NHL Career Charting: The Pre-BTN Era and What We Can Still Do With Historical Data


Photo by “IrisKawling”, via Wikimedia Commons

Hockey statistics have always been fairly historically limited; most of the so-called “fancy stats” have only been tracked (and easily track-able league-wide) back through the 2007-08 season. The prior years have a veil of fog over them, though there is fairly decent shot data going all the way back to the 1952-53 season (thanks to the Hockey Summary Project; I’ve been able to bring the data together), good game-by-game individual player data going back to 1987-88 (thanks to Hockey Reference via Dan Diamond & Associates), and gradually-improving TOI data going back to 1997-98 (thanks to NHL.com and Hockey Reference). Unfortunately, this has lead to a relative dearth of research into the years of the “Pre-BTN” Era, so-called because 2007-08 was the first year we received in-depth, league-wide data from Gabe Desjardins’ Behind the Net stats site and Vic Ferrari’s timeonice.com.

Having a background in history, and also having grown up as a fan of the league in this grey statistical era, I have spent the last couple years trying to compile and present statistics from the Pre-BTN Era in ways that can help provide a window into those years (and possibly inform our understanding of the present-day game). I’m somewhat indebted to Iain Fyffe, a guy who’s been doing similar yeoman’s work much longer than myself at Hockey Prospectus, though more recently he’s been sharing his work at his own site, Hockey Historysis.

The fact of the matter is that there is actually an enormous amount of information out there, and more importantly with graph work we can really do some interesting things. First case in-point is what I call “career charting;” essentially, charting a player’s shots in a game relative to their team’s shots in those same games. Using the metric %TSh, or percentage of team shots, this provides an interesting glimpse into player contributions, workload, and development in the Pre-BTN Era. Adding some artistic (and informational flourish), I present to you Pierre Turgeon:

Continue reading