Category Archives: Teams

Act 2: The Productivity of Quebec-born Players on the Montreal Canadiens

Consider this a sister post to the previous one, which documented the Quebec-born presence on the Montreal Canadiens since expansion. This post examines the productivity of Quebec-born skaters on the Montreal Canadiens since 1967.

An analysis of the data reveals a simple yet stunning conclusion: measured in terms of goals per man game, the productivity of Quebec-born skaters on the Canadiens has fallen precipitously since the late 1980s.

Montreal Canadiens Quebec-born Players: Productivity

In the 1970s, the average Quebec-born skater accounted for slightly less than 0.3 goals per regular season game played. That number held steady during the 1980s. Indeed, 1987-1988 represented a banner year for home grown talent, as Quebec-born skaters averaged 0.344 goals per man game in the regular season, the second highest level achieved since expansion. Stephane Richer potted 50, Claude Lemieux added 31, and Guy Carbonneau contributed a respectable 17.

But in the 1990s, the productivity of Quebec-born talent fell off drastically. To cite but one example, in 1998-1999 Quebec-born skaters scored only 0.121 goals per man game in the regular season–a productivity level that was 65% lower than in 1987-1988. Benoit Brunet led all Quebec-born skaters in that year of famine with only 14 goals.

As mentioned in the previous post, Andre Savard’s term in the early 2000s saw a rebound in the presence of Quebec-born talent on the Habs. Unfortunately, that talent was woefully unproductive. In 2002-2003, Quebec-born skaters eked out a measly 0.101 goals per man game–the lowest mark since expansion (and likely of all-time). If we remove the 24 goals netted by Yannic Perreault, the rest of the Quebec-born skaters on the team (there were 10 others) combined for only 38 goals in 541 man games. Compelling evidence that quantity is not a guarantee of quality.

In 2009-2010, Quebec-born skaters accounted for 0.124 goals per man game, right in line with the decade average of 0.126. Here’s hoping that Mathieu Darche, Maxim Lapierre, and perhaps David Desharnais can push that number up this season, but I’m not holding my breath.

Advertisements

Quebec-Born Players on the Montreal Canadiens

The dearth of Quebec-born talent on the Montreal Canadiens has been a ongoing source of deep anxiety among certain segments of the Montreal media. Though deeper cultural anxieties heavily influence this general discourse, three empirical points add a certain justifiability to the chronic anxiety:

1) The Quebec-born presence on the Montreal Canadiens plunged dramatically in the first decade of this century. In terms of regular season man games, the Quebec-born presence on the team fell from 44% in 2002-2003 to 14% in 2009-2010.

2) League-wide, the Quebec-born presence has been declining steadily since expansion. In 1968-69, 21% of all regular season man games were played by Quebec-born players. By contrast, in 2009-2010, Quebec-born players only accounted for 7% of all regular season man games.

3) As documented recently by HabsWatch, the percentage of Quebec-born players drafted out of the QMJHL has been stagnant over the past two decades.

Add those three facts up, and it certainly paints a troubling picture for those who pine for a more ethnically homogeneous version of the Habs.

But looking at the historical trend line, we see that the Quebec-born presence on the Habs has oscillated wildly since expansion. Over the past 43 years, there have been periodics of dramatic increase and periods of dramatic decline in the Quebec-born presence on the Habs–this despite the steady NHL-wide declivity in Quebec-born representation. The fact that the Habs’ trend line bears very little resemblance to the league trend line suggests that managerial factors have played a significant role in determining how much Quebec-born talent suits up for Montreal Canadiens games.

Quebec-Born Presence

In 1977-78, the final year of Sam Pollock’s term as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, the Quebec-born presence on the team stood at 56%. The Quebec-born presence underwent a precipitous plunge during the Grundman and early Savard years, dropping to a low point of 24% in the Cup loss season of 1988-89. A rebound occurred in the later Savard years, with the Quebec-born contingent accounting for 51% of regular season man games in the 1992-93 Cup season. That share was slashed in half by the end of the 1990s, but under Andre Savard’s mandate it rose back up to a high of 44%. As mentioned above, it has been in free fall ever since.

So, the question is: given the systemic forces that have been acting since expansion to reduce the presence of Quebec-born talent in the NHL, how does a Montreal Canadiens general manager assemble a critical mass of such players on his team? (Leaving aside for the moment the more thorny question of whether he ought to assemble such a critical mass).

Let’s look at 3 examples, each of which represents a peak in the presence of Quebec-born talent on the team for a given era.

As mentioned earlier, the 1977-78 team had a Quebec-born contingent that accounted for 56% of regular season man games. Sam Pollock built this contingent using two methods: 1) pre-draft exclusive rights negotiation lists and C Forms, which netted him Hall of Famers like Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer, and Serge Savard; 2) the NHL Amateur Draft, which netted him players like Guy Lafleur, Mario Tremblay, and Pierre Mondou.

From a man games perspective, Quebec-born talent constituted just over half of the hallowed 1992-93 Cup team. Serge Savard assembled this group largely through the draft. Two-thirds of the Quebec-born talent on that team came via the draft, including Patrick Roy, Guy Carbonneau, Eric Desjardins, and Stephan Lebeau. Supplementing the drafted core were three Quebec-born players acquired via trade: Denis Savard, J.J. Daigneault, and Vincent Damphousse.

Finally, there was a renaissance in the Quebec-born presence on the Habs in the early 2000s. Unlike the 1978 and 1993 contingents, trades and free agency brought in close to three-quarters of the Quebec-born talent on this team, including
players like Donald Audette, Joe Juneau, Stephane Quintal, and Yanic Perreault. In this case, the term talent is used in the generic, and not descriptive, sense.

At various times in past 43 years, managerial intervention has ensured a healthy Quebec-born presence on the Montreal Canadiens, despite overarching trends causing a diminishment in the share of Quebec-born talent league-wide. But the tactics have certainly changed over time. Entering the second decade of the 21st century, would it even be possible for the Habs to get back to a 30%-40% Quebec-born presence solely via bullet-proof drafting? Or would an activist management have to bring in sub-par Quebec-born players via free agency or trade? And if they did go that route, would certain segments of the media accept a performance trade off? After all, there aren’t many fond memories from 2002-2003 left in my mind.

Note: A sizable chunk of the data included in this analysis comes thanks to the great team at QuantHockey.com.

When does 24 wins make a great NHL season?

The answer: when we’re talking about the 2009-2010 Montreal Canadiens.

Last season’s Habs team won only 24 games in regulation. 8 more wins came in overtime, with another 7 coming in shoot-outs. The 24 regulation wins represents a regulation winning percentage of 29%. Put differently, if you were watching a Montreal Canadiens regular season game, you had less than a 30% chance of seeing the Habs seal up the victory within 60 minutes.

Of the 88 points accumulated by the Canadiens in regular season last year, only 48 were earned in regulation. That’s only 55%. Close to 1 in 2 points earned by the 2009-2010 Canadiens were earned after the 60-minute siren sounded.

Even more interesting is the fact that the 29% regular season regulation winning percentage marks the lowest mark for any Montreal Canadiens team since the NHL introduced regular season overtime in the 1983-1984 season. Yes, that’s right: last year’s Montreal Canadiens team had a lower propensity of winning a game in regulation than the miserable 2000-2001 outfit.

Habs Regulation Winning Percentage

Much like 1983-1984, the 2009-2010 season will be remembered for a gloriously unlikely playoff run. That playoff run certainly deodorized a regular season where regulation victories were painfully hard to come by.