The very heated discussion taking place in the comments of the post about the Corvo trade has inspired me to weigh in with my thoughts about intangibles and their place in hockey analysis. Statistics are a wonderful thing, I don't really know what it is about them but I find it comforting to get lost in them. I find myself staring endlessly at career records and dreaming of the days when 200 point seasons were possible. Each time I get lost in statistics, I find myself wondering what it is that makes the great players great. What allows great teams to win championships?
MattS made a good point that if it were just up to statistics, the President's Trophy winner would probably win the Cup every year. I think that is a bit cliche, but a reasonable point that illustrates impressive statistics don't necessarily result in a championship team. Upsets happen though, statistically inferior teams upset goal scoring powerhouses. That brings me to the crazy, not-very-definable-kind-of-black-magic world of intangibles. Phunwin has stated that intangibles are constantly overvalued. I don't agree with this and welcome criticism of my viewpoint. I think intangibles are a critical part of the puzzle that a team must assemble to win a Stanley Cup. The basic statistics (G, A, +/-) reflect the talent of the team. However, I think the talent is not a good explanation of why a team wins or a line performs. The intangibles are the reason a team or a line works together and produces results.
Some of the intangibles I value the highest would be teamwork, heart, and grit. Bergeron has all of them and I know I speak for many of the SCoC readers when I say that he is undervalued as hell in the NHL. His statistical numbers aren't Top 10 (except maybe face offs) but he would make every single team better if he was a member. He plays a smart and unselfish game and is true to his teammates. His heart is undeniable as he skates his ass off, blocks shots, and wins face offs. Right in line with heart is grit; the ability to take blocked shots and keep playing, to take hits to make plays, to win 1-on-1's in the corners. Intangibles aren't the end all be all and, like statistics, they ebb and flow. I think intangibles should be valued equally with statistics as in part they represent the mental fortitude of a player to preform at his peak level of talent. Sports are as much mental as they are physical. As a result of my rambling, here is my formula for success:
Teamwork, heart, and grit + quality system + talent/stats = Stanley Cup.
Take away one of those and you don't win a cup.