Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings early overnight report: on advanced stats and standards of performance

Updated 2x at 12:33 AM--I wrote this a little early and the later articles kind of screw with the narrative, but you're a smart bunch, and I'm crossing my fingers that you'll be OK with the way that the later stories influence the earlier "take":

I took a roundabout way to doing what I do for a living, and my trip involved a failed attempt to pursue an engineering degree because I couldn't keep up with Calc III and two attempts to complete a far-too-advanced "statistics and probability" class that ended in failure.

I tend to cringe involuntarily when people start talking about "advanced stats." Strangely enough, however, I've also tended to keep track of shot attempts on a period-by-period basis, noticing on my own that the stat's a superb indicator of who's controlling puck possession...And ExtraSkater's summary of the terms "Corsi" and "Fenwick" both explain that shot attempts are the basis of said numbers, and, unlike those who get into wars insisting that you can't predict a game's results without "seeing it" versus those who suggest that a close look at the scoresheet makes "gut feeling" observations irrelevant:

Corsi  Corsi is the number of shot attempts by a team or player. In other words, it's the sum of a team or players's goals, shots on net, shots that miss the net, and shots that are blocked. It's used as a proxy for puck possession: since we can't (yet) measure how long a player or team has possession of the puck, we use corsi as an approximation. We're interested in puck possession because you can't score if you don't have the puck (and the team that has puck more often usually wins). For players, we usually measure "on-ice" corsi, or all of their team's shot attempts while they're on the ice.

Fenwick  Fenwick is the number of unblocked shot attempts by a team or player. It's the same as corsi, but excludes shots that are blocked. It's used because over many games it's a slightly better proxy for possession than corsi. It's not used exclusively instead of corsi mainly because over smaller sample sizes, the larger corsi number is more accurate in reflecting puck possession.

As suggested by the in-italics part of my intro, there's something of a war between those who believe that hockey--especially when the NHL introduces the extra cameras and player-tracking software that it's stated it will install in rinks over the next two years--can in fact be turned into baseball-style "moneyball" versus those who argue that hockey is too fast-paced and inherently unpredictable to determine a player's worth based upon a few "advanced stats."

NHL teams, or at least the teams that aren't run by Brian Burke, will tell you that they are in fact quite interested in accumulating and analyzing as much information as they possibly can, regardless of whether its "metric" is measured by Corsi, Fenwick, PDO (shooting percentage + save percentage) or "gut feeling," but they will tell you two things:

1. Teams are a little skeptical of the "unbiased" status of team-employed statistical crews. In some rinks, you'll see a team credited with 50-to-60 shot attempts by default, and in others, if the goaltender doesn't have to stop the attempt and the puck doesn't clang off the glass, it's a "dump-in" as far as some stats crews are concerned;

2. Teams are regularly approached by companies who insist that they have in fact found a way to measure and crunch every stat in such a manner as to accurately predict player and team behavior, and for the low low price of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, they'd be happy to provide their services to the team.

So yes, most teams do in fact keep track of Corsi and Fenwick numbers, but the teams tend to prefer to collect their stats independently (see: the Wings' back-up goaltender keeping faceoff stats for the team), and teams are still somewhat leery of those who insist that this or that advanced metric is the best way to analyze a player's effectiveness

37 years after Roger Neilson first began to utilize video scouting to break down games, teams use the NHL's rink cameras and sophisticated video software to break down and catalog plays, but even after the Leafs hired "stats guru" Kyle Dubas as their assistant GM, teams aren't suddenly going to gut their pro scouting staffs, nor is Red Wings coach Mike Babcock going to do anything less than pre-scout his team's next opponent by doing anything less than watching the team's previous 2 games.

Babcock made a surprising set of comments to NHL.com's Dan Rosen today, as noted by Rotoworld...

That's just smart. If you don't have someone dedicated to a relatively new set of information that's available to you, and you can hire someone with a math-and-hockey background to help you navigate all of the newer stats that are "coming online" as the years pass, you need to create a position and fill it.

This doesn't mean that Mark Howe, Kirk Maltby or any of the Wings' pro scouts are going to stop traveling across the country watching as many games in-person as possible to scout both teams and players, this doesn't mean that (as we learned today) Mr. Ilitch's gut feeling won't influence Ken Holland, Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, etc.'s decision-making, and this doesn't mean that all of a sudden, the Wings are going to bench Daniel Cleary because his "numbers suck"...

