The Sedin brothers have won back-to-back Art Ross Trophies, so I think it’s safe to say that they’d have a pretty decent idea of how scoring chances have fluctuated over their years in the NHL.
So as a hockey fan it’s a little alarming when Daniel responds “For sure” to the question “Do you think the NHL is being dragged slowly back to the Dead Puck Era?”
Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province interviewed him after what Willes hilariously referred to as “Monday night’s tractor pull against the Coyotes,” and Daniel Sedin gave this comment: “It’s been going on for a few years, actually, but especially this year. There are a lot of these kind of games. That’s what people have to realize. It’s not like it was two or three years ago.”
Willes provides the following data to back up Sedin’s claim:
This year, goals in the NHL are down for the third straight season.
Now, in and by itself, that development isn’t overly alarming. We’re talking about three-10ths of a goal per game between the 2008-09 season and this year. But it’s also part of a trend that’s seen a steady downturn in goal production since the 2005-06 season, and that is alarming.
Before the lockout the hockey was downright gross from a forward’s point of view. Willes goes on to highlight that, and show how things changed following it:
In 2003-04 goals were down to an average of 5.137 per game, the lowest since the league’s first expansion. In 2005-06, they were back up to 6.051, almost a full goal per game, which in a 1,230-game schedule is significant.
That season also produced seven 100-point scorers, five 50-goals scorers and marked the rookie campaigns of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Add it all up and the NHL seemed to be at the dawn of a bright new era.
Yet here we are going the wrong direction, it would appear. We’re certainly not seeing that kind of output from top-end guys these days.
He also mentions that penalties have dropped from 11.7 per game in 05-06 to 6.9 per game this year, which is not insignificant. That’s going to put juuuust a bit of a damper on scoring (and it’s not like the refs are at fault there – guys just figured out they can’t play bear-hug hockey anymore).
Henrik Sedin highlighted a few of the biggest offenders when it comes to Deadpuck 2.0 in the West as well:
A couple of reporters were asking Henrik Sedin about the abomination they’d just witnessed on Monday when the Canucks’ captain started rattling off the teams in the Western Conference who play like the Coyotes. He stopped at St. Louis, Los Angeles and Nashville, but could have added Minnesota, Dallas, Calgary and Anaheim.
Detroit and the Canucks, truth be told, play a similar style. The difference is they have the skill to make plays when those rare opportunities present themselves.
Willes goes on to hypothesize that the biggest reason for the decline in offense is simple: guys have adapted.
They’ve learned to better defend without holding, coaches have adapted new defensive systems more cohesive to the new rules, and everyone has just generally gotten accustomed to moving their feet instead of waterskiing behind guys.
As a fan of offense, the direction of the numbers concerns me a bit, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole hell of a lot we can really do. Are we supposed to overhaul the rules every time numbers drop? Replace goaltender gloves with hams? Make d-men wear rollerblades?
A lot of fans take issue with the constant tinkering of the rules. I’m not one of them – for my money, we’re refining the game – but a .3 goals-per-game drop over a three year span isn’t enough to make me want to leap into action just yet. It’s almost as though things are just settling in after the adjustment period, which I would wager becomes the “outlier” years on the graph after we play this way for another couple decades.
If teams are getting better at defending, then it’s on my offensive brethren to get better at creating. As long as the numbers don’t drop too far below where they are now, I can handle the type of hockey we’re seeing played these days.