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Sunday, November 24, 2013

NHL teams are slowly embracing the idea analytics have real value

I once sat next to Rod Gilbert at a Father & Son dinner. That’s all I got.

So what, exactly, are advanced stats and what do they have to do with the game that’s unfolding before you at the rink or on TV? It boils down to this: The core assumption is that a team that spends more time in possession of the puck than its opponent has a better chance of scoring more goals and, therefore, winning a game.

Certainly, most hockey people would agree that possession is a good thing, but here’s where it gets tricky. The NHL doesn’t actually track puck possession, so the analytics

community uses a proxy for it - a team’s even-strength attempts at the opposition net (goals, shots on net, shots that miss, shots that are blocked).

This is the aforementioned Corsi - probably the most commonly heard analytics term and one that can be sliced and diced to reflect a number of different aspects of a team or player. Fenwick is Corsi without the blocked shots.

Why not just use goals? You could, but they are a fairly rare occurrence in hockey, so the go-to is shot attempts because the volume of data is so much larger.

Still with me? Of course there are other things that advanced stats calculate, like zone-start percentages and penalties drawn/taken, but most flow from Corsi and Fenwick.

There is controversy, of course. One, which the critics of advanced stats frequently trot out, questions how a sport with so few fixed events can be analyzed like a sport such as baseball, which has so many.

Hockey analytics consultant Eric Tulsky agrees that hockey has more challenges than baseball, but has an answer for that: “The flip side is it’s a flow sport, and so there’s more events and because of that, there is more data. We just need to learn how to use it.”

Repoz Posted: November 24, 2013 at 09:45 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hockey

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   1. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: November 24, 2013 at 10:58 AM (#4605343)
As a Canadian that needs to fill the off-season void, I've been getting back into hockey this winter (having a fantasy team helps). I've been learning about these advanced stats for the last little while and while very cool, it's tough to see how they're useful for evaluating individual players in a vacuum, like we do so well for baseball.

I can see how they would be useful for getting a look at how your team is playing, and whether they've been unlucky or are bound to regress.

On a related note, Go Habs Go.
   2. Shibal Posted: November 24, 2013 at 10:58 AM (#4605344)
What are the best hockey analytics sites out there?
   3. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: November 24, 2013 at 11:17 AM (#4605352)
This is a good place to start

There's an FAQ and links to several other sites and datasets.

The SB Nation team sites have a lot of discussion about fancystats, as they call them. Or at least the Montréal Canadiens one does.
   4. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: November 24, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4605359)
I've done fantasy hockey before and it always bothered me that penalty minutes counted as a positive. Star players on bad teams aren't very good fantasy players, either, because they don't accumulate many assists and game-winning goals, the latter which is an especially stupid category.

   5. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: November 24, 2013 at 01:13 PM (#4605384)
A frickin HOCKEY THREAD on BTF??? The horror.
   6. Russlan thinks deGrom is da bomb Posted: November 24, 2013 at 05:31 PM (#4605461)
The Leafs think "fancystats" are for losers.
   7. Meatwad wont hit were you tell him Posted: November 25, 2013 at 12:29 AM (#4605573)
Oh no a hockey thread, not like there has been one going since the beginning of last season or anything.
   8. rawagman Posted: November 25, 2013 at 11:49 AM (#4605705)
What are the best hockey analytics sites out there?


Disclaimer - I write there.
   9. zack Posted: November 25, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4605757)

Hey Ryan, I was just going to comment that HP is good but barely updates anymore, but then I checked and it has a bunch of recent articles. Turns out I've been using the URL, and rather than simply re-directing to it has no articles since one posted 10/21. FYI.

Other than HP, there aren't many leaguewide fancystats sites. Most of the conversation seems to be on twitter, which is annoying. Hockeyabstract, nhlnumbers and Eric T on broadstreethockey are others I try to check in on.

For the actual data, ExtraSkater is the current go-to. is consistently out-of-date and the interface is a pain.

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