Is Johnny Gaudreau drawing fewer penalties than he used to?

We’re over 20% of the way through the 2016-17 Calgary Flames schedule and there are quite a few things to talk about. In light of the injury to Johnny Gaudreau and general whispers of an officiating conspiracy in the aftermath of Dennis Wideman’s altercation with Don Henderson in January, we felt the need to dig into officiating in Calgary’s games so far this season.

We have two broad questions to explore: Is Johnny Gaudreau drawing fewer penalties than he used to? And are the Flames as a team drawing fewer penalties than they used to?

GAUDREAU PENALTIES

Our friends at Corsica.Hockey track penalties drawn and penalties taken. How does Gaudreau stack up this season compared to his two full seasons in the NHL?

All Situations:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
GP/
Draw
2014-15 1415 16 88.4 4.9
2015-16 1566 25 62.6 3.3
2016-17 321 9 33.7 1.7

5 on 5:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
GP/
Draw
2014-15 1115 13 86.8 5.8
2015-16 1185 15 79.0 5.3
2016-17 242 4 60.5 3.8

As you can see, Gaudreau has increased his penalties-drawn frequency in every season. Despite the perception that he’s not drawing many calls, he’s actually drawing them more frequently than he ever has before… by a lot. When you adjust for his time-on-ice in each situation and in each season, he’s still drawing calls much more frequently than in the past.

Now, bear in mind that because we’re looking at early-season penalty numbers they need to be taken with a grain of salt. The regular season always begins with talk of “the refs are going to call everything,” and there are many instances of that for every team early in the year. But inevitably teams adapt (and/or officials stop whistling stuff as often) and the penalty rate slides backwards a little bit.

(There aren’t any studies that we can find that corroborate that, though, so we’re forced to rely on hearsay and anecdotal evidence. If the advanced stats community is reading this: Hi. Can you run the in-season numbers for us?)

FLAMES DRAWING PENALTIES

How about the Flames as a collective unit? Are they drawing fewer penalties?

All Situations:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
2014-15 4991 326 15.3
2015-16 4973 328 15.2
2016-17 1032 80 12.9

5 on 5:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
2014-15 3969 223 17.8
2015-16 3912 235 16.6
2016-17 767 58 13.2

Team-wide, the Flames are drawing penalties more frequently than they were in each of the last two seasons by a fairly hefty margin. Even if there’s an in-season variation in call frequency, they’re probably drawing calls more often because it seems unlikely that the referees would put their whistles away over the last 80% of the season to a degree that would cause the rates to balance out with previous seasons.

FLAMES TAKING PENALTIES

But what if the officials are calling everything more often (in an effort to mask their conspiracy against the Flames, or because they have a tendency towards make-up calls and making calls in pairs)? Are the Flames taking penalties more frequently as well?

All Situations:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Taken
Mins/
Take
2014-15 4991 254 19.6
2015-16 4973 291 17.1
2016-17 1032 88 11.7

5 on 5:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Taken
Mins/
Take
2014-15 3969 200 19.8
2015-16 3912 193 20.3
2016-17 767 52 14.8

Much like the Flames are drawing penalties more often than they have in recent seasons, they’re also taking penalties more often. There’s obviously a sample size “wobble” to the data as we’re comparing an in-progress season with two completed seasons, but so far they’re taking penalties more frequently than they’re drawing them overall, but they’re drawing penalties more frequently than they’re taking them at even strength.

SUM IT UP

Revisiting the two main questions we were looking at when we dug into the numbers:

  • Is Johnny Gaudreau drawing fewer
    penalties than he used to? No, he’s actually drawing penalties more frequently (even when you control for how much he plays per game).
  • And are the Flames as a team drawing fewer
    penalties than they used to? No, they’re also actually drawing penalties more frequently.

That’s not to say that Gaudreau isn’t being keyed in on by opposition players who are hacking and whacking him into seeming oblivion, but in terms of penalty calls themselves he’s drawing a ton.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I don’t think the issue is the raw number of penalties he’s drawing; I think it’s that players are playing him harder/more dirty. He rarely gets hit, and most of the penalties I noticed in his first two seasons were trips and the occasional hook, but as we saw against the Wild, he’s getting a lot of straight-up abuse lately, rather than penalties being drawn because he’s doing something fancy and the defender can’t handle him. It’s all subjective, but I think he’s drawing less penalties called per penalizable (makin’ up words) action.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Typically Johnny doesn’t get hit, but would argue that he has tried to do to much and getting caught this year. I think players are tired of being embarrassed by him. He is not the type of guy that gets under the oppositions skin but their appears to be a bounty on him because we are such a one dimensional team when it comes to creating offense.

        Last year I was hoping Ferland could be his full time winger but he struggles on the RW but that is the type of policing winger we need.

    • jupiter

      It’s one of many tools a good coach has in his toolbox. He’s going to use that tool as long as the officials let him.

      As one of the analysts said on SN.Do I think coaches will tell there players to focus on his hands when the opportunity arises??
      You bet I do.

      Taking advantage of an opportunity.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Pretty sad if a coach considers that a necessary tool for winning….butI don’t disagree with the statement. It’s like telling a player to work over someone that just recovered from an injury by targeting the recently injured area….its bush league but it happens.

        Do you think BB would have preferred the win and get 2 pts in the game against Calgary vs injuring the star player. He probably wishes they got Johnny out of the game before scored what proved to be the winning goal.

        But I am sure that he is satisfied knowing that Calgary’s best player won’t be available for the next game the teams play in December….sad.

        I think players can accept the risk of injury playing a contact sport but they should never accept being injured from a cheap shot that falls outside the rules and the spirit of the game.

        • jupiter

          I agree except right now the officials {League} has decided to let slashing slide, for whatever reason. Breaking a stick is a penalty, but breaking a bone is not.

          How this current bunch of dummies have managed to bring the game this far is actually amazing.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I understand that, but apparently the Flames pointed it out to the officials, who then seemingly ignored it. All they had to do is keep an eye out and call it once, and I would bet you the Wild would’ve stopped their targeting.

          • cberg

            Besides the Flames pointing it out directly, the refs would have known this tactic from Boudreau as it was one of his prime tactics they utilized on Anaheim for many years.

            Nothing new here, its just like head shots/concussions…. the NHL will deny and ignore it, allowing it to happen so to further “even up” the league…. just like the Bettman point keeps things way more competitive and “meh” till far later in the season.

            They have rules, they refuse to enforce them. End of story.

      • jakethesnail

        Same analyst says that if he was coaching, that with Johnny hurt, he would tell his guys to go after Tkachuk now. You go after the top stars on the other team…

        But sad to say, they showed an interview clip with our Troy Brouwer says he does the same.

        No respect is right.

    • Burnward

      NHL can make it simple on the refs. Any slash that makes intentional and forceful contact above the lower hand should be called.

      Make slashing like high sticking.

    • brodiegio4life

      the problem with the slashes is the refs are only looking for huge slashes or two handed swings and not the type of cheap crap gaudreau has to deal with. You’d be naive to not think that suter and staal knew exactly what they were doing hitting gaudreau where they did. They were targeting his fingers! There was clear intent to injure. Like burnward said any contact form the stick to the hands should be called similar to high sticking.

    • Kensington

      In the old days we all know what would happen when the teams meet again. An eye for an eye. If the refs refuse to protect the players then the players have to protect themselves. If I was coaching I would be buying dinner for anyone who laid a really clean hard check on a couple wild players whose names need not be mentioned.

    • Derzie

      That game we got a broken finger (JG) and 2 busted teeth (Brouwer) and no calls in either case. That is high level incompetence. If I did my job that badly I’d go hungry.