Every summer, while the hockey world slumbers, NHL Network attempts to revive us with a jolt of ranking rancor. Their analysts make lists of the best players at each position and the network release a composite version that awakens everyone from our August naps long enough to yell about how Sean Couturier gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment.
The lists themselves are meaningless. The point of releasing them is the ensuing social engagement. Look at these numbers! Fifty trillion interactions in the last 24 hours! HockeyWanker4356 quote tweeted us 52 times and reached 43,000 unique users in our target demo! We’re going to P.F. Chang’s for happy hour baybeeee!!!
We all know this. And yet, we still argue about them because arguing about lists is fun. Yes, our love of lists has contributed to turning the internet into a wasteland. So many writers spend hours every day toiling in the list mines at Buzzfeed or Cracked because of our selfish desire to see things we like or dislike arranged in a specific order.
We consume lists like gilded age aristocrats without ever considering that the writer has a great idea for a long form piece on the relationship between the emergence 1990s emo music and the decline of the sit down American pizza parlor. If only they could stop writing lists for two days so they could finish it. But alas, we want our lists and we want them now no matter the cost.
But what if we could make a better list? A new list. A different list. A list that incorporates quantitative and qualitative evaluations. A list that represents multiple perspectives. A list that blends traditional and contemporary analysis. No one would care? It’s still just a dumbass list of hockey players? Yeah, fair. But I made one anyway and you’re a degenerate serial list reader so you’ll look at it. And feel shame, as you should. But not as much as I feel making it.
To make this list, I blended wins above replacement (WAR), expected goal impact using regularized adjusted plus minus (RAPM), and the original list from NHL Network. For WAR and expected goal impact, I used the last three years of data for all skaters via Evolving Hockey. I weighted the seasons using the 5, 4, 3 method used frequently in sports analytics. I don’t know how much sense it makes here but if it’s good enough for real stats, it’s good enough for this nonsense.
I then rescaled WAR and RAPM so that I could blend them with the rankings using a 40-40-20 weighting where the NHL network “experts” get the 20. How did I come to these weights? I made them up in my big dumb brain.
Is this a good approach? Absolutely not. This is the kind of approach I arrive at when I keep my laptop open well after I’ve reached the number of beers where I should have closed it.
WAR and RAPM overlap and using them both involves some unknown amount of double counting. The positional listings from the NHL are nonsense and have loads of players listed incorrectly so the scaling is affected to some unknown degree. The original list from NHL Network was bad in the first place and if I had any courage, I wouldn’t use it at all. But hey, a list is a list and this is the internet. No room for scruples.
So without further filling of space to appeal to search algorithms, let’s get to the dadgum rankings. First, here are links to the originals if you want to refresh your memory.
And now, here are my rankings, which are better than the ones above but still very bad and worthy of derision.
Mark Stone takes his rightful place at the top of the winger list. Sean Couturier finally gets some respect. John Klingberg is the second best defender in the league. Jason Zucker! Brett Pesce! If I’m gonna make a list, I’m gonna MAKE A LIST. And this? This is A LIST.
If I was to make any changes to the rankings, I would start by going back in time to the point where I was about to start blogging about hockey and hit myself over the head with a log from the fireplace. Because if I never started this stupid hobby, I would never had gotten drunk, saw a bad list, and decided to publish this awful article. But alas, here we are: on the internet, in August, arguing about a list of hockey players.