Is Johnny Gaudreau drawing fewer penalties than he used to?

Updated: November 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm by Ryan Pike

We’re over 20% of the way through the 2016-17 Calgary Flames schedule and there are quite a few things to talk about. In light of the injury to Johnny Gaudreau and general whispers of an officiating conspiracy in the aftermath of Dennis Wideman’s altercation with Don Henderson in January, we felt the need to dig into officiating in Calgary’s games so far this season.

We have two broad questions to explore: Is Johnny Gaudreau drawing fewer penalties than he used to? And are the Flames as a team drawing fewer penalties than they used to?

GAUDREAU PENALTIES

Our friends at Corsica.Hockey track penalties drawn and penalties taken. How does Gaudreau stack up this season compared to his two full seasons in the NHL?

All Situations:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
GP/
Draw
2014-15 1415 16 88.4 4.9
2015-16 1566 25 62.6 3.3
2016-17 321 9 33.7 1.7

5 on 5:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
GP/
Draw
2014-15 1115 13 86.8 5.8
2015-16 1185 15 79.0 5.3
2016-17 242 4 60.5 3.8

As you can see, Gaudreau has increased his penalties-drawn frequency in every season. Despite the perception that he’s not drawing many calls, he’s actually drawing them more frequently than he ever has before… by a lot. When you adjust for his time-on-ice in each situation and in each season, he’s still drawing calls much more frequently than in the past.

Now, bear in mind that because we’re looking at early-season penalty numbers they need to be taken with a grain of salt. The regular season always begins with talk of “the refs are going to call everything,” and there are many instances of that for every team early in the year. But inevitably teams adapt (and/or officials stop whistling stuff as often) and the penalty rate slides backwards a little bit.

(There aren’t any studies that we can find that corroborate that, though, so we’re forced to rely on hearsay and anecdotal evidence. If the advanced stats community is reading this: Hi. Can you run the in-season numbers for us?)

FLAMES DRAWING PENALTIES

How about the Flames as a collective unit? Are they drawing fewer penalties?

All Situations:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
2014-15 4991 326 15.3
2015-16 4973 328 15.2
2016-17 1032 80 12.9

5 on 5:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Drawn
Mins/
Draw
2014-15 3969 223 17.8
2015-16 3912 235 16.6
2016-17 767 58 13.2

Team-wide, the Flames are drawing penalties more frequently than they were in each of the last two seasons by a fairly hefty margin. Even if there’s an in-season variation in call frequency, they’re probably drawing calls more often because it seems unlikely that the referees would put their whistles away over the last 80% of the season to a degree that would cause the rates to balance out with previous seasons.

FLAMES TAKING PENALTIES

But what if the officials are calling everything more often (in an effort to mask their conspiracy against the Flames, or because they have a tendency towards make-up calls and making calls in pairs)? Are the Flames taking penalties more frequently as well?

All Situations:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Taken
Mins/
Take
2014-15 4991 254 19.6
2015-16 4973 291 17.1
2016-17 1032 88 11.7

5 on 5:

Season
Time
on Ice
Penalties
Taken
Mins/
Take
2014-15 3969 200 19.8
2015-16 3912 193 20.3
2016-17 767 52 14.8

Much like the Flames are drawing penalties more often than they have in recent seasons, they’re also taking penalties more often. There’s obviously a sample size “wobble” to the data as we’re comparing an in-progress season with two completed seasons, but so far they’re taking penalties more frequently than they’re drawing them overall, but they’re drawing penalties more frequently than they’re taking them at even strength.

SUM IT UP

Revisiting the two main questions we were looking at when we dug into the numbers:

  • Is Johnny Gaudreau drawing fewer
    penalties than he used to? No, he’s actually drawing penalties more frequently (even when you control for how much he plays per game).
  • And are the Flames as a team drawing fewer
    penalties than they used to? No, they’re also actually drawing penalties more frequently.

That’s not to say that Gaudreau isn’t being keyed in on by opposition players who are hacking and whacking him into seeming oblivion, but in terms of penalty calls themselves he’s drawing a ton.