PPS could have included only the regular season, full stop. Regular season games represent the bulk of any player’s career, providing an equitable number of opportunities for each player to add value. Hundreds of regular season games bring results well beyond any thought of sample size or scheduling disparity creating unwanted statistical noise. But when looking back on a hockey life, sticking to the season schedule leaves gaping holes central to evaluating a career. Picture the careers of the following players, absent some of their defining accomplishments. Mark Messier without six Stanley Cups. Dominik Hasek without Olympic gold in Nagano. Doug Harvey without seven Norris Trophies.
As PPS was taking shape, developing an objective and representative methodology to capture these “bonus” feats became critical to enhancing the results. Deciding to include a bonus system for playoffs, international play, and award voting was the easy part, however. Understanding the NHL’s playoff iterations over a century-plus, navigating five decades of distinct international formats, and analyzing an evolving history of league awards brought considerable challenges. Quantifying these bonuses in a systematic way yielded much trial and error in order to arrive at the best possible weighting within the model. Armed with over a year of research on this trio of bonus inclusions, let’s begin with the most impactful – playoff bonus.
The unique history of the NHL playoffs creates many questions.
- Does team success or personal success define a playoff career?
- Do only Stanley Cups matter in the playoffs?
- What if a player had poor timing on mediocre teams?
- What if a player was a frequent spare part on elite teams?
- How should volatile scoring environments be considered?
- How should goaltender performances be measured?
Beyond determining how a player should receive bonus value, the evolution of league size, playoff formats, qualifying number of post-season teams, series lengths, and seeding arrangements creates further complexity. But after digging into the history of the NHL playoffs, five takeaways emerged:
- It is impractical to create a player contribution system analogous to the regular season. There are limits in extracting meaningful individual player data within a playoff year. In the NHL’s first 50 years, the playoff games played leader was between two and 14 games. Even in the present day, only four of 32 teams typically exceed a dozen or so playoff games per year. As a result, team success most logically forms the base of the playoff bonus.
- Playoff value should be connected to Era. The number of teams in the league and its playoff formats changed too frequently to consider a Stanley Cup win equal across generations. Post-season success in a three-team league, an Original Six league, an 18-team league, and a 32-team league are distinct accomplishments. So, the playoff success barometer needs to be set specific to the time period. This also means that in-year and career playoff totals are loaded with caveats, as the length, inclusiveness and scoring climates of each playoff season vary drastically.
- Playoff value should be set with a maximum possible score. At some point, there are diminishing returns of playoff success. Henri Richard’s record 11 Stanley Cup wins should not result in 11 times the bonus of his contemporary Stan Mikita, owner of a single Cup ring. While respecting a player’s team post-season success, we also have to accept that a Cup victory is a binary result (one team wins, the rest do not), which is heavily influenced on team circumstance.
- Playoff value ranges should fit relative to regular season in terms of games played. The post-season represents approximately 5% to 15% of most Era 3 and 4 players’ total games played. Logically, the playoff bonus maximum should align somewhere in this window of representation within the methodology.
- Playoff value should include flexibility for individual performance. While team success will be central to the playoff bonus system, an upward or downward allowance for glaringly high or low impact contributions is necessary to personalize results. A form of individual impact inclusion will allow for intervention where team results don’t align to personal contributions.
With these guidelines in place, we’re going to kick off our playoff bonus.
Starting in Era 4 (1993-94 through 2019-20), each season featured between 26 and 31 NHL teams, so winning a Stanley Cup was a very difficult task. A player with a seven-year career had roughly just one-in-four odds of seeing his name on the sport’s Holy Grail. A 15-year run – an extremely long and fortunate career – brings you to around 50% odds of a single title. In fact, only seven players (five exclusively with the Red Wings) managed to earn four Cup titles within this 26-season span.
