Phil Kessel and consistency

There has been some chatter* online about Phil Kessel’s streakiness, because there’s not much to do.

*by chatter, I mean SB Nation comment threads, notably this one.

Just to sort of get it out of the way, I want to show off that Phil Kessel isn’t a streaky hockey player. He’s a good hockey player who scores a lot of goals.

It’s problematic to call good scorers “streaky” in a negative way. Since we expect Kessel to score more than any other player on the Leafs, it becomes more noticeable when he doesn’t score than when he does.

It’s the difference between flipping a coin, and noting when the result isn’t a head, and rolling a dice and noting when the result isn’t a one. Obviously, the second instance is going to be far more likely. In the event that the roll comes up as a one, it’s rarer. If you flip hundreds of coins, you’ll note several chains where tails comes up multiple times in a row. This doesn’t mean the coin has a “consistency” issue, it’s a sample size issue.

Anyway, let’s look at the respective careers of Phil Kessel, 0.37 goals per game, and Joffrey Lupul, 0.30 goals per game. Lupul is by nature, more consistent, because there are more games he doesn’t score a goal.

Here’s a breakdown. I sorted out the two careers of Kessel and Lupul, and noted how many goals per games in games after they scored 0 goals, 1 goals, or more than 2. You’ll note that in every instance, Kessel has more goals than Lupul:

That said, there’s more of a deviation for Kessel than Lupul. It’s true, he’s less consistent, but he’s still better than goal-scoring. One other key difference between him and Lupul is that Kessel is more involved in the play in the defensive and neutral zones. “Streaky” may just come with the territory here, because he scores more goals.

*note – a better math guy than me, Neil Greenberg, has also analyzed this quirk. His conclusion is similar to mine*

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