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How does Barzal not get rookie of the year? (by the numbers)

We have another case of a TBird being passed over for a WHL award.
In the past, I have written about Troock and Delnov being overlooked for player of the week awards.
Now I will write about Barzal being passed on for WHL Western Conference rookie of the year.

Today, the WHL award nominations were announced, and Nick Merkley from Kelowna is the rookie of the year for the Western Conference.
Based purely on the numbers, this is a mistake.

Here are their individual player stats.

Stat Merkley Barzal
Games 66 59
Goals 25 14
Assists 33 40
Points 58 54
Penalty Minutes 66 20
Plus Minus +24 +3
Power Play Goals 4 5
Game Winning Goals 4 3
Goals Per Game .379 .237
Points Per Game .879 .915

Barzal played in fewer games and had fewer points and fewer goals but less penalty minutes and a higher points per game average.

Barzal also played on a team that finished middle of the pack and was arguably relied upon more than Merkley.

So I went ahead and filtered out just the games that the teams played with the players

Stat Merkley Barzal
With Without With Without
Games 66 6 59 13
Wins 52 5 34 7
Loses 10 1 20 5
OverTime Losses 0 0 1 1
Shootout Loses 4 0 4 0
Points 108 10 73 15
Goals For 277 33 201 37
Goals Against 168 14 195 54
Team Goals per game 4.20 5.50 3.41 2.85
Team Goals against per game 2.54 2.33 3.30 4.15
Players Goals as a Percent Of Team Goals 9.03% 6.97%
Players Points as a Percent Of Team Goals 20.94% 26.87%

So you can see that Merkley scored around 9% of his teams goals, and was in on 21% of his teams goals.  Barzal on the other hand scored around 7% of his teams goals, but was in on 27% of his teams goals.  So based on that, you could say that Barzal was more important to his team based on the percent of points he was involved in.

But, two number stuck out even more.

Let's start with goals per game of the teams with or without the players.

For Kelowna, with Merkley, they averaged 4.20 GPG, but went up to 5.50 GPG without him, an increase of 1.30 GPG.  For Seattle, with Barzal, they averaged 3.41 GPG, but went down to 2.85 GPG, a decrease of .56 GPG.  So without Barzal Seattle scored over a half a goal a game less, but Kelowna without Merkley scores over 1 goal a game more.  So based on that, you could once again say Barzal was more important to his team.

Lets move on to goals against per game with or without the players.

For Kelowna, with Merkley, they averaged giving up 2.54 GPG, but went down to 2.33 GPG without him, an decrease of .21 GPG.  For Seattle, with Barzal, they averaged giving up 3.30 GPG, but went up to 4.15 GPG, an increase of .85 GPG.  So without Barzal the team gave up over a 3/4 of a goal a game more, but Kelowna without Merkley game up 1/4 of a goal less per game.  So based on that, you could once again say Barzal was more important to his team.

Combine those together, and
Without Barzal, Seattle's goal differential is -1.25.
With Merkley, Kelowna's goal differential is 1.25.

That is a huge difference between the players, and their importance to the teams.

Don't get me wrong, Merkley is an amazing player, and well deserving of the rookie of the year.
Just watching him in the playoffs last year against Seattle, you could tell he was very impressive, and will continue to be one of the premier players in the WHL for 3 more seasons.

But, in my opinion, Barzal's numbers per game are better (less goals, but more assists), and the team was affected in a very negative way when he was not playing.  But, in the end, Merkley plays for Kelowna, and we all know who owns the Rockets, so tie goes to them (small hint of sarcasm, but not much).


Unknown said...

So you mean to decide the rookie of the year you aren't supposed to just look at the points and if it is close then look at the goals and say the person with twice the goals wins it? /sarcasm off

MJS said...

It looks like you took Barzal's (and Merkley's) points and took that as a percentage of the team's goals, not their points. You'd have to figure out how many assists were on each one to to get his points as a percentage of the team points.

Anonymous said...

Anybody not wearing rose colored glasses would also have given this award to Merkley.

Jon said...

Mr or Ms or Mrs Anonymous. I will take off the rose colored glasses, if you tell me where based purely on the number the argument is wrong.

Jon said...

MJS, you are correct with math, and I have changed the label to match, since that is the number I was looking for. Thanks for catching it.

Anonymous said...

i would argue that with merkley being in the sin bin more then twice as much as barzal that merkley would have had a few more points on top of what he had. Im going to say merkley deserved it and barzal a close second

Jon said...

Anonymous, very good point. And since I guess I didn't write it, Merkley is well deserving of the nomination. He was a steal as the 8th pick in the draft for Kelowna.

Mr Tell13 said...

anon 10:25
So you are actually saying that we have to give the ROY award to Merkley BECAUSE he took penalties and we have to consider the pts he DID NOT get because of that into the decision?

I think the decision came down to influence and/or visibility.

any knock on Barzal can apply to Merkley:
- Lots of points on the PP (Merkley's+/- per game shows it)
- second assists
- size

Merkley and Barzal each have one thing that set them apart from the other. Merkley scored more, Barzal is much more important to his team.
Jon pointed out game results, but the +/- is also an indicator of importance (IMO) Merkley's +24 is pedestrian compared to the rest of the rockets top forwards. Barzal's is second begind Hickman I believe.

At this point ...kind of a toss up

Anonymous said...

Merkley gets it because of the goal differential, which is the only category in which one player had a decisive advantage. However, turn the tables, put Merkley on Seattle, Barzal on Kelowna, and suddenly this would not be close at all.I would take Barzal over anyone of that birth year except Mcdavid. Congrats to Nick and his family.

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