Literally a week ago, I put together a post looking at how the 2009-10 New Jersey Devils drew and took penalties at even strength, 5-on-5 play. After all, if the Devils' power play is going to need improvement, drawing a few more calls would help. Plus, the penalty kill would benefit if we can identify those who take more than just a few calls and have them work on their own game to cut back on the calls.
While the two stats is not the end-all, be-all of penalties, they do quantify when a penalty has been the result of someone else's actions. Remember: penalties taken are penalties that the player was drawn into taking. This doesn't include unforced penalties. Keep that in mind in both posts.
Behind the Net has stored all that information so I organized those numbers and calculated a drawn/taken ratio and a percent of drawn penalties out of the total. While it's great if a player draws over 20 penalties, the effect is undercut if that same player takes over 20 penalties (e.g. Alex Burrows, Evgeni Malkin). Through those calculations, it can be identified as who is adept at drawing them without the damage of taking them.
From this past season, the best Devils at drawing penalties were Zach Parise (led the team in drawn calls with 39) and Vladimir Zharkov (led in drawn/taken ratio on team and in the league with 15). The Devils who stood out in terms of taking calls were Bryce Salvador (led team with 20 taken calls), Mark Fraser (worst drawn/taken ratio at .125) and Andrew Peters (5 taken, none drawn). Overall, the post, I think, did the job of who needs to watch their stickwork when they get beaten and who can do more on the ice to force the opposition to commit an infraction.
The elephant in the room when considering this type of stuff is the completely arbitrary nature of penalties.
It’s common sense to anyone who’s watched a guy like Parise play that his speed and skill is going to put the opposition into situations where they may need to commit a penalty more often than he will himself be forced to take one, so it’s a case of the data statistically confirming what we already knew. But on the flip side, there is a danger of taking this data at face value because there are a lot of outside forces that can directly impact them.
I think it’s safe to say that a sample size like a season or three is sufficient to get an idea of how a player plays, as far as taking and drawing penalties, but using it as anything more than a rough guide is asking for trouble. There’s just too much wiggle room.
This is a very good point. One whole season can be thrown off by just bad luck with referees, a developing reputation, a player simply not playing as much, etc. A larger population should yield more accurate results (population size is also why I'm only looking at seasons and not the playoffs).
So I went ahead and did just that. Behind the Net does have stats available as far back as 2006-07, but the 2006-07 season calculated drawn and taken penalties far differently than in more recent seasons. Therefore, I stuck with the last three seasons to discover who really has been a consistent penalty drawer, who didn't look good in 2009-10 but was OK in prior seasons, who has been stuck taking more calls than anyone else, and how the team overall did at drawing and taking calls.
Learn how much more disciplined the 2009-10 Devils were in comparison to the past two seasons, discover how consistent Zach Parise has been at drawing calls, and see how many calls the Devils teams have drawn and taken in each of the past three seasons. All of this and more, after the jump.
Raw Data Tables
As noted prior to the jump, I took the numbers from Behind the Net and calculated the drawn/taken ratio and percent of calls drawn for each of the past three seasons. Rather than bombard you with giant charts, I've linked the charts I've made as well as the base
One cautionary note, based on how Behind the Net is organized, the players listed under New Jersey were those who were Devils by the end of the season. Players who were traded away aren't on here. The numbers for the players acquired by the Devils are listed in these charts were for their entire season. I couldn't figure out a way to parse in the numbers otherwise, but I cannot completely ignore them either. If anyone has a way to figure that out, I'd be happy to remake the charts and revise my own conclusions if necessary.
For each season, my criteria was simple: a minimum TOI/60 of 1. This resulted in nearly every Devil who played in that season. Feel free to click on the links and make your own conclusions, I'll offer some quick takes on the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
Quick Takes on 07-08: Zach Parise had the best D/T ratio, but David Clarkson led the team in drawing calls. Before you start lionizing him as an effective agitator, he also led the team in taking calls. 5 Devils drew more than 20 calls in 2007-08: Clarkson, Parise, Dainius Zubrus, Brian Gionta, and Travis Zajac.
12 Devils (1 defenseman) finished with a D/T of 1 or better, 10 (8 defensemen) were under that mark among all Devils who took or drew at least one penalty. The one defenseman finished with a D/T higher than 1 was Paul Martin. The only forwards below the D/T of 1 were Clarkson and Jay Pandolfo. As a team, the team finished below 1 in terms of D/T at even strength play.
Quick Takes on 08-09: Zach Parise, once again, led the team in D/T but also in drawing penalties with 28. Patrik Elias improved from going 14-14 to 10-23, bumping his D/T to above 2. In total, 3 Devils drew over 20 calls in 08-09: Parise, Elias, and Clarkson. Mike Rupp came real close at 19, but he took 19 calls as well. Bobby Holik was absolutely terrible in 08-09 in terms of 5-on-5 penalties as he took 27 calls. Not only was that the most on the Devils that season, but he also had the lowest D/T ratio among Devils who took at least one call; he wasn't even successful at goading opponents into making a mistake. Brendan Shanahan surprisingly (to me, at least) had the inglorious result of taking 9 penalties and drawing none at all. That's pretty bad on it's own.