But it's a change for the good.

Obviously I feel similarly to Babcock--one must avail oneself of all of the available information, but given the thus-far inconsistent set of data collectors, and given that hockey is inherently fast-paced and somewhat unpredictable, I can't say that I feel that stats are a be-all-end-all, nor are "eyeball" viewings and "gut feelings" without statistical context.

I think they're intertwined--which is a good thing--and that this whole argument over what are still a limited number of advanced stats are much ado about people who come from different schools of thought sparring about "who knows better."

Winging it in Motown's Kyle McIlmurray weighed in on Rosen's Tweets:

Not long ago, I think some of us can remember Ken Holland stating that his philosophy was going with "gut analytics." I'll admit, when I heard him say that, I wanted to throw-up all over myself and lay face down on my floor. There is nothing I crave more than a team who thinks progressively, applies new ideas and tries new things. What does Corsi provide you? It provides raw data for a player's shot attempts. It takes out zone-relative data, goalie save percentage, shooting percentage, and shows you if he is getting outshot or is the one doing the majority of the outshooting. Players like Henrik Zetterberg, are possession monsters who anchor the puck, and create shot attempts, where players like Luke Glendening are usually doing the exact opposite.

Earlier this month, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News wrote a piece about NHL teams and how they are beginning to warm up to the untapped world of statistics. The article, which can be found here, mainly cites two NHL general managers. New Jersey's Lou Lamoriello, and our very own Ken Holland. What Kenny said, wasn't TOO much of a surprise. He seems a bit reluctant, but he's obviously starting to entertain the option of investing in it:

Quoting Campbell:

Ken Holland is a lot like [New Jersey Devils GM Lou] Lamoriello. He has run the Detroit Red Wings hockey department for a long time and with enormous success. He’s also an unconventional thinker and one of the more progressive voices in the game. He wants to embrace analytics, but like a lot of other hockey people, isn’t sure the numbers tell a complete story.

“We’ve been talking about it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a big factor in any of our decision making,” Holland said. “Let’s say you’re Pavel Datsyuk’s linemate. You move to another team and not playing with Pavel Datsyuk is going to have an effect on your lack of success. With baseball, it’s more black and white because the pitcher is on the mound and he’s going against the batter. But in hockey, you’ve got four teammates and five opponents who are going to have some impact on what’s going to happen.”

One of the problems with analytics is that the people doing them are taking their information from the event summaries provided by the NHL. Those summaries are done by human beings, all sorts of them, who might have a different interpretation of what just happened. Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said it occurs often. He said the league will sometimes send out video of a disputed goal and ask 10 GMs if it should have counted. Five will come back saying it should count, the other five saying it should be disallowed. A giveaway or takeaway in one arena might not be one in another. Robert Svehla used to lead the league in hits when he played for the Florida Panthers, largely because he could count on being credited with double digits in hits every time he played a home game.

That's very true, very very true. This is still a "young" science by hockey standards, and from a hockey-acceptance standpoint, "advanced stats" are still learning how to walk.

But there are things such as Corsi that take that kind of subjectivity out of the equation. When you’re combining shots, missed shots and blocked shots, you’ve got every kind of possible shot covered. A defensive zone start cannot be disputed, nor can things such as a goalie’s save percentage.

(Yeah, but color me skeptical regarding what counts as a missed shot or blocked shot in a particular rink)

Anyway, Kyle drops a bit of a bombshell before noting that, as you and I know, the Red Wings are a team whose success is built upon puck possession:

So, they've been talking about it.. That's enough to make me excited over it. But speaking to somebody inside the organization, I learned Ken Holland directly told players at this year's Development Camp that they would begin implementing "shot attempt" analysis into their evaluation. Shot attempts = Corsi/Fenwick. Period. And yes, I trust this source.

As Kyle points out, given that assistant GM Ryan Martin was previously the team's salary cap specialist and a player agent, this shouldn't surprise us.

Does getting a "stats guy" mean that, "Hey, Babs, Quincey's got a bad PDO over the past three games, he needs to take a seat" will overrule the coach's decision-making? No, that's not going to happen, but the more information the team can analyze and utilize to their advantage, the better.



Shifting gears but continuing in the same vein, Chris Ilitch's interview on WDFN really did change the "equation" for me. I had assumed that Mr. Ilitch was slowly but surely shifting his focus away from the management of his sports teams, and his apparent status as still very hands-on in the workings of the Tigers and Red Wings...

