PatriceBergeron

 

Ranking the Top 10 NHL faceoff specialists

 

Like most professional sports, possession is crucial. The more you control the puck, the greater the chances are of scoring. It’s simple logic. Provided of course the team in control actually does something with it. Ottawa is leading the league in face-offs won with 1632 yet they are sixth in the Atlantic Division and in danger of missing out on a wild-card spot. Anaheim is third in face-offs won with 1600 and they sit first overall. Other than two players chopping sticks in the circle a team can also gain possession with takeaways and giveaways. This list, as the title suggests, is about the face-off.

According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary a faceoff is defined as “a method of beginning play by dropping the puck between two players”.

 

According to the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames a faceoff is defined as “a method of beginning play with several fights leading to 200 penalty minutes at its conclusion”.

 

For this list I have taken the following into consideration; Total number of face-offs taken, Number of face-offs won and Face-off percentage.

 

#10 – Anze Kopitar, LA

Kopitar is in the number ten spot because Tomas Plekanec is not worthy of it. Although Plekanec has more face-off wins(494) his percentage is below 50%. Kopitar has 478 wins out of 884 for a 54.1 percentage. He also has 54% ratings for even-strength, short-handed, home and away face-offs taken. He has won 82 out of 133 power-play face-offs for a 61 percent rating. Kopitar’s career average in the circle is 50.6 percent and he has never finished a season above 53.8 so expect his numbers to decline, or at least plateau.

 

#9 – Jason Spezza, OTT

The Ottawa Senators captain has taken 868 faceoffs and won 479 of them, giving him a 55.2 percentage.  He has won more than 50% of his face-offs at even-strength, on the power-play and the penalty-kill. Spezza is also equally impressive at home and on the road winning 55.4 and 54.9 percent respectively. The oft-injured center has only missed five games so as long as he stays healthy you can expect the same level of consistency. He is currently not performing as well as expected though, as evidenced with the 31.1% face-off percentage recently against the Rangers.

 

#8 – Mikko Koivu, MIN

The Wild center has a winning face-off percentage of 55.7 and also takes draws on the power-play and when short-handed. His faceoff percentage is an impressive 62.6 on the power-play and 52.7 on the penalty kill. Koivu has won 495 out of 888 face-offs and 280 of those were at home. Unfortunately he is not that great on the road as he has a 49.1 percentage winning only 215 out 438.

Koivu is above his average for the past two seasons and is also close to matching the 56% he posted in 2009/10, providing of course he doesn’t hurt himself. He does have a 10 game streak going where he hasn’t had a losing faceoff record.

 

#7 – Claude Giroux, PHI

Giroux has a face-off percentage of 51.6 winning 555 out of 1075. He is currently third in power-play faceoffs won with 116 and seventh overall at even strength with 390. Giroux is averaging around the 54% when short-handed as well. The 22nd overall pick of 2006 has been increasing his faceoff percentage each season since 2008 with 47, 49, 50, 53 and 54 respectively. If Giroux maintains this pace expect another 410 face-off wins in Philadelphia’s remaining games.

 

#6 – Paul Gaustad, NSH

Gaustad is an impressive 59.1% in face-offs which is good enough for fifth in the league. He hasn’t taken as many draws (819) as the others in this list but he has won 484 of them.  At even strength he is winning 60% in the circle and he is also close to that number both at home and away. He has won 7 of 11 faceoffs while on the power-play and 85 of 157 while short-handed so while he may not get you points, he will win face-offs. His career average over nine seasons is 56.4% with a couple of them at 59% so if you need faceoff wins then get Gaustad. He is only 2% owned in Yahoo!

 

#5 – Boyd Gordon, EDM

Gordon was drafted 17th overall by the Capitals in 2002 and from 2006 onwards he has not finished below 52% in faceoffs. Playing with Washington, Phoenix and now Edmonton he has averaged 55.3% over that time frame. His 58.2% is good for sixth overall but like Gaustad he has not taken as many draws as the others, only 905. Of the 527 faceoffs that he won, 398 were at even-strength giving him a percentage of 61. He is not called upon to win many power-play faceoffs but when he has, he has won 71% of them. He has not posted positive numbers while short-handed but he is adept at getting wins at home as well as on the road. Gordon is probably available in most leagues.

