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Players of the Decade: Ice Time

Here are the first five parts of my series on the decade that was:

Teams of the Decade: Regular Season Wins

Teams of the Decade: Shooting and PDO

Players of the Decade: Games Played, Goals, Assists, Points

Players of the Decade: +/- and PIMs

Players of the Decade: Shots on Goal

Games played totals can be a bit misleading - after all, one shift is enough to qualify for having played in a game. Better to use time on ice: Andrew Brunette led the league in games played over the last decade, but was just 106th in total icetime. Here are the league leaders:

Lidstrom 27.06 Iginla 20.32
Chara 23.17 Thornton 20.04
Blake 22.91 Kovalev 19.41
McCabe 22.74 Lecavalier 19.18
Kaberle 22.70 Doan 18.98
Niedermayer 22.50 Jokinen 18.83
Pronger 22.38 Modano 18.78
Redden 22.22 St. Louis 18.75
Hamrlik 21.94 Brind'Amour 18.58
Rafalski 21.59 Rolston 18.53

This number is the number of minutes these players played divided by the number of games their teams played. So Lidstrom played an average of 27 minutes in Detroit's games - that's what happens when you log over 28 minutes a game for most of the decade and miss just 20 games in 10 years. And Pat Quinn's unwillingness to have a second defensive pairing really pushed McCabe and Kaberle to the top.

What if we look purely on a per game basis?

Pronger 27.85 Lemieux 22.68
Lidstrom 27.81 Ovechkin 22.27
Macinnis 26.64 Brind'Amour 22.10
Bourque 26.64 Jagr 21.82
Zubov 26.50 Allison 21.46
Leetch 26.47 Kovalchuk 21.34
Niedermayer 25.28 Sakic 21.16
Blake 25.27 Iginla 21.15
Phaneuf 25.07 Thornton 21.08
Chara 25.04 Zhamnov 21.02

This is an interesting result. Normally, if you look at per-game statistics, you have to set a lower limit for the number of games. Otherwise, you get a list of mostly players who played a small number of games but did reasonably well in them - eg, a player who played one game and got lucky and scored one goal. Not so with ice time - nobody just gets 21 minutes a game as a forward or 25 minutes a game as a defenseman without proving themselves over a number of games.

In fact, there's really only one guy who fits the Moonlight Graham bill in the last ten years: Brad Fast. The Carolina Hurricanes called him up for the last game of a brutal 2003-04 campaign after they'd traded away defensemen Danny Markov and Bob Boughner and Aaron Ward, Glen Wesley and Bruno St. Jacques were all injured. He logged 21 minutes on the second pairing with Niclas Wallin and scored the game-tying goal with 2:26 remaining but never cracked an NHL roster again.