That explains some stuff, or it at least helps us understand why the management's same-old-same-old, "Let's make a lateral move if we can't land our target in free agency" and, "We're going to be overly loyal to our players, even if it hurts us, because bringing back someone we know is generally a god thing" philosophies are still so entrenched.

Maybe Ken Holland isn't the only person who's thinking that way, and maybe in Cleary's case, he's getting a tap on the shoulder.

I had hoped that Chris Ilitch's different paradigm, combined with Ryan Martin's background (again, he's a lawyer, a former player agent and was the team's salary cap specialist) and Kris Draper's increased role would yield some more aggressive movement, but instead, two years after the team swung and missed on Ryan Suter, they still haven't found the Ryan Suter who was supposed to step into Nicklas Lidstrom's shoes, they still haven't found a right-shooting defenseman, they still haven't added a pure goal-scoring winger to the mix, and they still keep retaining or bringing back alumni who've done little to retain their jobs, never mind earn raises, almost reflexively.

So the regime is in fact "older" than we'd all anticipated, literally and figuratively, wth Mr. I and Jimmy Devellano still having larger roles in player personnel than we'd assumed, and with Chris Ilitch instead taking a business-centric role in the organization.

That doesn't excuse the team's consistently poor offseason results since they landed Brian Rafalski in 2007 and Marian Hossa in 2008, and the Detroit Sports Site's Max DeMara speaks for all of us in this regard--and he does so while wondering whether the Wings will be held to the same or better performance standards now that we know a new arena is 3 years away:

Fans, while loyal, certainly aren’t stupid. They know that lately, the team has badly fallen short of those goals. It’s no one person’s fault that free agents have rejected overtures, or proper moves have been made, but the organization as a whole stands to lose the most goodwill with fans if things cannot get worked out on all these fronts within the next two years. It will help threaten the investment the Ilitch family is making in downtown Detroit and could set the new land development up for quick failure.

The Wings goals remain making the Final Four every year and attempting to make a good run toward the Stanley Cup, and we're certainly not seeing that happen these days.

I do agree with DeMara that there's a little more on the line now that we're talking about a $450 million rink beginning to be built this fall, but I also fear that the organization might rest on its laurels until they're in the new barn and more revenue is flowing.

There are many Wings fans who fully believe that Holland & Company have been told to tread water until the team arrives in its new barn and people are paying more money for tickets, suites, etc., and sub-par on-ice performances provide fertile ground for that line of thought.

Sports, despite being maligned for it, so often does becomes the lifeblood for community and city development. A quality Red Wings product on the ice would only enhance the ability of the new arena district to get off on the right foot. Otherwise, Olympia Entertainment will have to rely on buzz and venue excitement alone to do the trick. In the short term, that would easily happen, but over the course of time, excitement could peak allowing every part of the project to slowly stagnate.

That's the fear regarding the surrounding development. "Everything at once" sounds nice until you look back at the last 40-to-45-years of City of Detroit, Wayne County and State of Michigan governance and insertion of sticky fingers into construction processes to benefit the legislators currently in office and/or their business partners, and if the Ilitches aren't careful, this could get very messy.

The wisest move, at this point, would be for the Ilitch family to begin to demand more both from Ken Holland and themselves in a team building role. The 2013 Red Wings as constructed, and likely the 2014 team as well, wouldn’t be able to match their expected exceptional surroundings with the proper level of play. As a result, what people would be motivated to live in such an area? What diners would come without any other quality entertainment to enjoy? What would shoppers be drawn to purchase if not team apparel first?

That's the good part of this rink being built--it demands a strong "anchor tenant" to draw people downtown 42 regular-season nights and hopefully more than 6-8 playoff nights per season--and that suggests that the team's "low ebb" can't sink any lower than it is now if the team's to bring a premiere product to the new rink in 3 years.

Red Wings fans aren't spoiled in my opinion--we're accustomed to a high standard of excellence, and I don't believe that there's anything wrong with settling for seventh or eighth-best (or worse) given the amount of money that it costs to follow the Wings and attend Wings games.

Since it turns out that Mr. Ilitch is in fact still involved in the Wings' roster machinations, he and the Red Wings' managment and coaching staffs need to examine their regular season, playoff and offseason records of late, and they need to utilize every avenue available to them to ensure that Mr. I's shaking hands with a 39-year-old Pavel Datsyuk and 36-year-old Henrik Zetterberg in three years, and that Mr. I's shaking hands with the elder statesmen of an elite NHL team at that time.

