Saturday, 16 March 2013

Rat PIM Update – Rats Then & Now

It’s time for another Rat PIM update, where we look at the dangerous or cheap shot type penalties taken by teams and see if there is any correlation to fighting.   A recent article by Liam Maguire on the Cooke – Karlsson skate slicing incident also prompted me to take a close look at some previous Rats in the game.   In my opinion, history isn’t very kind to Liam’s argument.

Liam used the Cooke slicing Karlsson accident as the perfect example of why the NHL still needs to police their own.  Liam states that be believes Cooke went into the corner with the intent to injure, perhaps not cut him with his skate, but to injure nonetheless.   He goes on to offer this opinion, “The Cooke’s of the world, Clutterbuck, Torres, take your pick, we have spawned a generation of them, they did not exist back in the day. They were dealt with swiftly and admonished in many cases even by their own teammates.”   The second part of his post then details examples of how the stars were protected back in the day.  My lengthy comment on his post provides numerous examples of how plentiful the Rats were “back in the day”.   I highly recommend reading Liam’s full post and my response in the comment section.

I found it ironic that in Liam’s post he was trying to convince his readers that stars were protected in the past, before the instigator rule was strengthened in the early 90’s.  For his argument he used example after example of star players who were left bleeding or unconscious on the ice before the enforcer was sent out for revenge.  Where was the protection?  If the dangerous players didn’t exist back then, who was causing all the carnage?

My friendly discussion with Liam led me to undertake a quick analysis of penalty stats and fights for two 4-year periods, one from the 80s and the other from the most recent few seasons.   For the purposes of this comparison I looked at the 100 PIM Club members (all players who had 100 PIM or more for the year) in the eras chosen.

Some interesting things came from this analysis:

  • There were twice as many 100 PIM Club members from the early 80s.  You may think that’s obvious because there were more fights but the average fights per game don’t show that.   The actual statistics show that there were numerous players in the club with very few fights.  There were more Rats “back in the day”.
  • Further proof of plentiful Rats in the 80s is demonstrated in the penalty minute totals.  Despite the fact that the total number of fights is almost identical in both eras, the number of PIM is less in today’s game.  Remember that today there are far more games, 1230 versus the 840 played in the past (776 in 81-82).  The sport is cleaner today.
  • It should be no shock that the 100 PIM Club sat in the penalty box more often than the rest of the players in the league, or that they fought more often.  But the difference between the fights/game for Club members versus the rest of the NHL was very different in the past versus today.  In the 80s fights were more common between all players, and the 100 PIM Club fought everyone.  Compare that to today’s club members who generally only fight amongst themselves.  In the current NHL, dropping the gloves outside the 100 PIM Club is far more unlikely.  
  • The numbers also show that fighting has become a specialist role in the NHL.  Very few players, about 5% of the entire league, account for 40% of all fighting majors.  And the numbers show that today’s club members take fighting related penalties as the majority of their infractions versus fighters from the past.  This point is important when considering the Rat PIM update below.

Rat PIM League Update – as of March 14, 2013

Fights per game have dropped slightly – perhaps teams are coming to their senses or, more likely, games are beginning to matter and it’s time to focus on hockey.  The trend line is clearer at the half-way point of the season showing that as fights per game drop, so do the Rat PIM.  There are still spikes and anomalies but overall the theory that fights cause more cheap shots than prevent them, appears valid.   Interesting to note that the intense rivalry between the Flyers and Penguins is not a surprise as they are #1 and #2 respectively in Rat PIM.   When two dirty teams play each other…

Consider the final point I made in my comparison of the 100 PIM Club and put it together with the results from this chart.   The fighters are taking the majority of their PIM in fighting majors and instigator penalties.  Therefore if a team is high in fights per game and Rat PIM, then it becomes obvious that the Rats are hiding behind the enforcers on the team.  That’s not policing the Rats, that’s protecting them.

Stats include all games up to and including March 14th.  Rat PIM is the combination of non-fight related penalty minutes and includes; Roughing, Slashing, Cross Checking, Major Penalties (excluding fighting majors), Boarding and Unsportsmanlike.


  1. You make an excellent point in your response - that violent players *avenge* abuse of star players, they don't *prevent* it.

    I'd go farther and say that generally it's the violent players themselves that abuse the star players to begin with. I think it was Adam Proteau who sardonically tweeted not too long ago something along the lines of "We need guys like Colton Orr to protect the star players from guys like Colton Orr."

    It's an endless circle of violence.

    And yes, a great lack of historical understanding is displayed by Mr. Maguire in making his claims. He talks about Eddie Shore being attacked by the Maroons in 1929, about how he was a star player taken out of the game. He doesn't mention that Shore was one of the dirtiest players in the league - so was he a star being run or a rat being taken care of? If only these lines were as clear as they're made out to be.

    And why wasn't Shore protected? There was certainly no instigator rule in 1929.

    There have always been dirty players in pro hockey. There always will be, to some degree or another. The only thing that can be done is keep them in check as much as possible, and trying to do so with more dirty play is just ridiculous. The answer to violence is not more violence, surely.

  2. You posted "and why wasn't Shore protected? There was certainly no instigator rule in 1929." While the second half of your sentence was quite true. Back then, players were expected to fight their own battles for sure. If you wanted to play dirty, take someone's knees out, or skate around with your stick up, then you damn well better be ready to fight when the other team came calling. One thing that was not done was waiting on the league to suspend anyone.

    You also failed to mention in the game against the Maroons in 1929, Eddie Shore first fought Buck Boucher then afterwards butt ended another Maroons player, just because the guy was in the wrong place. So needless to say the Maroons wanted to do something about it that night, and Shore, who was not one to take a back seat to anyone, fought all who wanted it.

  3. You eliminate the cheap-shot artists from the game by suspending the cheap-shot artists for long enough bans to make such play not worth the loss of money. If that's the only way they can be in the league that means someone with actual hockey skill has to be in the AHL or some other minor league, or overseas.