Saturday, August 22, 2009

The powers of perception

We're coming up on that time of year when most of the major hockey publications will be coming out with their previews and predictions for the 2009-10 season, and one thing Habs fans will be hearing and reading a lot of is how this team is way too small up front to be very competitive.

When your three splashy forward acquisitions of the summer are all under six feet tall, it's a pretty easy analysis to make. But is it an accurate one for the team as a whole?

I figured I should check it out, so I decided to compare the average height and weight of the projected Habs forwards and defence to those of their division rivals, seeing as over a quarter of the season will be played against those four teams.

The word "projected" is an important one, because these numbers reflect my own personal idea of what the Habs, Leafs, Sabres, Bruins and Sens rosters will look like. But even if a player or two is changed on each team, I think the numbers will still hold true.

For instance, on the Habs roster I decided to leave Georges Laraque out because it would be a stunner to me if he showed up at training camp healthy, and I put Gregory Stewart in his place. But I also left out Matt D'Agostini for Max Pacioretty, because I believe his combination of size and skill will be an advantage for him in camp.

So, here's what I came up with (heights and weights rounded off):

Forwards - 6-foot, 202 pounds
Defence - 6-foot-2, 214 pounds
Total - 6-foot-1, 206 pounds

Forwards - 6-foot-1, 201 pounds
Defence - 6-foot-2, 211 pounds
Total - 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

Forwards - 6-foot-1, 202 pounds
Defence - 6-foot-1, 205 pounds
Total - 6-foot-1, 203 pounds

Forwards - 6-foot-2, 213 pounds
Defence - 6-foot-2, 214 pounds
Total - 6-foot-2, 213 pounds

Forwards - 6-foot-1, 201 pounds
Defence - 6-foot-2, 214 pounds
Total - 6-foot-1, 205 pounds

OK, raise your hand if you thought the Sens were the biggest team in the division? Give yourself a pat on the back if you did, because I found that surprising.

But the most telling part of this is that the Canadiens forwards, widely panned around the league as being far too small, are just about as big on average as the forwards on the Leafs, Bruins and Sabres.

If you're curious, adding Georges Laraque to the lineup and taking out Gregory Stewart leaves the average height of the forwards the same but brings the average weight to 206 pounds.

So while I understand what a lot of people have been saying about the new look Habs - particularly Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta - I think the size of the other forwards compensates, not to mention the fact that both Cammalleri and Gionta have reputations for playing bigger than their size.

You can count the number of big, skilled forwards in the league on two hands, so not every team can have a Ryan Getzlaf or Vincent Lecavalier, and there definitely isn't one available every summer on the free agent market.

The only team in the division that has someone that fits that description is Ottawa with Dany Heatley and Alex Kovalev, and I don't think either of those guys really qualify as power forwards.

This is obviously not an airtight analysis, but I think it does give a pretty general idea as to how the Canadiens measure up in the muscle department with their main rivals. So the next time someone tells you how the Habs forwards will get crushed whenever they enter the Leafs zone, you can point out the Montreal defence is just as big and the Leafs forwards are just as small.


Arjun said...

Very, very, very, very interesting. Of course, I also know you're not so good at math.

Anonymous said...

While what you're saying is not false per se, I think the main critic is the lack of size in the top 6. Of the 5 players we know are in the top 6 (Plekanec, Cammaleri, Gomez, Gionta, A kost.), only A. Kost. is over 6 ft. I wonder how we compare with other teams in the top 6.

Sliver24 said...

I like the analysis. It's nice to see that the team's maybe not as small we all assumed.

Anonymous your point is also a valid one, but when it comes to hockey the old axiom rings true: It's not the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.

That's where, by all accounts, the Habs have taken great strides this off season.

Brian Burke is always going on about how he builds his teams with a top-6/bottom-6 structure. Maybe Gainey follows a similar strategy but doesn't constantly spot off about it.

pfhabs said...


-do you remember Peter Popovich that 6'6" behemouth of jello..your stats are interesting but do not give any true indication in my view

-Sliver 24 said it best it's not size of dog but size of the fight. Boullion at 5'8" is as tough as anyone currently on the CH backline and they are mostly over

-Koivu 5'10", Kovalev 6'1", Tanguay 6'1" average of 6' and average weight of about 200 lbs. Gionta 5'7" (175lbs) Gomez 5'11"
(200lbs) Camalerri 5'11" (185lbs) average of 5'10" and use Sliver's point they will be crushed by Exelby, Schenn and some guy named Komisarek and others who are all bite and size

-speaking of which Laraque at 250+ lbs and way over 6' bites like a teething infant if last year is any indication

-so again interesting but it's about character and attitude and except for Moen and maybe Mara on occasion our "big" and little guys are all worrisome

Anonymous said...

