The summer is typically slow for news–I assumed I’d spend my free time playing Factions (the multiplayer for The Last of Us–a great team game with terrible matchmaking) and watching StarCraft. Instead, despite a dearth of bonafide signings, there’s a steady dribble of analysis to comment on.
Travis Yost posted a link to a 2014 article I missed from Kent Wilson where he outlines the NHL’s disinclination to change and accept analytics:
The league is also notoriously insular, with the vast majority of executives coming from the ranks of ex-players, family members of past decision makers and lawyers/player agents. In addition, the amount of open positions in a system with a given number of teams is also more or less fixed. The result is the NHL as a business is less likely to experience new, disruptive models that challenge established ways of thinking.
As a result, there is a distinct lack of intellectual diversity. In fact, there are disincentives to stepping too far outside of the box. Just about everyone who rises to power in the league has been steeped in the same “hockey culture” for decades. There is an implicit antipathy towards things that don’t conform to NHL norms, and therefore an inherent risk to being “too different” for those whose career aspirations lie within league walls. Although there is significant attrition and relatively low career security in NHL position from coaches all the way up to the GM chair, there is also significant churn and intra-team recycling done within the confines of the NHL. Meaning one can fail, but fail successfully (ie; retain legitimate employment options) by not colouring too far outside the lines. It’s one thing to lose by perfectly conventional means. It’s quite another to fail while being stigmatized as odd by the rest of the league.
This is all too true–and also one of the reasons the league has been so reluctant to improve the entertainment value of the game; it’s why you’ll see people in the NHL seek out confirmation bias information–eg, one player had good Corsi numbers, but they sucked, ergo Corsi is irrelevant. The general point, by the way, afflicts more institutions than just the NHL. Continuing:
There is also a distinct difference in information flow between NHL teams and the sort of de facto, crowd-sourced peer review that produced corsi stats. NHL clubs are separate and disconnected, particularly when it comes to chasing strategic insight that will confer competitive advantages. As such, any particular insights that are gleaned from work inside individual franchises are horded and protected as state secrets. In effect, NHL teams are the proverbial collection of blind men trying to describe the elephant by feeling a single portion of the animal: they each have bits of information that are only portions of the whole.
Speaking of articles of faith, Yost looks at the mythical big man–the Milan Lucic, the Tim Kerr, the Phil Esposito–a player who can dominate the front of the net and bang in rebounds.
There’s some mysticism surrounding this type of player, but they do exist. An effective guy in and around the crease area can make quite the difference for an offence at both 5-on-5 and with the man advantage. The guys who can win pucks back after a primary attack and generate secondary attempts from premium scoring areas will find the back of the net at relatively high rates. The trick is finding the player who has this skill and isn’t an anchor for the team in other facets of the game.
Well said. Travis digs into the numbers to see who fits this coveted archetype in the here and now by looking at shot attempts via rebounds. It’s an interesting list (no current Sens on it, although Jason Spezza is there). Oddly enough, Lucic himself does not rank very high on the list.
I was mentally kicking the tires on Chris Kelly in an effort to anticipate what he’ll bring to the Sens if he can stay healthy. I’ll trust Nichols and others to look at his Corsi-trends, but I was curious about his production. Historically his points-per-game sits at 0.37, although at the peak of his career (05-12) it was 0.45. The last four seasons he’s dropped to 0.31 (over a 30% drop), so the usual decline due to age is well in progress. Related to Kelly, the latest Point-Per-Cost podcast points out that his signing is a “win-now” approach, which makes little sense with the current roster.
Trevor Shackles speculates on the Sens 2017-18 roster in an effort to be positive about where the Sens could be (his speculation relies a lot on prospect projection–both in terms of their ceiling and it happening quickly). It’s delightful speculation, but it intentionally airs on the positive side. Realistically, not all the prospects will reach their ceiling or reach them at the same rate. I can understand the desire from fans to get hyped about prospects –the organisation has encouraged it and as anyone knows from reading this blog I like the prospect cycle (who doesn’t like diamonds in the rough?). It isn’t that long ago that I was singing the praises of Alexander Nikulin on the HFBoards (something not entirely unique to me–the now defunct Sens Army Blog saw him as a key prospect), but experiences like that provide necessary caution: 1) org-hype is meaningless, 2) one good season isn’t a trend.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)