The Wings aren't elite right now, and that's not good enough for Detroit or Red Wings fans, old rink, new rink or no rink.




Otherwise, via RedWingsFeed, Michigan Hockey found a YouTube video sourcing a clip from Fox Sports Detroit's Wingspan, discussing the Little Caesars hockey program, and Kris Draper, Todd Bertuzzi and Danny DeKeyser discuss the tradition and reputation thereof:

Update: FYI/FTR from the Grand Rapids Press's Jon Rzepecki:

A playoff atmosphere has once again found Grand Rapids as Southern Little League will host both the 9/10 and Senior League state baseball tournaments this week.

Western Little League of Grand Rapids (District 9) will field teams in both tournaments. An opening ceremony will be held for the players aged 9-10 at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 25, at MacKay-Jaycees Park off Kalamazoo Avenue.

Games for the 9/10 will begin on Friday before the ceremonies. The tournament will run until the championship game on Wednesday, July 30.


Detroit Red Wings center, and former Southern Little Leaguer, Luke Glendening from East Grand Rapids will speak at the ceremony.

"I have fond memories of my time at Southern Little League and know that each is learning a good deal about baseball and even more about life while making life-long friendships," Glendening said. "That's what Southern Little League is all about."


Update #2: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose penned a "preview" of the Buffalo Sabres, in what's apparently the first part of a 15-part series...

ARRIVALS:  Forward Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Zac Dalpe and Jordan Samuels-Thomas, and defensemen Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros and Tyson Strachan.

DEPARTURES:  Forwards Cory Conacher, Kevin Porter, Zenon Konopka, John Scott and Matt D’Agostini; and defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, Henrik Tallinder, Jamie McBain and Alexander Sulzer.

PLAYER TO WATCH: A quality scoring forward, Matt Moulson was traded – along with forward Cody McCormick – to the Minnesota Wild at the NHL trade deadline. Both have returned to Buffalo. Moulson signed a five-year, $25 million contract to return to a team that is far from contending for an Atlantic Division title but the 30-year-old forward could help the Sabres move away from the bottom of the standings if he can become a 30-goal scorer like he was three seasons ago.

SEASON SCOPE: The Sabres were quite busy on the first day of free agency, but they had to spend money just to reach the league’s $51 million salary cap floor. Buffalo acquired five players, including four UFAs – forwards Matt Moulson (Minnesota), Brian Gionta (Montreal), Cody McCormick (Minnesota) and defenseman Andrej Meszaros (Boston), along with defenseman Josh Gorges, whom they picked up from the Canadiens in a trade for a second-round draft pick in 2016. They also re-signed forward Marcus Foligno.

The signings should make the Sabres more competitive in the upcoming season. But more importantly, the addition of veteran leaders like Moulson, Gionta and Gorges should help with the development of younger Sabres players, most notably this year's second overall draft pick Sam Reinhart, as he transitions from juniors to the NHL.

And the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's article for this morning is entitled, "Red Wings forwards: Health should bring happiness to team, its fans," and it includes a 15-image photo gallery in which Kulfan "breaks down" the Red Wings' forwards. He's going to do the same to the defense on Friday.

The health part comes from Ken Holland:

“We need to get some of our guys healthy,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We like our group, we like the depth we have. We just need a good summer (of getting healthy) and get to training camp.”

Veterans such as [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Henrik] Zetterberg, [Johan] Franzen and [Darren] Helm will ultimately have a big influence on the success of the Red Wings’ season. But how much further a batch of young forwards who got their first taste of the NHL last season progress -- that also will be crucial.

Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening all either made their NHL debuts – or earned their first consistent playing time – and all were impressive. Nyquist (28 goals in 57 games) and Tatar (19 goals), in particular, showed glimpses of being dangerous offensive players.

“Our young players, they were really key in us making the playoffs last year and they’re a year older,” Holland said.

Two wild cards for the Red Wings are Daniel Alfredsson and Anthony Mantha – two players on opposite points of their respective careers.

Alfredsson, 41, will decide in late August whether to return for another season. Plagued by an aching back at points during the regular season and playoffs, Alfredsson will see whether he’s healthy enough to endure another season.

