Best and Worst Faceoff Takers since 1997

The NHL has been recording a huge number of statistics for every game since 1997, but they have yet to master turning data into interesting insights.  Case in point: hits and faceoffs.  We always hear about which players lead the league in hits - Cal Clutterbuck, Dustin Brown - but do we know who the best faceoff takers are?  Hits, in and of themselves, have no relationship with winning, but faceoffs are incredibly important because winning them results in puck control and more shots on goal.  

Here are the even-strength face-off winning percentage leaders since 1997-98, minimum 1000 faceoffs through Friday's games:

 

Rank Player GP FO W L WPCT
1 Yanic Perreault 701 7803 4752 3051 60.9
2 Mike Zigomanis 189 1360 809 551 59.5
3 David Steckel 224 1917 1137 780 59.3
4 Scott Nichol 485 3620 2146 1474 59.3
5 Rod Brind'Amour 860 12314 7289 5025 59.2
6 Joe Nieuwendyk 562 7791 4596 3195 59.0
7 Mark Janssens 198 1769 1043 726 59.0
8 Jason Krog 202 1437 839 598 58.4
9 Tim Taylor 607 5635 3270 2365 58.0
10 Kris Draper 875 7873 4560 3313 57.9
11 Mike Sillinger 753 8333 4770 3563 57.2
12 Guy Carbonneau 220 2776 1589 1187 57.2
13 Sebastien Bordeleau 219 2493 1424 1069 57.1
14 Steve Yzerman 491 6261 3565 2696 56.9
15 Steve Dubinsky 284 2069 1178 891 56.9
16 Dave Andreychuk 556 3308 1882 1426 56.9
17 Adam Oates 511 7916 4503 3413 56.9
18 Antoine Vermette 447 3349 1903 1446 56.8
19 Eric Lindros 463 5938 3364 2574 56.7
20 Trent Whitfield 191 1586 892 694 56.2
21 Bobby Holik 836 11387 6389 4998 56.1
22 Jarret Stoll 420 4564 2556 2008 56.0
23 Jerred Smithson 381 2096 1167 929 55.7
24 Stacy Roest 244 1527 850 677 55.7
25 Steve Martins 242 1713 953 760 55.6

 

I knew that some of these players were very good on faceoffs: Perreault, Brind'Amour, Carbonneau, Andreychuk, Draper, Sillinger.  And I watch a fair number of Sharks games, so I knew that Scott Nichol is a very good faceoff taker.  But there was never any suggestion on any of those telecasts that Nichol is tied for #1 in faceoff percentage among active players.  This seems like the kind of thing that we'd want to know, doesn't it?  Would Nichol have more than a one-year $750,000 contract if his skills were better-publicized?

The bottom 25:

 

Rank Player GP FO W L WPCT
276 Tyler Wright 527 3691 1632 2059 44.2
277 Mike Ribeiro 571 4514 1991 2523 44.1
278 Mikhail Grabovski 153 1518 669 849 44.1
279 Alexei Yashin 592 6722 2962 3760 44.1
280 Milan Kraft 207 2095 915 1180 43.7
281 Sam Gagner 221 1347 588 759 43.7
282 Eric Staal 468 5632 2455 3177 43.6
283 Tyler Arnason 487 3561 1552 2009 43.6
284 Harry York 170 1141 497 644 43.6
285 Marco Sturm 843 1469 637 832 43.4
286 Erik Rasmussen 545 2029 874 1155 43.1
287 Igor Korolev 489 3742 1608 2134 43.0
288 Nik Antropov 593 2810 1207 1603 43.0
289 Viktor Kozlov 741 5070 2174 2896 42.9
290 Nathan Horton 409 1024 437 587 42.7
291 Patrik Elias 850 1468 626 842 42.6
292 Martin Straka 659 2528 1078 1450 42.6
293 Robert Kron 355 1853 781 1072 42.1
294 Jochen Hecht 687 1806 760 1046 42.1
295 Tim Connolly 555 5175 2158 3017 41.7
296 James Sheppard 214 1637 681 956 41.6
297 Shane Doan 899 1191 486 705 40.8
298 Evgeni Malkin 305 2283 917 1366 40.2
299 Oleg Kvasha 493 2517 1003 1514 39.8
300 Andrew Cogliano 235 1359 525 834 38.6

 

There are some fairly well-known names in here - guys who've taken a lot of face-offs.  Is there a point where a player should shift to the wing for the draw and let someone else take it?  Indeed, this table of faceoff winning percentage versus the number of faceoffs taken per game suggests that Carolina would be better off letting a winger take the draw than letting Eric Staal continue to flail away:

 

FO/GP % of Total WPCT
>10 49.4 51.3
5-10 34.9 49.9
2-5 9.9 48.0
1-2 2.8 45.2
<1 3.0 40.3

 

I'm convinced that teams have long paid too little attention to faceoff-taking, and probably continue to do so.  Maybe individual faceoffs don't seem that valuable - but having a high winning percentage can be worth several wins in the standings.

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