There’s many things you can label the ’17-’18 Hawks so far, but one of them isn’t “boring.” Whether they’ve been playing like dogshit earlier in the year or this current form where they’ve played pretty well (whatever last night’s result), the Hawks haven’t been dull. In previous years, even when they were the class of the league, things could get rote. The past two years when they’ve had their wonky periods, it hasn’t been nearly as interesting at this team even when it’s not playing well.
You’ve heard us mention it before, but the Hawks are the highest-event team in the league. By that we mean there are more total attempts, both for and against the Hawks, in their games than anyone else’s. What’s staggering is just how high-event they are.
Ok, it’s going to get a little number-y here, so I’m putting that out there so you can get your glasses on or make some tea or stretch a bit. Whatever you need to do to receive the data about to be thrown at you. Ok, here we go.
So far this year, the Hawks have 108.4 total attempts at even-strength in their games per 60 minutes (adjusted for score and such). This is tops in the league, and by some distance. The next highest is Anaheim at 104.5. That gap between 1st and second of four attempts per 60 minutes is the same between Anaheim and the Rangers in 11th.
What’s a bit staggering is that if this were to continue through the end of the season, it would be the highest mark by miles in five seasons. No team in the past five years has had more than 103 attempts in their games in the past five years (Ottawa in ’13-’14). The Hawks are basically miles above what has come in recent history.
But ah…. it’s not so simple. If you liked the homer binge in MLB this year, then hockey might just be for you this year as well. At the moment, 11 teams are averaging more than 100 attempts in their games per 60 minutes at even-strength. In the previous four seasons, no more than four teams have averaged more than 100 attempts in their games per season. Clearly, something is going on.
Now, as we know, things tend to flatten out as the season goes along, players get bored/hurt, coaches start reining things in to consolidate position, whistles go in pockets. We’d have to see what the marks look like in previous years at this point in the schedule. But still, it’s something of a different environment. Has the crackdown on slashing and such opened up a little more room on the ice? So far it sure looks like it, given how many teams are becoming more high-event. As we said, the Senators back in ’13-’14 had the highest event games in the past five years, and currently six teams are above that mark so far this season.
What does it mean for success? That’s a little more sobering. Currently, the six teams above that 103.5 mark are the Hawks, Ducks, Flames, Canadiens, Hurricanes, and Penguins. None of these teams are atop their divisions, though the Flames and Penguins are at least in touching distance. Last year, the top five event teams were the Leafs, Penguins, Stars, Islanders, and Coyotes. That’s a pretty decent team, champs, and three non-playoff teams.
In ’15-’16, the top five event teams were the Stars, Flyers, Leafs, Avs and Islanders. That’s three playoff teams and two big bags of suck in the Leafs and Avs. And none of the Flyers, Stars, or Islanders saw the conference final.
In ’14-’15, the top five event teams were the Stars (sensing a theme?), Islanders, Sharks, Coyotes, Flames. The Islanders and Flames made the playoffs, and only the Flames won a round.
In ’13-’14, the top five event teams were the Senators, Leafs, Sharks, Hurricanes, and Stars. The Sharks were a 111-point team that blew a 3-0 lead to the Kings (you might have heard about it), the Stars made the playoffs before getting whacked by the Ducks.
So yeah, you can make the playoffs if you’re this entertaining, but of the 26 teams we just discussed only one went on to win a Cup and there hasn’t even been another conference finalist on that list.
When looking at just the Hawks, this is a huge increase in their attempts for and against. So it’s not like you can just say, “Oh their defense is responsible.” Quite simply their games are just more open, their offense creating more than it has in five years. But we’ve never see a Quenneville team surrender over 50 attempts per game, and it doesn’t appear to be a recipe for success.