I subscribe to the The Hockey News’ newsletter, which drops conveniently into my email inbox each morning around 6:30 am. Usually, I open the email and peruse the top stories and other headlines, just to keep a finger on the pulse of hockey. I don’t read every piece, but it gives me a big picture overview of what’s going on each day in the world of hockey.
Lately, I keep seeing the term “Campbellnomics”, but I hadn’t really looked at the posts so I had no idea what it meant. For some reason, today I decided to click on the link and was pleased to see that it’s a different approach to assessing goal scorers, as assessed by Ken Campbell. Briefly, goals are worth one point and assists are worth half a point, but the points are only awarded if it’s the first goal of the game, the goal puts the team ahead, if it pulls the team into a tie, is a game-winner, or falls into several other categories (a more detailed description is here). The best line describing Campbellnomics comes right at the beginning of the post: “Here at THN.com we don’t ask how. In fact, we don’t even ask how many. What we really want to know is how many actually mattered?”
The interesting thing about Campbellnomics is that it takes the emphasis off of scoring in general, and places it squarely on scoring at key times. Players who score the 6th goal in a 6-2 win would only get one point for the goal. But if the 6th goal happens to be in the shootout in a 6-5 win, the player scoring that goal would get three points (one for putting his team ahead, one for a game winner, and one for a shootout goal). The message being that it’s much less impressive to score the 6th goal of a game when your team is already thumping the opponent. To score the 6th goal in a shootout where victory hangs in the balance and it’s just you against the goalie is a more impressive, and in some ways more important, feat.
Similarly, there are bonus points awarded if you score a goal that is part of a comeback, where your goal contributes to the team tying or winning the game. The pressure is much greater to score when your team is down than it is to score when your team is ahead, so this statistic weighs these pressure situations above your standard goals.
If you look at who makes the top 25 (well, 26 due to a 3-way tie at 24th) in Campbellnomics (see the full list here), you’ll quickly notice that many of the top scorers figure prominently. This makes sense – if you’re scoring a lot, you’re bound to be scoring clutch goals more often than the guys who don’t score as often. But the guys that interest me are the ones who aren’t in the top 25 for scoring, and in some cases aren’t anywhere close to that group, yet make the list in Campbellnomics.
Take Mike Ribeiro, for example. While he sat at 42nd overall in scoring at the time the stats were compiled (Dec 1/2010), he ranks 9th according to Campbellnomics – just 2 Campbellnomics points back from Sidney Crosby and Daniel Sedin who rank 5th, and a mere 5.5 Cambpellnomics points back from the leaders, Patrick Sharp and Alexander Ovechkin. He may not be scoring as often as these guys, but he’s scoring at key times for his team. And these types of critical goals are contributing to his team’s success – the Dallas Stars currently sit atop their division and are third in the Western Conference.
Similarly, Johan Franzen was 81st in scoring for the NHL, but is tied for 20th in Campbellnomics with numbers 12, 22, and 23 in NHL scoring (Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Getzlaf and Derek Roy). His 5 go-ahead goals and 3 game-winners have certainly been important for the Red Wings, who are first in the West.
I was quite happy to see Andrei Kostitsyn sitting at 13th in the Campbellnomics rankings. While he is second in points among Canadiens’ players and 57th in the NHL, his aptitude for scoring when the team needs it most put him on the list.
Interestingly, of the 26 players on the list, 2 are defensemen. Dustin Byfuglien (11th in NHL scoring) and Kris Letang (29th in NHL scoring)
Beyond the individual stats, looking at the breakdown of teams represented also provides an interesting perspective. The current leader is Patrick Sharp, but he is joined by teammates Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the list. Two other teams also have 3 players in the top 26 – Washington (Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alexander Semin) and Dallas (Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson and Brad Richards). All three of these teams are happily sitting at or near the top of the standings. Five teams have 2 players on the list – Anaheim, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, and all currently sit in playoff positions, with Anaheim holding the worst position at 7th in the West. One could argue that having multiple players who are capable of performing under pressure has been a boon for all of these teams.
At the end of the day, any hockey team will always be more than just the sum of its parts, but you could argue that each of the players who are sitting in the top positions in the Campbellnomics rankings are key parts in the machine that makes up their team.
What do you think of Campbellnomics? Is it a worthwhile statistic, or just another type of magic handwaving? Let us know!