# How Many Points Should A First Line Forward Record?

The answer that my initial instinct suggests on the question above is 82. If a player isn’t putting up a point-per-game, he’s probably not a first line forward. Fortunately, we have better resources at our disposal than my gut instinct.

Here is the total number of players from the four seasons since the lockout to put up 82 points or better:

• 2008-09: 15
• 2007-08: 17
• 2006-07: 24
• 2005-06: 23

Simple math tells us that there are 90 first-line forwards in the NHL (30 X 3). Let’s consider two numbers from each of the past four seasons – the midpoint of those ninety (the points total of the 45th ranked player) and the cutoff point (the points total of the 90th ranked player):

• 2008-09: Midpoint – 66, Cutoff – 51
• 2007-08: Midpoint – 65, Cutoff – 51
• 2006-07: Midpoint – 69, Cutoff – 55
• 2005-06: Midpoint – 71, Cutoff – 56

Basically, what we can see, looking at that list, is that a 51-point scorer is a first-line player, and the median first-liner scores about 65-70 points. Still, there’s another point worth making, a point illustrated nicely by this chart:

The line isn’t straight; in other words, the guys at the upper end of that scale (the top twenty, say) are a lot harder to find than the next group down (say 20-40) and the difference in performance is quite a bit. In short: it pays to add a marquee player every once in a while, because he’ll do a lot more with the ice-time than a middle of the pack first-liner. The difference is quite a bit more pronounced than the difference between a middle of the pack guy and an end of the pack guy.

And that’s one of the big reasons I’ve supported the attempts to bring in Dany Heatley: he’s a high-end guy, a “difference maker”. These guys aren’t easy to find, and whatever their warts they’re generally worth having.

## 74 Comments |

• Hippy

@ Jodan:

Shhhhh! *whispers* he can hear us

• Hippy

Ogden Brother wrote:

Jonathan Willis wrote:
Jodan wrote:
I find it really interesting that the number of ppg players has decreased every year. wonder why?
I think it just reflects the scoring drop-off since the lockout. I don’t know this, but I’d guess the number of powerplay opportunities has dropped off.

Goals per game went down sharply since the lockout, they stabalized last year though.

Oh right, the whole increase scoring/increase scoring chances thing. I remember. Reminds me of an amicus brief I read in defence of PDP on the top line. Basically said that PenHorSky would have 82 goals as a line if left together. Really interesting.

• Hippy

I think it would be interesting to run this with PPG and see what you get. Isn't it very possible that some of those 50-60 point guys are PPG guys who have missed 20 games with injuries?

• Hippy

I think Horcoff is a decent 1st line center, he is a solid two way player, and his defensive skills take the heat off Hemsky's wandering all over the ice.

I think his point totals should jump into the mid 70s this year, I really got the impression watching the games last year that he was struggling a bit with his timing and power on his shots from the shoulder surgery the year before. And I'm hoping by the start of the season he has that back.

I can't see Gagner taking his spot this year, or next year either, and really, his offence should benefit from being on the 2nd line while he (hopefully) picks up some more of the nuances of playing center.

• Hippy

DangerMan wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis:
I’m pretty sure there were more than 15 players who scored more then 25 goals. 25 goals is the benchmark for the first line, but at least one player is going to have clear 80 pts for the whole line to be effective.

I can somewhat agree with Dangermans POV but in the Oils 06 cup run, not one player on the top line had 80 points. Smyths 31 goals obviously stands out as the key to the line production.

Trying to find that unique balance in points/goals is obviously critical to any top line success.

• Hippy

@ DangerMan:

So you view 45-point scorers like Ryan Malone, RJ Umberger and Owen Nolan as first-liners?

25 goals seems arbitrary.

• Hippy

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Jodan wrote:
I find it really interesting that the number of ppg players has decreased every year. wonder why?
I think it just reflects the scoring drop-off since the lockout. I don’t know this, but I’d guess the number of powerplay opportunities has dropped off.

Goals per game went down sharply since the lockout, they stabalized last year though.

• Hippy

Yeah thanks for the heads up bingo, Brownlee seems cranky maybe even cantankerous.