In Era 3 (1967-68 through 1992-93), the average number of NHL teams was 18.6, doubling from the original dozen post-expansion teams to 24 by the early 1990s. While it could be framed that you’d need to play nearly two decades to expect to win a Cup, in reality the period was dominated by dynasties. In these 26 seasons, if a player wasn’t on the Canadiens (10 Cups, including four straight), Oilers (five in seven years), Islanders (four straight), Orr-led Bruins, Clarke-led Flyers, Lemieux-led Penguins (two each), or the 1989 Flames, they do not have a ring.
So, while Era 3 plainly yielded better statistical Cup odds than Era 4, it was feast or famine based on a handful of teams ruling the NHL’s turf. Despite the smaller league at the time, the Era 3 have-nots faced long odds of slipping onto a Cup winner. For this reason, we’re going to combine our approach to Eras 3 and 4 for playoff value.
Let’s introduce Stanley Cup Score (SC+), a simple measure to understand how Cup wins fit within PPS’s playoff bonus system. For those identified as an Era 3 or 4 player, the following framework is the starting point for individual playoff bonus value.
STANLEY CUP SCORE, ERAS 3 AND 4
|Stanley Cup Results||SC+ (Maximum 30)|
|3+ Cup Wins||30|
|2 Cup Wins||20|
|1 Cup Win||10|
|0 Cup Wins, 1+ Finals||5|
|0 Cup Wins, 0 Finals||0|
SC+ = Stanley Cup Score
The SC+ portion for these eras is straight forward. A Cup win is 10 points, up to a maximum of 30; making a Cup final, but never winning one, is worth 5 points. As a point of clarification, you need to play in the post-season to earn a SC+ for that particular year. Given we already have a rigorous system to credit regular season play, we are interested in playoff work only. Having your name etched on the Cup is not relevant, absent direct post-season contribution that year (example: Kris Letang does not get credit for a Cup in 2017, injured for the entirety of the playoffs).
So, how did we arrive a 30-point maximum for the playoff bonus?
Given how important playing on a quality team is to earning playoff value, the three-point scale is a suitable bonus without overriding the longer and more equitable results of the regular season. With the intention of having playoff value represent an appropriate slice of a player’s career, a three-point scale works best. Consider Adam Foote, a two-time Cup-winning defenceman over 19 seasons. Foote’s pre-bonus PPS is 158, so his playoff bonus is potentially 16% (i.e., 30 ÷ [158 + 30]) of his PPS score. Foote’s actual playoff value is 20 (i.e., 11% of the calculation), an appropriate representation of his career body of work. This effectively allows him to gain a slight edge on a comparable player such as Niklas Kronwall, owner of a lesser playoff résumé and one fewer Cup win.
For Wayne Gretzky, with a pre-bonus PPS of 475, the 30 SC+ points available represent just 6% of his NHL contributions (i.e., 30 ÷ [475 + 30]). Gretzky far exceeds the standard needed to fill the playoff value bucket, easily maxing out at 30 via SC+. Seems light. But the approach is not designed to accommodate the all-time exceptions, who primarily differentiate themselves through the regular season, future award share bonuses, and as we’ll see below, playoff impact inclusions.
While SC+ is the starting point, a player’s impact to the team may move the needle in intervals of five in either direction. Outstanding contributions in the playoffs allow for movement off the base SC+ score, the only instance where PPS values require some manual input. Significant accomplishments within the playoffs outside of Cup wins can earn a player +5, allowing for right sizing playoff bonus value where it is unmistakably light as compared to a playoff résumé. Era 4 examples include:
- Alex Ovechkin: Conn Smythe Trophy;
- Mike Modano: lost finals twice in 20+ point years;
- Chris Pronger: driving force on two Cup-losing teams;
- Adam Oates: lost finals twice as his team’s points leader.
Similarly, if the player’s SC+ far exceeds their individual contributions to a Cup win, they are penalized in -5 intervals. Examples in Era 4:
- Cory Stillman: 2 goals in 21 games in 2004 Cup championship;
- Mathieu Schneider: played only 11 of Montreal’s 20 games in their 1993 Cup run
Equally important to the process is the guideline not to add beyond SC+ from simply compiling games played and points. Think Jaromir Jagr. While he amassed 205 playoff points (fifth all time), he went 21 years between Cup finals appearances (his entire 20s and 30s), never led the playoffs in goals, assists, or points, and was eighth and fourth in team playoff scoring, respectively, on the 91′ and 92′ Penguins. On balance, it is not a playoff career warranting a bonus beyond his solid SC+ of 20.
