Law of Averages

In a sport like hockey or baseball, it’s almost always easy to spot the players who are about to break out. If a starting pitcher is 0-3 but has an ERA of 2.90, a 3-to-1 k/w and a whip of 1.10 AND he won 16 games and lost 9 a year ago there’s every chance he’ll rebound unless he’s 40, injured, the team is much worse, or a combination of all three.

It’s the same in hockey. Players who are off to fast starts compared to their career numbers will fade as the weeks wear on, and the players who have a solid resume but have started slowly will begin to migrate toward the median their career numbers suggest for them unless there are circumstances comparable to the paragraph above.

With that said, we can say with some confidence that:

  1. Ales Hemsky will have an awesome run soon.
  2. Jarret Stoll isn’t himself.
  3. Raffi Torres has been asked to do something new and his brain hurts.
  4. Shawn Horcoff is on course.

We can’t say that Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano are playing above their heads. Why? We don’t know their established level of ability. We can “guess” that Andrew Cogliano won’t score 68 points this season and there’s a high degree of probability we’d be correct. Same with Gagner and his expected total based on current numbers (55 points).

Desjardins’ NHLE for Gagner (55 points) is weird right now, real weird. If that held we would have to make a special “Desjardins is a witch” notation. His NHLE for Cogliano (36 points) is less aggressive and seems to be reasonable even based on the kid’s start.

Bottom line: if someone wants to bet you that any roster player is going to beat Hemsky in overall points this season, take that wager and increase the bet until your nose bleeds.

Ales Hemsky will win the Oilers scoring championship. Book it.

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19 Responses to "Law of Averages"

  1. jadeddog says:

    yup, barring injury, hemsky is a very safe bet to win the oilers scoring race…. and thats a huge part of the oilers problem right there

    hemsky will most likely score between 60 and 70 points this year…. and when your highest scoring player doesnt crack 80, you aren’t going to be competing for very much unless your defence + tending is stellar (which is not the case with us)

  2. voxel says:

    As I recall, the law of average is also a gambler’s fallacy. i.e the belief that everything slides back to the norm.

    Another way to look at is to refer to “random walks” – the expected outcome of 1000 coin flips is 500 heads and 500 tails, but if first 100 flips are heads there’s nothing that says the next 900 flips should “balance” everything out.

    Hemsky’s PPG rate should slide back to the norm, but that doesn’t mean he’ll hit his “average” season point rate if he only has 5 pts in his first 20 games (aka a bad start).

  3. Steve says:

    I don’t think that anybody said that they would compensate for a slow first few games. What Lowetide said was that their scoring “will begin to migrate toward the median their career numbers suggest for them.”

    Even given that, it’s not necessarily unreasonable to suggest that in hockey, unlike in coin-tossing, players who start slow will still hit their expected targets. Not if you assume that their scoring in each game follows a fixed probability breakdown, of course (e.g. 60% of no points, 30% of one point, 9% of two points, 1% of three); if that’s the case, then slow starts mean substandard seasons. But if a season is more than just 82 probability tables, if it’s a series of hot streaks and cold, then it’s quite reasonable to believe that a given season will turn out to be about average, even though it may have started in the “cold” zone.

  4. rickibear says:

    Voxel & Steve: You just described Horcoffs 2006-07.

  5. RiversQ says:

    rickibear said…
    Voxel & Steve: You just described Horcoffs 2006-07.

    How so?

    Horcoff has shot within 1.0% of his career shooting percentage every season except last year where he shot a full four percent below average.

    If Horcoff took the same number of shots and shot his career average instead of hitting so damn many posts last year he would have had 23 goals and nearly 60 points. And no one would have complained about his offense.

    Especially considering he was on the league’s lowest scoring team last year.

  6. Dennis says:

    I think that, considering who his current linemates look to be, it’s time for Hemsky to take on the role of Bill Guerin and Schremp try and be Ales Hemsky.

  7. grease trap says:


  8. Lowetide says:

    I think Horcoff is probably the least understood player in hockey. Seriously.

  9. Big T says:


    Maybe using the law of averages isn’t th ebest way to describr Hemsky’s start and expected season point total but LT’s thinking is still right.

    Hemsky has been off to a tremendous start and the points will follow. The only thing that could keep his point total down is the lack of other major scoring threats for other teams to key off of.


  10. ClaytonMagnet says:

    LT – I think Horcoff is probably the least understood player in hockey. Seriously.

    Dunno about that. Have you heard Hasek lately?

    Funny stuff.

  11. goldenchild says:

    Agree on 83 I still think he finishes the year at a PPG pace.

