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Old 05-10-2009, 11:43 PM   #1
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Default Goal scoring is a young mans job

Recently we had a thread where the question was asked if it was reasonable to expect Iginla to be like Crosby or Ovechkin.

http://forum.calgarypuck.com/showthread.php?t=74047

Granted the original post asked about passion and how Crosby and Ovechkin were going at it. But it got me thinking about how for the most part even top players tend to have their best scoring years when they're still pretty young.

I only did a small bit of research as to what year the top 20 goal scorers in the NHL were drafted in the past three years. Not surprisingly a couple of trends seem to show up. First the largest cohort of top goal scorers is a younger group every year. Second is that it does seem to get harder for older guys to crack the top 20.

In 2006/07 the top 20 goal scorers came from 15 different draft years and there were two guys who were never drafted in St.Louis and Jason Blake. Although had they been drafted when they were 18 it would have made it 17 different drafts being represented. Of the 15 draft years represented 1998 had the highest number with 3 players (Cheechoo, Lecavalier, and Gagne). 1994 had 2 players (Smyth and Drury) and 3 players aged 35 or older (Selanne, Sakic, and Guerin) were in the group with Sakic being the oldest.

In 2007/08 14 different draft years are represented (although 24 players fit into this group as 5 guys tied for 20th in goals). This time the largest singular cohorts are the 2001 draft where Kovalchuck, Spezza, Roy, and Sharp are among the top 20 goal scorers. 2003 also has 4 players in the group as Vanek, Staal, Parise, and Brown. 2000 had 3 players in Gaborik, Heatley, and Boyes. The only player older than 35 for the entire season in that group is Mats Sundin as Kovalev the second oldest guy didn't turn 35 until February of that season.

This past season the top 20 goal totals includes 23 players representing 11 different draft years. Not surprisingly the largest cohort is now 2003 with 5 players (Carter, Parise, Vanek, Staal, Louie Eriksson). The 2004 cohort rates 2nd as 3 players (Ovechkin, Malkin, and Frazen although Franzen was an over aged draftee). The 2006 draft also see's 2 players represented for the first time. The oldest player in this group is Jason Arnott drafted in 1993 who won't turn 35 until the start of next season.

So Iginla who is drafted in 1995 is the only guy from that draft who's been top 20 in all of those seasons. But Iginla will be 32 July 1st, and given how the league has trended the past 3 years, it may be the last year in which Iginla rates as one of the top 20 goal scorers in the league. Looks like he could be the oldest of the leagues top 20 goal scorers too. So at his age...you're not going to get the same scoring you will compared to some of these young guys who are better suited to goal scoring. I'd actually look for the 2003 cohort to be the dominant group, but I think 03, 04, 05 & 06 will likely have 3 or more guys in the top 20 for goals.
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Old 05-11-2009, 07:05 AM   #2
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I read an analysis once that broke down at what age goal scorers usually peak, and it was almost always between 21 and 25. A bit earlier than I would have thought. Iggy's done well to stay a top scorer for so long, which is probably a testament to his great conditioning.
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Old 05-11-2009, 08:12 AM   #3
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A couple of other things to note are that of the 22 guys last year with 33 or more goals, 19 of them were first round picks. Johan Franzen, Louie Eriksson and Mike Cammalleri are the only non first round guys.

Guys like Hossa and Cammalleri should be looking to get lucrative long term deals because it's not unreasonable to think that both of them will not have another season where they score as much as this past one. Hossa has been pretty consistant for being among the leagues top goal scorers so he may be a guy with 2 or 3 more years of doing it. Cammalleri is younger but at 26 even he has probaby had his best season.
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Old 05-11-2009, 09:07 AM   #4
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Great post Sylvanfan . . . . my predictable addition below:

It's probably another indication that the league is moving into one of it's periodic younger phases, propelled by demographics in the population as a whole.

Something I wrote in 2003 that's fun to keep track of as time passes:

The average age of a typical NHL player has varied dramatically at times, far more than most might suspect.

The NHL was never younger than in 1955-1956 when only 7.3% of players were 31 and older, a huge influx of youngsters from the population boom of the post-World War I era dominating the league.

Those players and the remnants of that era aged to the point where they contributed to the NHL at its most geriatric in 1966-67, the year the Leafs won the Cup with the oldest team ever to do so, with 26% of the player pool 31 and older and 35% of the Leaf roster in that category.

