Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sidney Crosby: Rookie of the Year?

For most everyone outside of Pittsburgh, the case for Alexander Ovechkin winning the Calder Trophy over Sidney Crosby and the rest of the field is an open and shut case.

Not so for Gabriel Desjardins of, who goes all scientific on us and calculates why he thinks Sidney Crosby should win the Calder.

Crosby definitely isn't padding his stats with garbage assists, though Ovechkin clearly scores very different goals than he does.

Ovechkin also took 556 shots (of which 141 missed the net), by far the most in the NHL, to Crosby's 343. Given Ovechkin's elevated power-play time, he just wasn't efficient to justify taking all those shots, even if his teammates weren't good enough to coax him to give up the puck.

There is also the position difference — Crosby is a center, while Ovechkin is a winger, so Crosby is responsible for taking face-offs and assorted defensive responsibilities.

Crosby gave away the puck fewer times (55 to 88) and blocked more shots (42 to 20), but also played less physically, resulting in fewer takeaways (35 to 67), and too many penalties. The rest of their play, as much as it can be deduced from the limited play-by-play statistics tracked by the NHL, is a wash. But Pittsburgh would be well-served to sign some real free agent protection to keep Crosby out of the penalty box next year.

Overall, the production difference between Crosby and Ovechkin is illusory, a result of Washington letting Ovechkin take as many chances as possible for lack of any secondary offensive options.

Given all these extra opportunities, Ovechkin's efficiency dropped so much that Crosby was more productive in comparison. As tantalizing as Ovechkin's individual skills can be, Crosby's passing and play-making skills make him my choice for Rookie of the Year.

To read the method behind his decision, read the full article here.

As for Gabriel's analysis, he does a great job of bending and using statistics to his advantage, but there are holes...

1. Crosby's penalties were not so much a result of a lack of protection as his own immaturity. If Crosby spent less time yapping and retaliating to the usual treatment he will always get, he'd stay out of the penalty box more.

2. Gabriel negates his own argument by showing that Ovechkin is more physical and gives away the puck a lot less. If you are making an argument for somebody, you shouldn't put bad points that pretty much negate your good points.

3. There is nothing wrong with shooting the puck so often. Ovechkin is just a different type of player, and scoring goals is more valuable than generating assists.

4. Crosby was awful on faceoffs and not exactly a great defensive forward. He may have additional responsibilities, but his 'ability' in that area isn't really enough to close the gap between Ovechkin and himself.

5. Gabriel completely ignores team context. Crosby had some skilled linemates such as Palffy to work with, even for half of a season. Ovechkin had a lot less to work with offensively, and he didn't have Sergei Gonchar on the point.

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