    How on a team with so many holes that Horcoff can be singled out by so many fans as an issue is beyond me.

    btw not sure if anyone caught this but on ESPN classic last night they had game 2 of the 1988 BOA. What a sight. There may not have been many series played with more talent on the ice.The brilliant Jarri Kurri scores with a couple of minutes left to tie it at 4 then in OT while shorthanded makes a great 1 touch pass to Gretz who flies down the left wing and picks the corner over Lil Mikey Vernon’s shoulder with maybe the most perfect slap shot I have ever seen. Remember that game and goal like it was yesterday.
    Some great names I haven’t thought of in a while in that game, Norman Lacomb, Craig Muni, the good Dr Randy Gregg. Mike Krushelnisky was a pretty nice player as well, almost forgot him.

  12. momentai says:

    Goldenchild said…
    How on a team with so many holes that Horcoff can be singled out by so many fans as an issue is beyond me.

    People see what they want to see whether it’s logical or not. It’s the same reason we keep hearing that a #1 center is panacea for all the Oilers’ woes. People can’t change.

    We’ve been brutal on the pp and I think we were all worried about that considering that it was supposed to be our way of winning hockey games this season – on special teams. But there’s more than just Horcoff to blame on that one.

    Hell, the knives have come out on MacT on HF already and I think we’d be so worse off for not having him. Without those brutal goals let in by Roloson, I think we’re definitely back in that one against Vancouver at home.

    Stoll is a guy that I can understand being criticized right now if we’re discussing centers. I was really worried about him coming into the season because his success last season was so short-lived and the layoff was long. It turns out we should be concerned as Stoll is -5 at ES already – worst on the team.

  13. Bank Shot says:

    Greene is due to take 8 minor penalties in Phoenix. :P

  14. rickibear says:

    riversq: If you look at last years season and analyze game by game. You will find periods of time were differing players were off the team. If there was a 5 game period you get a rough idea what there deletion meant to the team. Goal diferential lost or gained.

    Yes I did look at the GF and GA for the whole year. Wrote it down on paper then chucked it. I should use excel so I can save all this stuff. I broke it down in to months and identified the players at the time they were gone and determined a diferential effect.

    I did it pre-draft and Pre free agency to see who we should retain as our core.

    In analyzing Horcoff you could see the first 16G of the season Horcoff was off his pace. In the next 40 games he had his pace of last year. Consitent impact. The last 20 was skewed by many factors.

    As voxel says his first 20 coin flips were off. In the next 40 games he hit his mean. with a couple of hot streaks.

    In energy based performance occurances it is easy to be way below the mean but is difficult to far exceed the mean to balance it out.

    These numbers i am going from memory. It was important to note that Smyths removal in December had a minus 0.3 G/G effect.

    Hedja removal Had a minus 0.35 G/G effect. This one really stood out Because his removal had more of an affect.

    Tjarnquist was a wash from what I can remember.
    The key one was the combination of Hemsky and Horcoff. When either of those two were out. The break up of the pair resulted in a 1 G/G differential.

    Now I understand that the differential is a reflection of the player and the ability of the replacement. So the horsky value would be affected by who could fill the role with Stolll out.

    I still found it interesting.

  15. Loxy says:

    The Oilers have played 6 games. A lot can happen in 76 games.

  16. Dennis says:

    Regarding Stoll, last summer I put him “on notice” because I remember that during the run of ’06, the Horc and Peca lines were asked to take the tough roles while Stoll basically got to play against pussies the whole playoffs; or at least during the home games.

    So last year, with Reasoner back, I figured that him and Horc would take the tough and Stoll would get the soft and let’s see what he can do. And basically I don’t remember him getting a lot done, well outside of the stretch in early Dec when 14-16-34 took on the tough and actually did a good job of it.

    Well, now he’s got another excuse because he’s still not up to speed.

    This is nothing new from me but I’m not really sold on Stoll and there’s gonna have to be a decision made on either him or Horc, and, BTW, Cogs’ seeming emergence makes that an easier call to make, and Stoll’s a guy I wouldn’t really care about dealing. He’s always been given the soft min and the vast majority of his points come on the PP. I know he’s a good faceoff guy but is there anything else I’m missing?

  17. Big T says:

    Exactly where I was heading with Stoll Dennis. I think he does probably the ability to centre a low event line against quality opposition. Basically, that’s what I’m calling a 3rd line.

    He’s far to low event to produce the amount he needs to against soft opposition though. Very similar to Peca in the results dept. and where he is probably the most effective as a player.

    If I’m running the bench I’d run Stoll in the checking role alongside Moreau and shift Torres over to the starboard side.


  18. momentai says:


    Well, if Stoll can ever reproduce the thing he had going in December with Torres and Pisani (+6 ES I believe when the entire team was even or minus)… we have quite the player. Though, that sample size is so small and we have absolutely no idea if that was just a streak or indicative of his future progression.

    He did start very poorly last season so hopefully Stoll can get his ass in gear.

  19. IceDragoon says:

    Good evening.

    imho – MacTavish should give him Gagner on the PP. I think we’d see some sparks that light the fuse.



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