Does Experience Equal Success?

So it’s been a while since my last post.  But my internship is over and I’ve moved back into my apartment at school. So no worries, I’m back.

A topic that has always been on my mind is: does experience really equal success in the NHL?  I remember always hearing about how young the Pens were this past season, and how they couldn’t keep up with the veterans of Detroit.  Whether that had any effect on the actual results may never be determined. But I’m going to take a closer look on the correlation of age to success.

Here are the average ages for all 30 NHL teams from last season, rated from oldest to youngest:

*Detroit 31.8

*Anaheim 30.3

*Calgary 30.1

Atlanta 29.8

Carolina 29.8

*Colorado 29.2

*New Jersey 29.1

*Dallas 29.0

*Ottawa 28.9

*Philadelphia 28.9

*Minnesota 28.7

Los Angeles 28.7

Florida 28.7

Vancouver 28.4

*San Jose 28.4

New York Islanders 28.4

*Nashville 28.3

*Boston 28.3

*Washington 28.1

St Louis 28.1

*New York Rangers 28.1

*Pittsburgh Penguins 28.0

*Montreal 27.8

Tampa Bay 27.7

Toronto 27.6

Buffalo 27.0

Edmonton 26.8

Chicago 26.7

Phoenix 26.5

Columbus 26.4

*- Team made playoffs in 2008

So initially by first sight, the answer is no, there is no correlation.  But let’s take a look at those numbers for each team coming into this season.                        

*Detroit 28.6

*New Jersey 28.3

*Anaheim 28.3

*Calgary 27.96

Tampa Bay 27.7

*Colorado 27.6

*Nashville 27.5

Carolina 27.5

New York Islanders 27.4

*San Jose 27.3

Toronto 27.2

Buffalo 27.11

*Dallas 27.0

Vancouver 26.86

*Ottawa 26.8

Atlanta 26.8

*Boston 26.7

*Washington 26.6

Florida 26.5

*Philadelphia 26.4

*Pittsburgh Penguins 26.4

Edmonton 26.1

*Minnesota 26.0

*New York Rangers 25.96

St. Louis 25.9

*Montreal 25.8

Columbus 25.6

Phoenix 25.0

Los Angeles 24.9

Chicago 24.9

*- Team made playoffs in 2008

(Note- these averages are from the pre-season non-official rosters; age averages also change throughout the season due to trades, etc.)

You will notice a significant drop in the oldest average age per team.  One reason is because the average ages from last season were taken from the end of season rosters.  But the top 13 oldest teams have in some way lowered there average ages over the off season.  Also, notice how Tampa Bay went from the 24th oldest team to the 5th oldest, while there actual average age stayed the same.  What does this mean?  Well, the lack of Booby Orr-like veterans for one.  But this also could be related to the older veterans moving out of the NHL to play overseas; whether it be for their home country, or the new Russian Super League, long-time NHL veterans are being offered more money to jump continents. 
36 year-old Jaromir Jagr is headed to Russia
36 year-old Jaromir Jagr is headed to Russia

Also note how Phoenix, Columbus, and Chicago round out the bottom four on both lists.  It appears as though these teams are relying more on younger players from the draft rather than older veteran free agents.  Sound familiar? Like the Penguins from a few years ago?  I believe the team out of those four that could follow in the Pens’ footsteps are the Chicago Blackhawks. (see “Scotty Bowman’s Touch of Gold“)

But back to the main question: does experience equal success?  Well take a look at the last four Stanley Cup Champions and there average ages:

Tampa Bay 2003-04 Champs 28.69

Carolina 2005-06 Champs 28.96

Anaheim 2006-07 Champs 28.17

Detroit 2007-08 Champs 31.8

So if things go according to plan, the Stanley Cup Champions for 2008-09 will be Detroit, New Jersey, or Anaheim.  These are the only three teams with a team average age over 28, like the last four championship teams.  Will this correlation hold true? Do you think these numbers will hold up? Let’s hear some opinions. And be sure to check back for a follow-up after the season….


~Dan @ Pittsburgh Puck Talk


One thought on “Does Experience Equal Success?

  1. theflower29

    Even with this age thing aside, Detroit is no doubt the favorite to win the cup. Is it just chance that their age corresponds with the average Stanley Cup winner? Probably not.

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