Manor Analytics Perspective: Who Contributes Most to the Kings?

LGKbot

They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member
Joined
Jul 28, 2004
Messages
130,264
ALO9626-scaled.jpg


Thus far through our 2024 analytics series, we have looked at a variety of different stats that measure player performance, including Expected Goals and Corsi. Many of these ‘fancy stats’ are designed to provide insight into specific areas, like shot quality or shot attempts. Yet is there a stat that encapsulates a player’s total game into a single number?

In this article, we’ll look at Wins Above Replacement and explain why it isn’t the best measure, and what stat might actually be a better way to view a player’s overall impact.

WAR​


Hockey is one of the hardest sports to explain with numbers. The game moves incredibly fast, and often it is hard to tell exactly what led to a goal and which players contributed.

For example, if Blake Lizotte is engaged in a battle for the puck along the boards and the puck squeaks out to Akil Thomas, who makes a pass to Trevor Lewis for a goal, how much of that goal should be attributed to Lizotte for winning the battle? These type of questions can be highly debatable — and often very hard to answer.

On the other end of the spectrum is baseball, where every play is an isolated event. Every pitch and it’s corresponding result can be easily attributed to the pitcher and batter.

A batter gets credit for a Run Batted In (RBI) if they advance a teammate to home plate, and how that player reached base can be known from a previous play. Baseball is the perfect sport for analyzing a player’s impact on team performance, because it can be directly measured.

Even as different as hockey may be, though, numbers and stats can still be applied… just differently.

Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is a stat used in baseball that does exactly what it says: measures how many more wins a player gives his team than a replacement-level player. For example, a player with a WAR of five is predicted to give his team five more wins than if he was replaced with a player from the minor leagues or a current free agent.

Some like to use WAR as a stat in hockey, as well. However, because it’s so hard to measure the impact that one player has on an entire NHL team, it probably doesn’t make as much sense to use it.

Nor does using Wins Above Replacement in the NHL, because team success is not directly measured by wins, it’s measured more by points. A team can lose in overtime and still gain a point in the standings.

As an example, if Team A has a 41-41-0 record, they’ve earned 82 points. If Team B has a 41-40-1 record, they would have 83 points. Even though they have the same amount of wins, Team B would rank higher in the standings because of more points.

In the most simplistic form, this is why using WAR in hockey isn’t as helpful as it may be in baseball. Wins do not perfectly correlate with the standings.

SPAR​


When it comes to hockey, and the NHL specifically, it makes more sense to use Standing Points Above Replacement (SPAR). Evolving-Hockey calculates this stat to encapsulate how much a single player contributes to their team in one number.

While very similar to WAR, instead of calculating how many more wins a player contributes than a replacement-level player (i.e. free agent, AHL player, or player on waivers), SPAR calculates how many more points in the NHL standings they contribute.

If a player with a SPAR of 10 is put on a 90-point team — and assuming no other changes are made — that team can expect a 10-point improvement (moving up to 100 points) in the standings.

So, while WAR in hockey isn’t useless, it just doesn’t mean as much as it does in baseball. SPAR, however, takes the same process and logic as WAR, and applies it to hockey in a way that makes it more meaningful.

Now that we’ve defined what SPAR is, let’s apply it to the Kings.

Despite losing to Anaheim 3-1 on Tuesday, LA still sits third in the Pacific Division, just one point ahead of Vegas. The Kings have not officially clinched that spot yet, so every point matters. This is where SPAR comes in handy; telling us which players are contributing most to the standings.

LA Kings 2023-24 SPAR​


Before jumping right to the list, let’s first take a look at who has cost the Kings points in the standings, at least according to Evolving-Hockey.

Of all players who have played for the Kings this year, rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke has played the fifth least minutes (218), and has cost the Kings the most standings points. He has a SPAR value of -0.9, meaning in those 218 minutes, he cost them nearly an entire point in the standings.

One point may not sound like much to some. Again, though, the Kings are currently third in the division with the Golden Knights trailing by one point. Every point matters.

Meanwhile, Andreas Englund has been a consistent name in the lineup this year, playing in all 78 games. He has a SPAR value of -0.7, so he has also contributed negatively to the Kings’ standing position.

What this means is that if Clarke and Englund were replaced with available free agents, AHL players, or players on waivers, the Kings would be expected to have one or two more points in the standings.

It could be argued that Englund brings other elements to the lineup that aren’t simply just replaced by other players. Even if true, that’s something outside the analytics world and doesn’t have a way of being worked into SPAR.

Now, let’s take a look at the top of the list.

Working our way from fifth in SPAR up to third, Adrian Kempe (3.4), Anze Kopitar (3.7), and Kevin Fiala (3.8) top the list. This trio of players have been consistent producers throughout 2023-24, so it isn’t that surprising to see them near the top of this list.

Tied for the highest SPAR among Kings skaters at 4.6 are Trevor Moore and Quinton Byfield. From an entire NHL perspective, Moore and Byfield’s score of 4.6 puts them 50th in SPAR, tied with Brad Marchand, Cale Makar, Brayden Point, and a few others. For reference, other players near this SPAR value are Morgan Reilly (4.7), Leon Draisaitl (4.8), and Jack Hughes (4.4).

What Does This All Mean?​


Now that we know more about WAR and SPAR, along with who leads the Kings, what does this mean for coach Jim Hiller and his LA hockey club?

For starters, it suggests that if we only want to judge player performance on one number, Byfield and Moore have been the best players on the team all year.

This is also true if we look at Goals Above Replacement (GAR), where Byfield ranks first at 14.5, and Moore ranks second at 14.3. GAR uses the same principles as WAR and SPAR, but uses goals instead of wins or standing points.

Now — and this an important point whenever digging into analytics — none of this is to say that a player should only be judged by their SPAR or GAR values.

There isn’t one stat, in any sport, that can simply tell us who the best players are just by that one number. Different categories must be weighted differently, and this can vary by team. By way of example, Team A in a rebuild may not want a top goal scorer, but may opt for a value player instead. In this situation, they probably don’t want a player with an extremely high GAR value. They may look at some combination between GAR and contract value.

All in, what these stats do a good job of is providing a high-level view of which players are contributing the most to their teams during a specific time period. The numbers and inferences should not be utilized on their own, but rather paired with other stats to either support or reject the idea that those players are better/worse than replacement players.

RELATED CONTENT:



Follow @mayorNHL

//

Instagram

Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com




googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-522840723937225840-1’); });



Comments

Continue reading...
 

Now Chirping

  • No one is chatting at the moment.
Back
Top Bottom