How does playing in the Olympics affect Individual Performance?

We now have three different Olympics to look at, and I wondered if there were any perceptible differences in player performance based on whether they played in the tournament that year or not. Let's look first at team winning percentage for players who played in the games in the years before and after the games:

W% 1998 2002 2006
Oly-1 524 530
Oly 511 537 536
Oly+1 527 528 513

The 2006 Olympics don't have a previous season due to the 2004-05 lockout (thanks, Gary.) There's no solid pattern here. What if we compare winning percentage before and after the Olympic break?

1st/2nd 1998 2002 2006
Oly-1 -14 -7
Oly 8 -13 -24
Oly+1 -3 23 46

Again, nothing here. Clearly there is no impact at the team level. What about at the player level?

Games Played:

GP 1998 2002 2006
Oly-1 70 69
Oly 72 73 71
Oly+1 69 68 70

Players play a slightly-higher number of games in the Olympic years. But this is selection bias - a player won't make the team if he's injured. What about scoring?

Pts/82 1998 2002 2006
Oly-1 55 57
Oly 50 51 67
Oly+1 54 49 57

Still nothing to hang our hats on. How about the 1st/2nd half difference in points-per-82 games?

1st/2nd 1998 2002 2006
Oly-1 -1.8 1.8
Oly -0.5 -0.1 -0.9
Oly+1 -0.1 -2.3 1.0

Again, nothing. We see the same lack of trend year-over-year in +/-, TOI, shooting percentage. I did find one stat where players got worse in the second half of the Olympic season:

Shot% 1st/2nd 1998 2002 2006
Oly-1 0.6 0.6
Oly -0.6 -0.2 -0.9
Oly+1 0.2 0.0 0.1

I would still argue that this means nothing. I essentially have data with no trends in it, but the noise in my observations is large enough that some statistic will consistently point in the right direction without actually meaning anything. If participating in the Olympics has a measurable impact on player performance, I can't see it.

I'll take a look at the goalies next time...

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