Kukla's Korner


My NHL Christmas Wish List - Part 2

Tis the season to be jolly, be merry, and of course to have wish lists for those shiny boxes under the tree come Christmas morn.

Like some children asking for a pony, or like me every time I asked for a car, some wish lists go unfilled, but just like the gifts themselves, the wishing and hoping is important. If not for now, then in some cases at least for later.

With that, I continue writing my NHL wish list, five things I’d like to see from the League that I believe will benefit not only fans, but the players and the League as well. Today, I’ll take it down a notch from a big gift, and go for a more stocking-stuffer item, but one with value nonetheless.

My NHL Christmas Wish List thus far:

Better out-of-arena viewing options for fans
Today’s item: Better and more accessible statistics

Yesterday, On the Forecheck pointed to a short little piece touching on the evolution of hockey statistics so far,

The study of hockey stats has come a long way in the 22 years since the publication of the first “Hockey Compendium,” authored by, ahem, two very talented young amateur statisticians. Back then there were few raw numbers to work with, and very long and complicated calculations had to be undertaken to estimate players’ ice time, figure out shots per game — even deduct empty-net goals from goalies’ records, because the N.H.L. didn’t bother with such things.

It seems to have come so far, but much of it is still recent. Pre-lockout, as far as the NHL Stats are concerned, will suggest that not a single hit, blocked shot, giveaway, or takeaway took place. Not that they didn’t take place, only that they weren’t recorded.

To get the fabulous work of the Forechecker and others, a lengthy process of daily copy/paste routines involving the NHL overall and game-specific stats, excel spreadsheets, and macros is needed to get down to the juicy details.

Does it seem great? It is. But it has a long way to go. If the League is trying to imitate the NFL and NBA and their high scores, why stop there? Take this NFL player stat page, for Drew Brees: seems pretty comparable in terms of raw data available, right?

Click on Career Stats: suddenly, a few more columns appear, to total his work over his time in the NFL. Scroll down, and you’ll see a host of statistics available for a host of categories for his entire NFL career, stats for Passing, Rushing, Receiving, Defensive, and Fumbles, already putting the NHL to shame; the best we see are assists, takeaways, and giveaways to categorize passes and receiving in a hockey game, and penalty killing time on ice and face off totals (not even percentages) to give an idea of the defensive work undertaken.

Click again on Game Splits to get greener with envy (and I should not feel like the Grinch for wanting this): Now you get his stats, broken down by day of the week, by month, by Divisional or Conference games, by individual opponents, by his record when the team is winning or losing, even by individual stadium. Those splits are available for Passing, Rushing, and Defensive.

Not envious enough yet? Click on Situational Stats, and you’ll get those three categories broken down in ways we hockey fans can only dream of: available by Field Position, by where in his Attempts (first ten, second ten, and so on) he is, by Home/Away, by which Half of the game it is, by Margin, by Point Situation (ahead, behind, by how much), by Quarter, even by Field Type (grass or turf).

Why don’t, why can’t we have this kind of information? Hockey may not be the same, but we can’t even get possession time for teams, with even the play-by-play stats going blank for stretches of 10 seconds, 20, or more, supposedly without any action. There’s a host of information out there that fans would love to see, but much of it not even available for excel macro gleaning.

Would that put hockey blogger statisticians out of work? Not at all; it would let them focus on even more in-depth stats. Rather than trying to compile these basic trickles of information, they could spend more time going to the in-depth levels you see during ads for sports betting (notice how they focus on football, not hockey), or in the intense football pools.

I live in a house with football guys, and the statistics are half the fun. If hockey could give a little, they might start to get a little or even a lot, from the fans, from scouts and teams who want quick access to this info, even more interest from sports betting groups; it only deepens the level that you can go to when engaging yourself with the game, whether you’re a casual curious fan, an intense stat-hungry poolie or hockey professional, or anyone else who just wants an answer to questions that probe deeper than goals, assists, and points. Maybe, finally, you wouldn’t have to twist arms to get bars in Vegas to turn on an NHL game (and if they won’t turn one on now, any dreams of moving a team there should be pushed even further back, not that such a move is in my dreams).

How hard would it be, just to make things easier, even if you add nothing new? Pages and pages of copy/pasting are needed to assemble the stats you want. You can’t find out that Jason Spezza led the League in giveaways per game last season from his individual stat page, not even how many giveaways he made, or hits, along with many other details. You have to hunt into the overall statistics, find him, find him again every year, and an arduous journey is born, made even more painful if you had any hopes of finding all these statistics on a game-by-game basis, or sorted in any way at all.

My free web stat counter allows me to download an excel file of the visitor stats anytime I want; would it be so hard to give NHL fans that opportunity? Maybe full statistics don’t look great on web pages, but in an excel sheet they could do wonders.

Such minor efforts would make it far easier for fans to get more involved, get their questions answered, develop greater (healthy) obsessions. Best of all, yet again, it means amateurs can get involved quicker, office pools become more detailed and involved, drawing in those number junkies turned off by just how little information the League cares to share, and the more in-depth ideas can be developed and discussed, since the small ones would already be taken care of, readily available for all.

Better stats seems like such a simple thing, to break down a game stat sheet into a format where I can find out how many goals were from 10 feet, how many from 30 feet, how many wristers, how many slap shots, and a myriad of other details could be available at my fingertips with such little effort from the League, while being such a boon to fans and game interest.

Why does it feel like pulling teeth, trying to make such an uncontroversial, simple change? Slip me some better, more accessible stats Gary, and without one cry of “game-ruining change”, you’ll have made far more campers happy than you ever thought possible with just a few more minutes’ work with 1’s and 0’s.

Filed in: NHL General, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net