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02-10-2013, 11:44 PM
Hockey Outsider
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My interpretation is that Detroit's superior offense is explained by the fact that the Red Wings consistently had better offensive defensemen. Having fast, skilled defensemen who can pass and shoot is beneficial to elite scorers like Sakic and Yzerman. There are a few ways of looking at the data, but it all tells the same story:

- From 1989 to 2006, Detroit defensemen scored 3,187 points, compared to 2,673 points for Colorado. If you use the "goals created" stat on, Detroit's defensemen outscored Colorado's 1,056-910; this 146 goal differential explains 36% of Detroit's 412 goal advantage over this period.

- Over those 17 years, Colorado featured just two defensemen who averaged at least 0.5 ppg over 200 games: Sandis Ozolinsh (0.76 ppg over 333 games) and Rob Blake (0.65 ppg over 322 games). Over the same period, the Wings featured Lidstrom (0.74 ppg over 1,096 games), Chaisson (0.63 ppg over 397 games), Coffey (1.03 ppg over 231 games), Murphy (0.55 ppg over 312 games) and Racine (0.54 ppg over 231 games).

- Only 9 times did an Avalanche defenseman score a relatively pedestrian 50 points in a season (Ozolinsh x4; Blake x2; Bourque, Brown, Duchesne x1). This happened 18 times for Detroit (Lidstrom x11; Coffey x3; Murphy x2; Chiasson, Schneider x1). If you use a more rigorous standard (60 points in a season) Detroit has a 9-3 lead (and that excludes Coffey's 1995 season where he scored 58 points in a 48 game season). This is also reflected in the fact that, if you list all the seasons from Colorado and Detroit defensemen during this era, Detroit has 16 of the top 21 highest scoring seasons.

- It was obvious to anybody following hockey during the 1990s and early 2000s that, in the great western conference rivalry, Detroit clearly had superior defensemen, both offensively and overall.

Your position that Sakic had more offensive help than Yzerman cannot be reconciled with the facts that Detroit was consistently the higher scoring team and had a decisive edge in offense from defensemen.


EDIT: Now that I've dug into the numbers a bit deeper, I no longer accept the claim that Colorado had more top-end talent (as I said in post #43). If you compare the top thirty seasons from Detroit/Colorado forwards (excluding Yzerman/Sakic) from 1989 to 2006, it's even - in both cases the top thirty forwards other than the two #19s scored exactly 2,426 points (81 points per season). This is probably a better metric than counting top ten finishes because your metric arbitrarily counts seasons where a player just barely made the (Gretzky & Lemieux adjusted) top ten (such as Forsberg in 1997) and ignores seasons where a player just barely misses the (adjusted) top ten (such as Shanahan in 2000). If someone has time they can analyze the data in other ways but, overall, this tells me the two teams had comparable top-end talent upfront.

Last edited by Hockey Outsider: 02-11-2013 at 12:44 AM.
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