Here is a spreadsheet that I threw together that ranks the 30 NHL teams by several categories, height, weight, and age. It also ranks them by final season standing and whether they made the playoffs or not.
The source data is from James Mirtle’s blog at http://mirtle.blogspot.ca/2013/10/2013-14-nhl-teams-by-height-weight-and.html
The idea for this came to me when watching the Calgary Flames press conference where they announced Brad Treliving as the new GM. You see, when Brian Burke came in, he made much ado about “getting bigger”, and that (I’ll paraphrase as I don’t have an exact quote) “you look at that top teams in the league and they are all big”. It sounds fine and dandy, and I didn’t question at the time. When Treviling steps to the mic, he ends up saying almost exactly the same thing. The issue for me at that point was that it almost sounded like some kind of political talking point, and didn’t feel warm and fuzzy. It was like Flames management was trying really hard to convince me, as a Flames fan, of something so they could achieve an agenda.
Anyhow, I decided to see for myself if there was evidence of this assertion that size equals success in the NHL. My initial logic screamed at me, “Of course it does, you dolt! The NHL is one of the most physical sports leagues on the planet. Being large is an obvious advantage!”. All the same, my curiosity was peaked.
I found the data I needed (source noted) and decided to investigate. Now, there are some obvious scientific deficiencies in the data, which I am more than happy to point out.
First, this data is from opening night rosters only. I don’t have enough data at my fingertips (at least not without days or weeks of research) to make season average per team based on every roster of every game. If someone has that data already compiled into a useful format, I would love to have it! This will give some inaccuracies, especially for teams like my Flames that had rosters that were highly dynamic over the season. It also wouldn’t take into account trades and so on that may have occurred over the course of the season. A good example would be Martin St. Louis going from Tampa to New York. In one move he would change both the average size and average age of both teams by a small amount. That said, with an average spread out over a 20-man roster, there shouldn’t be an incredible variance; at least hopefully not too much to skew the results.
Second, I wouldn’t mind doing more than one season. It’s certainly possible for a team to have a surprisingly up or down year due to injuries or other factors, which should be washed out over longer periods of time. This shouldn’t be too hard to put together, but I haven’t had time for it yet.
Anyhow, almost immediately upon taking a look at the data, I noticed that hard data did not seem to jive with the conventional wisdom that was being sold to me.
Most obviously, the defending champion Blackhawks ranked just 13th in height and 16th in weight; squarely average. This year’s President Trophy winners were the Bruins. Well, the Boston boys are a healthy 6th in average height, but only 17th in weight! Evened out, that seems pretty average too.
I went looking for the biggest teams to see how they did. At 1st in height and 4th in weight, Tampa is a monster team, and did well. So did the LA Kings at 5th in height and the heaviest team in the NHL. They finished 8th and 10th overall and are both in the playoffs, although as of this writing the much smaller Canadiens had just swept the Lightning in the 1st rounds. The Habs, by the way, finished 9th overall, and at just 22nd in weight and dead last in height, certainly don’t do much to convince me that size matters…
The other teams that stand out as the largest in the league are the Jets (tied 2nd in height and 5th in weight), the Leafs (tied 2nd in height and 10th in weight), the Senators (6th in height and 9th in weight) and the Coyotes (4th in height and 6th in weight). Wait a sec. None of these heavyweights made the playoffs? What the heck?
As a Flames fan, I just realized something scarier. The Leafs and ‘Yotes are the two former teams of Burke and Treliving. They got big and they still fail!
What about small teams that succeed? Are there any, or many? I already mentioned the Habs. The Ducks finished 2nd overall and are very average in size. Colorado finished 3rd; also very average. Columbus snuck into the playoffs at 14th. They’re average. Minnesota is quite small, and was easily in the playoffs at 11th. The Rangers finished 12th and they are quite average. Same with the Flyers at 13th overall. The Penguins are one of the smaller teams in the league, finished 6th, and are considered serious contenders every recent year.
One interesting note. At 28th in height and 2nd in weight, the St. Louis Blue managed to finish 4th overall despite being populated by short, fat guys. On the flip side, being tall and skinny will land you in dead last. Ask Buffalo, at 6th in height and 27th in weight.
At this point, I’m ready to stop looking at individual teams and start looking at trends. Obviously being large doesn’t guarantee success, but maybe it tips the odds in your favour? With this in mind, I ranked the top 15 heaviest teams on a list. If being heavy increases your chance of success, I would expect well over 50% to have made the playoffs. So how many of the 15 heaviest teams made it? Seven. How many if rank by height? Six.
I’m almost ready to up and say that you are better off being small than big.
That’s probably a stretch, but of this much I think I am sure. Here’s the big bold summary statement.
There is no obvious indicator in the 2013/2014 NHL season that average physical size was a factor in making the playoffs.