Mantha, 19, a 2013 first-round draft pick, scored 81 goals in 81 games last season (57 regular season, 24 playoffs) in junior hockey. The Red Wings will give Mantha an opportunity to win a spot on one of the top two lines, or send him to Grand Rapids for an introduction to pro hockey.

Among Kulfan's photo gallery comments...

RW Johan Franzen -- He is who he is, which frustrates Red Wings fans terribly. An inconsistent goal-scorer who can still be counted on for about 25-30 goals, which makes Franzen still a factor in today's NHL.


RW Tomas Jurco -- With options remaining, there's a good chance Jurco will be this season's Gustav Nyquist and start the season in Grand Rapids. A bit more seasoning in the AHL might not be the worst thing for Jurco.


RW Gustav Nyquist -- What is Nyquist's ceiling? It'll be exciting to find out. He's scored at every level he's played, so there's no reason to doubt Nyquist can score in the NHL, too.

And on Twitter...

Update #2.5: NHL.com's Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen issued their "Offseason top 200" fantasy player rankings, and let's just say that they reflect the Wings' rough playoff performance.

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There are aspects to them that do/dont work for hockey.When it comes to advanced stats i think its harder to quantify it in hockey vs say baseball. Baseball is essentially 1 vs 1 with completely routine plays on repeat. Hockey ,to me at least, just contains soooooo many freaking variables and i understand the system tries to account for but it cant completely. All that being i said i am SHOCKED that the wings didn’t have a stats guy. Well they did resign Cleary and so i guess im not that shocked.

Posted by brians neck on 07/23/14 at 09:25 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

George, I’ve never agreed with you as much as I do here:

Obviously I feel similarly to Babcock—one must avail oneself of all of the available information, but given the thus-far inconsistent set of data collectors, and given that hockey is inherently fast-paced and somewhat unpredictable, I can’t say that I feel that stats are a be-all-end-all, nor are “eyeball” viewings and “gut feelings” without statistical context.

I think they’re intertwined—which is a good thing—and that this whole argument over what are still a limited number of advanced stats are much ado about people who come from different schools of thought sparring about “who knows better.”

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 07/23/14 at 11:47 PM ET


Corsi and Fenwick will enhance the NHL as a product, but it won’t decide things like analytics do in the other sports, and this is for reasons stated in the piece.  Hockey is an attempt at harnessing chaos (i.e. the effect ice has on people and objects). 

The rink issue is much more important.  2013-14 HAS to be treated as the team’s low-point by the owners and all employed by them.  A snazzy new complex with a team as bad or worse than last season’s would be an embarrassment, and would draw senseless, depressing comparisons to Ford Field.  This is why it’s so important the youth be allowed to flourish.  They are why the Wings extended the playoff streak and they are the team’s only shot at success, both in the short and long-term. 

Great piece George.

Posted by ianfdunham on 07/24/14 at 12:07 AM ET

Jaromir Blogger's avatar

Numbers will never, ever paint the whole picture of a sports game just as words describing a sunset will never truly capture what one looks like.

Nice write-up, George.

Posted by Jaromir Blogger on 07/24/14 at 02:21 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Thanks for the compliments…Are they as rare as I think they are this summer? wink

The stats war baffles me. You’ve got information that frames what you watch and how you assess a game, and you’ve got your eyes and your experience with the game. They’re both important, so why not just use ‘em and calm the *#$%@& down about the concept that there is only one way to assess something?

As for the “rink issue,” Mr. I’s legacy project isn’t going to open with a bang if the on-ice product is suffering, and given that tickets are going to be more expensive—and that corporate customers are fickle—who the hell knows, if the Wings suck at that time, we might very well see empty seats by December of 2017.

I don’t believe that Wings fans have to “settle,” I just don’t. The “low ebb” may very well reflect a confluence of factors in the front office brain drain (no Todd McLellan, no Steve Yzerman, no Jim Nill, no Joe McDonnell, no Pat Verbeek, no Steve Thomas, no Bill Peters, no Tom Renney, Jeff Blashill in Grand Rapids, etc. etc.) and the hard cap catching up to the Wings post-Cup (Hossa, Kopecky, Filppula, Hudler etc. going elsewhere), but the team never really adequately adjusted to Brian Rafalski’s absence, never mind Nicklas Lidstrom’s, and going back to the, “We know ‘em, they must be good” well (Jason Williams, Ty Conklin, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, and now the nearly-gone Cleary and nearly-gone Quincey) hasn’t helped, especially cap-wise…

But I look at little things like the team’s decision to sign Trevor Parkes over Darren Archibald, a big depth forward who the Canucks just re-signed, the strangeness with which the Damien Brunner situation was handled, the telegraphing of the team’s interest on Stephen Weiss (we knew it five months early) and the utter mess that Jim Nill’s departure left in terms of the front office’s operations last summer and fall (t’was a mess), and I think, “Come on, let’s see a little more attention to detail here.”

