Merriam-Webster defines grit, in its second entry, as mental toughness and courage. See…I don’t know, I feel like the sand definition works too. As Darth Vader once said, “I hate sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere.”
We usually consider grit to be an intangible. Guys who are tough to play against, who lay their body on the line, who irritate and annoy are all thought of as gritty. These attributes were immeasurable. Until now.
GRiT, short for Grit Rating inTangibles, is a counting stat with various mathematical algorithms to weigh certain components (that’s why it is advanced). Hits, takeaways, blocked shots, rebound shots, and penalties drawn and taken are all combined in the GRiT stat. If that wasn’t advanced enough, I also used TOI to create a super neat GRiT/60 stat which tells the real story. All of these were of course measured at 5-on-5.
I thought about including negative grit plays such as hits against or blocked shots against the player to get a truer measure of grit but decided that hits against could just as easily be a positive grit play and therefore shouldn’t be a negative. Including them in the one stat would also rob me of the opportunity to create another advanced stat in the future to include all the negative grit plays like blocked shots against, rebounds against, giveaways and other similar stats. GRiT Against could then be used to calculate a player or team’s GRiT percentage.
When looking at the gritty teams, unsurprisingly Philadelphia was found at the top of the GRiT charts. Four other 2016 playoff teams were included in the top seven including the Islanders, the Kings, the Ducks, and the Rangers. The Caps sat at a mediocre 13 with Pittsburgh of course lagging behind at 15. At the bottom of the list, the Downy soft playoff teams included Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay.
Like most advanced statistics, the best conclusions can be found with individuals. The top GriT/60 player on the Caps was Tom Wilson. Brooks Orpik, Michael Latta, and Alex Ovechkin round out the top four of regulars. The bottom trio was made up of the three soft Swedes, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, Nicklas Backstrom. Justin Williams was a surprising fourth last, driven primarily by small hit numbers.
When looking across the league, a few GRiT leaders stand out. Leading the GRiT/60 ranks for last year was current UFA Mike Brown followed closely by new Toronto Maple Leaf Matt Martin. All-Star MVP John Scott made an appearance on the list at 11 among players that played more than ten NHL games. The top rated defenseman was Ottawa Senator Mark Borowiecki.
As interesting as those at the top of the list are those at the bottom. Canucks Linden Vey and Henrik Sedin were the two lowest regulars. Phil Kessel and Brad Richards appeared just above them. Other softies littered the bottom of the rankings like Patrick Kane, Thomas Vanek and Johnny Gaudreau. In case anyone was wondering, Sidney Crosby rolled in at 420 while Alex Ovechkin came in at 138 out of the 800 or so NHLers who played at least 50 minutes at 5-on-5.
As we move into this new frontier of statistics where grit is no longer an intangible, it is easy to imagine at the 2017 NHL Award Show in Las Vegas, a presenter strolling to the mic to announce the newly created award for leading the league in GRiT. Vin Diesel might say something like, “The Heart Trophy goes to Tom Wilson.”
Photoshop by Ian Oland
UPDATE: Steve Burch pointed out that ricardodw of Pension Plan Puppets did a similar study a few years back using the Maple Leafs. Definitely check out his work as well. Thanks.
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