Plenty of room for disciplined aggression in today’s NHL

October 11, 2013

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

When Montreal enforcer George Parros suffered a concussion and had to be stretchered off the ice after tussling with Toronto tough guy Colton Orr, hockey fans and pundits alike started to question the role fighting has in the sport. That debate is not likely to be resolved anytime soon, but there is plenty of room for disciplined aggression in today’s NHL.

Disciplined aggression looks at how a skater fares at being aggressive while benefiting the team with hits and takeaways, but not causing the team to go short handed due to taking minor penalties. Using the Disciplined Aggression Proxy (Hits+Takeaways / Minor penalties), a metric created by Iain Fyffe, we can recognize physical play in the right context.

For example: Over the last two seasons, Nashville Predators blueliner Kevin Klein has been credited with 150 hits and 48 takeaways in 113 games, but has taken just four minor penalties, giving him a DAP of 49.5 — highest among skaters playing 100 or more games over that time span. Klein skates a majority of his even-strength time against top opponents and led the Predators in penalty-killing ice time last season, earning him a five-year contract extension worth $14.5 million.

Second best among blueliners is Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon (22.0 DAP), who amassed 82 hits and 28 takeaways with just five trips to the penalty box. Now in his fourth season with the Wild, Spurgeon is trusted by Coach Mike Yeo in all situations, averaging more than 19 minutes a night, including 2:50 with the power-play unit and 2:12 when the Wild is short handed.

Up front, Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly (29.1 DAP) has made removing the puck by use of his stick an art form, registering 135 takeaways and 69 hits while being called for just seven minors over the past two campaigns. Rounding out this aggressive-but-disciplined “top line” are Ontario natives Matt Moulson (26.8 DAP) and Matt Read (26.3), both causing havoc for their Eastern Conference teams without yielding too many power-play opportunities to the opposition.

Oddly enough, the highest-rated forward since 2010-11 is not even on an NHL roster. David Steckel, who was released from his tryout with the Minnesota Wild, doled out 211 hits and registered 39 takeaways while being whistled for just seven minors. If a team needs a disciplined skater with a 58.3 career faceoff winning percentage, they should look no further than this former Washington Capital.

2010-11 to 2013

Player

Team

Pos.

GP

Hits

Takeways

Minors

DAP

Kevin Klein

NSH

D

113

150

48

4

49.5

Ryan O’Reilly

COL

C

110

69

135

7

29.1

Matt Moulson

NYI

L

129

57

77

5

26.8

Matt Read

PHI

R

121

131

53

7

26.3

Jared Spurgeon

MIN

D

109

82

28

5

22.0

 

greenberg
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced statistics for all sports and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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