 

#4 – Sidney Crosby, PIT

I know some of you will question this ranking objectively and others will probably string me up by my ankles if they ever meet me in public. The Olympic and Penguin captain has taken the most faceoffs in the league at 1158 and he has won 599 of them which puts him in third for most wins. His faceoff percentage is 51.7 which is outside the top 10 in the NHL and second last in this list. He’s lost more face-offs at even strength and short-handed than he has won but where he does excel is on the power play. Crosby is currently at 60% in the circle with the man advantage. His career average is 51.8% so expect the same going forward.

 

#3 – Jonathan Toews, CHI

Toews has won 594 out of 1033 faceoffs for a 57.5 percentage. The Chicago captain is also winning more at home (62.2%) than on the road (51%) and is not faring so well with short-handed faceoffs (38%), but he has only taken a total of 47 with the man down.  He’s 56% at even strength winning 449 out of 799 face-offs and he’s a monster taking faceoffs on the power-play with a 67.1 winning percentage. Toews has also not dropped below 50% in his past 10 games. His career average is 56.9% and in the past five seasons he has not dropped below 56% so there’s no need to worry about regression.

 

#2 – Antoine Vermette, PHO

Vermette has won the second most faceoffs (602) so far in the NHL, has taken the third highest amount (1069) and his 56.3% is good for tenth. The 6-1 second-round draft pick is operating right around his career average of 55.9% with an even-strength rating of 55.8, power-play percentage of 58.1 and also winning 57 percent while short-handed. He has finished in the top 3 for face-off wins in 2009/10 and 2010/11 so it is quite possible that he could finish in the top 3 again. If Vermette can continue this pace look for another 423 victories in the circle.

 

#1 – Patrice Bergeron, BOS

Bergeron has been in the top five for either total faceoff wins in a season or best face-off percentage since 2009/10. He led the league in face-off wins in 2011/12 with 973 and had the best percentage last season with 62.1 so it is no surprise that he occupies the top spot with 633 wins and a 60.2 faceoff percentage. He has also taken the fourth most faceoffs with 1051 and his even strength percentage is an impressive 62.3

The 10-year Boston veteran is also winning 61% of his faceoffs on the power play and short handed. Bergeron currently has the league lead in percentage of faceoffs won at home (67%) and he appears to be relatively healthy. He is currently above his career average of 56.2% but he has also not dropped below 56% in the last four years. Expect this pace to continue with Bergeron getting another 440 wins and finishing above 60%.

 

 

Top 10 in FO%

Top 10 in FOW

Top 10 in faceoffs taken

Vladimir Sobotka

62.1

Patrice Bergeron

633

Sidney Crosby

1158

Patrice Bergeron

60.2

Antoine Vermette

602

Claude Giroux

1075

Manny Malhotra

59.8

Sidney Crosby

599

Antoine Vermette

1069

Rich Peverley

59.2

Jonathan Toews

594

Patrice Bergeron

1051

Paul Gaustad

59.1

Claude Giroux

555

Jonathan Toews

1033

Boyd Gordon

58.2

Boyd Gordon

527

Tomas Plekanec

1017

Jonathan Toews

57.5

Mikko Koivu

495

Bryan Little

972

Matt Cullen

57.5

Tomas Plekanec

494

Derek Stepan

929

Marcus Kruger

56.4

Paul Gaustad

484

John Tavares

926

Antoine Vermette

56.3

Jason Spezza

479

Eric Staal

908

 

 

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Comments (3)add comment

Benson said:

Benson
... Thanks Dave, very insightful numbers.
January 23, 2014
Votes: +0

sixhands said:

sixhands
... Hi Benson, you are correct by saying that he is productive with FOW. He has averaged 53% over the past 3 seasons and he also takes a lot of face-offs. He has also posted similar stats at ES, on the PP and PK since 2010 and has ranked around 20th in the NHL.

Unfortunately he has only played 28 games this year and that has obviously hurt his numbers. If he had played the same number of games as the others in this list he would be leading in total number of face-offs taken. Over 50 games I estimated that he would have taken 1248 face-offs and, using his career average, he would have won 586 of them which would have been good for 5th.

If he didn't miss so much time this season he would have edged out Claude Giroux for the #7 spot based on the fact that he would have taken more FO, won more and their FO% is very close as well.

It wouldn't surprise at all if he is in the Top 10 next season, provided of course he doesn't get injured.

Cheers

Dave
January 22, 2014
Votes: +0

Benson said:

Benson
Bozak Dave - how do Tyler Bozak's stats stack up against these guys? He always seems to be productive for FW....
January 22, 2014
Votes: +0
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