Advanced Stats Take On Grit - RGI

Grittensity at it's BEST - Jim Rogash

What did Ricardo uncover with his Grit Index? Let's find out!

The other night on twitter - I couldn't help but notice a few Flames fans retweeting a link to an intriguing thread on the forums at CalgaryPuck.com. Regular poster ricardodw had a suggestion - and it sure sounded interesting - a way to assess "grittiness" or lack thereof. I'll let him do the explaining:

"I thought that I could show that there are no successful teams that had as many soft players as the Flames and Oilers.

I came up with Ricardo’s Grit Index (RGI). I take the plays which require grit and physical sacrifice (hits, blocked shots and take-aways) and subtract give-aways to get a raw grit score.

I then do a simple grit / games played. This does not show how gritty a player is relative to his peers. Someone like Bouwmeester playing 25 minutes/game has over twice the opportunity to make gritty plays than Jackman. So I took the TOI and normalized it to regular games. A average forward should get 15 min/game of ice time (12 forwards dressed) and an average D-man should get 20 min/game of ice time. The Total TOI /15 for forwards and Total TOI/20 gives something I call regular games played.

I ended up with some surprising results."

- ricardodw, August 23rd, 1:28 PM MST

Surprising indeed. His theory paid dividends folks - it looks like we may finally have insight into how some players are allocated their ice time by NHL coaches. This may be of particular value when trying to assess the intentions and logic of the Leafs coaching staff - specifically Randy Carlyle.

Carlyle is considered a no-nonsense coach, who generally favours a rough and tumble type of game. He has often questioned the commitment of specific players to "go to the dirty areas of the ice", and this statistic does a decent job of showing us which players the score keepers think are going to the dirty areas of the ice - a lot.

So here are the results for the Leafs from this past 48 game season:

Player Pos GP Hits BkS GvA TkA TOI REGULAR GP RAW GRIT SCORE RGI
Mark Fraser D 45 153 102 26 13 763:05:00 38.15 242 6.343
Ryan O'Byrne D 8 28 20 5 0 137:25:00 6.87 43 6.258
Mike Brown R 12 22 1 0 0 55:51:00 3.72 23 6.177
Mike Komisarek D 4 11 6 1 1 61:23:00 3.07 17 5.539
Leo Komarov C 42 176 24 15 16 585:18:00 39.02 201 5.151
Korbinian Holzer D 22 61 54 15 3 407:09:00 20.36 103 5.060
Colton Orr R 44 78 17 5 4 281:10:00 18.74 94 5.015
Frazer McLaren L 35 53 9 5 1 180:27:00 12.03 58 4.821
Ryan Hamilton L 10 22 7 1 1 108:32:00 7.24 29 4.008
Joe Colborne C 5 11 0 1 2 45:36:00 3.04 12 3.947
Cody Franson D 45 124 59 40 21 845:29:00 42.27 164 3.879
Nikolai Kulemin L 48 122 47 13 30 803:25:00 53.56 186 3.473
Carl Gunnarsson D 37 78 71 32 11 787:27:00 39.37 128 3.251
Dion Phaneuf D 48 131 91 53 15 1208:33:00 60.43 184 3.045
Matt Frattin R 25 55 11 13 10 330:39:00 22.04 63 2.858
David Steckel C 13 11 10 4 0 91:54:00 6.13 17 2.775
John-Michael Liles D 32 45 52 22 8 600:34:00 30.03 83 2.764
Jay McClement C 48 76 39 17 30 731:57:00 48.80 128 2.623
Michael Kostka D 35 49 66 31 12 772:47:00 38.64 96 2.485
Joffrey Lupul R 16 31 7 5 9 257:58:00 17.20 42 2.442
Jake Gardiner D 12 13 15 12 6 245:46:00 12.29 22 1.790
Nazem Kadri C 48 62 22 30 23 770:30:00 51.37 77 1.499
Tyler Bozak C 46 65 23 37 37 934:17:00 62.29 88 1.413
Clarke MacArthur L 40 44 15 29 15 596:22:00 39.76 45 1.132
James van Riemsdyk L 48 55 15 31 17 921:57:00 61.46 56 0.911
Mikhail Grabovski C 48 34 20 32 19 747:22:00 49.82 41 0.823
Phil Kessel C 48 16 23 45 25 950:53:00 63.39 19 0.300

Now looking at the above table, a few things stand out. First, it sure seems like the Leafs are getting rid of some of their less gritty players (Grabovski and MacArthur) that are being played in traditionally gritty roles (i.e. 3rd/4th liners). Since Nikolai Kulemin is still with the team we can assume it's because he's scoring so high in the RGI rankings.

Jake Gardiner was also the least played Leafs Defender last year, and we all know Randy Carlyle said he had to work on his "defensive game" more - which is basically code for improving his "grittiness". This chart makes it fairly obvious why he wasn't playing. Also - Kostka wasn't re-signed after his rookie NHL season, and John-Michael Liles was relegated to the press-box for much of the season. Not enough grit in either case.

Basically any player scoring over a 2 is doing "ok" by this measure. Phaneuf seems to be at the low end for the Leafs Defenders though, and you'd think the leader of the club would need to be leading from in front as far as grit is concerned. What worries me is the fact that well known "softer" D man Cody Franson rates higher in the index than Gunnarsson or Phaneuf.