You’re likely getting the hang of it. Start with SC+ based strictly on Cup results, examine the player’s playoff seasons, add or subtract in instalments of 5 as described above where there are obvious contributions or accomplishments that do not align with SC+. There may be a feeling of subjectivity to this process. However, having gone through the individual playoff and team results of hundreds of players, line by line, there are perhaps a handful of instances where their playoff value score is debatable by +/- 5 under this process.
There are two final caveats necessary.
- Maximum playoff value is a soft cap broken only by a Conn Smythe Trophy. Being named playoff MVP is an exclamation point going beyond being a solid contributor on an elite playoff team. Nicklas Lidstrom, for example, has an SC+ of 30 based on three Cup wins. But his Conn Smythe allows him to cross the threshold to a playoff bonus of 35 (i.e., 30 + 5 = 35). This mechanism provides a slight boost to prevent capping all-time great players that earn Conn Smythe(s) on top of a full SC+ value.
- Earning maximum playoff value is intended to be extremely rarified air. The player has to have an indisputably dominant and deep playoff career. Anyone not meeting this description is assigned -5 and drops from a perfect score. The threshold for the perfect score line falls firmly between three-time Cup teammates, Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan. In those Cup runs, Fedorov amassed 59 points (19 or 20 points in each title run) as a two-way force that would have been a viable Smythe winner each year. He also led the playoffs in assists in two other non-Cup winning years. Shanahan, meanwhile, amassed 45 points in the Cup runs (including just nine in 1998), and in no other playoffs did he reach 10 points. Thus, Fedorov warrants the max score of 30, while Shanahan drops to 25 for his playoff value.
Let’s illustrate playoff bonuses through Era 4 examples, the chart below capturing players at every bonus level. Active players (through 2021-22) are denoted with an asterisk.
PPS PLAYOFF BONUS VALUE, ERA 4, SELECTED PLAYERS
|Player||Cups||Finals||Smythe||SC+||Impact||PPS Bonus||Playoff Notes|
|Patrick Roy||4||5||3||30||+15||45||151-94 Record|
|Sidney Crosby*||3||4||2||30||+10||40||201 PTS in 180 GP|
|Nicklas Lidstrom||4||6||1||30||+5||35||183 PTS in 263 GP|
|Sergei Fedorov||3||4||0||30||30||176 PTS in 183 GP|
|Brendan Shanahan||3||3||0||30||-5||25||134 PTS in 184 GP|
|Andrei Vasilevskiy*||2||3||1||20||+5||25||63-38 Record|
|Patrik Elias||2||4||0||20||20||125 PTS in 162 GP|
|Cory Stillman||2||2||0||20||-5||15||51 PTS in 82 GP|
|Alex Ovechkin*||1||1||1||10||+5||15||141 PTS in 147 GP|
|Mike Modano||1||3||0||10||+5||15||3 x 20+ PTS as Finalist|
|Luc Robitaille||1||2||0||10||10||127 PTS in 159 GP|
|Adam Oates||0||2||0||5||+5||10||2 x Led Team PTS as Finalist|
|Mathieu Schnedier||1||1||0||10||-5||5||11 GP in Cup Year|
|Jeremy Roenick||0||1||0||5||5||122 PTS in 154 GP|
|Connor McDavid*||0||0||0||0||+5||5||55 PTS in 37 GP|
|Keith Tkachuk||0||0||0||0||0||56 PTS in 89 GP|
Stats through 2022 playoffs; Cups = Stanley Cup wins; Finals = Stanley Cup finals appearances; Smythe = Conn Smythe Trophy wins; SC+ = "Stanley Cup Scores, Eras 3 and 4" table above; Impact = manual adjustment for contributions above or below SC+; PPS Bonus = (SC+) + Impact; Record = Wins-Losses; PTS = Points; GP = Games Played
For those curious, only a baker’s dozen Era 4 players reach or exceed the 30-point max: goaltenders Roy (45) and Martin Brodeur (30); defencemen Duncan Keith, Lidstrom, Scott Niedermayer (35 each); and forwards Crosby (40), Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews (35 each), Fedorov, Claude Lemieux, Joe Nieuwendyk and Justin Williams (30 each). Each of Lemieux, Nieuwendyk, and Williams’ Smythe wins are offset by not being consistently dominant forces on their respective teams over the course of their playoff careers.
