Monday, August 5, 2013

From the Intriguing Stats Department

Check this out.

Over the last couple of years, we've put out a statistic of "returning offense" for ECAC teams in conference games. It's fairly easy to calculate - take the total number of goals scored by the team in the last completed season, subtract out graduated and otherwise departed players, and bam - returning offense. For the most part, these figures are frequently between a quarter of a goal to a goal and a half per game less than the total goals per game for that season, depending on how heavily the team relied on players who are not returning in the upcoming season.

So, mostly, what you're left with is the output from the soon-to-be seniors, juniors and sophomores. It's something of a baseline figure, since you're looking at usual improvement in returning classes and added output from freshmen (which is hard to pin down before the season starts), and the final goals-per-game figure at the end of the year tells you just what the improvements/freshmen contributed.

Here's how each team improved in 2013 on what they brought back from 2012 - each figure represents the total increase in goals-per-game from the baseline 2012 return.

Colgate: 1.31
Clarkson: 1.23
RPI: 1.13
Brown: 1.00
Quinnipiac: 1.00
St. Lawrence: 0.91
Yale: 0.78
Dartmouth: 0.46
Union: 0.41
Harvard: 0.10
Princeton: 0.09
Cornell: -0.13

Looking at the figures, one thing sticks out more than any at first - holy cow, Cornell managed to lose goals from their baseline last year. That underscores just how rough things were - not only did the freshman class not provide a major boost, returning players had a decrease in output from the previous year.

What about the high numbers? Well, Colgate's top total is attributable in part to a freshman class with a high amount of output (which we're going to touch on in a few days), and being tops in the league for added offense didn't help them finish high in the standings, in part because even adding the most goals from the baseline (1.05, lowest in the league) didn't get them back to were they had been in 2012 (3.27 GPG). Clarkson was in a similar boat, starting out at 1.41, second lowest in the league. Quite simply, these teams had voids that had to be filled by someone.

So this statistic by itself doesn't relate to overall success last year, but it does at least tell us a little about what to expect in coming years offensively. The teams ranked higher on this list got more out of their freshmen and more development from their upperclassmen last season.

The teams that surpassed their 2012 total offensive output in 2013 were RPI, Quinnipiac, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence, while Brown's was exactly equal.

Now, take a quick gander at this year's returning offense (lost goals-per-game is in parentheses):

Clarkson - 2.45 (-0.19)
RPI - 2.23 (-0.54)
St. Lawrence - 2.18 (-0.60)
Quinnipiac - 1.86 (-1.46)
Yale - 1.86 (-0.87)
Dartmouth - 1.86 (-0.69)
Brown - 1.86 (-0.59)
Union - 1.77 (-1.14)
Princeton - 1.72 (-0.64)
Colgate - 1.63 (-0.73)
Harvard - 1.22 (-0.83)
Cornell - 1.18 (-1.05)

As an aside, the effect on Union of Josh Jooris signing with Calgary was to drop them from 4th to 8th on this list, and also moved them into the position of having the second most offense lost behind Quinnipiac, who were previously tops by a country mile. That illustrates the margins a bit.

Bear in mind that teams don't have to score a lot of goals to be successful - but it helps. Cornell, for instance, seems to rely more heavily on their defense year in and year out, so just because they're at the bottom of both of these lists means relatively little other than that they have some work to do considering last year's finish. Yale, on the other hand, as long relied on offense to keep them afloat.

In some ways, being farther down the list simply means that those offenses have more room for returning players to fill in gaps where they were unable to contribute in the past simply because others were doing the team's scoring.

The question that must be asked when viewing this list is simple - what capacity does each team have for expanding on what returns? Food for thought.

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