• Hippy

Intersting….so basically if Horcoff gets 70 pts, that will be more than average for a first line center…
interseting

• Hippy

If this were the standard for naming the top line, ours would be Hemsky, Horcoff, Souray! Just based off points from last year. Scary.

• Hippy

@ Jodan:

Welcome to the fold, Jodan. Comment often! Just don't piss Brownlee off. I can ill afford to keep pumping him full of Valium when one of you kids sends him into a Nation-related rage.

• Hippy

@ Jonathan Willis:

I'm pretty sure there were more than 15 players who scored more then 25 goals. 25 goals is the benchmark for the first line, but at least one player is going to have clear 80 pts for the whole line to be effective.

• Hippy

@ DangerMan:

So in your mind there are only 15 first-line players in the NHL?

• Hippy

Jodan wrote:

I find it really interesting that the number of ppg players has decreased every year. wonder why?

I think it just reflects the scoring drop-off since the lockout. I don't know this, but I'd guess the number of powerplay opportunities has dropped off.

• Hippy

My belief is either 25 goals and/or 80 pts justifies a first line player.

Just like 20 goals and/or 60 pts justifies a second line player.

• Hippy

The Menace wrote:

Technically there are 30 first lines in the league, but it would be interesting to see if those Midpoint/Cutoff numbers are significantly different for just the 16 playoff teams.

I'll probably try putting the numbers up for that at some point; it's a solid suggestion.

• Hippy

I find it really interesting that the number of ppg players has decreased every year. wonder why?

I'll admit I flip flop alot on my opinion of Horcoff as a first liner. Right now I feel like he is a decent first line center, tomorrow I might think he is a glorified 2nd liner. Who knows. What I do know is I really really want him to be a ppg first line center, and I have a sliver of hope that with the new coaches he just might be.

Good work as usual with the slow summer posts JW.

• Hippy

By we of course I mean Steve Tambellini and I. 😉

• Hippy

Technically there are 30 first lines in the league, but it would be interesting to see if those Midpoint/Cutoff numbers are significantly different for just the 16 playoff teams.

JW: I was very much pro-Heatley for the same reasons. This is the kind of talent that doesn't come along often. We would have been silly not to make every effort (which I'm satisfied we did).

• Hippy

JW…the level of research and math stuff you bring to the table in your articles is absolutely astounding.

Good work.

But it was a long way around to say you like Dany Heatley. 🙂

*remembers the day he thought Dany Heatley would be an Oiler and gets happy… and then remembers the month of Dany Heatley not becoming and Oiler and gets sad…real sad*

• Hippy

Boundz wrote:

Very interesting read JW. I hope this takes some heat off Horcoff from the fanbase. Yes, the contract is high, but yes he does fit in that range (although the bottom end last year – following an injury) and he does play a solid defensive game.
B

Agreed. Horcoff has done nothing but do what he's been asked to do, so to come down on a guy who's point totals have dropped off because of taking on various responsibilites is absurd.

I've been thinking about the Tanguay scenerio and am admittedly comfortable with that. Tanguay has shown he's consistant having had 4 25+ goal seasons and averages almost a point/game. He'd be in the top 3rd of point averages according to JW's scale.
Just a thought…

• Hippy

Very interesting read JW. I hope this takes some heat off Horcoff from the fanbase. Yes, the contract is high, but yes he does fit in that range (although the bottom end last year – following an injury) and he does play a solid defensive game.

B

• Hippy

Godzilla wrote:

Where does Penner stand in all of that?

Well, his 3 full NHL seasons (in reverse chronological order) have been 37, 47, and 45 points, so he's been below the cutoff JW has given every year he's been pro.

Enough ink has been spilled on why that may be. I'm interested to see how his numbers are affected by playing for a competent coach. If his numbers go up, you can attribute it to the changed coaching philosophy or DPs improvement as a player (either physically or mentally) – or both. If his numbers stagnate (or, God forbid, drop), then we're paying a lot of money for a 3rd liner.

• Hippy

Where does Penner stand in all of that?