I brought this issue up on twitter today because it got me thinking. Many hockey analytics dismiss face off winning % as a skill that has much value but many of the same people also claim that zone starts can have a significant impact on a players statistics. I haven’t really delved into the statistics to investigate this, but here is what I am wondering. Consider the following two players:
Player 1: Team wins 50% of face offs when he is on the ice and he starts in the offensive zone 55% of the time.
Player 2: Team wins 55% of face offs when he is on the ice but he has neutral zone starts.
Given 1000 zone face offs the following will occur:
|Player 1||Player 2|
|Win Faceoff in OZone||275||275|
|Lose Faceoff in Ozone||275||225|
|Win Faceoff in DZone||225||275|
|Lose Faceoff in Dzone||225||225|
Both of these players will win the same number of offensive zone face offs and lose the same number of defensive zone face offs which are the situations that intuitively should have the greatest impacts on a players statistcs. So, if Player 1 is going to be more significantly impacted by his zone starts than player 2 is impacted by his face off win % losing face offs in the offensive zone must still have a significant positive impact on the players statistics and winning face offs in the defensive zone must must still have a significant negative impact on the players statistics. If this is not the case then being able to win face offs should be more or less equivalent in importance to zone starts (and this is without considering any benefit of winning neutral zone face offs).
Now, I realize that there is a greater variance in zone start deployment than face off winning percentage, but if a 55% face off percentage is roughly equal to a 55% offensive zone start deployment and a 55% face off win% has a relatively little impact on a players statistics then a 70% zone start deployment would have a relatively little impact on the players statistics times four which is still probably relatively little.
I hope to be able to investigate this further but on the surface it seems that if face off win% is of relatively little importance it is supporting of my claim that zone starts have relatively little impact on a players statistics.