I look at the team’s signing of three players (Berschbach, Hirschfeld and Zengerle) to AHL contracts, the team’s decision to draft some “overagers” in Kadeykin and Janmark, Tyler Wright’s willingness to draft based upon need as opposed to just “the best player available” and Babcock’s decision to bring in a seasoned NHL coach and assistant coach instead of betting on unproven “new voices” in the Granato hiring and I see at least some subtle signs that the organization’s aware of its shortcomings and, aside from its free agency freak-out, at least some sort of willingness to address them.

The fact that Jeff Blashill has to find two new assistant coaches is a little unnerving, and the team’s decision to invite SO MANY NCAA free agents to the summer camp instead of bringing in the Frks, Wheatons, etc. was a little odd, but at least they’re experimenting there.

There really are people who believe that the team’s just going to tread water until 2017, and I hope they’re wrong. I see more positive than negative, again, save the free agent signings, but there’s no doubt that the “low ebb” can’t get any lower.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/24/14 at 03:24 AM ET

d ca's avatar

I liked Calc III (& diff eq). Stats that used calc (to find p vals using area under the curves) instead of look up tables were just the profs way of getting off on a power trip. Let you in on a little secret…had you finished your egr degree around ‘01 or later you would have a 1 in 4 chance of working in another field anyways (with finance being the most likely resultant choice)...it’s why these companies are crying for STEM grads as the retirees are leaving and they didn’t hire or train enough after the economy tanked following 9/11. Plus you would have left Michigan and been forced to watch the Wings on a slingbox like I was instead of in true hd and good luck trying to find a bar with the NHL package in the South (even across from the RBC Center which housed the Hurricanes).

So there was some good that came out of it. And at least you’re not saying when will I ever use this in real life to this day.

Posted by d ca on 07/24/14 at 03:34 AM ET


Good stuff, George.

I believe we’ve been retooling since roundabout 2010. We’ve tried to keep the core intact and The Streak alive while building a stable full of very promising futures. We’ve kept the door open to the possibility that we might be able to “win now,” but I guess some top free agents have sort of made the hard decisions for us on that front (i.e. “They don’t want to come here? Then we push on with building the stable.”) Now we’re in a position where, in addition to a solid (if old) core, we’re starting to get contributions from kids on early, affordable contracts. That kind of value - several top-end players and an army of cheap, young killers - is something all Cup-winning teams have these days. My hope is that Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan, Jurco, Pulkkinen, Mantha, Athanasiou, Smith, DeKeyser, Ouellet, Marchenko, Sproul, Backman, Jensen, Mrazek, et al. is a good enough pool to get us back to the top before our core leaders are ancient or, in Datsyuk’s case, gone.

Something else we have going in our favor: beyond the Bruins, the Eastern Conference appears to be wide open.

Posted by Dont Toews Me Bro on 07/24/14 at 04:42 AM ET


What baffles me about Detroit and “advanced stats” is that advanced stats tend to confirm Detroit’s puck possession philosophy.  A new statistic should tell you what you already know, plus a little something extra.  If the new start produces results that are completely counterintuitive, it’s probably a bad number, because people watching the game aren’t stupid.

So guys like Tyler Dellow argue that CorsiRel is the best way to measure a defenseman’s effectiveness.  Then he looks at a bunch of prominent guys since 2008 and low and behold, Nick Lidstrom was the best over that period, with a downward blip in 2011.  Guys reconstruct “approximate” Corsi for the pre 2007-2008 days, and the Red Wings were insanely dominant, telling us again what we know—that Yzerman, Fedorov, and the other stars of that era were possession monsters, while the Avalanche, while good, relied on fast-break offense and star goaltending to rival Detroit.

