In part 1 of this series, I looked at how NHL skaters age using the delta method with Dawson Sprigings’ WAR model. As mentioned in my previous article, there is still one major problem with the delta method that needs to be addressed: survivorship bias. The “raw” charts presented in part 1 are quite informative, but they’re missing a correction for this bias. Before we can draw conclusions about what this new WAR metric tells us about NHL skater aging, we need to figure out how to correct for survivorship bias.
How do NHL players age? When do they peak? How quickly do they decline? Questions about player aging in the NHL have been debated for years, and an incredible amount of research has already been done trying to answer these questions. Within the past 3 years, however, it seems a general consensus has been reached. Rob Vollman summarizes this quite well in his book Stat Shot: The Ultimate Guide to Hockey Analytics: “Most players hit their peak age by age 24 or 25 then decline gradually until age 30, at which point their performance can begin to tumble more noticeably with the risk of absolute collapse by age 34 or 35.”
The vast majority of this work has been done looking at points, goals, shot attempts, special teams, etc., but the release of Dawson Sprigings’ WAR (Wins Above Replacement) model gives us a new statistic from which we can derive value and, possibly, a new way to look at how NHL skaters age. It seems only natural that we’d revisit the NHL player aging question using this new model. If you’re unfamiliar with his WAR model, you can read all about it here.