Moving to Era 3, our SC+ and playoff value guidelines align with Era 4. Having already detailed the approach, we will focus on highlights specific to the times. The dynastic element of the period yields a remarkable 28 players with at least full playoff share, if you will. By dynasty:
- Edmonton: Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Messier;
- Montreal: Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Laperriere, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Steve Shutt;
- New York Islanders: Mike Bossy, Butch Goring, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier
They are joined by:
- Three playoff icons earning two Cups and winning the Conn Smythe in both years: Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Bernie Parent;
- Two captains leading their teams to three Cups with a Conn Smythe each: Scott Stevens, Steve Yzerman;
- Dave Keon: four Cups and a Conn Smythe in Era 2 with Toronto, but ultimately labeled an Era 3 player.
- Larry Murphy: four Cups, split evenly between Pittsburgh and Detroit.
A number of solid contributors fall short of the max playoff value despite three or more rings (the wrong end of the Fedorov/Shanahan line, you might say), including Guy Carbonneau, Clark Gillies, Charlie Huddy, Kevin Lowe, Pete Mahovlich, Joe Mullen, Stefan Persson, and Steve Smith, among others. With the Era’s bar set high given the dynastic element, only Smythe-winning players or championship pillars receive perfect playoff marks.
On the flip slide, some prominent Era 3 players that never reached a Cup final allow us a chance to spotlight the bonus value treatment of those with minimal team playoff success. Per SC+, such player earns zero points as a base. Like the requirement for a perfect score, a goose egg must be clear. Whether through steady playoff career contributions, or a significant individual playoff season, most standout players find a way to warrant the bare minimum positive score of 5. Examples include Bernie Federko (league-best 21 points in 19 games in 1986) and Peter Stastny (105 career points in 93 playoff games).
When flagging a full playoff skunking, we turn to those who did not contribute notably to any deep playoff runs, owners of pedestrian playoff stat lines. Most famously, Era 3’s Marcel Dionne (45 points in 49 games in high-scoring times, no semi-final appearances) and Era 4’s Keith Tkachuk (56 points in 89 games, career-high 10 points, three series wins in 18 years) fit the bill.
For post-expansion goaltenders absent a Cup final appearance, those starters fronting multiple conference final runs are bumped to a bonus of 5 (i.e., Curtis Joseph, Ryan Miller). Goalies without a finals appearance or multiple deep runs as a starter (i.e., Don Beaupre, Tomas Vokoun) rightfully receive no playoff bonus value.
Another timing niche of Era 3 is how to handle the absurd wealth of talent hoarded by the Canadiens in the 1960s and 1970s. Many future stars earned at least one title as, more or less, young, spare parts on legendary rosters. This illustrates the importance on analyzing Cup wins on a case-by-case basis, and scaling back an SC+ score through impact adjustments. Rod Langway (8 games in 1979 playoffs) earns a half-Cup (i.e. 5). Mickey Redmond (2 games in 1968, all 14 in 1969) and Rogie Vachon (1 playoff win in 1968, 7 playoff wins in 1969) each earn nil for ’68 and 10 for ’69. Pierre Larouche (5 and 6 games, in 1978 and 1979, respectively) earns two half-wins (i.e. 5+5 = 10). Thus, playoff values require inspection to ascertain whether a Cup win in SC+ should be reduced by 5 or 10 points to properly reflect minimal impact or major absence from the action, respectively.
