Dallas Stars Penalty Report Card: Breaking Down November 2013 in Minors

Jonathan Daniel

We continue our tracking of the Stars penalties for and against this season with a detailed breakdown of November and a comparison to how they started the season.

The start of December means trying to keep pets and children out of seasonal decorations, carols of varying quality on the radio and we stop qualifying most NHL statistics by talking about small sample size problems.

And in my little, rules-nerd corner of the hockey world, the start of another month means it's time to tally up the penalties on the spreadsheet where I track every minor the Dallas Stars take and draw and try to draw some meaningful conclusions from them.

For those of you who might have never seen my stats, here's the bullet points of what you need to know:

  • I primarily focus on unmatched minors (i.e., penalties that give one team a manpower advantage).
  • I break things down into player safety, obstruction-interference and other game management types of penalties to look for trends.
  • I care way too much about this stuff and the background spreadsheet is just as nerdy as you'd expect (and color-coded to boot).

I'll be doing these report cards monthly this season for ease of organization. Here's what things looked like in the Stars opening month if you need a refresher. Both October and November had 12 games in them, which makes it nice and straightforward to compare. Here's the penalty chart for what the Stars were called for in the first two months of the season.

To start, let's just look at the raw numbers for the penalties the Stars took over the first two months of the season:

Total minors Safety Interference Other Matching Major Fight
October minors 48 13 26 2 7 0 8
November minors 38 10 21 3 4 0 4

Here are the same numbers, just for the calls that the Stars have drawn so far:

Total minors Safety Interference Other Matching Major Fight
October minors 47 14 20 6 7 0 8
November minors 43 17 21 1 4 0 4

Neither chart includes penalty shots, an area in which the Stars had a fairly adventurous November. There were four penalty shots in Stars games last month, all because of hooks. Three opportunities (one of them converted) were drawn by Dallas while the team gave up one, unconverted chance.

These numbers are very good at the eye test. The Stars significantly cut down on the number of minors they took last month in all areas except the hard-to-predict "other" category while they continued to draw calls from opponents at a decent clip. The drop being more one-sided is significant because it means that the refs didn't simply start letting more thing go (though they have and they will continue to do so until probably early January, if history holds true).

In fact, opponents were called for slightly more penalties in the two more-controllable areas of safety and interference calls. This means the standards didn't change - the Stars simply cleaned up their act from what had already been a fairly responsible start to the season.

Here's how things break down in terms of what the Stars are being called for over the first two months:

Call October minors November minors
Boarding 0 0
Charging 0 0
Cross Checking 5 3
Elbowing 0 0
High sticking 4 4
Slashing 2 1
Roughing 0 2
Illegal check to the head 0 0
Kneeing 2 0
Checking from behind 0 0
Goalie interference 0 0
Holding 6 7
Holding the stick 0 0
Hooking 10 7
Interference 5 2
Tripping 5 5
Too many men 0 0
Delay of game 1 3
Closing hand on puck 0 0
Unsportsmanlike conduct 0 0
Instigator 1 0
Diving 0 0

This chart does not include the matching minors, most of which are matching roughings, and it does not include the Ryan Garbutt suspendable charge since that was not penalized during the course of the game.

And here's those numbers for their opponents:

Call October minors November minors
Boarding 1 1
Charging 0 0
Cross Checking 1 3
Elbowing 1 0
High sticking 5 6
Slashing 4 3
Roughing 2 2
Illegal check to the head 0 0
Kneeing 0 0
Checking from behind 0 0
Goalie interference 0 1
Holding 5 4
Holding the stick 0 1
Hooking 5 9
Interference 6 2
Tripping 4 6
Too many men 2 0
Delay of game 1 1
Closing hand on puck 1 0
Unsportsmanlike conduct 2 0
Instigator 0 0
Diving 0 0

Again, this chart does not include the matching minors, most of which are matching roughings, or the penalty shots. Add three hooks to the November totals if you want to account for those.

Looking at these two charts together, my gut says the officials have loosened the reins on interference calls early while they are still watching closely for stick-related fouls. That matches the eye test of what I've seen in recent games too, where players are trying to create interference calls by running up the backs of slower-skating defensemen and the refs aren't biting.

The Stars did shoot the puck out of play a few more times in November than they did in the opening month, and they took one more holding call, but all in all, it was a very productive month for them. They also started to draw relatively more interference calls, which can indicate that they're spending more time with the puck and setting themselves up to draw calls.

