Because we all would rather just forget the last few games (and most of the season so far) and talk about something else for a while, I decided to look into the real story behind Steve Downie's penalties this season, since quite a few reports about him are of being a player who takes a lot of penalties, and a lot of people think he's a glorified goon with a little skill. I am going to focus on his time with the Avalanche this season, so this info doesn't include Friday night's game, Downie's first with the Flyers this season, in which he recorded 17 penalty minutes – 5 for fighting, 10 minute misconduct, 2 min instigator – in defense of Matt Read who was hit awkwardly into the boards. Downie suffered a pretty bad concussion in the fight and will be out of the lineup indefinitely, but we should all hope he's okay and can come back soon, and here's why:
Steve Downie has recorded 36 total penalty minutes and 8 minors in 11 games this year helping the Avalanche to a 10-1 record. If you look strictly at the stats, those penalty numbers put him 8th and 6th, respectively, in the NHL. But that doesn't tell the story at all. Downie has fought 2 times and got a misconduct for 1 of the fights. That's 20 penalty minutes we can take off. Now the number is down to 16. Divide that by the 11 games he played, and Downie has 1.45 penalty minutes per game. That's not a lot.
Of the 11 games Downie played this year, he had zero penalties in 6 of them. In fact, of Downie's 8 minor penalties this year, 5 of them came in one game, against the Predators, and 2 were a double-minor roughing call instead of a fighting call. We can take those away, too. That leaves 6 minors. I went through the game logs and traced them down to see what was going on, and found out that of those 6 minors, only 4 of them actually left his team shorthanded. That's as many times as Claude Giroux. The other two were defending his line-mate and Avalanche star player Matt Duchene, something hockey players are often applauded for.
The 4 minors his teammates had to kill off were 2 trips, 1 slash, and 1 elbow. In 11 hockey games. That doesn't exactly paint the picture of an irresponsible goon putting his team at a disadvantage game after game. In fact, if you look at advanced statistics like the Corsi and Fenwick (stats that include blocked and missed shots and are intended to show puck possession and general carrying of the play -- here's the link for Downie: http://stats.hockeyanalys...=2013-14&sit=5v5), you see that with nearly every player on the 10-1 Avalanche this season, their numbers drop well below 50 without Downie on the ice. That simply means that when Downie was on the ice, the Avalanche had more puck possession and shot attempts than other teams, and that most of the rest of his teammates didn't do as well when he wasn't on the ice.
Downie is thought of around the league as an energy guy who plays on the edge and is often a catalyst for winning. In 33 total games with the Avalanche, the team was 22-9-2 with Downie in the lineup, and he was an important part of the 2011 Tampa Bay Lightning run to the Conference Finals where they lost in 7 games to the Bruins who went on to win the cup. Downie had 2 goals and 12 assists for 14 points in 17 games playing on the first line. In a total of 23 career playoff games, he has 15 points, good enough for a .65 point per game average.
Why bother with all this about a guy on an expiring contract who just got a serious concussion and may not even be with the team beyond this year?
Because we don't need shallow statistics just to tell us how bad stuff is right now. We know stuff is bad, but there are three very winnable games coming up (Carolina, New Jersey, Edmonton). A 7-9 record isn't impossible at all. And there's a lot of hockey left.