We’ll soon dive into bonuses for international play, but we’ll need to briefly touch on it here. Before 1972’s Summit Series, there were no “best-on-best” international events. A player never realistically eligible to participate internationally due to age, WHA ineligibility, or personal circumstance should not be punished within PPS. Era 1 and 2 players, therefore, have a maximum playoff bonus of 40 points to compensate for the 10 international points unavailable to them. Some Era 3 players such as John Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers, and Jacques Laperriere slip in to this circumstance, so they will be treated like an Era 2 player with 40 playoff points available.
As we did with Era 4, let’s review a sample of selected Era 3 players across the full spectrum of playoff values available.
PPS PLAYOFF BONUS VALUE, ERA 3, SELECTED PLAYERS
|Player||Cups||Finals||Smythe||SC+||Impact||PPS Bonus||Playoff Notes|
|Wayne Gretzky||4||6||2||30||+10||40||382 PTS in 208 GP|
|Serge Savard||7||7||1||30||+5||35||68 PTS in 130 GP|
|Grant Fuhr||4||4||0||30||30||92-50 Record|
|Bobby Orr||2||3||2||20||+10||30||92 PTS in 74 GP|
|Pete Mahovlich||4||4||0||30||-5||25||72 PTS in 88 GP|
|Bobby Clarke||2||4||0||20||+5||25||2 x Assists Leader|
|Tom Barrasso||2||2||0||20||20||61-54 Record|
|Stan Mikita||1||5||0||10||+5||15||150 PTS in 155 GP|
|Andy Moog||3||6||0||30||-20||10||11 GP in 3 Cup Years|
|Lanny McDonald||1||2||0||10||10||84 PTS in 117 GP|
|Brad Park||0||3||0||5||+5||10||125 PTS in 161 GP|
|Gary Suter||1||2||0||10||-5||5||5 GP in Cup Year|
|Phil Housley||0||1||0||5||5||56 PTS in 85 GP|
|Peter Stastny||0||0||0||0||+5||5||105 PTS in 93 GP|
|Marcel Dionne||0||0||0||0||0||45 PTS in 49 GP|
SC+ = "Stanley Cup Scores, Eras 3 and 4" table above
For Era 2 (1942-43 through 1966-67), we need to pivot our thinking when it comes to playoff value. In the Original Six, on average, a player could expect a Cup final every three years(!) and a victory parade every six. In a 12-year career, two Cups should be the norm. This is oversimplified, of course, as the period was not a picturesque setting of competitive equity. Far from it. To win a title, an NHL player needed to be on the Canadiens (10 Cups), Maple Leafs (nine), or Red Wings (five Cups, exclusively between 1943 and 1955). The have-not franchises (Boston, Chicago, New York) did not win a single Cup in the quarter-century, save for the Black Hawks’ 1961 championship. The revised SC+ values below reflect the accessibility of Cup wins for the Original Six generation.
STANLEY CUP SCORE, ERA 2
|Stanley Cup Results||SC+ (Maximum 40)|
|5+ Cup Wins||40|
|4 Cup Wins||30|
|3 Cup Wins||25|
|2 Cup Wins||20|
|1 Cup Win||10|
|0 Cup Wins, 1+ Finals||5|
|0 Cup Wins, 0 Finals||0|
A perfect score is now 40 points, necessitated by subsequent generations having access to 10 international bonus points unavailable to pre-1970s players. Where, for example, Mike Richter’s available bonuses comprises 30 for playoffs and 10 for international play, Johnny Bower’s 40 are available exclusively via playoffs. In terms of Cup count, Era 2’s SC+ requires five Cups to be considered for the maximum bonus, a function of the six-team league controlled by three franchises.
