September 01 2011 02:08PM
Predicting how many points a player will score is tricky business. Even the new Vukota system, which has already been regarded as the best, is off by 0.14 points per game on average – or 11.5 points over an 82 game season.
That's why I like the Snepsts System, which since it was first introduced in 2009 over at Hockey Prospectus, projects how many points a player will score by searching NHL's vast history to find players with similar scoring trends. While it's no more accurate than the Vukota system over-all, it offers up a range of historical probabilities, offering us the opportunity to decide for ourselves where a particular player will fall, depending on their individual circumstances.
The methodology is no secret, and in fact the simple approach was explain when we did this for the Calgary Flames last year. As a group the results were almost bang on. The wide net of history caught great seasons like Iginla's, Tanguay's and Giordano's at one end, and disappointments like Stajan's and Hagman's at the other, averaging out almost exactly in the middle.
This year we'll begin with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, who together generated over a quarter of their offense.
Jarome Iginla, RW
Jarome Iginla has scored between 86 and 98 points in four of the past five seasons, with the only aberration being a 69-point campaign in 2009-10. He's missed games only once since the lock-out – 12 games in 2006-07. Only Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley have more goals since the lock-out.
Iginla just earned his tenth straight 30 goal seasons, only the 10th player to do so, and he had 28 and 29 the two seasons previous. Iginla's 43 goals at age 33 is impressive – normalized goal scoring to today's era, Iginla is one of only five players to score that many goals at this age. The others were Bobby Hull, Johnny Bucyk, Teemu Selanne, and Jaromir Jagr.
Last year Jarome Iginla's average Snepsts projection was just 27 goals and 64 points, but knowing him like we do, we were expecting him to scored 30 goals and 75 points. Instead Iginla instantly regained his chemistry with Alex Tanguay and his 43 goals and 86 points lined up nicely with our best-case scenario: Sergei Fedorov's 2002-03 season.
If Iginla continues to follow Fedorov's track, he'll be good for 33 goals and 69 points this year, which happens to be Vukota's projection, and the average of the ten closest historical comparables below.
Age Player Season GP G A PTS 32 Tomas Sandstrom 1996-97 74 17 23 40 34 Luc Robitaille 2000-01 82 37 51 88 32 Alexander Mogilny 2001-02 66 25 35 60 32 Brendan Shanahan 2000-01 81 31 45 76 32 Joe Mullen 1989-90 78 27 25 52 32 Pat Verbeek 1996-97 81 16 35 51 34 Sergei Fedorov 2003-04 80 33 36 69 33 Norm Ullman 1968-69 75 32 40 72 32 Brett Hull 1996-97 77 39 39 78 33 Dino Ciccarelli 1993-84 66 24 25 49 VUKOTA 75 32 37 69 Worst (Sandstrom) 82 19 26 45 Best (Robitaille) 82 37 51 88 Average 82 30 38 68
In total Jarome Iginla had 23 close historical matches, averaging the slightly more optimistic projection of 31 goals, 42 assists and 73 points.
If Iginla is to overachieve as he did last season, history suggest the best-case scenario is 37 goals and 88 points, like Hall-of-Famer Luc Robitaille in 2000-01 (remember, these are era-adjusted). In his last year as a King, Lucky Luc finished a close second to linemate Ziggy Palffy in both goals and assists, before struggling through four more seasons as more of a 50-point player.
The worst case is Tomas Sandstrom, Iginla's closest historical comparable who split a near-career worst season between Pittsburgh and Detroit at age 32 – but winning his first Stanley Cup - before ending his career with two forgettable years in Anaheim.
Still, the most intriguing historical case is definitely Sergei Fedorov's. Look how closely his era-adjusted numbers compare.
Jarome Iginla GP G A PTS 1996-2008 860 374 387 761 2008-09 82 34 51 85 2009-10 82 32 36 68 2010-11 82 43 43 86 Sergei Fedorov GP G A PTS 1990-2000 672 263 384 647 2000-01 75 32 37 69 2001-02 81 32 39 71 2002-03 80 37 48 85
It's not easy finding players whose statistical production closely match Jarome Iginla's, but you're not going to get too much closer than Sergei Fedorov. Should the trend continue, expect Iginla to score 30-some goals and graze 70 points, just as both Vukota and Snepsts project – and potentially his last strong season.
Alex Tanguay, LW
Playing on his 3rd team in three years, Alex Tanguay jumped to 22 goals and 69 points after just 10 goals and 37 points with Tamp Bay. It was his 7th 40-assist season, and his first since his last time as a Flame back in 2007-08.
The average projection last year was just 42 points, because players whose production dropped that rapidly historically generally didn't recover as quickly and thoroughly as Tanguay. Even back then we knew that he would improve from his career-worst 11.0% shooting percentage (he got 18.3%), and finish closer to the best-case scenario of 61 points.
Despite his tremendous success last season, history still suggests he's not likely to repeat, ultimately scoring between 31-65 points and likely ending the season in a quest for 50.
Age Player Season GP G A PTS 34 Charley McVeight 1932-33 40 8 20 28 31 Art Somers 1932-33 48 8 25 33 32 Dale Hunter 1992-93 84 15 45 60 30 Red Sullivan 1959-60 70 11 24 35 31 Walt Tkaczuk 1978-79 77 12 22 34 34 Todd White 2009-10 65 7 19 26 30 Todd Marchant 2003-04 77 10 27 37 31 Keith Jones 1999-00 57 9 16 25 32 Shayne Corson 1998-99 63 12 21 33 33 Henri Richard 1969-70 62 15 36 51 VUKOTA 69 15 33 48 Worst (White) 79 8 23 31 Best (Richard) 79 19 46 65 Average 79 13 32 45
Given the see-saw nature of his career recently, there were only three close matches, which agreed with the average projection even when we widened the net.
It's understandable for the cold, objective mind of Snepsts to be so pessimistic. Tanguay suffered a bad shoulder injury in Montreal, and really struggled the near year in Tampa Bay. It's reasonable to have assumed that at age 31 his scoring touch was gone, and he'd be relegated to being a 40-50 point secondary scoring option. Perhaps if he hadn't been lined up next to the incomparable Jarome Iginla, that would have been correct.
Given the high-risk, five-year, $17.5 million deal he recently signed, the Calgary Flames are obviously incredibly confident that he can continue to produce at last year's rate until he's 36 years old. For a team burned by optimistic long-term deals as frequently as the Flames, it says a lot that they'd offer one to Tanguay rather than invest those dollars more conservatively.
They obviously believe in him, and want him to be successful, making it far more likely he'll be at the high-end, 60-point, Dale Hunter/Henri Richard level of scoring. Of course, a lot depends on how much he gets to play with Iginla, and who centres them, otherwise the pessimistic, sub-50 point conclusions of both Vukota and Snepsts could ultimately prove valid.
Daymond Langkow Lee Stempniak and Olli Jokinen
Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman
Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross
David Moss and Brendan Morrison
Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and Anton Babchuk
Tom Kostopoulous, Tim Jackman, Cory Sarich, Chris Butler and Scott Hannan
Mikael Backlund and Brett Carson
Raitis Ivanans and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.