Valiquette Numbers Confirm Wild’s Struggles Over the Last Two Months


Former Soviet dictator Jozef Stalin was once quoted as saying, “A single death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic.”  If you were to translate that into hockey terminology giving up a goal is a tragedy but giving up a million goals would just be a statistic.  I sometimes wonder if St. Louis Blues goaltending coach Jim Corsi ever loathes having his name attached to this analytic?  Corsi has been joined by Fenwick numbers to gauge puck possession and fans of advanced stats look at those numbers with almost zealot-like reverence.  Analytic fans see it as perfectly objective quantitative data to support the relative dominance of a hockey team.  Or is it?

Now that I have the advanced stats crowd raising an eyebrow at me as they want to skewer me for questioning their most holy numbers, I would propose an even more accurate measure of hockey dominance and failure.  These are the simple Red Shots and Green Shots concept proposed by retired NHL goaltender Steve Valiquette.  According to Valiquette’s research, 76% of goals are scored from the ‘green’ area on the ice which is a triangle drawn from the center of the goal on out to top of the faceoff circles, while just 24% are scored outside of that area which is the ‘red’ area.  You can read more about Valiquette’s formula here in an article from  When I first read about Valiquette’s analysis in the December issue of the Hockey News I was intrigued and with Minnesota’s struggles I wondered what such a study would reveal since there is no place that tabulates such data.

"“Are you kidding me, he just played catch with the goalie from 75 feet, he should be reprimanded not applauded for that game.” said Steve Valiquette to the Hockey News after recalling the memory of a coach praising one of his teammates for registering 9 shots on goal in a game."

Reading that quote resonated with me as I began to think of all the weak shots taken from the point by Ryan Suter on the power play.  They’re nice for the possession stats but they are a prime example of how those numbers can be inflated.  Neither Corsi or Fenwick stats take into account shot quality and while in terms of raw possession they are helpful they can also be misleading if it doesn’t lead to many quality shots being taken through the course of a game.  Valiquette’s numbers also give you a great idea as to the relative quality of the goaltending a team is receiving.  So I decided to take a look at the last two months, 21 games since the start of December the Wild have had and looked at both the goals scored by the Wild and that of their opponents over that span.  I did not count any empty net goals or penalty shot tallies in my calculations as its unnecessary to call them red or green goals and would only serve to inflate the data.

The Wild have gone 7-14 since the start of December, where the club went from being near the playoff picture to being well out of it.  A major reason many experts and fans have given for the team’s woes has been goaltending.  So do the Valiquette numbers indicate the Wild suffered from sub-par goaltending?

Since December the Wild have given up 67 goals (excluding empty net goals) and 28% of them (19) were from the ‘red’ area or were rebound goals created by shots taken from ‘red’ portions of the ice which is slightly more than what Valiquette should happen normally based on his research.  Any ‘red’ goal is what you can consider to goals that should not have happened.  When you look closer at the numbers you can find instances where the Wild were betrayed by such goals.  In the Wild’s embarrassing 7-1 loss to Dallas on January 3rd, Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom combined for 2 goals scored from ‘red’ areas of the ice and one coming off a rebound after a shot was taken from a ‘red’ portion of the ice.  That does not account for Backstrom’s stickhandling gaffe that led to an easy Stars goal which counted as ‘green’ goal because of the speed and location of where the shot was taken.  The 5 rebound goals off of red shots since December provides additional support the lack of quality play in the Wild crease.  In case you’re curious, the only goal given up by Devan Dubnyk as a member of the Wild was a ‘green’ shot.

It also makes sense when you consider the teams flagging morale since December.  The club was demoralized by ill-timed ‘bad’ goals.  When you feel your team pays dearly for any mistake you begin to doubt yourself and your overall effort begins to fade.  This is a major reason Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher had to make a trade.

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  • So what do Valiquette stats indicate offensively for the Minnesota Wild?  Since December the Wild scored 57 goals not including empty net and penalty shot tallies.  73% (42) of the team’s goals were either ‘green’ from green areas of the ice or were rebounds off of shots taken from ‘green’ parts of the ice whereas 26% (15) were from ‘red’ areas or off rebounds from ‘red’ portions of the ice.  That is pretty close to the averages suggested by Valiquette’s study which would indicate the Wild faced average NHL goaltending since December.  Hopefully that would quell any “hot goalie” excuse you may hear.  Maybe Valiquette’s stats will help reduce the use of that excuse altogether by being able to better assess the amount of quality chances a team was able to generate instead of making a blanket generalization based on shot totals as broadcasters often do.

    Is it perfect?  Nope.  But I like it better than just possession numbers alone because it indicates what a team has done with its possession.  Statistics are nice tools to have, but that’s all that they are.  Like any tool they can fail and can be used in such a way that a person achieves the result they desire.  Hopefully Minnesota finds a way to generate more green shots and forces it opponents to settle for more red shots.