Size Has No Impact On Faceoff Percentage: 2009-10 Data

 

A question that has come up a few times is whether big players tend to have an advantage when taking faceoffs. There is a certain logic to the idea that they do: after all, bigger, stronger players should be able to outmuscle their smaller counterparts in the faceoff circle.

The data, however, suggests something else entirely: that there is no advantage to being big when it comes to taking face-offs.

I went back to the 2009-10 season, and took every NHL centre who had taken 100+ even-strength face-offs. Then I plotted three charts, one comparing even-strength faceoffs to height, another to weight, and a third to “size” – just the product of height and weight. I used even-strength faceoffs only to make for a fair comparison, as it’s easier to win faceoffs while on the man advantage and harder while killing penalties.

Face-offs vs. Height

Correlation: -0.02 (Scale of -1 to 1)

Face-offs vs. Weight

Correlation: 0.03 (Scale of -1 to 1)

Face-offs vs. Size

Correlation: 0.01 (Scale of -1 to 1)

Conclusion

There is no noticeable advantage or disadvantage granted by size in the faceoff circle. The best faceoff men in the game last season varied from small (Scott Nichol, Kyle Wellwood, Vladimir Sobotka, Todd Marchant) to large (David Steckel, Wayne Primeau, Paul Gaustad, Vincent Lecavalier) and the worst faceoff men varied from small (Oscar Moller, Andrew Cogliano, Daymond Langkow, Toby Petersen) to large (Brian Boyle, Eric Staal, Michael Rupp, Nik Antropov).

It’s one of the few areas in the game where the playing field is relatively level.

  • SmellOfVictory

    This is good stuff JW, and I bet you’re right, but I have to be mr. poopy pants for a second:

    I believe that stats are better used to summarize experimental results than to draw conclusions from arbitrary samples. The problem with your conclusion here is that its not necessarily correlative to your results due to the sample group having inherent variables.

    Based on what you’ve shown, the statement “size has no bearing on face-off ability” could just as easily be replaced by “to be an undersized NHL player taking faceoffs, you have to show exemplary skill compared to other little guys, who don’t make the show”.

    I would go so far as to say that you should look at players who take less than 20 faceoffs per year and see if size matters. Does size favor the “its my first draw” crowd?

  • Nice work Jonathan. My guess is smaller players who play centre either have to figure out a way to win faceoffs or slide to wing in junior or earlier.

    They do say that having a lower centre of gravity, and being closer to the dot, can help. I think that’s what Crosby uses to his advantage.

  • NVoilfan

    I was just thinking about this today.

    Assuming the NHL measures faceoff wins by who gets possession of the puck following a draw then don’t you think the bulk of faceoff wins would come from the bigger wingers who are able to fend off their opponent and get the puck back to their team.

    Maybe that’s why Horcoff’s percentage has gone down as his wingers have gotten smaller… Is there any way to look into that?