Thursday's Numbers: The guys who score the most at evens

Mason Raymond is a very good hockey player.

Author's note: I am away for the week and don't have an Internet connection viable enough to make a post after collecting sufficient enough data from the Canucks' game against the Sharks last night. If anything is made untrue because a player got injured, or simply sucks, it is not my fault. Happy New Year and all that.

I wasn't blogging about hockey or aware of advanced statistics back during 2006, but one of the more popular early statistics was simple: ESP/60. With the amount of powerplays handed out in the NHL the first couple of seasons after the lockout, guys were judging players by the number of Even Strength Points they had per 60 minutes of play.

Today, of course, NHL.com is a lot more sophisticated and far more data can be pulled from a game than ever before. Check out how primitive the "Event Summary" is from 2006. If you hadn't watched the game, you would almost have no idea what to do with the information given. Which I guess is fine if you want to watch all the games, but for scouts and analysts, the current version of the Event Summary gives us a much better picture of the game, putting more emphasis on even strength shots and attempts by individual players.

The NHL wouldn't publish information like shot attempts or a detailed play-by-play sheet if hockey teams weren't generally interested in the data. But let's return to ESP/60, a simple stat that nobody can deny it's importance, being able to tell which players score at the highest rate. This will be the measure that defenders of Mason Raymond, or proponents of Cody Hodgson will bring up as a way of promoting their talents. I'm sure agents will use this, as a way of saying "well, my client only got 40 points, but they were all at even strength—he didn't get as much powerplay time as that player over there, who had 45 points, but 10 of those came with the man advantage".

For good reason, too. Obviously, last season, the Canucks who did the best by this measure were Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with Alex Burrows, but some of the small sample players—Lee Sweatt, Cody Hodgson and Sergei Shirokov, also did well by this measure. This is one of the reasons why I was quite upset to see Shirokov go. I never thought he ever got his fair shake in Vancouver, but I think it all worked out for the best.

But, among the players who played at least half the season, or who had played 10 games, the fourth best Canuck was Mason Raymond. Mason Raymond, he who was taken off the Vancouver powerplay. Mason Raymond, he who no longer had a Hall of Famer in Mats Sundin centering him. Mason Raymond, he of the "keep the play to the outside" and "shoot the puck at the goaltender's chest" perimeter-type player that drew the ire of many a bar-room brawler watching the Canucks.

Just by looking at ESP/60 numbers, you can foreshadow Alexander Edler's overtaking of Christian Ehrhoff. You can see Christopher Higgins' value and Jannik Hansen's offensive abilities. This season, the ranking for the Canucks is quite similar. The Sedins are very high, as are Hansen and Higgins, but (keep in mind, I am writing this before the San Jose game) take a look at where Mason Raymond fits in with the Canucks this season. Of course, after a single good game, it was Andrew Ebbett leading the team after his unlikely performance against Edmonton. Check the link, I assume that his slim lead over Raymond (.25 points per 60 minutes) has dropped since the San Jose game.

I do think that Cody Hodgson should be given more minutes, however, the more minutes you give him, the more you risk that he won't be effective in the minutes he plays. When David Booth comes back, the Canucks' third line will be made up, likely, of Hodgson - Hansen - Raymond, which would have to be one of the most economical lines in the NHL.

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