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When did faceoffs become a big deal?

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Old
02-18-2012, 03:30 PM
  #1
DisgruntledGoat
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When did faceoffs become a big deal?

I don't know if there's an answer to this question, or if the answer is simply, 'always' but I was curious to see what other people thought.

It occured to me that the first player I can think of who was celebrated for his faceoff prowess was Bobby Clarke. . . then when I thought about it, I realized that I don't know too much about the faceoff ablity of centers pre-Clarke. Beliveau, Delvecchio, etc. . .no clue if they were decent in the faceoff circle. Post-Clarke, though, I think most people who follow the game can do a decent job of naming the top guys in every era.

Is this just a flaw a my hockey knowledge? Or were faceoffs not considered a big deal until around Bobby Clarke's time? If not, why not? What changed to make it such an important skill?

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02-18-2012, 04:05 PM
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Dennis Bonvie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
I don't know if there's an answer to this question, or if the answer is simply, 'always' but I was curious to see what other people thought.

It occured to me that the first player I can think of who was celebrated for his faceoff prowess was Bobby Clarke. . . then when I thought about it, I realized that I don't know too much about the faceoff ablity of centers pre-Clarke. Beliveau, Delvecchio, etc. . .no clue if they were decent in the faceoff circle. Post-Clarke, though, I think most people who follow the game can do a decent job of naming the top guys in every era.

Is this just a flaw a my hockey knowledge? Or were faceoffs not considered a big deal until around Bobby Clarke's time? If not, why not? What changed to make it such an important skill?
Around 1970, I remember the Boston media making a big deal about Derek Sanderson's prowess on faceoffs. After a win during the playoffs, someone asked him about it. With cig in hand, Turk said, "Montreal's got 3 guys better than me."

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02-18-2012, 05:20 PM
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When did faceoffs won/lost & FO %-age become an officially tracked and publicly available stat?

A quick google implies it wasn't until 1998:

http://www.hockeyzoneplus.com/puck003.htm

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The New NHL Stats, and Where to Find Them
Copyright Iain Fyffe, 2002

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The NHL has, historically, been very poor in the tracking of statistics. Goals, assists, and penalties have been tracked pretty well since the 1920ís, but games played were really only compiled since the 1960ís. Weíve had to go back and compile GP stats from earlier years. Plus-minus was invented in 1962 by the leagueís GMís, but was not tracked officially until 1967. Also in 1967, the NHL began to keep power-play goal, short-handed goal, game-winning goal and shots stats, though shots against goaltenders were not compiled officially until 1982. Not exactly a sparkling track record.

Finally, in 1997, the NHL took a long-overdue step with the introduction of their computer-based Real-Time Scoring System (RTSS). This system allows the tracking of all the traditional stats more easily, as well as opening a host of new statistical opportunities, such as the following, which are now recorded by the NHL:

...

Faceoffs: This is another obvious thing to keep track of. Beginning in 1998, faceoff percentage is available in both the NHL Guide and THN Yearbook, while total faceoffs is only in the NHL Guide. The surprising thing this stat revealed is how low the league-leading percentage usually is. A player who wins 60% of his faceoffs will be among the leagueís elite.

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02-19-2012, 01:24 AM
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It became a big deal in 1998 when the league started recording the stat and people started over-analyzing it.

To me, it's the most over-rated and over-discussed stat in hockey.

Faceoffs are essentially a coin flip. In any given year, almost every team in the league is between 48% and 52%.

If a team could sustain themselfs at 65-70% over a full season, that would be a significant advantage worth substantial analysis. But as it is, almost every team in the league is exactly the same.

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02-19-2012, 01:51 AM
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A faceoff has always been important. In the 1987 Canada Cup Keenan put Hawerchuk out on the draw deep in Canada's zone. Then seconds later the Lemieux goal happens. At the end of the game Keenan was asked why he chose Hawerchuk and not Messier. His response: "It was a creative move."

He could have used Gretzky as well, who was on the ice, but he didn't because he knew how important the faceoff win was going to be. So it was pretty important at that time because I remember discussion about how the Soviets never had an important faceoff man like Canada did, or how the NHL relied on faceoff specialists like Carboneau or before him Clarke. So it was talked about in 1987. Someone mentioned 1970 already. I guess it was just an implied importance.

