First, I just want to make note that I made an adjustment on this measurement, thanks to a good suggestion from reader "grumble_grumble"; as you can see in the reply to his comment, I ran correlations for all of the penalties I included to hitting rates and decided to drop the holding penalty as it did not seem to relate strongly to infractions committed by hitters. The result in rankings was a bit of shuffling among the top 15 (including a rise from the immortal Joey Crabb), and quite a bit more shakeup on the bottom 15:
|1||Andrew Murray, C||1.00||403||Jakub Voracek, RW||9.67|
|2||Joey Crabb, RW||1.00||404||Alex Burrows, RW||9.67|
|3||David Moss, RW||1.00||405||Scott Gomez, C||9.67|
|4||Ales Kotalik, RW||1.00||406||Corey Perry, RW||9.67|
|5||Kevin Porter, LW||1.00||407||Martin Havlat, RW||9.67|
|6||Andreas Nodl, RW||1.00||408||Nathan Gerbe, LW||10.00|
|7||Trevor Lewis, C||1.00||409||Nikolay Zherdev, RW||10.00|
|8||Matt Bradley, RW||1.33||410||Jeff Skinner, LW||10.00|
|9||Toby Petersen, C||1.33||411||Dominic Moore, C||10.00|
|10||Chris Porter, LW||1.50||412||Alexander Semin, LW||10.00|
|11||Liam Reddox, LW||1.50||413||Sidney Crosby, C||10.00|
|12||Blair Betts, C||1.50||414||Jason Spezza, C||10.00|
|13||Rod Pelley, C||1.50||415||Tim Connolly, C||10.00|
|14||Jake Dowell, C||1.50||416||Evgeni Malkin, C||10.00|
|15||Mike Grier, RW||1.50||417||Marc Savard, C||10.00|
If you need a refresher on the methodology, have a look at the first post on forwards. In brief, I took players with at least 20 games in two or more of the seasons 2008-09, 2010-11, and 2011-12 and, using their combined rankings (expressed in percentiles, 1 = Top 10th percentile, 2 = Top 20th percentile) in away hits per 15 minutes and what I call checking minor PIM (elbowing, roughing, boarding, interference, cross checking) per 15 minutes, averaging those 2- and 3-year performances. The argument I'm making is that, since it's been very difficult to determine that hitting as it's recorded actually helps teams, when we talk about the value of hitting we should gravitate towards hitters who can hit without at least not hurting their teams (via minor PIM). On to the defencemen...
One of the first things I did when I carried out the study was to look at the correlation between TOI (one of the more stable indicators of player talent we have) and three of the primary categories I worked with: away hitting rate, checking minor PIM rate, and the composite percentiles like the ones above.
|Position||TOI to Aw H/15||TOI to ChPIM/15||TOI to Cmp Rk|
A lot of interesting things going on here; for one, it's pretty clear that scoring forwards rarely hit as much as their 3rd and 4th line counterparts, and to a certain degree this means the 3rd-4th liners get more checking minors as well. This is why 3rd-4th liners who can consistently avoid minor penalties can do quite well by this measure. As for defencemen, minor penalties are more common and, apparently, more excusable. Thus, an otherwise good defenceman who takes bad minor penalties is less likely to sit. Regardless, I think it's still valid to look at defencemen by this measure.
|1||Luca Sbisa, D||1.00||213||P.K. Subban, D||9.00|
|2||Dan Girardi, D||1.00||214||Paul Martin, D||9.00|
|3||Jeff Petry, D||1.00||215||Bryan Allen, D||9.00|
|4||Stephane Robidas, D||1.33||216||Nick Boynton, D||9.00|
|5||Johnny Boychuk, D||1.50||217||Brent Burns, D||9.33|
|6||Justin Braun, D||1.50||218||Adam Foote, D||9.50|
|7||Anton Volchenkov, D||1.67||219||Victor Hedman, D||9.50|
|8||Douglas Murray, D||1.67||220||Craig Rivet, D||9.50|
|9||Brad Stuart, D||1.67||221||Brett Lebda, D||9.67|
|10||Greg Zanon, D||1.67||222||Dan Boyle, D||9.67|
|11||Jan Hejda, D||1.67||223||Trevor Daley, D||9.67|
|12||Alexander Edler, D||1.67||224||Tom Poti, D||10.00|
|13||Luke Schenn, D||2.00||225||Sheldon Souray, D||10.00|
|14||Roman Polak, D||2.00||226||Keith Yandle, D||10.00|
|15||Nicklas Grossmann, D||2.00||227||Chris Pronger, D||10.00|
Top 15 on the left, Bottom 15 on the right. Italicized players are those with only 2 season's data, so there should be less confidence in their placement. Both Sbisa and Girardi are extraordinary in this regard, and between Girardi and Robidas I think you'd be hard pressed to find a couple of defencemen who do more for their team in the defensive zone. As for the bottom guys, it's a bit of a perfect blend of light hitting guys who take minors and big hitters who have trouble keeping it clean. As for our Jets?
|18||Grant Clitsome, D||2.00|
|64||Zach Bogosian, D||4.33|
|88||Randy Jones, D||4.67|
|94||Dustin Byfuglien, D||5.00|
|98||Mark Stuart, D||5.33|
|131||Johnny Oduya, D||6.00|
|162||Ron Hainsey, D||7.00|
|203||Tobias Enstrom, D||8.67|
I included Oduya just for kicks. Enstrom is surprising, but at the same time not surprising. I knew he took a fair number of minor penalties. And how about that Grant Clitsome? But no, let's not actually consider playing him...
Let me know in the comments if you want to know how another player or players placed - forwards or defencemen, doesn't matter. I plan on looking at this data in regards to team performance, age, and relation to other advanced metrics before this is through. I do want to emphasize that this measure is not telling us who the best players are...rather, it's telling us who can play a physical game without taking harmful penalties. In my mind, it's the true display of skill in hitting - anybody can throw themselves all over the place, but to be able to demonstrate control in the process takes a special kind of player. Or they're just really good at hiding it.