As a means of assessing the Leafs under Ron Wilson in these terms, I'm going to go back and look at the 2010-11 season (Wilson's last full year as head coach) so we can compare the team RGI value - Carlyle's 2012-13 team scored a total of 89.782.

Player Pos GP Hits BkS GvA TkA TOI REGULAR GP RAW GRIT SCORE RGI
Mike Komisarek D 75 146 117 51 14 1022:20:00 51.12 226 4.421
Jay Rosehill L 26 36 4 4 3 135:23:00 9.03 39 4.321
Luke Schenn D 82 251 168 95 38 1834:17:00 91.71 362 3.947
Mike Brown R 50 105 27 15 11 504:42:00 33.65 128 3.804
Christian Hanson C 6 11 0 1 2 50:37:00 3.37 12 3.556
Marcel Mueller C 3 7 0 0 0 30:22:00 2.02 7 3.458
Keith Aulie D 40 98 74 46 5 765:02:00 38.25 131 3.425
Matt Lashoff D 11 10 14 4 6 152:09:00 7.61 26 3.418
Dion Phaneuf D 66 186 121 53 31 1670:01:00 83.50 285 3.413
Colton Orr R 46 46 9 5 1 233:19:00 15.55 51 3.279
Michael Zigomanis C 8 6 3 1 4 55:48:00 3.72 12 3.226
Joey Crabb R 48 99 20 13 21 623:01:00 41.53 127 3.058
Fredrik Sjostrom L 66 108 33 15 15 739:52:00 49.32 141 2.859
Francois Beauchemin D 54 82 131 67 27 1282:49:00 64.14 173 2.697
Tim Brent C 79 104 58 20 23 920:27:00 61.36 165 2.689
John Mitchell C 23 31 17 5 8 287:48:00 19.19 51 2.658
Carl Gunnarsson D 68 63 120 44 24 1240:29:00 62.02 163 2.628
Colby Armstrong R 50 88 28 19 34 806:14:00 53.75 131 2.437
Darryl Boyce C 46 68 19 19 13 523:35:00 34.91 81 2.321
Korbinian Holzer D 2 1 3 2 1 26:02:00 1.30 3 2.305
Joffrey Lupul R 28 41 17 10 14 499:50:00 33.32 62 1.861
Brett Lebda D 41 33 31 17 3 546:52:00 27.34 50 1.829
Nikolai Kulemin L 82 101 48 28 37 1420:35:00 94.71 158 1.668
Tomas Kaberle D 58 28 100 58 27 1303:09:00 65.16 97 1.489
Tyler Bozak C 82 85 48 51 46 1581:01:00 105.40 128 1.214
Clarke MacArthur L 82 115 20 49 24 1403:24:00 93.56 110 1.176
Kris Versteeg R 53 20 39 21 40 1003:26:00 66.90 78 1.166
Luca Caputi L 7 7 0 2 1 77:29:00 5.17 6 1.162
Matt Frattin R 1 1 0 1 1 15:34 1.04 1 0.964
Mikhail Grabovski C 81 44 25 45 49 1568:18:00 104.55 73 0.698
Nazem Kadri C 29 16 6 26 15 457:29:00 30.50 11 0.361
Phil Kessel C 82 11 22 45 45 1611:00:00 107.40 33 0.307
Joe Colborne C 1 0 1 3 1 18:41 1.25 -1 -0.803

The team total under Wilson was 77.009, so obviously Carlyle is making an impact on the team's gritty playing style. This is likely a result of players selection and pure coaching genius. It is interesting to note how some players have drastically improved their RGI scores under the tutelage of Carlyle as opposed to Wilson, while others have not. Most notable are the following:

Kulemin: +1.804

Kadri: +1.138

Gunnarsson: +0.623

Lupul: +0.582

Bozak: +0.198

Obviously these guys are all playing "grittier" for Carlyle than they did for Wilson. In fact, a direct link can be made (and probably should) between the smaller improvement for Grabovski of +0.125 in comparison to that for Bozak and Kadri. Obviously the latter two guys wanted the top 6 job more than Grabovski did and sacrificed their bodies more to get it.

When we start to think on who is on their way into Leaf land for the coming season, and who might be on their way out we should consider the following:

Player Pos GP Hits BkS GvA TkA TOI REGULAR GP RAW GRIT SCORE RGI
Clarkson 12-13 R 48 84 6 16 8 844:27:00 56.30 82 1.457
Clarkson 11-12 R 80 169 19 16 32 1308:44:00 87.25 204 2.338
Bolland 12-13 C 35 43 18 16 21 571:48:00 38.12 66 1.731
Bolland 11-12 C 76 58 38 25 53 1254:07:00 83.61 124 1.483

From the looks of things Clarkson's not as gritty as some people think, and Bolland is softer than Jake Gardiner. Hmmm... well I'm guessing that Carlyle's systems of play will enhance their grittiness like they did those other Leafs.

You may have noticed that Clarke MacArthur's RGI score actually decreased from Wilson to Carlyle, and that lack of buy in probably had something to do with him not being brought back. The only other two players to drop in RGI terms were Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel - which likely explains all the chatter about them being moved out before they get massive extensions.

Hopefully this metric is a step in the right direction to get more people that aren't so interested in advanced stats actually participating in the conversation. Obviously this is a very important step forward for the analytics community, one that will enhance our understanding of the true genius of coaches like Randy Carlyle and GMs like Dave Nonis. Thanks to Ricardo - we can all see some "logic" behind the numbers.

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