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02-19-2012, 07:32 AM
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I think faceoffs have gradually grown into a bigger and bigger deal through the decades. And I think it's related to expanding media coverage and thus an ever-increasing focus on statistics. Consider that HNIC didn't even show full-length games on TV until 1968 and coverage in the US didn't really get off the ground until the mid 60s either.


Nowadays with near non-stop NHL coverage on a channel like TSN and constant chatter via websites, blogs and twitter, we see every aspect of the game analyzed to a degree never seen before.

Consider also shot-blocking as part of that, while always important I don't think it's ever been discussed as much and analyzed as an asset as we've seen the last 5 years or so.

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02-19-2012, 08:08 AM
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Who was the best faceoff guys in the 50's? 60's? Or at least who had the reputation of being the best?

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02-19-2012, 08:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
I don't know if there's an answer to this question, or if the answer is simply, 'always' but I was curious to see what other people thought.

It occured to me that the first player I can think of who was celebrated for his faceoff prowess was Bobby Clarke. . . then when I thought about it, I realized that I don't know too much about the faceoff ablity of centers pre-Clarke. Beliveau, Delvecchio, etc. . .no clue if they were decent in the faceoff circle. Post-Clarke, though, I think most people who follow the game can do a decent job of naming the top guys in every era.

Is this just a flaw a my hockey knowledge? Or were faceoffs not considered a big deal until around Bobby Clarke's time? If not, why not? What changed to make it such an important skill?
Just to repeat another post, Derek Sanderson, was being talked about in the late 60's due to his mastery of face-offs and he discusses it in detail in his book "I have Got to Be Me."

The NHL may not have tracked them back then but all coaches realized how important they were. In fact I'd bet up to say 1977 if you asked any coach in the WHA or NHL who they would choose to take a crucial face-off in say O/T of Game 7 they'd all choose Sanderson.

Craig Wallace

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02-19-2012, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
A faceoff has always been important. In the 1987 Canada Cup Keenan put Hawerchuk out on the draw deep in Canada's zone. Then seconds later the Lemieux goal happens. At the end of the game Keenan was asked why he chose Hawerchuk and not Messier. His response: "It was a creative move."

He could have used Gretzky as well, who was on the ice, but he didn't because he knew how important the faceoff win was going to be. So it was pretty important at that time because I remember discussion about how the Soviets never had an important faceoff man like Canada did, or how the NHL relied on faceoff specialists like Carboneau or before him Clarke. So it was talked about in 1987. Someone mentioned 1970 already. I guess it was just an implied importance.
This brings up another point that I was thinking about. If faceoffs emerged as being a more important skill around the Clarke/Sanderson era, that also coincides with another big development in the hockey world: the Soviets emerging as a dominant hockey power.

I'm wondering if they're related. A lot was made of the Russian puck possession game and the inability of NHL teams to get the puck back once the Russians had it. It stands to reason, then, that you'd want to win every faceoff and not let them start the play like that. Did that mentality than make its way over to regular league play?

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02-19-2012, 11:44 AM
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For me it was Doug Jarvis with the Habs in the late 70's. Really made life easier for the defense when facing the other teams best offensive players on defensive zone draws.

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02-19-2012, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by MS View Post
It became a big deal in 1998 when the league started recording the stat and people started over-analyzing it.

To me, it's the most over-rated and over-discussed stat in hockey.

Faceoffs are essentially a coin flip. In any given year, almost every team in the league is between 48% and 52%.

If a team could sustain themselfs at 65-70% over a full season, that would be a significant advantage worth substantial analysis. But as it is, almost every team in the league is exactly the same.

I agree with this and the following point makes my point in that Hawerchuck isn't even a 60% chance to win that draw and what would his value be over a replacement Center anyways?

Phil was just the 1st guy to make the point but if face offs were truly that important Yanick Perrault would have had a much longer career IMO.

Sure face offs are important in specific examples but the game is 60 minutes long and the face off splits over time rarely reach over/under 55/45% so it's not really as big of a deal overall IMO.

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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
A faceoff has always been important. In the 1987 Canada Cup Keenan put Hawerchuk out on the draw deep in Canada's zone. Then seconds later the Lemieux goal happens. At the end of the game Keenan was asked why he chose Hawerchuk and not Messier. His response: "It was a creative move."

