him as a top six forward in terms of asset return demanded.

Another case of development is Sean Couturier. When former head coach Craig Berube said he wanted 20 goals from Couturier this season, he really wanted Couturier to be a borderline first line center, while using him as a third line checker. In fact, expecting 20 goals, when only top line centers and elite second line centers score 20 either means Berube thinks Couturier is an very good player, which he is, but also had no idea how to properly deploy him to get that potential.

In fact, given Couturier’s run as a third center with massively defensive usage, the 15G-22A-37P scoring he put up is quite amazing. Couturier is likely a second line center in terms of production if he had a healthy Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds as his linemates for a full season. In fact, next season, if Couturier does up say 18 goals and 30 assists while still delivering his quality defense in slightly easier minutes, it would be hard to not look at Couturier as a potential Selke candidate. In fact, given Read’s shooting percentage is due for a major uptick next season, Couturier’s assist total is likely to see a big jump and that’s great news for Flyers fans.

 

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