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March 17, 2010
Illegal Curve
Discipline

by Richard Pollock

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For the first time this year, I entered an online Yahoo! Hockey pool. Among the things that struck me most was that players were rewarded for penalty minutes. At first glimpse, I asked why? And truthfully, at second glance I also asked why?

Why on earth were penalty minutes being awarded as a category in the same vein as goals, assists and power play points? I am assuming that it is the rough and tough nature of certain players that is seen as a positive attribute; however, doesn’t that still seem flawed? Do NBA fantasy pools reward players for personal or flagrant fouls? Of course not.

Anyhow, this all got me thinking about penalty minutes in the NHL. Through the work of Gabe Desjardins, we are able to see which players draw the most penalties and, conversely, take the most penalties. Through these numbers, I wondered who had the best plus/minus when it came to drawing and taking penalties.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. Here are the 30 best plus/minus players when it comes to drawing and taking penalties:


NAME	        POS	TEAM	TAKEN	DRAWN	Plus/Minus
DUSTINBROWN	RW	L.A	9	41	32
ZACHPARISE	LW	N.J	9	29	20
NIKLASHAGMAN	LW	CGY	5	25	20
PAVELDATSYUK	C	DET	3	23	20
RYANKESLER	C	VAN	12	31	19
NIKOLAIKULEMIN	RW	TOR	1	19	18
DANIELCARCILLO	LW	PHI	15	32	17
CALCLUTTERBUCK	RW	MIN	6	23	17
PATRICKKANE	RW	CHI	6	23	17
PETRPRUCHA	RW	PHX	5	21	16
DARRENHELM	C	DET	6	21	15
MARTINST. LOUIS	RW	T.B	5	20	15
MIKERICHARDS	C	PHI	11	25	14
TOMWANDELL	C	DAL	7	21	14
BRANDONSUTTER	C	CAR	0	14	14
BOBBYRYAN	RW	ANA	7	20	13
BRYANLITTLE	C	ATL	3	16	13
JORDINTOOTOO	RW	NSH	2	15	13
EVANDERKANE	C	ATL	20	32	12
RICKNASH	RW	CBJ	11	23	12
DEVINSETOGUCHI	RW	S.J	4	16	12
MILANMICHALEK	LW	OTT	1	13	12
MASONRAYMOND	LW	VAN	10	21	11
JONSIM	        LW	NYI	9	20	11
JAROMEIGINLA	RW	CGY	9	20	11
ROSTISLAVOLESZ	C	FLA	7	18	11
R.J.UMBERGER	C	CBJ	6	17	11
MATTDUCHENE	C	COL	5	16	11
ANDREWBRUNETTE	LW	MIN	5	16	11
**Numbers as of Saturday March 13th**

Not surprisingly, many players on this list are high-scoring players. Generally players that score have the puck on their sticks a lot of the time or are at least around scoring areas where the defense gets desperate and takes a penalty. What stands out though is the placement on this list of certain players like Nikolai Kulemin, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Duchene and Evander Kane.

Nikolai Kulemin has really started to come on in Toronto and has far more skill than some fans realized. Cluterbuck is an interesting case in that he is arguably the most physical player in the NHL, yet he draws far more penalties than he takes. That is a difficult feat and one that is fairly impressive. The fact that rookies Matt Duchene and Evander Kane are on this list at such a young age is very encouraging. Not only have these two players adjusted seamlessly to NHL play, but they have played significant minutes and have benefitted their teams with more than just putting points on the board.

What about the worst plus/minus penalty ratios?


NAME	          POS	TEAM	TAKEN	DRAWN	Plus/Minus 
JACKHILLEN	  D	NYI	15	4	-11
ROBBLAKE	  D	S.J	15	4	-11
CRAIGRIVET	  D	BUF	15	4	-11
CORYSARICH	  D	CGY	12	1	-11
OSKARSBARTULIS	  D	PHI	12	1	-11
STEVESTAIOS	  D	CGY	20	8	-12
BROOKSORPIK	  D	PIT	19	7	-12
ANDYSUTTON	  D	OTT	18	6	-12
IANWHITE	  D	CGY	17	5	-12
MARCSTAAL	  D	NYR	15	3	-12
CAMERONBARKER	  D	MIN	14	2	-12
RYANO'BYRNE	  D	MTL	14	2	-12
FILIPKUBA	  D	OTT	13	1	-12
MIKECOMMODORE	  D	CBJ	13	1	-12
RENEBOURQUE	  LW	CGY	25	12	-13
TODDBERTUZZI	  LW	DET	24	11	-13
RYANGETZLAF	  C	ANA	23	10	-13
KENTHUSKINS	  D	S.J	17	4	-13
ETHANMOREAU	  LW	EDM	15	2	-13
SEANO'DONNELL	  D	L.A	13	0	-13
SAMILEPISTO	  D	PHX	22	7	-15
MATTGREENE	  D	L.A	18	3	-15
ROMANHAMRLIK	  D	MTL	17	2	-15
CHRISTOPHSCHUBERT D	ATL	22	6	-16
NICKBOYNTON	  D	ANA	18	2	-16
AARONWARD	  D	ANA	23	6	-17
JONIPITKANEN	  D	CAR	27	9	-18
SHANEO'BRIEN	  D	VAN	20	2	-18
ROBYNREGEHR	  D	CGY	22	3	-19
HALGILL	          D	MTL	22	3	-19
PAVELKUBINA	  D	ATL	19	0	-19
**Numbers as of Saturday March 13th**

