Tracking giveaways and takeaways in the NHL can be tricky business, as it does require some judgment on behalf of the scorer, certainly much moreso than goals, assists and plus-minus.
For that reason (and as you'll see below), giveaway and takeaway numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, yet there can be interesting information gleaned from the results.
Scott Cullen looks at the numbers and comes up with the leaders and trailers in giveaways per 60 minutes of even strength play last season in the NHL.
Just after giving Joe Thornton praise for his high takeaway rate, we're left to deal with Joe Thornton's league-leading giveaway rate. Obviously, Jumbo Joe had the puck on his stick a lot, which creates many opportunities to turn it over, but he's well ahead of all other contenders in this category.
One of the factors to note, whenever dealing with giveaways and takeaways, is that the subjectivity of the statistic leads to more questionable results. From my Twitter exchange with CTV's Arpon Basu last night, the feeling was that Montreal was particularly harsh in their treatment, rarely crediting takeaways and more liberally counting giveaways for the Habs.
Jaroslav Spacek and Yannick Weber were two Habs that made it into the dubious leaderboard for giveaways, but there were also a couple Montreal forwards that fared quite well, so a much more thorough examination would be required to establish the rinks with the most questionable recording practices when it comes to giveaways.
Looking at the numbers with that remain, Edmonton has five and Toronto four representatives among those with the most giveaways per 60 minutes, but there is an interesting mix of players on the list. From playmaking centres like Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf and Jason Spezza, to enigmatic wingers like Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Kovalev and Dustin Penner to enforcers like Steve MacIntyre and Krys Barch, there is a variety of player types represented.
Among players that played at least 25 games, then, here are the 25 with the most giveaways per 60 minutes of even strength play:
When it comes to those that didn't record a lot of giveaways, some probably need to thank their local scorer. I quite like Andrew Murray as a checking forward, for example, but find it hard to believe that, in 290:15 of even-strength ice time, he had one giveaway. Either that's some serious puck-protection ability that needs to be cultivated, or he and other Blue Jackets grinders are getting pretty lenient treatment.
The fewest giveaways doesn't seem particularly instructive, however, since many of these players likely have few giveaways because they don't have the puck on their stick all that often, so there is room to dig a little further.
For now, here are the 25 players with the fewest giveaways per 60 minutes of even strength play (minumum 25 games):
Taking a page from basketball, a sport that uses assist-to-turnover ratio regularly with point guards, NHL players can similarly be grouped in that manner, comparing assists to giveaways.
From this group, plenty of those involved, including the top-ranked Bryan Bickell, are players that don't handle the puck that often and not for long periods of time, so it's understandable that he wouldn't have a lot of giveaways.
What's more interesting is getting a look at players that tend to drive offence, like Danny Briere, Rick Nash (Columbus effect?), Henrik Sedin and Jonathan Toews. Those players have the puck on their stick quite a bit and they make creative plays in the offensive zone that can lead to giveaways if the right decisions aren't made.
Here are the Top 25 forwards in even-strength assist-to-giveaway ratio (minimum 25 games, 10 even-strength assists):
When it comes to defencemen, there are few standouts, though Ben Lovejoy's ratio, in limited time, is a real outlier.
Here are the Top 25 defencemen in even-strength assist-to-giveaway ratio (minimum 25 games, 10 even-strength assists):
Finally, a look at the forwards that come in with the worst assist-to-giveaway ratio. It's important to note that there was a minimum of 10 even-strength assists to qualify, so that helped to limit the fourth-line/part-time player involvement on the list.
It certainly doesn't reflect well on Ilya Kovalchuk, as though we needed giveaway numbers to know that he didn't have a good season in 2010-2011, but there is a difference to be seen between elite playmakers Henrik Sedin, who ranked among the best and Joe Thornton, who was among the worst. With only 25 even-strength assists in the 2010-2011 season, Thornton had his fewest even-strength assists since 1998-1999. Combined with the league's highest giveaway rate, the numbers don't come out too favourably.
Here are the Bottom 25 forwards in even strength takeaways per 60 minutes (minimum 25 games, 10 even-strength assists):
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.