The post-World War II baby boom generation contributed to a dramatically younger NHL by 1988-89 when only 9.8% of the player pool was 31 and older, similar to 1955-1956.

On the combined rosters of the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames, the Cup finalists that year, only six of 48 players (10 games or more) happened to be 31 years of age and over, fairly typical for that era, most players above that age hangers-on at best.

By the start of 2001-2002, the final remnants of a wave of post-World War II baby boom players had gone gray with about 26% of players 31 and older, virtually identical with 1966-67, the tail-end impact moment for the boomers of the post World War I era.

So . . . . . . we've very likely seen a peak in a greyer NHL and are now firmly moving towards a progressively younger league.

You're seeing it, as Sylvanfan suggests, in the top end but you'll see it throughout rosters eventually.

Even now, particularly with the recent rule changes out of the lockout, GM's can probably get away with pushing younger players into their lineups at a far faster clip than might have been the case in the late 90's/early 2000's.

Owners/GM's who ignore the trend are going to struggle and may never figure out why. Which is why it's somewhat worrisome sometimes to see Sutter's predilection for older, hangers-on.

If you've got a long memory, you'll recall Sutter has talked before about the sweet spot of ages 27-31 for his core group. In the not-so-distant future, even that might be too old. It's happened before.

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Old 05-11-2009, 09:12 AM   #5
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If you look at the average of the top 10 goal scorers before and after the lockout you will see a dramatic drop in age. 2003-2004 the average age was around 30.5. The first season after the lockout the age of the top 10 dropped to around 26.5. Pretty significant.
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Old 05-11-2009, 09:26 AM   #6
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If you controlled for Crosby and Ovechkin (and to a degree Malkin) coming along at the same time like this, each being what might be considered a generational talent capable of a high-level of play at an early age, how would that affect the numbers?
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:17 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredr123 View Post
If you controlled for Crosby and Ovechkin (and to a degree Malkin) coming along at the same time like this, each being what might be considered a generational talent capable of a high-level of play at an early age, how would that affect the numbers?
Hard to say. It should be remembered that even before the lockout guys taken in 2000 and later drafts were scoring goals at a young age in the NHL as Heatley, Kovalchuck, Gaborik, and Nash had all been top 20 goal scorers by the 03-04 season. Since the lockout the number of rookie 20 goal scorers have been considerably higher than before. So although there have been a couple of generational talents come along. The trend as a whole towards younger guys scoring high numbers of goals early on is pretty strong.
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:22 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sylvanfan View Post
Hard to say. It should be remembered that even before the lockout guys taken in 2000 and later drafts were scoring goals at a young age in the NHL as Heatley, Kovalchuck, Gaborik, and Nash had all been top 20 goal scorers by the 03-04 season. Since the lockout the number of rookie 20 goal scorers have been considerably higher than before. So although there have been a couple of generational talents come along. The trend as a whole towards younger guys scoring high numbers of goals early on is pretty strong.
This is an interesting analysis of the data, but to make it even more interesting, let's ask WHY? Everybody was under the impression that in pro sports in general the trend was actually the other way, as medical and fitness improvements allowed athletes to function at a very high level into their late 30s.
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:27 AM   #9
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This is an interesting analysis of the data, but to make it even more interesting, let's ask WHY? Everybody was under the impression that in pro sports in general the trend was actually the other way, as medical and fitness improvements allowed athletes to function at a very high level into their late 30s.
Demographics.

All things being equal, fitness trends wouldn't matter since they would also apply to younger athletes as well.

Ergo, if there is a greater supply of higher-end, younger players coming versus a ever-diminishing supply of older players . . . . .

This league will get younger.

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Old 05-11-2009, 03:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cowperson View Post

Owners/GM's who ignore the trend are going to struggle and may never figure out why. Which is why it's somewhat worrisome sometimes to see Sutter's predilection for older, hangers-on.

If you've got a long memory, you'll recall Sutter has talked before about the sweet spot of ages 27-31 for his core group. In the not-so-distant future, even that might be too old. It's happened before.

Cowperson
Which is why I think we may be seeing Ovechkins best seasons these past couple years and maybe for 2 more afterwards, and a guy like Kovalchuk has likely posted career highs type of thing.

