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Numbers Game

In Monday’s Numbers Game, I looked at team defence salaries to see if teams that spend more on defence are better defensively. The numbers revealed that teams that had higher team defence salaries faired no better in goals against and conference standings than teams that spent below the league average. So is there any advantage in throwing money into your team defence?

In today’s Numbers Game, I examined the offensive output of each team’s defencemen to see if John Ferguson Jr. could justify his $16 million invested in the Leaf’s team defence. The results? Teams that had higher team defence salaries received significantly higher offensive production from their defence. Last season, more money meant more goals, more assists and, logically, more points from the defencemen. Teams in the top 10 in team defence salaries had, on average, 15 more goals (36 vs.21), 25 more assists (115 vs. 90) and 40 more points (141 vs. 111) than teams that had defence salaries that placed them among the bottom 10 teams in the league.

Team defence offensive output – summary
(Click on image to enlarge)

Team+Defence+offensive+output+ +summary

However, the best predictor of a team’s success was the differential between team defence offensive output (defensive goals for) and goals against, as well as each team’s collective +/- for their defencemen. As one would expect, teams that had higher Goals For from their defence compared to goals against had a much better chance to make the playoffs. After incorporating each team’s goals against into the analysis with offensive output from the defence, the correlation with team defence salary disappeared. Specifically, team defence salary has no bearing on the differential between each team’s defensive goals for and goals against as well as each team defence’s collective +/-.

To sum, spending money on team defence does not appear to increase the chances of a team qualifying for the playoffs. While, statistically, teams that spend more on defence receive higher offensive output from their defencemen, it does not appear to give them an edge in the standings. Logically, teams that tend to score more goals than they allow are more likely to make the playoffs, but spending more on team defence has no influence on that. So, you ask, what is a good predictor of teams scoring more goals than they allow? Well, I will leave that analysis for a Numbers Game article next week.

For Illegal Curve, I am Adam Gutkin.