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VHL Scoring Changes Throughout History


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Scotty Campbell, very clearly, is the VHL’s greatest player of all time. No one even comes close. He is the only player to have a point total in the quadruple digits, as well as the only player to average over one goal per game through their entire career. He is the undisputed GOAT of the VHL. However, it’s impossible to deny he had some help. I have been tirelessly trying to find ways I can to prove that Campbell isn’t perhaps as great as everything thinks. I had a media spot a couple weeks ago accusing Campbell of being a playoff choker; this held true until I realized that his playoff career totals in his hall of fame article were completely incorrect. So, I naturally had to take things one step further.


We all know that the league has the most activity right now than ever before. There are more players in the league, double the amount of teams we once had, and we are not even ten seasons removed from the two largest draft classes in league history (S66+S67). In the modern VHL, there are more good players, less minutes to be played, and less opportunities to score, problems that Campbell did not ever have to face. The biggest difficulty that players face now is that when they enter the league, most players have more TPE than them at the start. Since Campbell started in S1, he didn’t have this problem. He was always the best player, throughout his whole career. It’s clearly harder as a player to produce points in the modern VHL than it was in the beginning, but how can we prove this? Unfortunately, the only true way to find out how scoring has changed throughout VHL history is to collect every single player's all time stats, and sort them accordingly. This is going to be fun, right?


I split up VHL history into nine generations. Each generation was 8 seasons, the maximum length of a player's career. Every player with 200+ games played is a part of this data. I collected the points, goals, assists, points per game, and games played for forwards and defense, as well as save percentage and goals against average for goaltenders.




Firstly, we are going to look at forward stat changes throughout the years. In order to find this, I took the average games played, goals, assists, points, and points per game and put them on a graph over time, to show how scoring has increased or decreased throughout VHL history. Here is the graph:


Blue: Games played \ Yellow: Points \ Red: Assists \ Orange: Goals \ Green: PPG (multiplied by 100, so it would show up on the graph)


Just from a first look at this graph, we can tell that everything decreases over time. The only thing that doesn’t noticeably decrease is games played, which was actually steadily increasing until it hit a low in the ninth generation. It’s very clear to see the trend; as more time went on, scoring became less common. We see this especially towards the end of the graph, which is where the ninth and final generation take over. Goals, assists, points per game, and especially points all clearly decrease, especially points. It takes a nosedive. This is the trend that I was hoping to find. Despite the total number of games played staying pretty steady throughout all of VHL history, the point totals have all taken a very noticeable dip, in two distinct four season groups.


The first four generations all saw average point totals over the point per game mark, a testament to how offenses would dominate in the early years. However, that then dropped to around 0.92 points per game for four seasons, and would hover around that mark until the final generation where it dropped all the way to 0.7.


Despite games played staying pretty consistent throughout each generation, scoring takes a very noticeable decline. Let's look at stat changes for defensemen.


Blue: Games played \ Yellow: Points \ Red: Assists \ Orange: Goals \ Green: PPG (multiplied by 100, so it would show up on the graph)


For defensemen, the trends are a little different, but still tell the same story. Defensemen’s careers actually got longer as time went on, yet all their other stats continued to decrease. If you look at the start and end points of the graph, it looks pretty even. However, that doesn’t tell the full story. Point totals peaked at around the fourth generation, and then continued to decline even though games played continued to increase. In the ninth generation, games played increased by one of the most noticeable margins, yet all offensive stats went down at the same time.


The two distinct four generation groups strike again, similar to how it worked for the forwards. The first four generations saw point per game totals around .85, peaking at .91 in the third generation (S16-S23). From the fifth to the eight generation, points per game all hovered around 0.75, and then in the final generation it hit its lowest point, at 0.68 points per game.


The biggest difficulty with defenseman was sorting out which defenseman were forwards for a portion of their career. All of the point totals would go up artificially, so I had to fix some things. If a player played half his career as a forward and then the other half as a defenseman, I collected their season by season stats and put their offense stats with forwards and defense stats with the defenseman. The only players this affected was Matt Bailey and Keaton Louth, who both played exactly half of their careers as a forward and the other half as a defenseman.


For defensemen, you can look at this graph in two different ways. If you take the graph as a whole, you can clearly see that games played continue to increase, while the rest of the stats stay the same or slightly decrease. You also could look at the graph’s from the peak in points. The point totals go way down after the peak, even though games played increase. Now it’s time for goalies.



