A typical hockey game features more than 50 faceoffs, but only a few teams can turn that skill into a significant competitive advantage.
Over the long course of the NHL season, faceoff winning percentages naturally gravitate towards 50% (this season's range went from #1 San Jose at 55.6% to Edmonton's 46.4%).
A wrinkle can be added to this analysis, however, by looking at the performance of teams when split by various situations. For instance, teams on the Power Play win roughly 55% of faceoffs, and thus Shorthanded teams win 45%. And as we know, when a team gets a power play chance, the clock is ticking - losing a faceoff and having to chase down the puck for 10-15 seconds can burn away precious time.
Follow after the jump for a look at how teams across the league fared on the faceoff dot, with an extra level of detail you usually don't see...
The table below reflects all faceoffs from the 2009-10 NHL season, broken down by teams on the Power Play, at Even Strength, and Shorthanded. The "Weighted Performance" column reflects the variation in that workload, and shows the percentage of faceoffs that each team won, as compared to what they should have won based on the balance of PP/EV/SH opportunities (i.e., Atlanta's performance of 101.9% means they won, in total, 1.9% more faceoffs than expected).
|Team||PP %||EV %||SH %||Weighted
|Columbus Blue Jackets||57.0%||50.6%||48.1%||102.1%|
|Detroit Red Wings||55.1%||50.9%||47.6%||101.9%|
|Los Angeles Kings||54.8%||50.1%||50.1%||101.3%|
|New Jersey Devils||56.8%||48.6%||47.7%||98.7%|
|New York Islanders||52.7%||48.5%||42.1%||96.4%|
|New York Rangers||53.1%||49.2%||44.9%||98.3%|
|San Jose Sharks||60.8%||54.9%||55.0%||111.3%|
|St. Louis Blues||53.6%||49.2%||42.7%||97.8%|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||53.6%||52.8%||42.5%||103.1%|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||53.5%||51.0%||46.1%||101.5%|
Note: I'm trying a sexy new feature where you can click the headings, and sort by the column of your choice. Give it a whirl...
What jumps out first and foremost is the outstanding performance of the San Jose Sharks, noted over at Behind the Net as one of the top faceoff teams in recent years. The fact that they won a greater percentage of their faceoffs while shorthanded as opposed to even strength is particularly stunning. Yes, I'm sure they put their best guys out in those situations, but they did well across all categories, so it's not like their skill players were poor on the dot, and the best faceoff men were all on the PK.
Boston, Chicago and Minnesota all did pretty well on the dot as well, particularly the league-leading 61.2% on the power play by the Blackhawks.
On the opposite end of that scale, part of the disappointing performance of the Nashville Predators' power play can be ascribed to their league-worst faceoff winning percentage on the PP. Is there an opportunity for Marcel Goc, the team's best faceoff man last season, to start getting some time on that unit?
As for the Edmonton Oilers? Yikes, 25th on the PP, 30th at even strength, and 30th shorthanded. They were, far and away, the worst faceoff team in the league.
The difference in faceoff performance from the best teams in the league to the worst has been estimated to be worth roughly 3 wins within a given season - not a huge amount, but certainly significant. Turning around a team's fortunes usually involves making a series of incremental improvements, rather than a few blockbusters, so paying further attention to winning faceoffs (particularly on special teams) could be of benefit to a few teams on the list above.