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The Battle Over Advanced Stats

from Matt Larkin of The Hockey News,

The tension is palpable and very much what we’ve come to expect from a rivalry that exploded over blogs and the social media universe in recent seasons.

“It’s kind of like the Hatfield and McCoy feud,” said Globe and Mail hockey columnist David Shoalts. They went on so long, nobody can remember how or why it got started.”

Little did we know the advanced statistics versus old-guard debate, the nerds versus dinosaurs war, would go from hot fad to revolution over the summer.

It was a full-on NHL takeover for the stat heads. (Tyler) Dellow now works for the Oilers. Sunny Mehta, a pro poker player turned Oilers blogger, was named the New Jersey Devils’ director of analytics. Whiz-kid stat guru-turned Ontario League GM Kyle Dubas, 28, is now the assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also launched an analytics department and poached the minds behind extraskater.com.

The slew of hirings brought validation to the growing community of thinkers who believe possession-driven statistics like Corsi and Fenwick are the best predictors of success in the NHL. And they poured gasoline on the fiery fight emerging between the stat heads and the traditional-thinking journalists.

“They think I’m a moron, to be honest,” (Steve) Simmons said. “Not someone who’s covered the NHL for 34 years, not someone who coached hockey for 25 and is a level 3 instructor, not someone who ran hockey schools. I’m a moron.”

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Comments

awould's avatar

I’ll just go ahead and be the first to actually say it, so people can argue against it.

Advanced stats do everything and should replace scouting and maybe even coaches someday.

Posted by awould on 08/31/14 at 03:06 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

So, if all teams use the same analytics , I guess all teams will want to draft and trade for the same players??

Advanced stats has the same impact Fred Shero’s belief in pyramid power back in the 1970’s….....none.

Posted by Down River Dan on 08/31/14 at 03:41 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Simmons is a cry baby.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 08/31/14 at 05:17 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Teams are gobbling up these folks because they’re looking to gain a proprietary edge—and because “advanced stats” are still in their infancy.

Right now “Corsi"and “Fenwick” numbers do a very good job of indicating who players are playing against, and whether teams win faceoffs, carry the puck into the zone for a shot attempt or surrender shot attempts with certain players on the ice, but even NHL teams would argue that shot attempt stats and stat-collection in general varies WIDELY from rink to rink, so teams are trying very hard to find people who will collect stats that agree with what the team deems to be an attempted shot, for example…

And teams are always going to be looking for some sort of edge to gain a competitive advantage over their opponents, regardless of whether that involves hiring a strength and conditioning coach who’s trying new stuff, a goalie coach who’s trying new things or employing a statistician or stats program that makes a difference in terms of match-ups.

As digital video replaced videotapes, teams have gotten more and more sophisticated in terms of their ability to break down players’ shifts, so the untold story involves the fact that many teams can *already* break down “quality of competition” and puck possession via programs that add stats in, and video is of course much more effective in terms of illustrating points upon which players can improve instead of saying, “Well, your Corsi QOC is a bit off.”

So it’s all important, but the numbers are important in terms of how they’re used and utilized by different teams and coaches—and until we get more advanced player-tracking technology, the Corsi and Fenwick numbers are limited in their effectiveness.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/31/14 at 05:22 PM ET

Primis's avatar

The Red Wings are, oddly enough, going to be one very interesting case study in these advanced stats.

There are a number of metrics that say Brendan Smith and Johan Franzen are extremely valuable.  There are a lot of other stats (and the infamous “eye test” of course) that say they maybe are part of the problem and not the solution.

Obviously one of those viewpoints is wrong.  If it turns out they are in fact part of the problem…. you really have to wonder about the validity of these stats.  They may actually be no more enlightening than Plus/Minus, which is rapidly falling out of favor as having any value.


As for Steve Simmons… EVERYONE thinks he’s a moron.  Even many of the anti-advanced stats crowd.  It may in fact be one of the few things they can all agree on.

Posted by Primis on 08/31/14 at 06:26 PM ET

Avatar

I don’t think Steve Simmons is a moron. I think Steve Simmons is a writer who has reached the point of career where doesn’t want to put in the background work and research. He doesn’t want to learn a new tool. He also resents info being widely available that can contradict things he writes and exposes his laziness.

I have a feeling more people think that about him than that he is a moron.

Posted by jkrdevil on 08/31/14 at 06:56 PM ET

Avatar

“They think I’m a moron, to be honest,”

It’s cute that Simmons thinks people only think he’s a moron because of his moronic, trollish stance against advanced stats.

Posted by Garth on 08/31/14 at 08:15 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

Advanced stats has the same impact Fred Shero’s belief in pyramid power back in the 1970’s….....none.

Posted by Down River Dan on 08/31/14 at 03:41 PM ET

Yeah that was Toronto, actually, one goofy year.

The Flyers did have that Kate Smith thing going, mind you.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 08/31/14 at 09:02 PM ET

Avatar

Advanced stats has the same impact Fred Shero’s belief in pyramid power back in the 1970’s….....none.

http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2014/08/31/hextall-advanced-statistics-small-but-meaningful-part-of-kings-success/

None. No impact at all. Zero. Zero percent. Goose Egg.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 09/01/14 at 01:45 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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