Age, Size, and 23-Man Rosters

Updated: October 7, 2015 at 1:24 pm by Dimitri Filipovic

With the puck set to be dropped on the new season just hours from now, all 30 teams have formally submitted their 23-man rosters for opening night. By this point you’ve surely read countless different previews analyzing the landscape from all sorts of different angles.

One approach I haven’t seen much of yet is a discussion regarding how various teams have chosen to construct their rosters. There obviously isn’t just one tried-and-true way in which a winning team can be put together. 

A couple of quick notes regarding this after the jump.

It’s not exactly a surprise that teams like the Oilers, Hurricanes, and Sabres come into the season with some of the youngest rosters in the league. They’ve been bad for years now, and will hopefully for their sake begin to see some of the fruits of their labour this season assuming their recent high draft picks come in and produce for them. 

Tangentially, while teams like the Jets, Blue Jackets, and Flames have enjoyed a higher modicum of success in the very recent past, they’re examples of teams that spent years before that stockpiling a plethora of young assets.

It’s worth noting that the Red Wings and Panthers, for example, have quite an impressive collection of young talent on their roster. The problem with this exercise however is that outliers in either direction can pull the mean towards it. That’s why you’ll see these two aforementioned teams near the top of the list; there isn’t much too much of a middle ground to be had with their roster construction. This is particularly prevalent in Florida where their eclectic roster includes 13 players 24 years or younger, and 6 players 35 years or older. I wonder what their conversations look like during their downtime?

One thing to watch for as the season goes along is how far down this list a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs drops. Assuming they’re able to find suitors for rental players in their 30s such as Brad Boyes, P.A. Parenteau and Daniel Winnik they could be one of the youngest teams in the league by the team the regular season is done.

Oh, and one final thing: we should all be very, very afraid of the Tampa Bay Lightning. At least if you’re one of their opponents. Fans of their team and unbiased observers who enjoy taking in high levels of hockey are likely full of glee.

(Note: goalie data wasn’t used for compiling the averages above, just skaters)

One of the most archaic things you’ll still hear from hockey fans is the notion that you need to play a heavy, “meat-and-potatoes” style game as a team to succeed come the playoffs. A team like the Los Angeles Kings has had success doing so in years past, but I’d argue that it’s a classic case of missing the forest for the trees. 

Sure, the Kings have been a big-bodied team, but the reason they’ve managed to be successful is because most of those guys have also more coincidentally (and more importantly) been extraordinary hockey players. Many teams have spent their time and resources giving opportunity after opportunity to individuals that may be impressive physical specimens but not much else in a misguided effort to replicate their success.   

The idea that analytics-types such as myself favour smaller, more skilled players because of some sort of hidden agenda is simply just a straw man argument. The endless search for size is still a market inefficiency in hockey, and that’s why some much time is spent discussing it. While people are fetishizing size and looking for the next Milan Lucic, there are plenty of other equally productive players falling through the cracks because of whatever perceived limitations they may have in stature. One of my favourite Cam Charron-isms is the line about how ‘the net is bolted to the ground, so who cares how tall a certain player is?’

The Blackhawks and the Lightning are two of the 6 lightest teams in the league heading into the year. The Wild and Penguins aren’t too far behind. Let’s just keep that in mind this season.