N.B., George, a “bad PDO” would be a reason not to bench a player.  PDO is an attempt to measure a player’s “luck”, with “luck” here meaning “events that happen on this ice that he doesn’t personally influence.”  It does this by looking at shot percentage and save percentage.  As a result it also is a measurement of “this guy’s line is driving possession but not finishing.”

Let’s take a hypothetical.  Detroit has called up a prospect defenseman—let’s say Sproul—and he needs to bench a veteran.  He has two choices—Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl.  Quincey is minus 3 over the last 3 games and Kindl is plus 3 with an assist.  Easy call, but Babcock looks at the PDO.

Quincey has been on the ice for 30 Detroit shots and 30 shots against.  Howard has let in 3 goals with Quincey on the ice and Detroit has been shut out.  Quincey’s PDO is 90 (0% shooting percentage + 90% save percentage.) 

Kindl has been on the ice for 10 Detroit shots and 30 shots against.  Howard has saved everything with Kindl on the ice and Detroit has scored 3 goals.  Kindl’s PDO is 130 (30% shooting percentage + 100% save percentage.) 

That changes the picture—how often do you get outscored 3-0 when even in shots?  How often do you outscore an opponent 3-0 while being outshot 3-to-1

I would hope at this point a coach looks at the individual scoring events—did Quincey personally screw up on the goals against?  Is Kindl doing something amazing that explains that shooting percentage?  Is it the guys they’re out there with, or against?—but in general it would be more likely, if you started Kindl in the next game, that he’d repeat the “outshot-3-to-1” part of his performance than the “130-PDO” part, and in general it is more likely that Quincey would repeat the evenly-in-shots part than the 90 PDO part.

This postseason Crosby had a lousy PDO and Malkin had a good one, and the commentariat starting talking about how Malkin was having a great postseason and Crosby had “disappeared.”  Corsi and Fenwick show they both drove possession (Crosby actually a bit better).  There’s a bunch of theories as to why their production was different—bad luck?  Crosby’ wrist injury?  Crosby’s crummy linemates?  Any could be right.  The worst theory is “Malkin is clutch and Crosby’s a choker”, because in other postseasons, Crosby’s had the better PDO than Malkin.

Posted by captaineclectic on 07/24/14 at 06:40 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

so why not just use ‘em and calm the *#$%@& down about the concept that there is only one way to assess something?

Nobody. Thinks. This.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/24/14 at 08:20 AM ET


The Wings goals remain making the Final Four every year and attempting to make a good run toward the Stanley Cup, and we’re certainly not seeing that happen these days.

Not really.  It’s been “make the playoffs and anything can happen” the last several seasons.

As to advanced stats, of course you have to have both (watch the game and take them into consideration).  That’s what drives me nuts about the stats geeks.  It’s really all they care about and they shove them down our throats all the time.  I’ve always felt the same as Ken Holland: Pavel drives possession so his linemates benefit.  That’s smartly using the eye test to back up (and refute in cases like Cleary when he’s on a line with Pav or Hank, since he hardly ever touches the puck) what the numbers tell us.

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/24/14 at 08:27 AM ET


so why not just use ‘em and calm the *#$%@& down about the concept that there is only one way to assess something?
Nobody. Thinks. This.

Except. The. People. That. Do. And. There. Are. Plenty. On. Twitter.

Posted by brians neck on 07/24/14 at 11:36 AM ET


No one truly believes there’s only one way to assess something, but there’s certainly plenty of people who don’t care one bit for advanced stats. I’m assuming that’s what George was talking about…?

Posted by Dont Toews Me Bro on 07/24/14 at 11:53 AM ET

alwaysaurie's avatar

so why not just use ‘em and calm the *#$%@& down about the concept that there is only one way to assess something? Nobody. Thinks. This. - J.J. from Kansas

That is not EXACTLY true. This is what’s true.

Nobody. Whose opinion is worth 2¢. Thinks. This.

There’s plenty of idiots in the world.

Posted by alwaysaurie on 07/24/14 at 12:25 PM ET


I’m a bit more cynical with regards to what Chris Illtch will or won’t say with regards to who is making the major decisions for the Wings.  I do not see the situation where he would ever admit to someone besides his dad being ‘in charge’, largely because there is no direct benefit to anyone in doing so.  By saying Mike is no longer in charge he merely begins the ‘oh my gosh is he ill?’ rumor mill which would run indefinitely.

The smart move is to simply support the ostensible power structure and not cause any problems.  Hey, it may even be true.

The stats war baffles me.