The maximum playoff bonus is achieved by 10 players in Era 2, listed in order of Cup wins:
- 11: Henri Richard;
- 10: Jean Beliveau;
- 8: Red Kelly, Maurice Richard;
- 6: Bernie Geoffrion, Harvey, Frank Mahovlich, Dickie Moore, Jacques Plante;
- 5: Ted Kennedy
Mahovlich uniquely nabs 5 points from the Summit Series win at age-35 to go with a full share of playoff value. Regardless if you want to call it 5 and 35, or a full 40 playoff value, The Big M joins this max bonus group. Notably, all but Kelly and Kennedy donned Canadiens colours at one point.
Era 2 players with at least five rings excluded from a full playoff PPS share of 40 include Dick Duff, Tom Johnson, Marcel Pronovost, Dollard St. Laurent, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay, and Harry Watson, among others. Given the feasibility of stockpiling Cups in a time where only three teams were recurring threats, the bar is naturally higher for the max score. These players still receive 30 or 35 as a playoff bonus, meaningfully rewarding their contributions to elite teams.
Among the legends, Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull are interesting cases. While his name reached the Cup’s engraver four times, Howe receives no credit for the 1950 Cup here, having dressed for a single game before a serious skull fracture. Dropping from SC+ of 30 to 25, Howe receives a +5 boost from leading the playoffs in points a whopping five times. Given he skated mostly in a six-team league in a 26-season career, bumping Howe further to 35 is not appropriate given his unremarkable Cup count for the time. Hull (1976 Canada Cup) joins Mahovlich as a rare Era 2 player that earned international points. As such, Hull’s playoff value (15) is out of 30, ensuring no player is evaluated beyond a maximum 40 across playoff and international bonuses.
A further illustration of the use of the 5-point interval movement is found via four-time Cup teammates Tim Horton and George Armstrong. Each earns a SC+ of 30, while Horton adds +5 via impact, including a 16-point effort in 1962 as a defensive defencemen. Armstrong stays at 30, reflective of a rock solid (but not dominant) role in the Leafs’ Cup wins.
The table below lists examples of Era 2 players and their playoff values. As the Conn Smythe Trophy was introduced in 1965, only a pair of Era 2 players earn one: Beliveau (1965) and Glen Hall (1968). Retroactively attempting to select playoff MVPs is not performed, both given the significant relative playoff bonuses earned from players on dynasties in a league with so few teams, and the challenge in doing so with fewer than 10 games played in some playoff seasons by Cup winners. Though by no means a direct proxy for a playoff MVP award, the leaders in playoff goals, assists, points, and goaltender wins were considered as part of impact adjustments; the number of times a player led in points or wins is noted below (“PTS/W Leader” column).
PPS PLAYOFF BONUS VALUE, ERA 2, SELECTED PLAYERS
|SC+||Impact||PPS Bonus||Playoff Notes|
|Jean Beliveau||10||13||1||40||+5||45||’65 Smythe|
|Ted Kennedy||5||5||1||40||40||60 PTS in 78 GP|
|Dick Duff||6||9||0||40||-5||35||79 PTS in 114 GP|
|Tim Horton||4||6||0||30||+5||35||50 PTS in 126 GP|
|Bert Olmstead||5||11||0||40||-10||30||4 GP in ’62 Cup Year|
|George Armstrong||4||6||0||30||30||60 PTS in 110 GP|
|Sid Abel||3||7||0||25||25||58 PTS in 94 GP|
|Bill Durnan||2||3||2||20||+5||25||27-18 Record|
|Milt Schmidt||2||4||1||20||20||49 PTS in 86 GP|
|Glenn Hall||1||7||3||10||+10||20||’68 Smythe|
|Glen Harmon||2||4||0||20||-5||15||15 PTS in 53 GP|
|Pierre Pilote||1||4||1||10||+5||15||PTS Leader in ’61 Cup|
|Andy Bathgate||1||2||0||10||10||35 PTS in 54 GP|
|Norm Ullman||0||5||2||5||+5||10||83 PTS in 106 GP|
|Doug Mohns||0||3||0||5||5||50 PTS in 94 GP|
|Harry Howell||0||0||0||0||0||6 PTS in 38 GP|
PTS/W Leader = times leading playoffs in Points (skaters) or Wins (goaltenders); SC+ = "Stanley Cup Score, Era 2" table above
While Eras 2, 3, and 4 allowed for quantifying SC+ by Cup wins, Era 1 (1917-18 through 1941-42) featured such an array of number of teams, playoff formats, and quirks that all Stanley Cup wins cannot be considered equal. We’ll need to look at a brief history to appreciate the variability, and in doing so, establish rules around rewarding Stanley Cups in the unique, formative NHL years.