The most common presence on this list is defensive defensemen. In fact, only four players on this entire list are not defensemen. Those players are: Ryan Getlzaf, Rene Bourque, Todd Bertuzzi and Ethan Moreau. Of the four, I think Getzlaf is the least surprising. He gets the most press of the four and is easily the most gifted. Unfortunately he also has a quick temper and is on a team that has been known for years for penalty taking. (Although, it should be noted that Getzlaf has been asked to take a more defensive role this season and this is reflected in the numbers listed below.) Ask Flames fans about Todd Bertuzzi and they will tell you he was known for taking a bad penalty or five. The same for Ethan Moreau who has become a hot-button topic in Edmonton for his offensive zone penalties and overall lack of discipline. The most surprising of the four players on this list is Rene Bourque. Bourque has become a very efficient scorer for the Flames and was just given a hefty contract extension. The part that is most surprising is that Bourque is arguably the Flames’ best skater at forward; he is fast and can get from one point to another very quickly. Most players on the above list, although not all, lack foot-speed (Hal Gill, Aaron Ward, Todd Bertuzzi just to name a few); however, last season Bourque was -5 in this category so he isn’t foreign to negative penalty taking territory. The fact that he is worse this season is probably disconcerting to some Flames fans but Bourque brings so many good attributes that it is not as much of an issue for Calgary fans as Moreau is for Oilers fans.

With respect to the point about the list being littered with defensive defensemen, let’s take a look at these players’ zone starts in respect to their plus/minus penalty totals (zone start percentage, meaning the percentage of face-offs taken in the offensive zone as compared to the defensive zone, is the last category):

NAME	          POS	TEAM	TAKEN	DRAWN	Plus/Minus Zone Starts
JACKHILLEN	  D	NYI	15	4	-11	   45.6
ROBBLAKE	  D	S.J	15	4	-11	   46.7
CRAIGRIVET	  D	BUF	15	4	-11	   48.8
CORYSARICH	  D	CGY	12	1	-11	   52.0
OSKARSBARTULIS	  D	PHI	12	1	-11	   44.7
STEVESTAIOS	  D	CGY	20	8	-12	   49.9
BROOKSORPIK	  D	PIT	19	7	-12	   54.4
ANDYSUTTON	  D	OTT	18	6	-12	   46.8
IANWHITE	  D	CGY	17	5	-12	   58.8
MARCSTAAL	  D	NYR	15	3	-12	   45.5
CAMERONBARKER	  D	MIN	14	2	-12	   59.9
RYANO'BYRNE	  D	MTL	14	2	-12	   47.2
FILIPKUBA	  D	OTT	13	1	-12	   54.6
MIKECOMMODORE	  D	CBJ	13	1	-12	   46.3
RENEBOURQUE	  LW	CGY	25	12	-13	   51.7
TODDBERTUZZI	  LW	DET	24	11	-13	   55.0
RYANGETZLAF	  C	ANA	23	10	-13	   47.4
KENTHUSKINS	  D	S.J	17	4	-13	   48.8
ETHANMOREAU	  LW	EDM	15	2	-13	   47.4
SEANO'DONNELL	  D	L.A	13	0	-13	   47.9
SAMILEPISTO	  D	PHX	22	7	-15	   57.0
MATTGREENE	  D	L.A	18	3	-15	   49.3
ROMANHAMRLIK	  D	MTL	17	2	-15	   45.4
CHRISTOPHSCHUBERT D	ATL	22	6	-16	   43.9
NICKBOYNTON	  D	ANA	18	2	-16	   49.1
AARONWARD	  D	ANA	23	6	-17	   49.1
JONIPITKANEN	  D	CAR	27	9	-18	   49.7
SHANEO'BRIEN	  D	VAN	20	2	-18	   47.0
ROBYNREGEHR	  D	CGY	22	3	-19	   51.9
HALGILL	          D	MTL	22	3	-19	   45.9
PAVELKUBINA	  D	ATL	19	0	-19	   44.3
**Numbers as of Saturday March 13th**