He could have used Gretzky as well, who was on the ice, but he didn't because he knew how important the faceoff win was going to be. So it was pretty important at that time because I remember discussion about how the Soviets never had an important faceoff man like Canada did, or how the NHL relied on faceoff specialists like Carboneau or before him Clarke. So it was talked about in 1987. Someone mentioned 1970 already. I guess it was just an implied importance.
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Originally Posted by cam042686 View Post
Just to repeat another post, Derek Sanderson, was being talked about in the late 60's due to his mastery of face-offs and he discusses it in detail in his book "I have Got to Be Me."

The NHL may not have tracked them back then but all coaches realized how important they were. In fact I'd bet up to say 1977 if you asked any coach in the WHA or NHL who they would choose to take a crucial face-off in say O/T of Game 7 they'd all choose Sanderson.

Craig Wallace
Sure that might be true that you'd want Turk out there but it's not like any team would be giving up much with their top Centers either.

It's like having a shootout specialist or a goalie who is better in the shootout than the starter, Loungo in Vancouver comes to mind. teams don't carry pure specialist guys or make the goalie changes for these situations (yet) even though there is a much more direct impact on a team gaining points than on face offs.

I think some coach like a future hitch will change this mentality and NHL coaches might play % like managers in baseball.

Given the amount of points won or lost in SO it's surprising teams don't do it alot already.

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02-19-2012, 01:20 PM
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Fifties

Faceoff were important going back into the fifties. Jean Beliveau was definitely one of the best from the O6 era. Stan Mikita was another, Dave Keon was very good as were most of the #1 centers.

The basic issue with faceoffs is that the viewer does not know the objective of each center on each draw.

A faceoff may be called a loss for a center if his team does not get the puck but if the objective was to keep the puck from going to a certain player or area then the net result is acceptable.


Last edited by Canadiens1958: 02-22-2012 at 12:35 PM. Reason: typo
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02-19-2012, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
Phil was just the 1st guy to make the point but if face offs were truly that important Yanick Perrault would have had a much longer career IMO.
Because 14 seasons and lasting in the NHL until age 36 is bad for a small guy who couldn't skate very well? How long do you figure he should have lasted?

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02-19-2012, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by cam042686 View Post
Just to repeat another post, Derek Sanderson, was being talked about in the late 60's due to his mastery of face-offs and he discusses it in detail in his book "I have Got to Be Me."

The NHL may not have tracked them back then but all coaches realized how important they were. In fact I'd bet up to say 1977 if you asked any coach in the WHA or NHL who they would choose to take a crucial face-off in say O/T of Game 7 they'd all choose Sanderson.

Craig Wallace
I think a rather large percentage would have taken Clarke from 72 on.

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02-19-2012, 03:29 PM
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Because 14 seasons and lasting in the NHL until age 36 is bad for a small guy who couldn't skate very well? How long do you figure he should have lasted?
I took it off the top of my head, he had really good hands and was a decent scorer and should have been able to crack the maple Leafs in his early years instead of being traded away for a 4th if faceoff skills were so important.

Maybe it speaks more to the Leafs failures though, I agree he isn't the best example but faceoff skills are overrated IMO.

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02-19-2012, 05:24 PM
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I took it off the top of my head, he had really good hands and was a decent scorer and should have been able to crack the maple Leafs in his early years instead of being traded away for a 4th if faceoff skills were so important.

Maybe it speaks more to the Leafs failures though, I agree he isn't the best example but faceoff skills are overrated IMO.
I would say that a player like Perreault's success/failure in getting NHL jobs doesn't support your contention one way or another. NHL managers do keep giving jobs to these guys, and you think they do it too much. That's not to turn it into one of those "well they'd know better" type arguments. After all, these jobs keep going to the same people, regardless of whether their ideas are in step with current realities (Keenan?).

A better argument would be to look at whether specialists like David Steckel, late-career Peter Zezel, etc, have improved their teams' fortunes much.

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02-19-2012, 05:45 PM
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Look at Crosby's increase in face off percentage. I believe it goes up about 3% a year. It really shows how much he works on his game. From like 46% or so as a rookie to like 56% or so last season. He was young to start but over time most have a rather consistent faceoff percentage. To improve so much shows his dedication to getting any edge he can. It is funny some players just can't master faceoffs... Like say Shaq or Wilt could never get good at free throws. Funny such a talented guy can't at least get close to 50% on faceoffs.

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02-19-2012, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by MS View Post
It became a big deal in 1998 when the league started recording the stat and people started over-analyzing it.