- In the NHL’s first nine seasons, the league champion had to play a Western Canadian professional team to win the Stanley Cup. Any intra-league Stanley Cup play in the NHL’s first decade will not be considered. In only one year (1925) did a non-NHL team (Victoria) win the intra-league playoffs, detailed further below.
- In 1919, the Stanley Cup was not awarded on account of an influenza pandemic. The players on the Montreal Canadiens, having won the NHL finals, are awarded a “Stanley Cup” in SC+. Regardless of whether they’d have beaten Seattle (the series was tied 2-2-1), they had already won the NHL league title.
- In 1920, the Ottawa Senators won both “halves” of the season, the only time NHL playoffs were not necessary. While the Senators did not play in any NHL playoff games, their players are rightfully considered to have earned a Stanley Cup (they did beat Seattle in the intra-league Cup finals, anyway).
- In 1925, the first-place Hamilton Tigers were suspended for striking due to a financial dispute. Second-place Montreal, having beaten third-place Toronto, were named the NHL champions and played for the Stanley Cup. So, Montreal (1) did not actually have to play the NHL’s best team in the finals due to a technicality; and (2) did not win the Cup at all (lost to Victoria). As a result, the 1925 Habs do not receive the equivalent of a Cup, their feat simply too dubious to award its players.
- In the last 16 playoffs of Era 1, the formats required either the first and second-place teams or the two division winners to play one another in a semi-final. The peculiar formats in place at the time requiring the best regular season teams to meet before the final provided an easier path for teams that had poorer seasons. Consequently, no part of SC+ in Era 1 will reward finalists, the accomplishment hardly notable given the illogical playoff bracket.
- Era 1 started with only three NHL teams (two making the playoffs), rising as high as ten NHL teams (six making the playoffs). The number of teams in the league shifting so substantially and frequently in a short time frame requires our SC+ calculations to focus on the number of teams in the NHL at the time of a Stanley Cup victory.
- Era 1 featured varying playoff series lengths, total goals formats, and the inclusion of byes. The revolving playoff formats require specific attention to each playoff season, as in-year and total statistics and accomplishments have significant contextual considerations. In fact, the individual playoff games played leader ranges from zero to 13 in the quarter century.
- Stanley Cups (or NHA titles) before the establishment of the NHL are not considered. There are eventual NHL players that earned Stanley Cups or league titles either as part of the NHL’s predecessor (NHA) or as part of Western professional leagues. Consistent with the regular season, only NHL playoff action from 1917-18 onward is considered in PPS.
- Scoring environments and roster sizes across Era 1 were extremely volatile. Our lessons learned from our earlier work on adjusted statistics matter here, as raw numbers for offensive statistics are only relevant within a playoff year.
Armed with knowledge of the oft-changing playoff structures, let’s put what we’ve learned together to craft an appropriate SC+ for Era 1 players. We want to credit players for how many teams were in the NHL in the year they won the Cup, and we want the players to earn playoff value on a 40-point scale. Combining these desired results together, with some trial and error, the SC+ for an Era 1 player will use the following formula:
Stanley Cup Score (SC+): Era 1For each Cup win: add the number of NHL teams that season x 1.25
(round to nearest 5)
Simple enough. Why 1.25? A fixed multiplier of 1.25 allows us to fit every Era 1 player on a scale not exceeding a maximum of 40. Let’s illustrate using three-time Cup winner with the Bruins, Dit Clapper. Clapper’s three Cup titles occur in 1929 (10 teams), 1939 (seven teams) and 1941 (seven teams). Using our formula, Clapper’s SC+ is:
- (10 + 7 + 7) x 1.25 = 30
A player winning a single Cup in a 10-team NHL earns an SC+ of 12.5, while winning in a three-team NHL earns only 3.75, each appropriate given the comparative franchise count. While these values may seem generous compared to today’s 32-team marathon, gaudy individual Cup totals were surprisingly rare in Era 1. This was the product of shorter careers, franchise instability, and the brief playoff series lengths collectively creating flukier results.
