There are some trends found around the quarter mark of the NHL season that famously stick around. For example, the oft-cited stat that teams in playoff positions on Thanksgiving have made the playoffs 77% of the time in the salary-cap era (since 2005-06).
But for every harbinger of things to come, there are early season aberrations and trends that are all but forgotten by season’s end.
Here’s a look at several NHL trends that have caught our eyes through the first quarter of the season, and whether there’s evidence that they’ll continue through the 2022-23 campaign.
More goals | New coach success
No lead is safe | Team turnarounds
Power kills | Scoring leaders
After the best NHL goal-scoring season in 26 years, offense has continued to boom in 2022-23
Last season, the NHL averaged 3.14 goals per team per game, the highest since the 1995-96 season (also 3.14 goals on average). There were many factors that contributed to that outcome.
Some were specific to the NHL’s COVID pandemic-impacted seasons, such as lineup absences and the fact that teams used a record number of goalies in 2021-22. But some were part of a larger trend that points to this being an offensive era in the NHL. Goal-scoring has increased in five straight seasons (minus the truncated 2020-21 season). So far, the 2022-23 season is on track to extend the streak. Through 330 games, teams were averaging 3.16 goals per game.
As mentioned, there are some multi-season trends that have fueled goal-scoring in the NHL. Teams are built for speed rather than physicality, with three scoring lines and a fourth line that’s also expected to chip in. The NHL’s youth movement plays a role, too: Not only in the incredible offensive creativity from these talents but because of what they don’t do on the other end of the ice. “There’s not a lot of defensive detail in a lot of those young guys,” veteran NHL coach Barry Trotz told us earlier this year, “but they have great skills, so it’s a little more wide open.”
Analytics have made players and coaches more cognizant of high-danger shot opportunities and changed the way offenses are run — the days of booming slap shots from the point have been replaced by smartly placed wrist shots meant to create rebounds and deflections. Meanwhile, years of subtle rules changes have made defending against those chances more difficult.
Will it continue?