A little morning listening courtesy TSN1050‘s Blue Lunch — Hockey Abstract’s Rob Vollman joined the show to discuss the summer of analytics and the Leafs‘ recent hires. One of the field’s true pioneers, Vollman is a well spoken guy who does a great job breaking down the powers and limitations of the current state of hockey analytics in this segment. Take a listen:
- What would you as an analytics guy say to a coach like Randy Carlyle when trying to fix the “possession game?”
Vollman: I don’t often talk to coaches. It’s two very separate things, what they do and what I do. There’s not a lot of overlap between us. But if I am going to have a conversation with a coach, I’m probably going to sit down and take out a Player Usage Chart. It’s a simple mechanism that shows whether the players are being used in the offensive or the defensive zone, whether they are playing against the top lines or the depth lines, and how the team does possession wise in each of those situations. The two of us would look it over and we’d sort of look at how he’s using those players, and maybe if there’s a more effective deployment of those players. But even that is a little bit of a stretch. I really doubt that if I showed Randy Carlyle a player usage chart, that he’d really be shocked with anything he saw.
- Is there anything left to prove in terms of the value of Corsi and Fenwick and if they lead to actual results? Do we need to see more of a sample size before we see “proof?”
Vollman: I don’t think so, but I see where you’re going. You want to top short with saying something like possession is the ‘be all end all,’ that it’s the only thing that matters. There’s goaltending, there’s special teams, there’s shooting; there’s all sorts of other things. There is no one element of the game which is the magic bullet. But people have always known that possession is key. You don’t need a copy of Hockey Abstract to know that. I think what’s new is that we now have a way of recording possession or counting possession which is something we didn’t have 10 years ago. It’s more showing that our statistics and our numbers actually do match possession; improving possession will improve the numbers, and when the numbers go up it typically means possession has improved. In terms of establishing the value of possession, we’ve known that for a long time.
- How advantageous could this information be in terms of developing a game plan for opponents?
Vollman: I tend to look at hockey as sort of 6 subgames, and those subgames are — the ability to bring the puck out of the zone, the ability to enter the opponent’s zone, the ability to translate that possession into a shot, and then of course the ability to prevent those three things. Players excel in different ways, and in different combinations in those six subgames. I think the real value here is taking a look at how the players perform in each of those six subgames, and then using that information to map lines against the opponent and key in on the right players and in the right situations.
Lots of good stuff in that segment. Give it a listen.
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