I do think with the UFA age being what it is now that 27 to 31 age is where GM's run the risk of paying excessively for players whom they believe to be in their prime years. These players are still productive but as I mentioned in my second post it's quite likely a 26 year old Cammalleri has had his career season and that it's plausible that he won't be scoring 39 goals at the NHL level again. Just like Iginla as a 24 year old scored 52....he's come close but never beaten that mark since and is unlikely to top it going forward.

A definite concern is committing significant money to those who are getting past that 31 year old bench mark. The likes of Langkow, Iginla, and even Jokinen when he's due another contract have seen their most productive years. So if there isn't something else significant accompaning that production than you really want to be careful with spending money on those players, or make sure there are enough cheap entry level guys producing at a discount to balance things out.
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Old 05-11-2009, 05:36 PM   #11
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This could be skewed by the talent in the league coming in strange intervals. In particular you have years like 2003 which was so deep. You also have arguably new generational players like Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin who may be near the top in NHL points for the next decade conceivably and their introduction into the league was sure to drop the average age of the top goalscorers.

Basically it seemed to me like one good generation was on the way out (Yzerman, Sakic, Lemieux, Gretzky, etc) and we weren't sure where they were going to be replaced. Then BAM! comes the next generation of superstars with Crosby, Ove, Malkin and the class of 2003 among others.

What we'd have to answer is will the new talent in the league be comparable? Is hockey now so popular that it is producing the most talent it ever has? Will that trend continue? Will we see more generational players hit the NHL or will there be a dry spell for a while until the next Crosby/Ove/Malkin/etc hits the scenes?

Tough to analyze with any sort of certainty.
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cowperson View Post
Demographics.

All things being equal, fitness trends wouldn't matter since they would also apply to younger athletes as well.

Ergo, if there is a greater supply of higher-end, younger players coming versus a ever-diminishing supply of older players . . . . .

This league will get younger.

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Old 05-11-2009, 10:29 PM   #13
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I think one thing that's being overlooked by posters in this thread (at least I didn't see it yet) is that as a player gets older there are 2 huge factors:

1. Goalies / Defence watch you for a few years and begin to pick up on your offensive tendencies, making it harder and harder to score and;

2. The longer you play, the longer you are susceptible to medium / long-term injuries which impact performance, the more your body gets banged up, and the less exciting playing in the NHL is (ie. effort level may level off).
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Old 05-11-2009, 11:06 PM   #14
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I think one thing that's being overlooked by posters in this thread (at least I didn't see it yet) is that as a player gets older there are 2 huge factors:

1. Goalies / Defence watch you for a few years and begin to pick up on your offensive tendencies, making it harder and harder to score and;

2. The longer you play, the longer you are susceptible to medium / long-term injuries which impact performance, the more your body gets banged up, and the less exciting playing in the NHL is (ie. effort level may level off).
I think point # 2 is more of a factor and is definitely worth mention. No doubt that the longer a player is around the more likely they are to have suffered some sort of injury which eventually could slow them down or shorten their season, or make a player pull in the reins a bit in terms of how they play. Henc why younger athletes are favored over older athletes. Point number one may happen to a certain extent but the fact that a player no longer has that extra step of quickness also contributes to declining production too.
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Old 05-11-2009, 11:33 PM   #15
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This could be skewed by the talent in the league coming in strange intervals. In particular you have years like 2003 which was so deep. You also have arguably new generational players like Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin who may be near the top in NHL points for the next decade conceivably and their introduction into the league was sure to drop the average age of the top goalscorers.
Perhaps, still doesn't change the fact that those players like their predecessors will likely have their best goal scoring years before they turn 27. The top end guys like that are a good bet to be top producers for a long time but it's still a reasonable bet that they top years will be within the next 4 or so seasons.

I did look at players like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Gartner, Mike Bossy, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, and Pavel Bure. I think Sakic is the only one of those players who's top goal scoring year came after his 27th birthday. There is variance as some guys were still quite productive after the age of 27 until they got to be in their early 30's while others tended to fall off, or others demonstrated more consistency with their totals from the 27 to 30 age. But it does appear to be the exception when a player posts a career high goal total after the age of 27 especially with the elite level players.
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Old 05-12-2009, 08:34 PM   #16
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A lot of his goals can be attributed to:
1 - He cherry picks at center ice alot
2 - He has had great playmakers with Cammy, huselius, Tanguay to feed him the puck
3 - a few of his goals are lucky goals that were good bounces.

