The Polak Score

The newest advanced statistic on the block.

All goals are good goals. From the water-bottle-popping one-timer to the puck trickling through a mess of people in front of the net past the goalie, goals are fun and good.

Similarly, the NHL continues to inject more goals into the game, literally however possible. Goalie padding has gotten smaller and there are penalties for delays of game in an attempt to keep tired defenders on the ice. Goals are the lifeblood of our sport, and they keep us watching. This is what hockey ultimately comes down to: all goals are good goals, and all goals count the same.

Now that I have that ***disclaimer*** out of the way, not all goals are the same. While they may count the same on the scoreboard, we, as fans, should not treat them all the same. Some goals are trashy ricochets that defy two out of Sir Isaac’s three laws of physics. Some are empty net goals. Some are grand team efforts that leave one lucky player with a mere tap-in. A “gimmie,” if you will.

On the other hand, some goals are glorious spectacles that should, if one could paint a video, be hung in the Louvre. These are the goals that remind even the best Tuesday night beer league player that no, even if you had started playing before you turned 20, you still wouldn’t have made the League, Trent. They are the ones that goalies fear the most because they will be replayed in every team (and maybe even league-wide) highlight reel for years to come. These are the hockey equivalent of being a 7’2” Frenchman and being put on a poster by Vince Carter at the 2000 Olympics.

I don’t know. Call me crazy. But I think—and it has to remain that way because I have no empirical evidence to back this up and probably won’t do the research—that the great goals do something to the game that lasts much longer than changing the home team’s score by adding one point. I would wager with all the monopoly money in my pocket that teams with a great goal usually go on to win the game. (Please ignore the fact that the Oilers exist for purposes of this theory).

So, here at DBD we believe that the sport needs an objective way to measure an individual player’s goals to find their percentage of great goals. Thus, I propose a binary scale. An objective measuring stick, if you will, that goes something like this:

  • A score of 1 for a great goal
  • A score of 0 for a normal goal/

It is highly important that the scale exist in some realm of objectivity, so there will be no half or decimal scores given out. If a goal is great, it gets a 1. If it is anything less, then it is a 0. The point here is to make sure there is no room for disagreement. For example, we want a room full of hockey fans to agree that a goal was, in fact, great. So, no decimal scores. If 15 drunk (but impartial) fans at a bar in Buffalo did their best Owen Wilson impressions after a goal, then it’s a 1. If those same 15 simply nodded their head with an, “oh, the Stars scored,” then it’s likely not a 1. Ob-jec-tiv-it-y is the ambition. I will quit trying to explain what makes a goal a 1 and leave you with the modified advice of the US Supreme Court: you’ll know it when you see it.

We will simply take the average score of each player’s goals to find their official score. And the closer someone’s score is to 1, the better. Simple, yeah?

Just like every good metric, this one needs a name. Therefore, I propose this new objective metric be named after the only Dallas Star to have a perfect score of 1: Roman Polak. Roman Polak played two seasons in Dallas, with the second being cut short due to the COVID-19 pause, after which he did not return with the team for the bubble playoffs. He played a total of 118 games in a Stars sweater and scored ~exactly~ one goal. And, boy, was it a beauty. On October 25, 2018, midway through the first period, Polak collects at the blue line, skates down the right-side half wall, turns a full 90° down the end line, pulls it to his backhand, and roofs the shot just inside the near post.

See? It’s an objectively great goal. Supporting factors, of course, are that he is a large and scary defenseman who has never been known to collect many goals. Then he put on this display, and I lost my mind. Roman Polak, potentially the greatest goal scorer per goal in Dallas Stars history. And in his honor, I give you the Polak Score.

BTW: If we needed any more reason to honor him, Roman Polak is the only Stars player ever to have the same number of goals as his Polak Score. PRETTY COOL.

This is something we will be tracking throughout the upcoming Dallas Stars season. It should be fun, and it will be pretty interesting to see where the guys all end up. But let’s go over a few housekeeping items:

  • But Trent, what if it’s a great team play/great pass? This is a personal metric on the goal-scorer’s level. Amazing assists can have their own metric (and frankly they should!), but we are starting here, with goals. If an amazing pass sets up a relatively standard goal, then that’s not a 1. By no means am I anti-assist, but I have a day job so we’ll keep this simple. I’ll let the nice folks at The Athletic over-complicate this system with weird stats called “Expected Polak Above Replacement” or “Polak Score Adjusted Save Percentage.” This is a goal scorer’s metric, and that’s final.
  • But Trent, doesn’t immortalizing Roman Polak reward scoring fewer goals? No, it doesn’t. Ok, maybe it does. But the metric is already named, so even if someone matches Polak’s success, the name isn’t changing. So they’ll probably rather score more non-great goals and win hockey games (although it’s close), so I’m not worried about bad incentives.
  • But Trent, is there any REAL criteria here? No, not really. I know that isn’t satisfactory, but we’re going to look at the whole list of factors. Skill employed, defensemen/goalies embarrassed, importance of the goal, and anything else that can make something truly great.
  • But Trent, what about goalie goals? Probably a 1. Most other empty net goals wouldn’t be, but everyone loves a goalie goal. And if they were any easier, we’d see them more often. Obvious 1. *Russ Tyler winks at camera*/

There you have it. The official metric for keeping track of the Dallas Stars greatest goal scorer per goal. We will be keeping track of the Polak Score for each player and the team as a whole throughout the season.  So follow along on Twitter (@DBD_Trent and @DefendingBigD) and right here on DBD dot com for updates.