Hitting and Winning Games


It’s frequently stated that physicality and a strong hitting game lead to winning. With that in mind, I decided to look at how the five highest hitting teams each season over the past decade compared with the five lowest hitting teams.

To make things fair, I’ve ranked them using only hits recorded in road buildings, since the standards for hitting can vary widely depending on who is tracking them – by using only road statistics, each team is judged by a wide field and half the data isn’t coming from their home rinks. All information comes from NHL.com.

I also inserted the average point total for teams pre- and post-lockout..

Top Five Hitting Teams

  • 2008-09: TB, NYR, PHI, LA, BOS – Total Points: 455
  • 2007-08: ANA, NJ, BOS, PHI, OTT – Total Points: 484
  • 2006-07: ANA, NYI, WSH, TOR, NYR – Total Points: 457
  • 2005-06: ANA, OTT, TOR, PHI, CGY – Total Points: 505

Post-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 95.1

  • 2003-04: PHI, CAR, COL, ATL, CBJ – Total Points: 417
  • 2002-03: COL, SJ, EDM, NYR, CGY – Total Points: 423
  • 2001-02: CGY, COL, NJ, EDM, FLA – Total Points: 425
  • 2000-01: COL, NYR, SJ, BOS, LA – Total Points: 465
  • 1999-00: NYI, CAR, EDM, LA, ATL – Total Points: 363
  • 1998-99: NYI, BUF, VAN, EDM, CHI – Total Points: 355

Pre-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 81.6

Bottom Five Hitting Teams

  • 2008-09: COL, DET, MIN, FLA, VAN – Total Points: 463
  • 2007-08: MIN, COL, EDM, LA, DET – Total Points: 467
  • 2006-07: COL, DET, MIN, VAN, TB – Total Points: 510
  • 2005-06: TB, COL, DET, MIN, NJ – Total Points: 496

Post-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 96.8

  • 2003-04: MIN, DET, TB, SJ, DAL – Total Points: 499
  • 2002-03: CHI, MTL, DET, BUF, OTT – Total Points: 451
  • 2001-02: DET, TB, MIN, WSH, MTL – Total Points: 430
  • 2000-01: MIN, CHI, NSH, ATL, DAL – Total Points: 385
  • 1999-00: NSH, STL, DET, BOS, OTT – Total Points: 460
  • 1998-99: DET, NSH, DAL, BOS, PIT – Total Points: 451

Pre-Lockout Average Point Total Per Team: 89.2

Final Tally

  • Hitting Teams: 86.98 points per season
  • Non-hitting Teams: 92.24 points per season

To borrow a quote, who saw that coming?

As for what it means, I think the implication is obvious.

  • RCN

    Hitting does seem to be the stat that is used when Team Canada chooses plugs over talent (i.e. Rob Zamuner, Shayne Corson). I guess they still live in the 70s when it was possible to intimidate European players.

    Very interesting stats. Thanks, Jonathan.

  • RCN

    I think its hard to judge this type of stat, more or less hits doesn't neccesarily mean more or less wins. Is there a stat that can track results of a hit? Like if a player hits a puck carrier, that puck carrier loses possession and then the hitting team gets an offensive opportuntity? (doubt it) Maybe there should be a quality of hit stat… maybe teams that use there size and strength properly doesn't need to hit everything that moves, just hit at the right time. Maybe I don't know what Im talking about.

  • RCN

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Detroit is a special case who can sign whoever they want.. *almost*
    what does the overall pic of playoff success look like?

    And what about hitting *in the playoffs*? 🙂

    Thanks for doing the post, good topic

  • RCN

    @ Hoss:

    What I'd expect would be that players recording more hits are also recording more effective hits; i.e. there'd be no difference.

    Of course, I don't know that but it makes sense intuitively.

  • RCN

    I guess the law of averages would dictate the more hits overall would equate to more quality hits. The Oilers used to play a more physical game and it seemed much more entertaining than some of the low contact stuff of the last couple years. If we are forced to see the Oilers battle for a playoff spot year after year I almost wish they looked like they were in a 'battle' not a practice skirmish.

  • RCN

    Hitting is tough stat. Using only road games really skews things to, I understand your logic for going with the road only stat…. But many teams play a different style away from their own building.

    On another note before the lockout the Oil used to hit a lot more. I hope we get back to that this season.

  • RCN

    Very interesting. It seems we're discussing teams that rely on hitting more versus teams that rely on hitting less (versus non-hitting). To my mind, teams that rely more on physical play must do so to level the playing field against teams with superior talent, who (as you've shown) will in the long run score more. However, to say that teams are "non-hitting" might be a bit misleading.

  • RCN

    I guess we have to look at who is counting these hits, what a hit is ( open ice, or rubbing some one out along the boards, etc. ) BUT that said, I am surprised…

    I guess I have seen a lot of hits, that impact a game..

    1) Someone coughs up the puck, after a hit
    2) Someone is out of position, due to a hit
    3) Someone is out for good, due to a Scott Stevens hit.

    I guess, it could come down to WHEN the hit is done..
    Which end of the ice, Is the Energy line out?( and does it matter?), Are we Leading or Losing, How much time is left…..

    Ugh! it spins my mind… I feel "funny"…

    * Realizes I am a Hockey Fan! *

    Me Like Hockey! Me Like Hitting! Fight! Fight!

    I conclude with " GO OIL ".

    Good Night and Good luck

  • RCN

    @ Vic Oiler:

    David Johnson uses adjusted hits but they don't go back far enough. They're pretty much the same as using road only hits; 4 of the 5 top-hitting teams for last year are the same, with Boston dropping from 5th to 6th and being replaced in the top-five by Montreal.

    The bottom five also feature four of the five same teams, with Minnesota dropping to 6th and being replaced by Carolina.

    2007-08 and 2006-07 also feature 8 of the 10 teams using the adjusted hits metric. I feel confident that using road hits only does a good job of reflecting total hits.

  • RCN

    Despite these findings, I don't view hitting as a negative. Here's what I do believe:

    a) Hockey people consistently overrate the impact of hitting
    b) Employing players who add physical edge and nothing else (*coughRickRypiencough*) and aren't otherwise good enough to play a regular shift is a mistake

    Again, I don't know this, but I'd guess that the reason that teams with more hits have an inferior record isn't because hitting itself is a negative, but because they employ more players with only one talent – physical play.