The Power of the Fist?

Editor's Note: The official stance of Anaheim Calling is pro-fighting in hockey, and NOT for entertainment value-- your editor has never been "entertained" by a fight --but as an integral part of the game in regards to self-policing and the general dynamics of competition in hockey. Were Robby to spend this post vehemently disagreeing with that stance, his article would still have been published to maintain the 'barbershop discussion' atmosphere of this site, but a much larger, more boldfaced disclaimer would have preceded his work.

ROBBY:
I want to be completely honest with you up-front. When I conceptualized this post, I thought it would be fun to take a contrarian perspective about fighting in the NHL. Even though I enjoy fights for their entertainment value, I thought the notion of fighting was overhyped and overrated. I completely expected the numbers to show that fighting has no demonstrable impact on games and players. I also assumed they would show that all the hockey clichés about the symbolic and actual importance of fighting were wrong.

In fact, it was the complete and total opposite. I was wrong.

First, a few words on my overall approach. I used the venerable Hockey Fights to identify when fights have occurred since the Lockout. I then used the Hockey Reference's game logs to get the details about how the Ducks and individual players fared in games where fights occurred. Since I'm not a professional analyst, my means are limited. That said, I feel reasonably confident about the conclusions below, and I hope you find the results as interesting as I did.

The table below examines the Anaheim Ducks' record since the lockout in games where they fought versus those where they didn't. The decimal number behind the record is points percentage, a metric that shows the percentage of possible points earned (points earned/total possible points). As Ducks fans, we frequently hear that we need to be a physical team to succeed. How do the numbers bear that out?

Season

With Fights

Points %

Without Fights

Points %

2005-2006 Regular Season

20-6-6

.719

23-21-6

.520

2005-2006 Playoffs

2-4

.333

7-3

.700

2006-2007 Regular Season

31-11-6

.708

17-9-8

.618

2006-2007 Playoffs

1-2

.333

15-3

.833

2007-2008 Regular Season

24-15-2

.610

23-12-6

.634

2007-2008 Playoffs

--

--

2-4

.333

2008-2009 Regular Season

30-20-4

.630

12-13-3

.482

2008-2009 Playoffs

2-3

.400

5-3

.625

2009-2010

23-23-6

.500

16-9-5

.617

A couple of interesting point here. First, I realize that this methodology may not be the best measure of physicality, but in the regular season, it certainly seems the Ducks play better when they fight. In the five seasons since the lockout, only 2009-2010 showed a significantly better record when the team decided not to drop the gloves.

That said, fighting in the playoffs is a completely different story. In every playoff year that the Ducks fought (note that they recorded no fighting majors in the 07-08 playoffs), they had a significantly better record in games where they decided not to fight. Put another way, the Ducks were a combined 5-8 in games where they fought over this period. In games where they did not, they were a combined 29-13.

So we can see that fighting is an important recipe for success for the Ducks, at least in the regular season (although the shift in 2009-2010 makes me wonder if perhaps this is no longer true for the revamped roster). How does this play out for individual players? We start to get into sample size issues here, but here are some splits for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in games where they fight versus games where they do not.

With Fights

PPG

Without Fights

PPG

Ryan Getzlaf

2-7=9

.750

121-256=377

.922

Corey Perry

6-9=15

.938

128-163=291

.724

Since we've got relatively low samples here (a combined 28 games where either Perry or Getzlaf have fought), I wanted to expand this to analyze games where they take penalties (presumably because of their physicality).

With Penalties

PPG

Without Penalties

PPG

Ryan Getzlaf

45-100=145

.935

78-163=241

.906

Corey Perry

57-72-129

.763

77-100=177

.711

So there you have it. Fighting and being physical matters to both of these guys. Again, I know this isn't the most fool-proof methodology as some of those penalties were probably not the result of being physical. But with Perry and Getz, you can pretty much bet that the lion's share of those were some sort of slashing, interference, roughing, or conduct penalty.

In summary, fighting appears to be every bit as valuable as you hear. While I still have issues with it (and we can start a flame war in the comments if you want), the Ducks (and their big guns) seem to thrive off of it. The next time you see Perry or Getz start skating to the box, take a second to remember that this will probably end up better off for their performance, even if it means an uncomfortable PK in the iterim.

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