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04-07-2012, 10:20 AM
Hockey Outsider
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Originally Posted by overpass View Post
Here's a look at minor penalties taken by Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom. Starting in 1997-98, when both became Norris contenders, through 2010-11.

I have left out major penalties because many of them are coincidental, and don't put the team down a man. Some of the minor penalties are probably coincidental as well, but I don't have a data source that separates those numbers.

Year Pronger GP Lidstrom GP Pronger MinP Lidstrom MinP Pronger ESGA Lidstrom ESGA
1998 81 80 65 9 55 51
1999 67 81 49 7 59 61
2000 79 81 41 9 43 70
2001 51 82 30 9 26 65
2002 78 78 45 10 50 55
2003 5 82 5 19 7 55
2004 80 81 39 9 50 51
2006 80 80 37 25 47 48
2007 66 80 32 23 27 35
2008 72 76 43 20 34 36
2009 82 78 39 15 56 49
2010 82 82 32 12 45 56
2011 50 82 21 10 33 65
Total 873 1043 478 177 532 698
Per-season 67 80 37 14 41 54
Per-82 82 82 45 14 50 55

MinP=minor penalty taken, ESGA= on-ice even strength goal against.

Pronger has been on the ice for fewer ES goals against than Lidstrom, even on a per-game basis, despite playing similar ice time. This is one reason I've been high on Pronger in the past. But it appears that Pronger takes penalties as a substitute for allowing goals, compared to Lidstrom. So his team ends up allowing goals on the power play instead.

It's hard to quantify the effect without having the coincidental penalties split out, but if Pronger allows 5 fewer ESGA than Lidstrom but takes 30 more minor penalties, that looks pretty similar.

Looking at Lidstrom's career season by season, there is a very high negative correlation (-0.72) between minor penalties taken and ESGA.This correlation would undoubtedly be of a lower magnitude if those numbers were normalized to league average, but it's still interesting.
If I've interpreted this correctly, on average Pronger is on the ice for slightly few ESGA than Lidstrom, before considering the impact of penalty taking.

Pronger is on the ice for 31 extra minor penalties per 82 games. Let's assume that 15% are coincidental minors that don't put his team shorthanded (not supported by any data, but I think it's a reasonable ballpark estimate). Let's also assume that their teams kill 85% of penalties (which I'm sure is higher than the average over that time period, but they generally played on very good defensive teams). Relative to Lidstrom, Pronger's penalty-taking would therefore cost his team around 31 * 0.85 * 0.15 = 3.95 goals against per season.

In other words, after taking penalty-taking into account, Lidstrom and Pronger are virtually even in terms of ES goals against. Pronger is on the ice for about 5 fewer goals against at even strength, but his team probably surrenders around 4 more goals on the penalty kill.

Still, I think this favours Lidstrom for three reasons:

1. This analysis only takes into account the defensive impact of penalties (ie teams allow more goals while on the PK). However, this doesn't take into account the lost offensive opportunities (as it's much harder to score while on the PK compared to even strength).

2. Even if both players have the same net impact on defense, Pronger still spends roughly triple the time in the penalty box. All things being equal, I'd rather have my Hall of Fame defenseman sitting on the bench, ready to be used as needed, rather than sitting in the penalty box.

3. Lidstrom maintained this elite level of play for a longer period of time. He might not be "better" (if we're talking about ability) but was clearly more "valuable" (if we're talking about how much he contributed to his teams). I place more focus on "valuable" but understand that this is a matter of personal preference.

A few more points:

4. I don't think that Pronger should get extra credit for being tough and intimidating - these are valuable only insofar as they help his team defensively. Since his goals-against numbers should already capture any positive impact of his strength and physical play, we would be double-counting if we gave Pronger additional credit for his toughness.

5. Technically I think this should be done on a per-minute basis. From 1999 to 2012 (I realize this doesn't correspond exactly to the years you used), Pronger has played about an extra 30 seconds per game (roughly 2%). I suspect Pronger played a slightly greater percentage of his ice time at ES than Lidstrom (just a hunch that I haven't verified). Perhaps this factor favours Pronger slightly?

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