If you compare the 35 goals that Iggy scored to 35 goals the Ovechkin scored, you will see there is a big difference in the types of goals that are scored.

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I read an analysis once that broke down at what age goal scorers usually peak, and it was almost always between 21 and 25. A bit earlier than I would have thought. Iggy's done well to stay a top scorer for so long, which is probably a testament to his great conditioning.
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Old 05-13-2009, 02:01 AM   #17
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A lot of his goals can be attributed to:
1 - He cherry picks at center ice alot
2 - He has had great playmakers with Cammy, huselius, Tanguay to feed him the puck
3 - a few of his goals are lucky goals that were good bounces.

If you compare the 35 goals that Iggy scored to 35 goals the Ovechkin scored, you will see there is a big difference in the types of goals that are scored.
Funny how he scored more with Conroy and McAmmond than with these "great playmakers" like Cammy, Huselius and Tanguay. Frankly Cammalleri wasn't that great of a playmaker IMO, he was definitely more of a finisher.

If you go back and look at goals by Iginla during darker years he could definitely make things happen by himself. He has a lethal shot from the slot, both snapshot and slapshot. He doesn't deke goalies that often or make breakaways for himself like Ovechkin can.

Keys to success for Iginla IMO are him moving his feet, him getting shots on net, and him being involved physically. I'd also suggest he seems to play better with high energy, fast skaters, they seem to make Iggy play faster and coast a little less and I think its part of the reason why Conroy was always such a decent fit and perhaps part of reason why Bertuzzi wasn't a great fit. On that theory Jokinen should be a good fit as well because he also plays a fast skating game. One of my personal theories is that Iginla was looking to shoot less this year because he was looking to set up Cammalleri a lot. You take out Cammy, put in a Bourque or Glencross or Nystrom and tell Iginla to just shoot, shoot, shoot and I think his goal totals would rebound from this years lowish totals. He's proven over several years that he doesn't need to have crazy skilled linemates in order to produce well.

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Old 05-13-2009, 07:58 AM   #18
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The Young (Source of breakout performance):
Chucko, Sutter, Armstrong, Watt, Backlund, Niemsz, Boyd, Irving, Pardy, Phaneuf

In The Sweet Spot (Peak production possible):
Borque, Cammalleri, Glencross, Lundmark, Moss, Nystrom, Peters, Greentree, Van der Gulik, Giordano, Leopold, Vandermeer, Warrener, McElhinney

The Elderly (You've already seen their best performance):
Bertuzzi, Conroy, Iginla, Langkow, Jokinen, Primeau, Roy, Aucoin, Eriksson, Sarich, Kiprusoff

I want to be optimistic, but I think the Flames need a minor youth movement. Maybe a trade or two. Take a chance on a young UFA here or there.
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Old 05-13-2009, 08:33 AM   #19
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Theres a lot of interesting analysis that could be done here if you were to take a complete look at teams, players, ages, average ages, salaries, etc.

In this salary cap era, especially if we see the cap decrease, cap management becomes ever so important.

If a GM can figure out how to apply a Moneyball approach to hockey you could see some interesting results.

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Which is why I think we may be seeing Ovechkins best seasons these past couple years and maybe for 2 more afterwards, and a guy like Kovalchuk has likely posted career highs type of thing.

I do think with the UFA age being what it is now that 27 to 31 age is where GM's run the risk of paying excessively for players whom they believe to be in their prime years. These players are still productive but as I mentioned in my second post it's quite likely a 26 year old Cammalleri has had his career season and that it's plausible that he won't be scoring 39 goals at the NHL level again. Just like Iginla as a 24 year old scored 52....he's come close but never beaten that mark since and is unlikely to top it going forward.

A definite concern is committing significant money to those who are getting past that 31 year old bench mark. The likes of Langkow, Iginla, and even Jokinen when he's due another contract have seen their most productive years. So if there isn't something else significant accompaning that production than you really want to be careful with spending money on those players, or make sure there are enough cheap entry level guys producing at a discount to balance things out.
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Old 05-13-2009, 09:11 AM   #20
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I want to be optimistic, but I think the Flames need a minor youth movement. Maybe a trade or two. Take a chance on a young UFA here or there.
Is there such a thing as a young UFA? With the latest CBA, by the time a player is eligible for unrestricted free agency their best years are behind them according to this analysis. This is why there's been a shift in dollars from aged veterans to the second contracts given to promising young players.
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