Finally, here's the lists of calls taken and drawn. I'm not breaking these down by month because I don't keep my spreadsheet in a way that makes that convenient, but I'll offer a bit of context after the numbers.

Here's the Stars individuals by minors taken:

Player Penalties
Shawn Horcoff 9 (Hooking 6, holding, interference, slashing)
Trevor Daley 9 (Holding 5, hooking 2, interference, tripping)
Stephane Robidas 6 (Interference 2, holding 2, tripping 2)
Brenden Dillon 6 (High stick 2, cross check, kneeing, holding, delay)
Alex Chiasson 6 (Cross check 2, hooking 2, high stick, interference)
Ryan Garbutt 5 (Cross check, slashing, kneeing, tripping, delay)
Antoine Roussel 5 (Cross check 2, holding, tripping, instigator)
Cody Eakin 4 (Tripping 2, high stick)
Jamie Benn 4 (Cross check, high stick, hooking, tripping)
Sergei Gonchar 4 (Holding 2, cross check, tripping)
Alex Goligoski 4 (High stick, roughing, hooking, interference)
Ray Whitney 3 (Hooking 2, high stick)
Vernon Fiddler 3 (Slashing, rough, faceoff violation/closing hand)
Rich Peverley 2 (Holding, tripping)
Erik Cole 2 (Hooking, interference)
TEAM 2 (Too many men)
Kevin Connauton 1 (Holding)
Valeri Nichushkin 1 (High stick - actually committed by Garbutt)
Tyler Seguin 1 (Delay of game)

All hail your (soon to be crowned) new king of unmatched minors, Trevor Daley. Horcoff put up stiff competition for the early part of the month but really cut down on the stickwork that was getting him called as the month went on while Daley was a pretty constant penalty minute producer.

Frankly, you expect to see defensemen at the top of this list. Given the nature of the position, they are often the players who take necessary penalties to prevent very dangerous scoring opportunities, and they are also often left out to dry by turnovers from their forwards. You also expect to see your agitators and physical players who are trying to walk that line.

Seeing your higher skill players high on the list is a little more concerning, though none are so high on this list as to really stand out to me. Four penalties is essentially a minor every six games, and that's only slightly above average for high minute players, especially if they'res seeing good competition.

The other side of the story is which players are drawing the most calls, and here is that breakdown.

Player Penalties
Jamie Benn 12 (High stick 2, holding 2, interference 2, tripping 2, cross check, high stick double, roughing, hooking)
Ryan Garbutt 8 (Holding 2, interference 2, elbowing, high stick double, rough, tripping)
Alex Chiasson 6 (Hooking 3, roughing, interference, tripping)
Team 6 (Delay of game 3, too many men 2, unsportsmanlike - abuse of officials)
Shawn Horcoff 5 (High stick, roughing, holding, hooking, tripping)
Valeri Nichushkin 5 (Hooking 4, high stick double)
Erik Cole 5 (Interference 2, holding the stick, hooking, tripping)
Vernon Fiddler 4 (Tripping 2, slashing, hooking)
Brenden Dillon 4 (Holding, high stick, roughing)
Jordie Benn 4 (High stick 2, interference, tripping)
Stephane Robidas 3 (Cross check 2, slashing)
Cody Eakin 3 (Boarding, slashing, hooking)
Tyler Seguin 3 (Holding 2, tripping)
Trevor Daley 2 (Boarding, high stick)
Antoine Roussel 2 (Cross check, hooking)
Alex Goligoski 2 (High stick double, hook)
Kari Lehtonen 2 (Slashing, goalie interference)
Sergei Gonchar 2 (Slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct)
Rich Peverley 1 (Slashing)

Jamie Benn is still at the top of this list by a wide margin, adding seven more minors drawn in the season's second set of 12 games. Sometimes the only way to stop him is to hang on him, and opponents are well aware of this.

Garbutt, on the other hand, is a combination of raw speed and irritating physicality. The rough and the elbow are probably directly related to his ability to tick other teams off, while most of the other calls he draws are the product of his speed.

Another guy I'd like to call attention to is Nichushkin, who drew four hooking minors in November's 12 games. This goes right along with his settling into the NHL game. In the first part of the season, Nichushkin was still feeling out the NHL-sized rinks and the speed of the games. The more he settled in, the more he was able to take advantage of his size and speed advantages to blow by people. It's a very encouraging sign for such a young, raw talent.

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