Now, before you bewail another “advanced stats debate,” give this latest article by Anthony Petrielli some time of day. He’s given us permission to post some lengthier excerpts before you head over to his general hockey blog to read the rest.
Last week, the National Post published a story centered on the Leafs Jay McClement. In it, McClement referenced some of the stats coaching staffs track and utilize. After pointing it out as an interesting tool, I received some replies that suggested it was basically a useless waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. As someone who coaches hockey, I consider some of the things the Leafs coaching staff tracks to be useful as a teaching mechanism for my players. If I had access to those stats for my team I would use them all the time to breakdown plays, consistencies, weaknesses, strengths, etc. The thing is, most of these stats are not great indicators of long-term sustainability with the ability to project the future well. Herein lies the key fact of the matter: there are differences between coaching stats and GM stats, and those different stats have different values depending on your position and what you’re trying to achieve.
My goal here isn’t to breakdown all the stats and assign them labels as a “coach stat” or “GM stat;” what I’m really trying to do is discuss how stats have various strengths and weaknesses, and how they can help or hurt our judgement depending on how we are viewing the game.
A good place to start would be discussing the stats in question and the ones the Leafs used. There were only two named and they were tracking turnovers-takeaway ratios and tracking hitting location, both of which I’d say are fairly peripheral for a GM but can be important for a coach to use.
We already know how the Leafs breakdown turnovers, because they’ve told us. Carlyle records turnovers in three categories: 1) Guy is playing as an individual; 2) Offensive player takes chance; 3) ‘Brain-dead.’ What that really means, when it comes to the Leafs tracking turnovers, is that coaching staff wants to erase 3). You can show a player his CORSI and it will mean absolutely nothing and have no effect on his game whatsoever, but if you’re breaking down his turnovers with him maybe that leads to a swing of shots on net against to a few more shots for.
Furthermore, that turnover description can also be broken down through player roles. Yes, the Leafs let Phil Kessel take chances (and again, I’m just using the Leafs as an example here but this applies to every team, really) because he’s in a scoring role and that’s what they ask him to do. However, a player like Jay McClement is in a grinding role so the Leafs aren’t as comfortable with him falling under the “1” category. If McClement loses the puck once or twice a game because he’s tried to beat a defenseman one-on-one, that’s probably not acceptable; that’s not his role. I’d wager a guess that they would ask him to chip and chase, or pass the puck to the trailer, instead of deking.
Showing players the type of turnovers they make and what they can and can’t do is how you preach puck management. You can’t just show a player his possession stats and think that’s going to change anything; you need to look into what’s causing that and how you change that. Specifically breaking down turnovers is one way that can be done.
On tracking hits:
That takes us to tracking hits. Hits have some, little, or no value at all depending on your beliefs, but knowing where a guy is making his hits can be valuable in maximizing a player’s efficiency. Regardless of where you stand on the value of a hit, the ability to hit a guy, separate him from the puck, and retrieve it for possession is important and valuable for any player to have. If player X and player Y both throw 100 hits, and X has 25 hits that change possession while Y has 35, player Y is obviously more valuable physically. I’d like to see the breakdown of X’s hits to see why he’s being physical yet not able to change possession as much. Although Dustin Brown is a much better player than Cal Clutterbuck, I would compare their hitting styles (as their hit counts are usually similar) and guess that Brown is much more effective at hitting on the forecheck and getting the puck versus Cal Clutterbuck, who more just finishes a lot of his checks. As a coach you can’t just shrug and say “well I have Cal Clutterbuck who hits a lot but isn’t very effective at doing so to turn the puck over.” You actually need to try and find ways to maximize his skillset. That’s what good coaches do.
There’s no doubt that this is a little thing, but it’s a win if a coach gets a forward who hits a lot to throw 20 more hits over the course of the year that cause a change in possession and lead to, say, two extra goals. Showing his defensemen when to finish hits in the D-zone and when not to, leading to better positioning and preventing three goals against that otherwise probably would have happened, is a win. A coach can only use what he has – something that is too often forgotten online — so if he’s getting players to be just a little more effective than usual, that’s a win.
Even in Moneyball, we see the staff talking to players about things such as “if you take a first pitch strike, your batting average drops X for the rest of the at bat” versus telling a player, “your OBP is too low, now you know, so change that.” Is OBP useful in baseball? Of course. Is it useful in terms of teaching a player how to improve though? Not really.
What it really boils down: Coaches use certain stats to cover the nuances of the game, and the GM uses overarching stats that look at the big picture to ask “what’s all this work really producing?”
This is why I believe many coaches are terrible GMs. Mike Keenan (Luongo trade) and Darryl Sutter (Phaneuf trade) immediately come to mind. Being a GM takes a certain mind frame where you are always projecting the future, working within the parameters of the cap, juggling expiring veteran contracts with the rookies in your organization, and so on. The best GMs are ones who can properly analyze and predict the future and when to buy low and sell high.
Coaches, meanwhile, look at players and see, “I like this size in my line-up” or, “I want that guy because he wins a lot of battles.” It’s a completely different thought process.
Next time you see an organization discuss a stat they use, really take a second to consider how they might be using that stat before you instantly criticize it simply because you don’t agree with it.
Read the full article here.
This was an interesting look at result vs. process when it comes to statistics in hockey. It makes an important distinction on what stats can be applicable at the coaching level and which are useless to a coach (but perhaps useful to a GM) when trying to utilize analytical tools to get the most out of his team of players. In the process it provides some insights on how numbers and eyeballing can be complement one another rather than clash.
