Men's hockey: Another look at penalties

With a few days left until the championship starts, let's dive into the penalty numbers from this season and see if anything hooks our interest. Bonus points to anyone who can name the three original words in "PIM" without looking them up.

Last year, we learned--seriously, click that link and keep it open, I'm going to refer back to it often--the most penalized teams in the CIS were Lethbridge, the U of S, Moncton, and Regina. UQTR and Waterloo were also pretty high, considering the OUA's then-tendency for fewer penalty minutes per game.

What do the PIM stats look like for this year? Glad you asked.

Average penalty minutes per game, 2008-2009 (2007-2008 in brackets)
OUA, 22.4 (18.8)
Canada West, 19.7 (22.6)
AUS, 18.9 (19.9)

Like last year, there are some differences between the conferences, except this time around the average Ontario/Quebec team saw nearly six more minutes of penalties per game. That's pretty significant. Out west, the numbers dropped by about half that, which is also interesting if not as big of a change.

No explanations are coming to mind for either conference. The WHL factor was noted in the West's high 07-08 numbers; are there more WHL grads in the OUA this year? Maybe there's no reason and it's just one of those things.

More penalty minutes than the conference average
RMC, 32.3 minutes per game
Ryerson, 29.5
Saskatchewan, 24.2
Carleton, 26.2
Regina, 22.9
Concordia, 25.0

(The teams are ordered by how much they out-penaltied their conference average. The Huskies took more penalties vs. the average Canada West team than the Ravens or Stingers did vs. the average OUA team.)

Aside from Ryerson, there's no overlap between this list and last year's equivalent list, both of which included every team with at least 10% more penalty minutes than whatever their conference average was. I'm guessing the coaches, maybe aside from Ryerson, knew all about those high PIM totals and made some changes to bring down the time spent shorthanded. It'll be interesting to see what next year's list looks like.

The last RPI update I did showed these teams as 31st, 33rd, 13th, 23rd, 16th, and 19th respectively (out of 33), so aside from the U of S, they were probably all hurt somewhat by their penalty-taking habits.

Going back to that OUA jump: now that we see RMC and Ryerson at the top (bottom?), can we just blame that jump on those two schools? Tempting, but no. 11 of the top 13 teams, in raw numbers, were in Ontario (well, Ontario and Montreal). Only Windsor and Western averaged fewer PIM this year than last year's conference average. Which leads us nicely into the next list.

Fewer penalty minutes than the conference average
Alberta, 11.8
Western, 16.6
Windsor, 17.1
Lakehead, 18.9
Queen's, 19.4
Toronto, 19.5
UOIT, 19.6

The Alberta Golden Bears: they're so good, you won't get the man advantage. They were the least-penalized team in the country last year, too. The average team in the West had nearly 530 minutes in 08-09; Alberta, just 331. Sounds like a disciplined team.

After Alberta, there's Western and Windsor again, and a bunch of other OUA teams. You'd figure better teams tend to take fewer penalties and that does seem to be the case, some outliers aside (hello, Oshawa!). Acadia, Lethbridge, and UNB all had 18 or fewer penalty minutes per game, but were too close to the AUS/Canada West average to show up here.

Three OUA teams made the low-penalty list two years in a row: Queen's, Lakehead, and Western. Two of those teams are in the championships this year. Coincidence?

Not shown above, just missing the 10% cutoff, are the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Which means a year after they were the most-penalized team in the country--and it wasn't even close--they saw a huge drop: from 29.9 minutes per game to 17.8. Who knows what happened there? Did a few misconduct-happy grinders exhaust their eligibility?

And finally, the last thing you'll notice is no AUS teams are on either of these lists. There was a per-game average of 18.9 down east and no teams were above 20.3 (Saint Mary's, St. F.X.) or below 17.6 (Acadia).

Sources: AUS, Canada West, OUA.
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  1. Two of those teams are in the championships, and the other one didn't even make the playoffs. Good post, though; Queen's may be the exception that proves the rule (or they perhaps just had more problems than penalties). I was somewhat surprised to see the Gaels on the low-penalty side (even if they weren't that far towards it), as they seemed to take quite a few in the games I was at. In retrospect, perhaps that was more them taking a few bad penalties at poor times, which can be just as costly as taking vast numbers of penalties at less crucial times. Penalties aren't all necessarily created equal.

  2. After witnessing the last decade-plus of Alberta's games at Nationals I can tell you that their discipline is only rewarded when the officials have the courage to referee and not "manage" the games.
    The Bears are not a physically assertive team.
    They play like Detroit, they are puck-possession time.
    But sometimes their first-period territorial domination has resulted in soft pretty soft calls in the second and third.
    This likely won't be the case against UNB who have the man-power to run-and-gun with Alberta.
    But it has certainly been the case against some of the OUA teams the Bears have played over the last decade.

  3. Gee Gees leading scorer Dan MacDonald won the R.W Pugh award for the most sportsman like player in CIS hockey. Just two seasons ago Gee Gees Ben McLeod won the same award.

  4. Re: Anonymous post above...

    And in other news, the price of a loaf of bread rose to $2.39 this week.