At the time of the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, the playoff picture in the league had become fairly clear. The race to the Presidents’ Trophy looked to be a two-team ordeal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Calgary Flames. The Western Conference wild card race was bottle-necking, while there were a few surprise teams in seeded spots in the East.
The gap between goals scored per team was fairly large; Tampa Bay led with 199 goals for, Los Angeles was dead last at 114. The same two teams set the upper and lower limits for total team points: 529 for the Lightning, 296 for the Kings. With a spread like that, there’s bound to be some very fascinating team scoring compositions across the league.
NHL Point Share Shells
By examining each team individually and seeing how their scoring compares to other teams, we can build a sense of which teams are deep in high-end offensive talent, which teams are carried by a small number of stars, and which teams are simply not playing good hockey.
I wanted to create a visualisation that tells each team’s season story, and in trying different ways to portray the data, I arrived at using circular barplots to show team scoring. The idea was to make it such that a team’s aggregate scoring can be immediately compared to other teams, but individual offensive efforts will also stand out.
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The end result is a “shell” shape for every team, and thus I’m calling these charts point share shells.
In the following graphic, team scoring is shown for all 31 teams, arranged radially from highest to lowest scorers on a per-team basis. Teams are also sorted from highest total points to lowest.
Point totals were taken at the time of the All-Star break and do not include games played since the NHL resumed its regular season action. Scoring contributions from players traded midseason are allocated only to the team they’ve scored points for.
The NHL’s Big Three
Currently, there’s a Big Three in scoring. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames, and San Jose Sharks are in a league of their own — miles ahead of any other team.
Tampa’s led by their Top 3 of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos. They’re rolling all players and are getting contributions from their depth players. In fact, they have six players with 30 or more points; lower the threshold to 25 points and they have boast nine players at that mark.
Calgary’s Top 5 of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Mark Giordano have been quite the story all season long. Despite worries about not having depth beyond their top five, there’s good reason to believe that the Flames are holding up just fine. Remove their top five and they’re still above average in total team points.
This year, San Jose lacks truly elite offensive talent, but has ample depth to make up for it. The Sharks are probably the deepest team in the league. While their top scorer, Brent Burns, sits at just 55 points, he is one of seven Sharks with at least 40. There are teams in the league with zero players at that mark. More on that later.
There are some teams that have more or less average players up and down their roster. Most notably, the Vegas Golden Knights. Sitting at just about the middle of the pack in terms of scoring, their highest scorer is Alex Tuch at a mediocre 40 points.
However, they have eight players with at least 20 points and 16 players with at least 10. So while they have apparent depth, no single skater has exactly been their MVP (which on their roster is reserved for Marc-Andre Fleury).
Another average team are the Minnesota Wild. Zach Parise has a team-high 44 points, but 13 other skaters had put up double-digit scoring on that team — 12 now, with the departure of Nino Niederreiter.
As they fight for a playoff spot, the Wild could definitely use a couple of players getting in tune with their offence to bolster their chances. For now, more of their skaters are contributing than not, making it a full team effort to keep them in the playoffs.
Easily one of the most surprising teams this season, the New York Islanders find themselves leading the Metropolitan. Their goaltending is largely the reason they’ve managed to eke out wins, as Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss have played phenomenal hockey this season.
Their skaters combine for just 145 goals on the season, the three other divisional leaders have 196, 190, and 166 (Tampa Bay, Calgary, and Winnipeg, respectively). Led by Mathew Barzal‘s 45 points, the Islanders have another 15 players sitting at double-digit scoring, six of which have 20 points or more.
High-end talent with no supporting cast
There are two teams in the league that have a Top 15 scorer on their team, yet somehow fall in the lower half of the league in team scoring. The Carolina Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho has played well enough to sit in a five-way tie for 15th in league scoring.
However, it’s been well known this season that despite the Hurricanes shooting at torrid paces in every game they play, they’ve had many difficulties finding the back of the net. If their luck turns around, they’ve got a good shot at pulling into a wild card spot before the season’s over, if not better.
The other team in this category actually has two players in the Top 15. Probably the team with the chart the jumps out the most, the Edmonton Oilers have not enjoyed much success this season.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s 73 and 61 points put them among the league’s best scorers. Include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and those are really the only three players that have given the Oilers any real scoring worth praising. Other than that, their depth is virtually non-existent.
If the Battle of Alberta has one quirky stat that stands out this season, it’s that Calgary’s fourth and fifth highest scorers both more than double each of Edmonton’s.
The Shallow Pacific
Despite two of the top three highest scoring teams in the league being in the Pacific Division, such accolades are mirrored by the fact that the Pacific also contains the three lowest scoring teams.
The Arizona Coyotes have seen their season largely derailed by injuries up and down their roster. Early season pundits had them as a bubble playoff team at worst, and in spite of all of their man-games lost, that’s exactly what they are right now.
However, the players that have been healthy haven’t scored much either. Clayton Keller‘s 35 points is enough to lead the team by nine points, Oliver Ekman-Larsson coming in second at a meagre 26.
Worse off than the Coyotes — yet also a bubble playoff team at the moment — the Anaheim Ducks have struggled all year to find any offence. Scoring just 117 goals, they’ve been kept in games (and the playoff race) largely thanks to John Gibson‘s Vezina-worthy performance this season.
Coming in dead last are the Los Angeles Kings. For some perspective, Anaheim’ skaters have combined to put up 24 more total points than Los Angeles’. That gap is the second largest points gap between any two teams in the entire league (first being the 51 total points separating the Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs).
It’s hard to explain the miserable season the Kings have gone through; they themselves have questions with no answers. They find themselves literally alone in a league that touts parity. It’s really laughable just how badly they’ve played all season long, no offence.
Come ‘shell’ or high water
The purpose of the point share shells were to show how teams have gotten their scoring so far this season. Teams that have depth are immediately noticed and the opposite also holds true.
There are many more observations left to be made. What stories do you see from the point share shells? Which teams match your intuition and which leave you scratching your head? Let me know in the comments below or at @wincolumnblog.
All data courtesy of Hockey Reference. Charts made with R using “ggplot2“. Original code modified from R Graph Gallery.
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