Total Player Charts: Conceptualizing Time On-Ice Percentages

Updated: January 10, 2018 at 7:08 pm by Ben Wendorf



I’ve always felt pretty strongly about Tom Awad’s now-two-year-old assertion that, absent something better, even-strength ice time is a pretty good proxy for overall player value.

His numbers bore that out. However, I suggested that we could better refine and increase predictability of even-strength ice time by expressing it as a percentage of the team’s even-strength time in games the player played (a wordy way of describing 5v5%). Though it will probably be a post in-and-of-itself, 5v4% and 4v5% are both testing to be similarly positive refinements on those TOI metrics.

Rather than handle that today, I wanted to unveil a little idea that had been bouncing around my head for a while. I’ll be damned if I can recall the post from Beyond the Box Score, the excellent baseball statistics web site, but they had a season preview a while back where they used radar plots of a number of metrics like OBP, Fangraphs’ Baserunner rating, UZR/150 (something to that effect), and for each player on a given team their talent in those metrics filled a certain portion of the radar plot. The more you filled the radar plot, the better you were. Author Note: Having heard back from BtB’s Justin Bopp, the creator of the Diamondview Composite Player Evaluation that inspired the Total Player Charts, I can put my agitation and accreditation worries to rest).

There’s certainly room for doing this when the statistical hockey gods agree on a metric already (spoiler alert: they never will) – till that time I’m content to build a radar plot of three metrics, 5v5%, 5v4%, and 4v5%. In part, this is to represent player value, as well as where that value gets allocated (just even-strength, or powerplay and penalty kill as well). I’ll call them Total Player Charts, or TPCs (which, it turns out, is also an acronym for all sorts of important ish)…you can do a lot of neat stuff with ’em.  

Let’s have a look.

TPC Charts – What They Look LIke

I’ll never forgive him for taking that shot at Niedermayer in the Cup Finals, but I have to respect one of the most important forwards to their team of the last few years, Daniel Alfredsson.

The light blue triangle represents the average of the top 10 league performances for the category. I’ve split defensemen and forwards for these charts. The dark blue represents the player, and the dotted triangle is the league average (in this case, for forwards). In the case above, you are looking at the TPC of Daniel Alfredsson over the last five years, who happens to be one of the most valuable forwards (by TPC) in the NHL for that time.

Top defensemen look a bit different; here’s one of the most valuable defensemen of the last five years by TPC, Jay Bouwmeester:

TOI fiend Jay Bouwmeester. He even puts a guy like Zdeno Chara to shame.

Top defensemen frequently cover the bulk of the triangle, while top forwards are all over the map of deployment. Take Alex Ovechkin:

Alex Ovechkin’s TPC.

Or Sidney Crosby:

Sidney Crosby’s TPC.

And now see Pavel Datsyuk:

Now see a guy who’s often in the discussion for most-complete player, Pavel Datsyuk. In some ways, though, the difference between Datsyuk and Alfredsson’s TPCs is a testament to the difference in team depth.

Or David Koci:

That little sliver of insignificance would be David Koci’s playing time.

Haha, just kidding, Koci is terrible. You know you’re bad when they’ve given up trying to figure out if you’re a defenseman or a forward.

Uses and Discussion

So what else can I do with this? Well, for starters I can look at particular player populations, and with my newfound GIF powers I can do some pretty neat things – like show the difference between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th line forwards:

TPC 1st Thru 4th Line Forwards

Or between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pair defensemen:

TPC 1st Thru 3rd Pair Defensemen

Maybe you’d like to see the TPCs of 50, 40, 30, and 20-goal scoring forwards:

Hey, think your favorite player is going to score 50 goals? And he’s 2nd unit on the powerplay? Good luck with that.

Maybe I want to see how a player’s TPC evolves as they age – first with defensemen:

As you can see, penalty kill work is definitely not wasted on the youngsters. However, this is a tricky graph, because of survivorship bias. What if, instead of just going off the player population, we used year-to-year change trends and created a hypothetical defenseman who played from ages 18 through 40 (keeping in mind this would be a pretty exceptional defenseman)?

It’s interesting to see this one, as it’s typically the offensive defenseman that hangs around the league. How about forward age progression?

And now one built not directly on the forward population, but on year-to-year age progression trends:

Once again, you see the offensive-prone forwards hanging around, although unlike with the defensemen penalty kill time seems to sag right along with powerplay time for forwards.

This can also be useful for looking at how player types are matched. For instance, look at Anaheim’s top forward line of the last few years:

The top line of Anaheim, with real data this time. Getzlaf did less than I expected in 4v5 time, but you can see why Ryan’s point totals have been a bit more sporadic in recent years (what’s your excuse, Getzlaf?).

You start to get the sense of how they are different players (unless you want me to GIF it, I could GIF everything if…no? It’s killing your browser? Okay, nevermind.) In some cases, you start to get a sense of which are the stronger players, too. Take this duo of 2011-12:

Here are the TPCs of one of the more-common pairings last year, Carlo Colaiacovo (now on the Red Wings) and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues. 

I don’t think anybody would argue that Corey Perry isn’t better than Bobby Ryan, though that’s closer than the gap in the argument between Colaiacovo and Pietrangelo.

Long story short, TPCs are a pretty snappy way to look at player value at a glance, or even the differences in whole lines or depth charts. If you have any TPCs you want to see, let me know in the comments and I can do a follow-up including some pretty incredible individual season TPCs.

As usual, my research is indebted to Gabe Desjardins and his invaluable website,