It also further illustrated a point as it pertains to the Leafs and their use of analytics – calling the Leafs backward simply because we don’t know what exactly they track, other than knowing they may not be the same metrics one may have come to understand online, is presumptive and narrow minded. Greg Cronin caught some flak for having no clue what Corsi was, but why would he? He can’t instruct his players to “do more Corsis,” and telling a player only to throw more pucks on net in most cases is not going help him perform any better anyway. Slowly, it seems, we are beginning to learn of some the stats the Leafs do place value on. The Leafs track and categorize hits and turnovers; they also track, grade and break scoring chances down into six different categories. They look at zone entries and odd man rushes. These all have interesting and potentially useful applications.
Tuesday morning links…
Latest on Kadri: Give and Take
Pretty much exactly what we’ve been talking about here while everyone was flipping out over Kadri’s long term demands. Kadri wants Duchene’s contract (2 x $3.5m), Leafs want to give him Couture’s contract (2 x $2.85m).
Top 25 under 25: #3 Nazem Kadri
Read some more about Kadri, if you feel you haven’t heard enough about him lately.
Mason Raymond – Pre Injury/Post Injury, and what does his future hold?
Again, provided this is unrelated to any outstanding contract situations, Anthony put in best in a chat yesterday when he said, “worse case he’s a guy who will score a few goals just by being so damn fast.” We’ll see how he looks.
Does/Should Morgan Rielly make the team
Said Rielly over the weekend: “Not gonna lie, I know what capgeek is.”
Getting to Know Dion Phaneuf
Yes, he smiles.
Leafs Announce Training Camp Roster: http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2013/09/10/leafs-announce-training-camp-roster/…
James van Riemsdyk speaks out on Leafs
Winger defends Bozak, talks Kessel, Clarkson and Kadri
My "short list" of players that definitely require editing in NHL 14 is 114 players long. Yikes. That isn't even fine-tuning, it's fixing ratings that clearly stand out.
If Kadri isn't signed by the start of the season, which I don't think will be a problem, Raymond could be signed and the Leafs would be able to go with the following up front.
JVR - Bozak - Kessel
Lupul - Colborne - Clarkson
Raymond - Bolland - Kulemin
McLaren - McClement - Orr
Not too bad if you ask me.
Phil Kessel would have helped win the Bruins their second cup. Afterall kessel is only a carreer PPG player in the Playoffs with Boston and with Toronto. hehe
If Pitkanen is out for an extended period of time, I could definitely see Liles being traded to Carolina for a mid-round pick.
Can't see the Hurricanes wanting to go into the season with the following defence:
Gleason - Faulk
Harrison - Murphy
Sekera - Komisarek
(Jordan - Bellemore)
@DWCMLHS haha why go into tthat much trouble?...I hear they are gonna change ratings as the season goes by how well a player is playing
@DWCMLHS Make an App and sell it so others dont have to :)
@.JVR. Yes yes and yes and I approve lol,Joe on the 2 end where he belongs depending how he does at camp that is ,
@mORRganRielly Why's that MR?.....not on twitter.....who they roasting today?
@dlb eh It was basically "Seguin is soft and a brat."
Hard to knock the approach when it's led to success. Bruins want everybody on their team willing to engage physically, be effective on the forecheck, and be able to go to war in the playoffs. The comment "we like his speed... in the regular season" was interesting.
They're really committed to their organizational culture and identity.. it seemed when they referenced Kessel, they really don't care about his production in Toronto because he didn't do what they ask of their players. It's not that teams can't win with a player like Kessel, obviously, but they're really committed to what they believe in.
@Waiting4LSC it was a "gotcha" moment.
I think Kadri will be signed and Colborne will be buried in the bottom 6, so I don't expect to much from him this season.
As for Raymond, I have no idea if he's good defensively or not.
@Alec Brownscombe @dlb eh
What did they (Bruins) expect when they drafted Kessel and Seguin? Seriously, they have scouts that can tell them what kind of "leopard" they are. I think most hockey fans, even with the most basic knowledge, would have been able to tell you that they aren't that kind of player. Sure they could maybe play "harder" when the playoff come around, but by how much really.
I wonder how they felt when Kessel out muscled Chara along the boards lol
@dlb eh What Video? Let me watch too lol
Also, the key word is "potential".
Seguin has the "potential" to be among the best centers in the NHL, while Kessel already is among the best wingers in the league.
So, you don't think having Kessel in the lineup improved the team at all?
So, you think Burke would have selected Seguin over Hall?
Also, I really don't think Seguin's ceiling is higher. His ceiling is about the same as Kessel, but I don't see him being better than Kessel in 2-3 years time.
@-Keon- Frattin is probably one of the very few examples I could think of where a player here gets overvalued.
Are you guys serious right now? Leaf players are never overvalued. They're run out of town. We've spent years running down Kessel while he was busy being at the top of the league. I can't think of an organization where the fans undervalue their players more.
Yea, you're probably right man.
But that has more to do with the fact that we, as Leafs fans, overvalue our own players.
We may not trade Seguin (if we had him) for Kessel, but I'm sure the 30 NHL GM's would make that trade in a nanosecond.
(BTW, if we didn't trade for Kessel, we probably would have finished last in 2009/10 and would have drafted Hall 1st overall)