After looking at real-time NHL stats like giveaways and takeaways, and acknowledging the possible inaccuracies that come with a judgment-based statistic, the next one to tackle is hits.
Scott Cullen looks at the numbers and comes up with the leaders and trailers in hits per 60 minutes of even strength play last season in the NHL.
To consider the challenges that exist when dealing with the hit statistic, allow me a brief story about my own experience.
Many (many, many) years ago when I was playing Midget AAA in Kitchener, I was on the shelf for a couple of months with a broken ankle. At that time, any one of the players that weren't in the lineup (due to injuries or suspensions), would often be charged with tracking hits for the team.
Our coach was hard-nosed and expected our team to win the physical battles every night, so he probably paid closer attention to hits than was probably necessary. Without having modern advanced stats to back it up, I can assure you we had the puck possession numbers to compare favourably with any team we faced and those would have been more important than our hit totals.
Nevertheless, during one of the games in which I was assigned to track hits, I handed the sheet to our coach at the end of the game, a disappointing loss, and he looked at me quizzically.
"Is this right," he asked.
"Yes," I said, unable to imagine that I would be assigned to track hits and not do it as accurately as I possibly could.
He then stormed into the dressing room and tore a strip off one of our defencemen -- who was eventually a first-round pick in the NHL -- for having zero hits recorded.
That wasn't ever this defenceman's style of game, so I didn't see it as much of an issue, but it was easy to stand out on a relatively physical team with zero hits and our coach jumped on it to make a point.
In much the same way, though, a player's hit total does not provide much correlation with a player's value, since one can't have the puck and deliver a hit, to say nothing about how there is always going to be a variance in how hits are recorded from one rink to another.
Even so, the numbers can be interesting for comparison purposes and, just look at this, we found something, aside from Tweets, Tatts and appearances on the Marilyn Denis Show, in which Biz Nasty leads the league.
Among players that played at least 25 games, then, here are the 50 forwards with the most hits per 60 minutes of even strength play:
At the other end of the spectrum, no surprise, the skill level tends to be on a different tier.
Milan Hejduk and the Sedin Twins, for example, have never been the most physical players, so it's no great surprise to see them at the bottom of this list, yet it's not an indictment of their play in any way. Sure, it would always be better to have a player more willing to compete physically, but skilled players that have the puck on their stick a lot tend not to hit.
Here are the 25 forwards with the fewest hits per 60 minutes of even strength play (minumum 25 games):
On the blueline, the guys that hit the most are really a lunch-bucket crew. That there are four Maple Leafs defencemen in the Top 25 might be neatly correlated to the fact that Toronto had three of the bottom 15 players overall when it comes to giveaways.
After all, when Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek or Keith Aulie turn the puck over, wouldn't their first reaction be to run into the player who just took the puck? Seems to make some sense, particularly when this list is juxtaposed with the defencemen who don't register a lot of hits.
Here are the Top 25 defencemen with the most hits per 60 minutes of even strength play (minimum 25 games):
Finally, to the defencemen with the fewest hits, it's not surprising that the list comprises more skilled, puckhandling defencemen.
Much like the forwards, it would always be nice to have a defenceman that can make a physical contribution, but when Nicklas Lidstrom and Duncan Keith rank among the defencemen with the fewest hits, there is an easy argument to be made for defencemen not needing to hit to still be great.
Here are the 25 defencemen with the fewest even-strength hits per 60 minutes(minimum 25 games):
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.