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The Unbearable Lightness of McBean

PIRRI!  DID YOU EAT YOUR CHUNKY SOUP?!. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
PIRRI! DID YOU EAT YOUR CHUNKY SOUP?!. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Sorry about the Kundera reference, but the plight of skinny hockey players like Wayne McBean swung too phonetically close to leave it alone.  The thing is, McBean came into the league floating on high expectations, but when it came to the bigs he really never fit the demands of playing defense at a high level.  Maybe you can't chalk it up entirely to his size, but weighing 185 pounds (~84 kg) at 6'2" (1.88 m) was not exactly going to prepare him for an NHL that shifted towards forwards like Eric Lindros.  

A player like McBean made me think a bit about contemporary skinny players and what might be distinct about them.  Are they exclusively younger players?  Skilled players?  How many of them were defensemen?  How many are skinnier than Wayne McBean?  These things can get out of control quickly.

I figured the best way to go about this is to present height and weight (in that order) as a ratio.  League-wide, the average height this year is just a little over 6'1" (1.85 m), and the weight a bit over 204 pounds (~93 kg), for a McBean ratio of .3584.  True McBean was at .4.  The highest ratio in the league was .45; the lowest was .298.

I took all my data from, and this is out of 672 skaters.  I left goalies out because Ryan Miller would be like a 1.0 and Martin Brodeur would be around .000000001 and I didn't want that to fudge my beloved ratio.

Highest McBean Ratios (Skinny), Top 25 2010-11

Brandon Pirri --- .45

T.J. Brodie --- .4294

Michael Grabner --- .4235

Tyler Ennis --- .4233

Steve Sullivan --- .4224

Oliver Ekman-Larsson --- .4205

Alexander Burmistrov --- .4176

Mike Ribeiro --- .4162

Drew Miller --- .4157

Claude Giroux --- .4128

Frans Nielsen --- .4128

Mark Olver --- .4118

Dan Sexton --- .4118

Petr Prucha --- .4114

Brandon Sutter --- .4098

Mathieu Perreault --- .4096

Keaton Ellerby --- .4086

David Krejci --- .4068

Erik Karlsson --- .4057

Pat Dwyer --- .4057

David Van Der Gulik --- .4046

Wayne Simmonds --- .4044

Ryan Shannon --- .4035

Jordan Eberle --- .4023

Oskars Bartulis --- .4022


Lowest McBean Ratios (Stocky), Top 25 2010-11

Dustin Byfuglien --- .298

Derek Boogaard --- .3038

Pavel Kubina --- .304

Steve MacIntyre --- .308

Frazer McLaren --- .308

John Scott --- .31

Dustin Penner --- .3102

Sean O'Donnell --- .3122

Douglas Murray --- .3125

Kevin Westgarth --- .3128

Mike Komisarek --- .3128

Brian Boyle --- .3135

Anthony Stewart --- .3149

Matt Greene --- .3165

Raitis Ivanans --- .3167

Matt Smaby --- .3167

Zdeno Chara --- .3176

Andy Sutton --- .3184

Mark Fistric --- .3205

Mike Grier --- .3216

Ben Eager --- .3217

Guillaume Latendresse --- .3217

Ilya Kovalchuk --- .3217

Milan Jurcina --- .322

Erik Johnson --- .322

These lists are interesting, in part because there's a lot of mixed value among the skinny players and a pretty static value among the stouter players.  You have quite a few middling forwards at the skinny end, with a few incredible talents thrown in there, whereas the stout players are almost universally goon- or defensive-types.  It is a bit interesting to see the last few names on the list, though, such as Kovalchuk (Kovalchunk?) and Johnson.  Quite a few of the skinny players are rookies or just young; league-wide, only 27 players were skinnier than True McBean, and only a couple of defensemen, so you have a pretty good idea of where he'd stand today.

 What would be intriguing would be to identify a sort of "critical mass" (literally and figuratively) for how much weight an average NHL player should build up to before not having to worry about lightness compromising their effectiveness.  Of course, talent can trump size in some (rare) cases, and what role a player is filling factors in, but most of us would agree that there is a category of "too skinny for the NHL," where a player will be more effective when they "fill out."  In that same manner, there's likely a "too fat for the NHL" too, and I'm pretty sure Kyle Wellwood's toed that line.

One of the things I'm going to do is track player performance this year with their size in mind, and see where we end up.  I won't reach back because I'm having trouble gaining any confidence on height/weight data from the past.  A lot of that information is adjusted to their updated height and weight.

I'm going to throw together a team version of this later; by the way, I'm not sincerely trying to create a metric called the "McBean Ratio."