Alan Ryder’s Player Contributions


Alan Ryder just published his annual NHL Review over at Hockey Analytics – a 90-page monster full of everything you need to know about the 2010-11 NHL season, which begs the following questions for many of who: Who is Alan Ryder, and why should anyone with even a glimmer of interest in advanced statistical hockey analysis go and read it immediately?

To answer that, think of Alan Ryder as the Niklas Lidstrom of advanced statistical hockey analysis, because he’s been in the game longer than anyone else, and is still among the very best. The statistics and principles used by those who believe our field began some time between 2006 and 2009 were built on the foundation that Ryder helped build a decade ago. Not to oversell his work, but why study something second hand when you can hear it directly from the only other statistical analyst I know who was actually alive when Kansas City had an NHL team.

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To give you an idea of his offerings we’ll recap a few of his conclusions about our beloved Calgary Flames, especially his thoughts on Miikka Kiprusoff, Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.

If you’re a Mikka Kiprusoff fan then you might want to have a few stiff drinks before surfing on over to Hockey Analytics, because the failure of the Flames to make the post-season was placed squarely at his feet.

“Calgary and Tampa Bay were the NHL’s two best teams, before one considers goaltending.”
Alan Ryder, 2011 NHL Review

In terms of marginal goals, one of the key components of his Player Contributions rating system, the Calgary Flames were the best team in the league last year when looking only at the various offensive and defensive components. It was goaltending, and goaltending alone, which Ryder blames for a disappointing season – if the Calgary Flames had picked up a little bit of help as the otherwise similar Tampa Bay Lightning team had then it could very well have been the Flames earning 100+ points on its way to the Conference finals.

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Player Contributions (PC), incidentally, is Ryder’s own over-all statistical assessment of a player’s contributions, very similar in nature to its far less complex cousin GVT, which makes sense since they were both developed at the same time based on the same principles by cooperating analysts – and Kipper fared extremely poorly by its measurement.  On page 30 Ryder lays out Kiprusoff’s statistical deterioration over the years, pointing to his successful 2009-10 season as the lone exception rather than the rule.

On the bright side the Calgary Flames were very much improved defensively, but despite being ranked so highly at shot prevention and shot quality reduction, no individual Flames showed up among the league’s best defensive players, suggesting it was more of a team effort (unlike their Floridian clones).

Jay Bouwmeester, who was hailed as last year’s most over-hyped defenseman (losing that title to Zdeno Chara this year), ranked as the 17th best defensive defenseman in the league, but unfortunately also had the highest cap cost per Player Contribution point among leading defenseman – almost $120,000 per PC point (which equates to 1/10th of a point in the standings). 

Over-all Mark Giordano beat out Bouwmeester as the Flames best defenseman, finishing 19th overall due to his superior offensive play.  His much more reasonable cap hit also earned him a spot on Ryder’s all-cap roster, along with Alex Tanguay.

Speaking of which, Alex Tanguay came out as one of Ryder’s favourites thanks to his amazing shoot-out play, which earned him a whopping 32 PC points and the Wyatt Earp award for top shooter (Kipper was 6th in the Cork Award for the top shoot-out goaltender).

Due to his tremendous performance in the shoot-out Alex Tanguay was ranked as the league’s 8th best forward, three spots higher than Jarome Iginla.  Together they made Ryder’s 2nd Western all-star team, and Jarome Iginla even made Ryder’s 2nd all-star even-strength team.

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Jarome Iginla’s great season also earned him a spot on Ryder’s 2nd all-star greybeard team (players aged 33 and up), but don’t break out the champagne and Ben Gay just yet, because that’s not a good thing. Generally every single member of both all-star greybeard teams have huge declines of about 20% the following season.

It wasn’t just Tanguay and Iginla because as a team Calgary clearly had the biggest positive offensive swing in the league, according to Ryder’s calculations – almost as large as New Jersey’s negative offensive swing. The improvement of 42 marginal goals is seen as simply a reversion, having dropped by 46 marginal goals in 2009-10. 

It was also interesting to learn that there were only 95.6% as many shots recorded at home than on the road, the 4th lowest percentage in the league, suggesting that either the Flames play a much different game in the Saddledome, or that the scorekeepers at home have a much more restricted definition of the word “shot” than do their colleagues around the league.

That’s just some of the fascinating insights you’ll find in Alan Ryder’s annual review every year, which also includes all his raw data, so it’s definitely worth checking out both this year’s and his historical archives of previous seasons.

  • I’m sympathetic to the notion that Kipper cost the Flames a lot of wins last year – as Bob has noted, Calgary was a decent enough ES possession club and, as we know, Kipper was replacement level at best last season.

    That said, sounds like Ryder’s analysis overshoots things a tad. The best team in the league aside from goaltending? Uh, no. There’s a reason there’s been no bounce back for the Flames this year despite Kipper playing a lot better – they aren’t that good.

    If Ryder still has fidelity for shot quality analysis, that’s probably the onion in the ointment.

    The marginal goals calculations sound right on the money though.

  • fretsey

    What an odd article.
    “The best team in the league aside from goaltending” ???? say what?
    While I agree he is on the down side of his career now.he is the SOLE reason we have made it to the Post Season since we acquired him.
    Deduct 10 points (minimum) from this team’s regular season points total and we have “finished” in the low to mid 80’s.(and that’s being very generous)
    Kipper has stolen 12 points this year alone,with half the season to go.

  • fretsey

    Based on what I saw as a fan laast year I would share the view that the team’s weakness was goaltending.

    Many Flames fans over value Kipper as they base their value on watching games, and commentaters opinions only. The rejection of stats means you are only rating your goaltender.

    Because we don’t see all games to viisually rate the others we need to rely on stats to compare them. In that analysis Kipper did not come out well. He is better this year but still mid pack.

    Many Kipper supporters often harken back or include the 2004-2007 period in their evaluation. In this period he truely was top end-no argument. Including dated stats would make Brdeur still a top end goaltender, whch barring a strong re-bound he no loner is.

    • I thought Ryder’s take would get some discussion going. 🙂

      I’m not sure you’re correct when you say they didn’t “even come close to making the playoffs.”

      They finished with 94 points, which would have been good enough in the other Conference, and was just 3 points back of Chicago in the West. If there was a night where Calgary was beating Chicago late in the game, but Calgary took a bad/unlucky penalty late, Chicago scored one to tie, and then won the shoot-out, that alone would have made the difference.

      In fact, that exact thing happened twice against Anaheim – a six-point swing right there.

      Calgary was 5th in goals for and 11th in goals against – that’s normally good enough! They were better than both Phoenix and Anaheim when you look at goal differential.

      To say the Flames didn’t even come close to making the playoffs is absurd when it was literally a single game, or if their luck had been anywhere close to average.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I have been a very big proponent of Kipprusof since his arrival, but I’m ready to see him moved at the deadline. If Feaster could reel in younger starting goal tender plus a top pick, he should. That said, I doubt Feaster has the chops to move this player. Feaster has first hand experience, and struggling to replace a bonified #1 goalie in Tampa. He suffered the consequences as a team and as a GM. I envision him giving a lot of thought before moving a popular and borderline iconic goal-tender.