Koivu, Kovalev and Tanguay averaged about 200 pounds because Kovalev was about 225. Not an apples to apples comparison to Gionta, Gomez and Cammalerri because Kovalev only showed up 50% of the time.

Factor that in and the average weight of that line was 163 pounds. Smaller still because Tanguay showed up even less. I know this does not make sense (I'm half kidding with it) but it makes about as much sense as the notion that this whole size debate is relevent.

Why will the new guys for Montreal be crushed this year when it has not happened before? You can't hit what you can't catch.

pfhabs said...

you eventually have to go to the net at some point or play like Tanguay did then again how many times do you need to catch someone who's 5'7" and 175 lbs in order to inflict pain ?

as I said, actually as Sliver 24 pointed out, its the bite not the size and short of Moen there ain't very much....

Yves said...

Glad you took the time to do the averages....

I had seen someone else crunch some numbers for the Habs/Leafs/Sens... because some Leafs sites were running with the notion that we're gonna be tiny this year.

The Canadiens might ice a small line.... but that won't account for the team as a whole.

Plus, there's not much mention of the potential PP that a bunch of fast puck moving offensive players could bring.... but that's for another day...

Love the blog as always.

Anonymous said...

To my knowledge Gomez, Gionta and Camarelli have not recently shrunk. So it appears we are getting the same sized guys that their former teams had.

Why is it the minute they sign with the Canadiens, they are going to be crushed... it hasn't happended up to now in their careers.

All three are known for playing with some grit (bite) in their game and have gone to the net all of their careers. And they seem to have been less injury prone than the 3 they replace (although I did not run the numbers0.

I don't see the problem and don't understand the fixation on height and weight. Arpon, thanks for doing the averages... would have been interesting to see how the Habs compare to Detroit and Pittsburg. Right now, judging from your limited sample (and noting Ottawa's size, weight and terrible record last year), the bigger and heavier you are the worse you are. Might be the increased league emphasis on speed - which the Canadiens are well suited for.

Arpon Basu said...

The imperfections of using averages are not lost on me, the main purpose of doing the comparison was to show how slim the differences actually are between teams. It's possible that these guys will get chucked around, but what I was getting at is that every team has guys that risk being physically dominated, yet they do pretty well regardless. The most dangerous forwards on the Bruins last year were Savard, Krejci, Kessel and Ryder. Ryder's the biggest of that group, and he's not exacty a physical force. Yes, Lucic is a difference-maker who can play in the top six, but he's not (yet) a player you shape your game plan around, unless you're Guy Carbonneau. The Sens biggest guys are probably their softest players, but Mike Fischer (6-1, 210) is someone you have to keep your head up on. The whole size vs. bite argument is what I was attempting to prove by kind of discrediting the size part. Nothing can be looked at in a vacuum.

jkr said...

Thanks for actually doing some research and providing some facts rather than leaning on small samples or stereotypes. I find too many veteran reporters look for the quick hit & don't want to make the effort. Good work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arpon

Thanks for the additional clarification. I agree with you on size/bite/success relationship... very little correlation.

I might just be like many Habs fans that are getting tired of the whole size issue with the team - and I get that what you're trying to do is put it to rest as well by taking a look at the averages. So thanks for that.

Interesting that your stats (limited sample I know) from the NorthEastern conference point to an inverse relationship between size and success - the more of the former the less of the latter.

Anonymous said...

YOU NEED TO WEIGHT THE PLAYERS BY ICE TIME! You can't simply take a 5'10" 185 lb forward who plays 20 minutes a game and a 6'4" 220 lb 4th liner who plays 6 minutes a game and say that the average size of the two players is 6'1" 202 lbs.

Ted said...

Arpon, I'm glad you sized this up for us (pun intended). Here are a couple of more little discoveries to ponder. In the top 30 point getters ofr 08-09 the average height was 6' and 3/4" average weight was 201.2 lbs. The interesting thing here is that 20 of the top 30 were in the east and if you break it down east vs west the difference is quite sizeable. The average height of the top 20 players from the east is
6'and 1/4" and weight 198 lbs whereas in the west amongst the remaining 10 players the average height is 6'1 and 3/4" and weight is 207 lbs.

The west also had 5 of the 7 biggest players in this category.

I guess size isn't everything!

Anonymous said...

thanks arp. i'm surprised by the results and a little relieved tbh.

Arpon Basu said...

More interesting numbers Ted, which simply go to show that you don't necessarily need your skill players to be hulking behemoths. Obviously, that would be ideal, but barring that if you surround smaller skill guys with big physical guys, it should even out.

rei said...

I wonder how much the defensemen size is skewed by Gill and Obyrne, two towering players?

Anonymous said...

The Habs logo in the pic is upside-down. That's a bit like flying an upside-down flag.