To me, it's the most over-rated and over-discussed stat in hockey.

Faceoffs are essentially a coin flip. In any given year, almost every team in the league is between 48% and 52%.

If a team could sustain themselfs at 65-70% over a full season, that would be a significant advantage worth substantial analysis. But as it is, almost every team in the league is exactly the same.
i agree that faceoffs are overrated. most important on special teams

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Who was the best faceoff guys in the 50's? 60's? Or at least who had the reputation of being the best?
i think mikita would be the best of '60s. keon was also very good.

i don't know about '50s, but ted kennedy was apparently a great faceoff man.

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This brings up another point that I was thinking about. If faceoffs emerged as being a more important skill around the Clarke/Sanderson era, that also coincides with another big development in the hockey world: the Soviets emerging as a dominant hockey power.

I'm wondering if they're related. A lot was made of the Russian puck possession game and the inability of NHL teams to get the puck back once the Russians had it. It stands to reason, then, that you'd want to win every faceoff and not let them start the play like that. Did that mentality than make its way over to regular league play?
this is a good example of faceoffs being overrated. larionov was not good on faceoffs, but was great in puck possession. gretzky and forsberg are other examples.

commentators often talk about the importance of faceoffs for possession, but they are not so important.

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02-19-2012, 06:52 PM
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Sure face offs are important in specific examples but the game is 60 minutes long and the face off splits over time rarely reach over/under 55/45% so it's not really as big of a deal overall IMO.

It's like having a shootout specialist or a goalie who is better in the shootout than the starter, Loungo in Vancouver comes to mind. teams don't carry pure specialist guys or make the goalie changes for these situations (yet) even though there is a much more direct impact on a team gaining points than on face offs.
Agreed.

As important as a single faceoff may turn out to be, the simple fact of the matter is that itís generally a coin flip. When 25-27 of 30 teams are between 48% and 52% and nobody gets over 55%, then nobody is getting any sort of significant advantage.

The advantage to being a Ďtopí faceoff team essentially means that, on average, youíll get possession of the puck an extra one or two times per game. In a sport where there are hundreds of possession changes in any game, that difference simply isnít significant. And this is borne out by the fact that there is historically almost zero correlation between faceoff prowess and team success (and these correlations can usually be traced Ė Calgary isnít a good team and is last on faceoffs this year, but have been absolutely rocked by a series of injuries to centermen Ė not surprising that they would struggle both in faceoffs and in the standings).

Like I said previously if there was a wide range in terms of team success Ė teams ranging from 70% to 30% - then it would be a game-changer and a major talking point. But it just isnít.

Itís reached the point where fans/pundits seem to be placing almost the same value on faceoff success as is placed on PP/PK success, and they arenít even in the same planet in terms of importance.

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02-19-2012, 09:52 PM
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Originally Posted by MS View Post
Faceoffs are essentially a coin flip. In any given year, almost every team in the league is between 48% and 52%.
How much is a 4% advantage worth over the course of a year, given the sheer number of faceoffs that take place? If a team has 5,000 faceoffs, winning 52% means you'll win 200 more than your opponents over the course of the season. Is that negligible? Boston's at 55% this year - that's a pace of almost 500 more faceoff wins than losses. Is that insignificant?

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If a team could sustain themselfs at 65-70% over a full season, that would be a significant advantage worth substantial analysis. But as it is, almost every team in the league is exactly the same.
Are you sure you really need an advantage of 1,500 faceoff wins a year for it to be significant?

You're also ignoring the situational nature of the faceoffs. Defensive/offensive zone numbers, for example.

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02-19-2012, 11:26 PM
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Does anyone think that you'd see a much larger spread between teams overall if one threw out all the results of neutral-zone faceoffs, where a teams' "other" centres would be taking their draws?

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02-20-2012, 12:47 AM
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How much is a 4% advantage worth over the course of a year, given the sheer number of faceoffs that take place? If a team has 5,000 faceoffs, winning 52% means you'll win 200 more than your opponents over the course of the season. Is that negligible? Boston's at 55% this year - that's a pace of almost 500 more faceoff wins than losses. Is that insignificant?


Are you sure you really need an advantage of 1,500 faceoff wins a year for it to be significant?