The players are also subject to the + or – five-point impacts established earlier. Given Conn Smythe was actively owning, managing, and coaching NHL teams during Era 1, there were certainly no trophies in his name to highlight playoff MVPs. However, the requisite research for every playoff season and the relatively few players on a team help to arrive at reliable player impact adjustments beyond SC+. Remember, the impacts are only for use in obvious instances.
Summarized below are a full range of Era 1 playoff bonus values. To remain consistent with the point system used for Eras 2 through 4, we’ll take our final results and round up or down to the nearest 5.
PPS PLAYOFF BONUS VALUE, ERA 1, SELECTED PLAYERS
|Player||Cups||SC+||Impact||PPS Bonus||Playoff Notes|
|Turk Broda||5||40||Maxed||40||4 x W Leader|
|Howie Morenz||3||30||+5||35||3 x G, A, PTS Leader|
|Clint Benedict||4||25||+5||30||4 x W Leader|
|Bill Cook||2||25||25||1 x A Leader|
|Frank Brimsek||2||20||20||2 x W Leader|
|Lorne Chabot||2||20||-5||20||2 of 5 Team W in ’28 Cup|
|Tiny Thompson||1||15||15||1 x W Leader|
|Charlie Gardiner||1||10||+5||15||6-1-1 Record in ’34 Cup|
|Georges Vezina||2||10||+5||15||5 x W Leader|
|Jack Adams||2||15||-5||10||1 PT in 2 Cup Yrs|
|Newsy Lalonde||1||5||+5||10||G, PTS Leader in Only 2 Playoffs|
|Babe Dye||1||5||5||1 x G Leader|
SC+ = for each Cup-winning year: [Number of NHL teams ÷ 8]; G = Goals; A = Assists; Record = Wins-Losses-Ties
Some notes on the Era 1 playoff bonus results:
- Turk Broda and Cy Denneny are the only players with five Cups in the era, and the only recipients of the maximum 40-point score.
- Four-time Cup-winners Clint Benedict, Punch Broadbent, Georges Boucher, and Frank Nighbor do not exceed 30, their first three titles together with the Senators earned in only a four-team circuit.
- The SC+ system rewards Charlie Gardiner (one Cup, 11) and Georges Vezina (two Cups, 9) equally (i.e. both rounded to 10) for the relative league size of their titles, as intended.
The NHL’s perpetual growth and the frequently-shifting paths to capture its ultimate prize required a playoff bonus system that can navigate these intricacies. We’ve found a middle ground between issuing value solely for being on a Cup-winning team and solely for personal performance. While the playoff bonuses ultimately lean toward team success, the rewarded players contributed to championship teams on the league’s brightest stage, had the deepest playoff runs by games played (intrinsically linked to value), and experienced the related wear and tear that affects subsequent seasons and career length. The approach allows us to methodically weave post-season performance into PPS, further distinguishing careers through playoff impact.
Jumping back to our PPS card, we’ll award Jarome Iginla his playoff bonus. Save for the Flames’ thrilling ‘Red Mile’ run in 2004 – culminating in a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to Tampa Bay – Iginla’s playoff success is thin. Outside that one appearance as a Cup finalist, he played only 55 playoff games in 19 seasons, an average of less than three per year. Iginla’s playoff résumé does not warrant an impact adjustment beyond the 0.5 that his SC+ score offers. Armed with his playoff value bonus of 0.5, the power forward’s PPS grows to 27.7, with two further bonus buckets available on the home stretch.