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The best seasons ever

R?yan Duncan stepped to the podium in 2007, accepted the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, but not his place in UND hockey history. "I look at Tony Hrkac," he said then, "as the only other player from North Dakota to win the award. He had 116 points. I...

R?yan Duncan stepped to the podium in 2007, accepted the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, but not his place in UND hockey history.

"I look at Tony Hrkac," he said then, "as the only other player from North Dakota to win the award. He had 116 points. I had 57. He had more than twice as many as me. So, I don't think I can be put in the same company as that."

Comparisons between Duncan and Hrkac were inevitable. And the usual standard, as Duncan said, is to look at points.

The problem is that it's become impossible to compare point totals between players from different eras and get an accurate judgment.

In 1987, when Hrkac won the award, each Western Collegiate Hockey Association game averaged 8.28 goals.


Due to the evolution of goaltenders, advancement of defensive systems and proliferation of video technology, that number has plummeted throughout the years. The league has set a scoring futility record four straight seasons now, and the scoring average dropped to five goals per game for the first time last season.

The Herald searched for a way to compare players from different eras by using statistics and found it through the use of a mathematical formula. It isn't real complex: Take the player's points per game in a particular season and divide it by the average number of goals scored in WCHA games that year.

In effect, it compares the player's scoring rate against the rest of the league.

The survey says . . .

The results say that Hrkac's 1987 season, indeed, was the best in Sioux history in terms of total points. But Duncan also has his own spot in Sioux history.

According to the formula, Duncan scored goals at a more impressive rate in 2007 than any Sioux player ever. That includes Bob Joyce, who had 52 in 1987, in comparison to Duncan's 31 in 2007.

"It's a pretty interesting way to put together statistics," said UND coach Dave Hakstol, who played for the Sioux in the early 1990s. "It's hard to compare stats on a raw basis from one year to the next. (The formula) says an awful lot. It's an interesting snap shot.

"It's probably interesting for some of our players to see where they may fit in. With the humility of some guys on the team, it's probably nice for them to see that."


Hakstol is mainly talking about Duncan, of course.

The senior from Calgary is reluctant about getting in the spotlight and consistently downplays his own success.

It's hard to argue with the numbers, though.

Only three Sioux players have had seasons that rank in the top nine in both goal-scoring and point-scoring efficiency, according to the formula.

They are Jason Blake's 1999 season, one in which he was a Hobey Baker finalist, and the two Hobey-winning campaigns, Duncan and Hrkac.

Who was overlooked?

The top 10 most impressive point-scoring seasons at UND, according to the formula, have almost all been recognized by the Hobey Baker Committee.

Hrkac, ranked No. 1, and Duncan, ranked No. 7, earned college hockey's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.


No. 2 Blake, No. 3 Jeff Panzer (2001), No. 5 Greg Johnson (1991), No. 8 Zach Parise (2003) and No. 9 Steve Johnson (1988) all were finalists.

The two players who were perhaps overlooked by the committee are Teeder Wynne and Jonathan Toews.

Wynne racked up 73 points in 37 games in 1996 but may have been hampered because the Sioux were in a rebuilding season. They went two-and-out in the WCHA playoffs and didn't make the NCAA tournament.

Toews, who was only 18 during his 2007 season, missed nine games due to an injury and the World Junior Championship.

One of the most surprising facts may be that very few players from the 1980s are high on the list. The Sioux won three national titles during the decade and sent scores of players to the NHL.

"Regardless of what the stats say, a guy like Troy Murray is one of the all-time great players to have ever played at the program," Hakstol said. "That's probably a whole different study, though.

"I think (the Herald formula), on an overall basis, tells an awful lot. It may not be dead-on or absolutely accurate in every case, but as a whole, they say a lot."

That way, Duncan doesn't have to.


Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Today's exhibition

Who: Manitoba at UND.

When: 6:07 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena.

TV/radio: FSSN (GF Channel 23); The Fox (96.1 FM).

Of note: UND beat Manitoba 9-3 in last season's exhibition game.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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