I decided to add trend lines for the goalie graphs, to make it slightly easier to look at. The data is a little choppy, going up and down, so the trendline helps make it easier to see how the stats change over time. Goals against averages decreased over time, while save percentage increased over time. GAA was at 3.11 in the beginning of the VHL, which reached a low of 2.03 in the seventh generation (S49-S56). It has gone up since then, but the average is still very clearly decreasing.


The graphs show that the GAA for goalies have decreased over time, but we can really put these numbers into context. Throughout VHL history, 104 goalies have played 150+ games, the minimum number of games to qualify for this list. When you rank them in terms of GAA, the best first generation (S1-S8) goaltender to appear on the list is Matt Pogge. He ranks 37th, with a GAA of 2.48. He is the only first generation goalie in the top half of the list. Perhaps even more amazingly, Pogge (hall of famer) and Adrian McCreath (hall of famer) are the only goaltenders from the first generation that aren’t in the bottom 25. Out of 14 first generation goaltenders, 12 of them are in the bottom 25. Compare this to the most recent generation (S65-S75), where only one goalie is ranked in the bottom 25.  That goalie is Owen May, and it's almost not even fair to have him ranked in the bottom 25. In his five seasons as a starter, he spent four of them on expansion teams (Moscow and Prague), and then another season with the rebuilding Toronto Legion. Meanwhile, we have hall of fame goaltenders from the first generation ranked below May.


Save percentage is another trend that is clearly on the rise. In the first generation, the average save percentage wasn’t even above 0.91. Despite the decline in recent years, it still is clearly increasing, as shown by the trendline. When you rank all 104 goaltenders by save percentage, eight first generation goalies are in the bottom 25. However, we also see three goalies in the top 20. What does this mean? Does it mean that goalies in the first generation weren’t as bad as we think? Not necessarily.


The way I interpret it is that there were way more shots on net in the early days of the VHL. If the save percentages of the top goalies are holding up 75 seasons later, but their GAA’s are in the tank, it must mean that goalies were facing tons of shots per game. When we look through the all time stats, my claim holds up. Three first generation goaltenders appear in the top 10 for shots against. Dominick Stryker, Greg Goldberg and Anton Nygard are the three, and Nygard and Stryker are the two highest ranked first gen goalies by save percentage. Stryker is first in shots against, Nygard is sixth, and Goldberg is eighth. In fact, Stryker is over 2,000 shots ahead of second place despite playing 60 less games. Despite being ranked in the top 10 for shots against, Goldberg, Stryker, and Nygard own three of the four fewest games played totals in the entire top 25. Nygard only played 377 games and still sits 70 shots ahead of Norris Stopko, who played over 150 extra games than Nygard. Who is the goalie that also has one of the four fewest games played totals? Jonas Markstrom, a second generation goaltender. In the early days of the VHL, shooting was much higher than it is now, and that is reflected through goaltending stats.


Final analysis


So, what does all of this mean? Did I just spend hours combing through the all time VHL played and goaltending stats for nothing? That was a fear I had before I took on this project. What if I spent all this time researching, only to find that there is no trend at all? What if I found the opposite; that scoring is actually more common now? After a few hours worth of research, I luckily discovered that was not the case. Scoring has clearly gone down since the early VHL days, and it’s by a good margin. In the first four generations of VHL history (S1-S32), the average player scored at a rate above a point per game. Now, the average player doesn’t even score at a rate of 0.7 points per game. Shooting numbers have gone way down, while GAA’s have gone down and save percentage has gone up. But if you recall, the reason for doing this wasn’t to look at scoring trends throughout history. It all was about watering down Scotty Campbell’s success. How did he do it? He was so good, he was impossibly good. He played in the era with plumbers, players today are much stronger. It’s impossible to tell how a player from a different era would do in the modern game. This is true in real life sports, with real life players. It’s even more impossible to determine how older players would do in the modern era when they don’t even actually exist. However, I tried my best to do just that.


Julian Borwinn, the highest scoring player of the ninth generation. In 576 games, he had 325 goals, 380 assists, and 705 points. How can we compare him to Scotty Campbell? What I did might not be the best, most scientific way to go about things. In fact, it probably isn’t. But at the end of the day, I thought it was acceptable, so I went through with it. 