It should not, because it is happening on the internet.  There will be a long-running stats war.  There will be a looming prospect war.  Then the lineups and roster role wars.  Then the trade deadline war. Then the coaching war.  Then the GM war.  They will all flare and recede based on the time within the season, exactly like allergies.

Stat analysis is just another club in the bag.  It used to be a 3 iron, something you’d use only sparingly and in very specific situations, and it’s slowly developing into something more like a hybrid 4 iron, a thing with greater utility in more situations but still not effective enough to be relied on primarily to navigate the course.

IMO the absolute best case scenario for the future development of analytics in the NHL is (to continue the metaphor) to get to the point where advanced stats are a Driver.  Something you use to get you going in the right direction that, when used properly, weeds out 70-80% of the trouble on a hole.  Then the eyes on the jerseys makes all the final corrections and rounds up or rounds down the general assessment.

I just don’t see how analytics can ever get beyond that point in a free-flow sport like hockey that has so many consecutive, often simultaneous, and definitely inter-dependent events of significance.  Further, I think it would be practically impossible to utilize most of that information on an in-game basis.  By the time a human being could see a statistically relevant situation coalescing it would be too late to realize that, search and secure the relevant statistical info, and then make on the fly lineup changes to implement whatever the statistical deduction suggests.

It’s interesting to see people chew on it, though.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 07/24/14 at 12:43 PM ET


Posted by jkm2011 on 07/24/14 at 08:27 AM ET

It’s important to distinguish “what the numbers say”, meaning the whole picture of advanced stats, and “what cherry-picking raw Corsi or Fenwick says”.  The latter ignores the wealth of surrounding, contextualizing numbers.

As an example, in the 2011-2012 season, Cleary had the 5th best Corsi among Detroit forwards (minimum 20 games played), behind Datsyuk, Franzen, Zetterberg, and Helm.  If I cherry-pick that number and say “Corsi says Cleary was better in 2011-2012 than Hudler, even though Hudler scored 25 goals and Cleary scored 12, and better than Filppula, who had 66 points and is better defensively,” you would rightly think “that’s a terrible statistic, because it’s telling me something that I know is wrong from watching the games and common-sense.”

But no “stats geek” would limit the data to raw Corsi, they’d keep looking.  If we really wanted a clear picture, we’d have to look at his Corsi Relative, not just his Corsi raw (he dips below Bert and ties with Hudler), who he played with, which we can do via CorsiRel QoT (Cleary’s teammates were better than Hudler’s but worse than Bertuzzi’s or Filppula’s), who he played against (generally weak competition), which we can do via CorsiRel QoC, and how he was deployed (biased toward offense), which we can do by looking at his zone starts. 

We’d need a really thorough analysis to rank him confidently, but a case can be made that he ranked below Bert (more defensive use and tougher competition, but that’s because he played with Datsyuk a lot), Flip (much tougher competition and more defensive use, but better linemates too), and Hudler (slightly worse possession numbers, but also worse linemates, tougher competition, and higher production.) 

The picture that emerges from looking at just the publicly-available numbers on BehindtheNet, in short, is that Cleary was probably less valuable overall in 2011-2012 than Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Bertuzzi, Hudler, Filppula, and probably Helm, who drove possession very effectively in his role.

I don’t think that’s offensive to the “eyeball test” from 2011-2012, taken as a whole.

Posted by captaineclectic on 07/24/14 at 01:23 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Except. The. People. That. Do. And. There. Are. Plenty. On. Twitter.

Let’s get some names. I know a guy on Twitter pretending to be Gary Busey. Put your money where your mouth is.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/24/14 at 01:54 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

JKM contributing to the discussion. I’m proud of you!  excaim  tongue wink

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/24/14 at 01:56 PM ET


numbers can be used to promote anything that’s even remotely true—homer simpson. i didnt need stats to tell me that cleary benefited from his linemates. i watched it. but i’m sure theres some other geek out there that will skew your numbers in cleary’s favor, if only to “disprove” the eye test.

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/24/14 at 09:52 PM ET


but i’m sure theres some other geek out there that will skew your numbers in cleary’s favor, if only to “disprove” the eye test.

Yep, the only reason these stats exist is to try to prove you wrong.

And please, if you’re going quote Homer Simpson, try to get it right.

Posted by Garth on 07/24/14 at 10:43 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I looked it up!

Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that.


Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/24/14 at 11:48 PM ET

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