Zone start is an interesting stat but certain teams take far more offensive draws than defensive draws—such as this year’s Blackhawks which have only three players on the entire team taking less than 53.5% of their draws in the offensive zone (one of which is former Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson). So, to put the above numbers into even more context, let’s look at where each player stood in terms of zone starts on their own team (minimum 20 games played).

NAME	          POS	TEAM	TAKEN	DRAWN	Plus/Minus Zone Starts Tm_Rank
JACKHILLEN	  D	NYI	15	4	-11	   45.6	       14th 
ROBBLAKE	  D	S.J	15	4	-11	   46.7        17th
CRAIGRIVET	  D	BUF	15	4	-11	   48.8	       17th 
CORYSARICH	  D	CGY	12	1	-11	   52.0	       9th 
OSKARSBARTULIS	  D	PHI	12	1	-11	   44.7	       19th 
STEVESTAIOS	  D	CGY	20	8	-12	   49.9	       16th 
BROOKSORPIK	  D	PIT	19	7	-12	   54.4	       8th 
ANDYSUTTON	  D	OTT	18	6	-12	   46.8	       23rd 
IANWHITE	  D	CGY	17	5	-12	   58.8	       2nd 
MARCSTAAL	  D	NYR	15	3	-12	   45.5	       18th 
CAMERONBARKER	  D	MIN	14	2	-12	   59.9	       1st
RYANO'BYRNE	  D	MTL	14	2	-12	   47.2        10th 
FILIPKUBA	  D	OTT	13	1	-12	   54.6	       12th 
MIKECOMMODORE	  D	CBJ	13	1	-12	   46.3	       13th 
RENEBOURQUE	  LW	CGY	25	12	-13	   51.7	       11th
TODDBERTUZZI	  LW	DET	24	11	-13	   55.0	       7th 
RYANGETZLAF	  C	ANA	23	10	-13	   47.4	       16th
KENTHUSKINS	  D	S.J	17	4	-13	   48.8	       10th 
ETHANMOREAU	  LW	EDM	15	2	-13	   47.4	       17th
SEANO'DONNELL	  D	L.A	13	0	-13	   47.9	       18th 
SAMILEPISTO	  D	PHX	22	7	-15	   57.0	       4th 
MATTGREENE	  D	L.A	18	3	-15	   49.3	       16th
ROMANHAMRLIK	  D	MTL	17	2	-15	   45.4	       14th 
CHRISTOPHSCHUBERT D	ATL	22	6	-16	   43.9	       17th 
NICKBOYNTON	  D	ANA	18	2	-16	   49.1	       14th 
AARONWARD	  D	ANA	23	6	-17	   49.1	       13th 
JONIPITKANEN	  D	CAR	27	9	-18	   49.7	       10th 
SHANEO'BRIEN	  D	VAN	20	2	-18	   47.0	       14th 
ROBYNREGEHR	  D	CGY	22	3	-19	   51.9	       10th 
HALGILL	          D	MTL	22	3	-19	   45.9	       13th 
PAVELKUBINA	  D	ATL	19	0	-19	   44.3        14th 
**Numbers as of Saturday March 13th**

First let’s point out that six of these players were traded just around the trade deadline (Steve Staios, Andy Sutton, Ian White, Cameron Barker, Nick Boynton and Aaron Ward). Steve Staios is 16th on the list above but would be seventh or eighth on the Oilers; Andy Sutton is 23rd on the list above but would be around 11th/12th on the Islanders; Ian White is second on the list above but would be fourth on the Maple Leafs; Cam Barker is first on the list above but would be about seventh or eighth on Chicago; Nick Boynton has not played for his new team so we can bypass him; and Aaron Ward ranks 13th on the list above and would be around the same on Carolina.

Overall, very few players who have the lowest plus/minus penalty ratings also have high offensive zone face-off ratios. That is why players like Todd Bertuzzi, Sami Lepisto, and Ian White really stand out when it comes to taking too many penalties. These players are utilized more in the offensive zone yet cannot seem to limit their minor penalties.

In today’s day and age where referees are looking to call everything and anything they see as a penalty, discipline may be far more of a skill than the casual observer realizes.

Richard Pollock is Editor for the hockey website Illegal Curve.

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