In this season, the Devils had 13 players below the D/T ratio of 1 - including the entire defense. They outnumbered the 10 who had a D/T ratio of 1. Therefore, it was of no surprise that the Devils took many more calls than they drew at even strength, the team D/T ratio was even below 0.9. If you throw out Niclas Havelid's numbers, it looks better but still not all that good.
I already wrote plenty on this past season, so please read this post. All I'll add is while there were more Devils below the D/T ratio mark of 1 (16 under, 15 over), some of those under were call ups so the Devils had a slight advantage in terms of over. Kovalchuk's numbers helped, but Nicklas Bergfors' were positive as well and parsing them out could have still yielded the same results.
The Last Three Seasons
Only 12 Devils have participated in each of the last three regular seasons. I've singled them out along with the total team numbers calculated in this chart.
Again, Parise leads the list and that should be of little surprise. Zajac wasn't very good in 2009-10 in terms of drawing penalties, but he was in the last two seasons. I'd like to think that was an abberation. Elias, on the other hand, had one really good season in the past three in terms of penalties drawn and taken, which boosts him up high on this list. For a defensive forward, Jay Pandolfo has shown to be very disciplined; while he hasn't drawn too many calls, he has taken very few in response. This suggests that he's in position more often than not.
In terms of players who could stand to improve, I'd like to highlight David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus. Their physical styles allow them to draw many calls; however it may also contribute as to why they take so many in response. Zubrus is above 1 on the D/T ratio, Clarkson is just under it; but both could help their team greatly if they don't get caught being too rough or with a hook or some other move that opposition players like to draw. Jamie Langenbrunner can stand to improve this part of his game considering the last three seasons too; but since Zubrus and Clarkson were involved in many more total calls, a shift there would be beneficial (and a shift to taking more calls would be very damaging).
Looking at the defensemen, it appears that Paul Martin and his agent have another feather to stick into their cap of accomplishments: a D/T ratio above 1. Intuitively, I had expected most defensemen to be below 1 on a D/T ratio since if a forward is drawing a call, it's usually because a defending player got beat and needed to do something to prevent the attacker from getting a great shot and/or score. For Martin to have drawn more calls than taken at 5-on-5 play is impressive; not to mention the relatively few number of calls he was involved in.
Bryce Salvador's lack of speed, his physical style, and his role as a defensive defenseman may all very well account for the terrible D/T ratio, not to mention the number of calls he takes. Colin White's D/T ratio isn't much better, but he's taken fewer calls and has been involved in fewer penalties than Salvador and his usual partner Mike Mottau. If any one defenseman can stand to cut down on infractions, it's Salvador just based on these past three seasons.
Players who didn't finish with New Jersey in the last three seasons collectively were well under 1 in terms of D/T. The "field" had a much larger role in taking penalties than drawing them.
Interestingly, even if you throw out the numbers from the players who weren't full time Devils in each season, the 2009-10 Devils combined to yield a D/T ratio of just over 1 (1.043 on chart, 1.034 without Kovalchuk and Salmela) - higher than either of the past two seasons. The 2009-10 team also stood out for yielding the fewest penalties taken in the last three seasons (which is great) and the fewest penalties drawn in the last three seasons (which is not at all great).
It may suggest that Jacques Lemaire instilled a better sense of discipline among the players than Brent Sutter. Likewise, it may suggest that Sutter had the Devils play more aggressively, therefore drawing and taking more calls in total. In terms of penatlies taken, letting Niclas Havelid and Bobby Holik walk may have contributed greatly to the penalties taken reduction seen in 09-10. I'm pretty sure their coaches didn't want them to take over 20 calls at even strength, especially some of the mindless calls Holik took. The fact that a number of Devils forwards (e.g. Elias, Zubrus, Clarkson) didn't play a full season due to injury could have easily led to a lower penalties drawn total than in recent seasons. It doesn't have to be one or the other; both personnel and coaching have been factors.
Either way, the 2010-11 Devils team could definitely stand to draw more calls while attempting to maintain their relatively low totals in terms of being drawn into penalties. Given how the Devils get penalized less than most teams in total (drawn calls or not) per NHL.com, it also suggests that the Devils have been doing a good job of keeping unforced penalties to a minimum.
The Next Step
Of course, the next step is to see how the Devils teams stand up within the league. I'm not going to go through every player and it'll take some time to calculate the sum of drawn and taken calls for each team from the past three seasons.
It's worth doing, however, to really get an understanding of how disciplined a team has been from season to season. Maybe most teams will be under 1 in terms of D/T anyway, and the Devils' total of .934 should be seen as remarkable? Perhaps the Devils have not been as exceptional as we may have been led to believe in terms of being drawn into taking penalties? Or that the Devils as a team are better at drawing penalties than we may think.
In the meantime, I'd like to hear your take. What do you think now that the last three seasons have been looked at in terms of penalties drawn and taken? Surprised to see a certain player rank so highly or lowly? Amazed that Shanahan and Holik were so bad in terms of taking calls in 07-08? Perhaps based on this, you have another player you may want the Devils to consider signing or letting go (e.g. Andrew Peters)? Thanks for reading and please leave your thoughts in the comments.