Plus/Minus is getting quite the rundown today as a junk hockey stat. First, Dave Staples of the Edmonton Journal got us started:
The NHL’s official plus/minus stat is one of the most discussed individual stats in hockey, but it’s also one of the most flawed, misleading and misunderstood.
Ken Campbell at the Hockey News updates his “Cambellnomics rankings” today, which are intended to isolate goals and assists which prove critical to the outcome of a given game. It puts a new spin on the typical leader board, and propels the likes of Tuomo Ruutu and Nikolai Zherdev into the ranks of the NHL elite, and discards Evgeni Malkin, the league’s scoring leader, all the way down to 16th:
We’re not interested in who scores the sixth goal in a 6-2 game, but we do want to give credit to players who score the goal that put the team up 3-2, or the player who scored the first goal of the game.
While taking a deeper look inside the numbers beyond simple goals and assists is always a good thing, I have some objections to Campbell’s methods…
We have a new leader in the Penalty Plus/Minus race this week, as Patrick O’Sullivan of the L.A. Kings has surged ahead of the competition to a +14 rating. Perhaps the highlight of his week was drawing three tripping penalties from the Dallas Stars in a Thursday night 3-2 road win. All three calls came while the Kings were holding the lead, and helped to keep the Stars offense in check while L.A. closed out the victory.
Check herein for the updated numbers…
Baseball’s Seattle Mariners are the latest team jumping on the statistical analysis train, as they prepare to establish an internal department focused on gathering and analyzing data in conjunction with the traditional scouting process. From this morning’s Seattle Times (hat tip to Baseball Musings):
“I can’t imagine there are any teams that don’t pay heed to some form of statistical analysis,” Blengino said. “We have to take great care to make sure we do it right.”
While baseball is, for various reasons, light-years ahead of hockey in terms of sophisticated stats work, much progress has been made in this area over the last few years, most of which, basically, by hobbyists. In today’s NHL, where the salary cap restricts how much money a team can spend on players, one would think that cap-max teams would actively search for alternative ways to gain a competitive edge. One way to do that is, like in any other industry, by spending on Research & Development, which is really what advanced statistical analysis in sports is all about; finding and refining techniques related to player selection and development, and in-game strategy and tactics.
Have you ever wondered just how much home-ice advantage is worth in a given game? For a look inside the relative performance of home and road teams in Even Strength action over the last five years, check out mc79hockey.com this morning.
Intuitively, one would think the home team in a given game might have an advantage in terms of shooting percentage, because the home coach can get favorable player matchups and put his offensive performers in position to get more dangerous shots. The numbers here pretty much pop that balloon, however.
This week’s edition of the Penalty Plus/Minus update highlights a new player topping the list, Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta having generated a net of 9 power plays for the Sabres. The third-year right winger has edged slightly ahead of San Jose’s Devin Setoguchi and Edmonton’s Erik Cole, with each at +8. Thankfully for Stars captain Brenden Morrow, we have new leaders at the bottom rung of this ladder as well…
Earlier today I looked at the offensive rebounding question, and now it’s time to see which NHL defenses are giving up the most (and fewest) 2nd chances to opposing forwards. How many times do you hear someone say about their favorite team, that all they need is some more muscle on the blueline to help keep the pressure off their goaltender? Well let’s see who actually needs that kind of help.
May I have the envelope please…
If there’s one mantra that NHL coaches love to repeat when discussing their team’s offensive gameplan, it has to be the one about driving traffic to the front of the net, in order to battle for loose pucks and score “ugly goals”. This year, rebound opportunities are becoming particularly fashionable given Todd McLellan’s emphasis on shots from the defense in San Jose, a lesson learned during his days behind the Detroit bench.
But which teams are fighting (and winning) those battles so far this year? While the NHL doesn’t officially record a Rebounding statistic, one can be derived by sifting through the Play-By-Play files. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve defined a Rebound Shot as any attempted shot (Shot on Goal, Goal, Missed or Blocked Shot) attempted within 3 seconds of a shot by the same team that was saved by the goaltender, without any other intervening events (like a faceoff or turnover).
So let’s take a look at the numbers…
This week’s update of the NHL Penalty Plus/Minus figures only adds further confirmation of the Dallas Stars meltdown chronicled today by both Eric McErlain at NHL Fanhouse and Greg Wyshynski, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy. When you look at the worst performers in Penalty Plus/Minus, the usual suspects are defensemen playing heavy minutes against elite opponents, so Braydon Coburn, Paul Ranger, and Anton Volchenkov, there’s at least a decent reason why you’re down there.
But Brenden Morrow? What are you doing tied for the worst Penalty Plus/Minus (-7) in the league? You’re not demonstrating toughness, that’s for sure; just a loss of composure that’s leaving your teammates shorthanded, a situation they can ill afford as Dallas sits in the 12th spot in the Western Conference. Their .417 Winning Percentage places them 25th in the entire NHL.
For a tough, physical captain who can bring the noise responsibly, take a look at Calgary’s Jarome Iginla who draws two calls (10) for every one he’s taken (5) so far.
As I wrote yesterday, last night’s Predators-Panthers matchup was promoted in Nashville as “Fellowship Night”, and in honor of the occasion, a special 11th Commandment was issued to the two teams: Thou Shalt Not Hit.
This had to be one of the least physical NHL games I’ve seen in a long time, and for those concerned about the lack of television coverage, don’t be. This was a snoozefest on ice, only saved by an outstanding effort in goal by Pekka Rinne.