You're also ignoring the situational nature of the faceoffs. Defensive/offensive zone numbers, for example.
Defensive/offensive zone numbers might shed more light on it but so too would game situation. Everything is much more important in a close game rather than a 3-2 or 4-2 game and with more parity in the league today say than in the early 70's maybe face offs are more important.

I still think the SO strategy, and individual player success, might have a greater impact on games but haven't looked that closely at it.

I know the one guy who is doing stuff like that and presented some of his argument for Zubov in the top 60 Dman argument but it didn't seem to help his case much. (Part of Zubov being rated as the top Dman is 06 was his prowess in SO.)

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02-20-2012, 02:04 AM
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When did faceoffs become a big deal? I would say when there were players credited with being particularly good at it. As nik said, there was Mikita in the 60s and Kennedy 10-20 years before that.

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02-20-2012, 02:19 AM
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Agreed.

As important as a single faceoff may turn out to be, the simple fact of the matter is that it’s generally a coin flip. When 25-27 of 30 teams are between 48% and 52% and nobody gets over 55%, then nobody is getting any sort of significant advantage.

The advantage to being a ‘top’ faceoff team essentially means that, on average, you’ll get possession of the puck an extra one or two times per game. In a sport where there are hundreds of possession changes in any game, that difference simply isn’t significant. And this is borne out by the fact that there is historically almost zero correlation between faceoff prowess and team success (and these correlations can usually be traced – Calgary isn’t a good team and is last on faceoffs this year, but have been absolutely rocked by a series of injuries to centermen – not surprising that they would struggle both in faceoffs and in the standings).

Like I said previously if there was a wide range in terms of team success – teams ranging from 70% to 30% - then it would be a game-changer and a major talking point. But it just isn’t.

It’s reached the point where fans/pundits seem to be placing almost the same value on faceoff success as is placed on PP/PK success, and they aren’t even in the same planet in terms of importance.
I somewhat agree. It's one of those things that is not necessarily tremendous big-picture-wise, but can be the most important thing in the world in individual situations.

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02-20-2012, 04:33 AM
  #25
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One thing to keep in mind regarding faceoffs, is that one may tend to remember the cases where faceoffs wins had a stong and immediate effect on the game, for example resulting in a goal being scored, or in a big scoring chance or penalty.
Usually, the outcome doesn't really matter much, just like winning/losing a battle in a corner, succeeding/failing in making a pass, or succeeding/faling to intercept a pass, usually doesn't affect game outcome.
There are lots of battles during a hockey game, each one having an effect on possesion, and faceoffs are just one of them. The faceoff itself is usually followed by a number of battles/etc, each having an aftermath of some kind. One may "win" the faceoff, but lose the battles following, or lose the faceoff and win the battles following it, etc., etc.

Some month(s) ago, I studied the aftermath of every faceoff during last season. I divided the season into "sequences", where each sequence started with a faceoff, and ended when the play stopped (for example, when the referee blow the whistle). The "result" could be a goal being scored, a penalty being drawn/taken, the next faceoff taking place somewhere else, etc. Since there are about 60 faceoffs per game, and 1230 games per season, it thus gave me more than 70 000 faceoffs to draw conclusions from. I also categorized them based on which zone they took place in, during what situation (ES, PP, SH) they happened, and how long the sequence lasted. Based on that, it should be possible to tell about how important faceoffs are for the outcome of games, or how much a faceoff win increases the chances of a goal being scored. I did find some (at least to me) interesting things.
(I took data from nhl.com, and thus used their definition of a "win" or "loss". I wrote a program that downloaded 1230 html-pages, and converted the html code into program statements.)

I had plans of posting the results/discoveries here, but chose not to. It would likely have gotten a bad reception anyway (ignored/misunderstood/distrusted/etc.). Sort of discouraging.

From memory... Regarding neutral zone faceoffs, it really didn't seem to matter much if one won or lost the faceoff. For the other faceoffs, getting an offensive zone faceoff seemed more (or at least equally?) important than actually winning it, even though winning faceoffs was better than losing them. It should be noted that these things are perhaps best analyzed using graphs, as there is a time factor involved. For example, winning an offensice zone faceoff may have increased the chance of scoring within the immediate 10(?) seconds of play, but then actually may seem to have increased the chance of the opponents to score during say second 12-20 after the faceoff. (This is from memory, and I don't remember exactly.)


Last edited by plusandminus: 02-20-2012 at 09:18 AM. Reason: attempt to improve English
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