I compared Scotty Campbell’s stats to that of an average first generation player, and then compared Borwinn’s numbers to the average ninth generation player. Campbell scored goals 3.2 times as often as the average player, and also dished out 2.5 times as many apples. Borwinn, on the other hand, scored 2.8 times as often as a ninth generation player, and had 2.3 times as many assists. I took those numbers, where we compared Borwinn and Campbell to average players from their eras, and then flipped it all around. I took Borwinns rates of scoring, 2.8 and 2.3, and applied it to the average first generation player, and then I took Campbells rates, 3.2 and 2.5, and applied it to the average ninth generation player. What are Campbell and Borwinn’s new stat lines? Is Campbell still the VHL goat? 


Campbell, when adjusted for ninth generation scoring rates, had a career where he scored 372 goals, had 410 assists, and 782 points. Hall of fame worthy career? Absolutely. Greatest of all time? No way. But what about Borwinn? The reason Campbell is the GOAT is because of his sheer dominance, and if Borwinn can’t put up seriously elite numbers, it will simply prove Campbell is worthy of his GOAT status. So, what did Borwinn do? When compared to first generation scoring rates, Borwinn put up 524 goals, 593 assists, for a whopping 1117 points. It isn’t the same as what Campbell put up, but it still is an incredible total and would make Borwinn only the second player to ever reach 1000 points. This study doesn’t even take into account the change in shooting numbers. Campbell took over 1500 more shots than Borwinn in the same amount of games. If Borwinn shot the puck as much as Campbell, perhaps his adjusted numbers would be even better than Campbells. 


So, after a ton of research and lots of writing, what conclusions can we draw from this? Firstly, Campbell is still the GOAT. Even though he played in an era where it was much easier to score, he still dominated at an unprecedented level. However, it also shows us why many of his records are considered unbreakable. No one will ever reach his point total, or even come close, just because it’s much harder to score in the modern VHL. Scotty Campbell will always be the GOAT of the VHL, but it’s impossible to deny he had a much easier time scoring than any current players would.


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5 minutes ago, Matt_O said:

Campbell, when adjusted for ninth generation scoring rates, had a career where he scored 372 goals, had 410 assists, and 782 points

So Thompson > Campbell, gotcha :P

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Great article, it's been really interesting to see the drop in scoring in the "portal era" with larger draft classes and more depth/parity.  I wonder what some other great players (O'Malley, Rafter, McAllister?) might look like in the context of the first or ninth generations.

Plus with Campbell, I'd also note that he had the benefit of not just playing in a higher-scoring era but also starting his career in Season 1 where there wouldn't have been a gap to make up between him and other players in his rookie season.  So he basically got to be the player with the most TPE in the league (or somewhere around there) his entire career, which is never going to happen again unless the league goes completely crazy.

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1 hour ago, solas said:

So he basically got to be the player with the most TPE in the league (or somewhere around there) his entire career, which is never going to happen again unless the league goes completely crazy.

He also was the only person with the engine so he understood it in a way no one else really did.


Basically Scotty was the perfect storm to create unbeatable records right off the bat. The fact that I even managed to get to 4th in goals in the late 60’s was crazy when you consider what these early guys were putting up.

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Review: I'm a big fan of stat based articles so I excited for this one. I think it would have been easier to read if you had put what each color stood for on the graph as opposed to below it.  That being said you did a great job explaining the significance of the graphs and your final analysis was clear. I am glad that scoring went down as I enjoy more defensive games. I don't think we can compare eras due to the scoring change so I think it's important to compare players to other players of their era and not other eras. 9/10

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Review: Well done in taking on such a huge task in producing this media spot. Having the graphs in there to show the reader how the different stats changed over the years made it easier to understand the point you were trying to make. You made some good points, especially about how the VHL has a lot more top quality players now compared to when it first started. This piece was split up well and it was clear that you put a lot of effort into writing it. Top job. 10/10

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Review:  I'm ok with numbers IRL, but wading through lots of stats in an article is tough.  However, the clear writing makes the reader's job much easier.  The cogent logic also helps.  Very interesting and clear article showing both the very real drop in scoring per player and the dominance of Campbell.  9/10 (Not sure what would be a 10/10, but want to reserve that for something that just absolutely slays me.  lol)

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