Archive for the ‘stats’ Category

CLS shares its "NHL BCS" (First Week of Nov.)

November 5, 2009

I’ve been throwing some fun little statistics at you lately, but numbers are only fun when they lead to people writing angry comments. That (along with porn and pirating music/movies/ships) is what the Internet is for, right?

So to cause you a conniption or two, I took the composite average of each teams rankings in the four categories (Net Goals, True PP, True PK and Special Teams Plus/Minus). Granted, some stats are more important than others … and it is still a small sample … but let’s see where each team stacks up.

The Excel Spreadsheet will be listed at the bottom of this post so you can see for yourself.
Please Note: these rankings are based on stats taken before Tuesday’s games, just like the stats from yesterday’s post.

Final Note: This is a COMPLETELY impartial list based strictly off the numbers. There may be Power Rankings based on projections and opinions in the future, but for now this is just rankings along with commentary.

(The commentary is delightfully biased, however.)

The Elite

1. San Jose Sharks

Average: 5

My fearful Stanley Cup pick is doing pretty well so far. They’re the second ranked team in Net Goals and Special Teams Plus/Minus. Maybe they won’t stay at #1 all season but they’re likely to be an elite team in just about any numerical system barring catastrophes.
2. Philadelphia Flyers
Average: 5.25
Much like last year, the Flyers stand out once you consider True PP and True PK. They’re also pretty damn solid at 5-on-5, to boot. So far people who chose a SCF run for Philly are looking fairly bright.
3. New York Rangers
Average: 5.5
Their True PP and Net Goals Scored could be altered quite a bit if Marian Gaborik cannot stay healthy and their young D slows down. Still, their strong showing is a sign that Torts knows what he’s doing.
4. Colorado Avalanche
Average: 6.25
While only being solid on the PP, the Avs have been an elite team in the other three categories. Who knows how long they can keep this up, but so far the numbers say “top 10 team.”
5. Atlanta Thrashers

Average: 7
An Ilya-free team could drop precipitously, but the chink in Atlanta’s armor has been Net Goals instead of Penalty Kill. Can their out-of-nowhere strong goaltending continue? Who knows.
Strong Contenders

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

Average: 10.5
Injuries to Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and others will probably mean that the Penguins’ numbers will fall a bit (or dramatically) across the board. It’s still pretty impressive that the Penguins have managed a 7-0 road record, so far.
7. (tied) Phoenix Coyotes
Average: 11.25
The only below average unit appears to be their Penalty Kill (seventeenth best True PK%). Phoenix might not be playing a crowd-pleasing style, but winning is a good thing, too. Good luck ‘Yotes.
7. (tied) Calgary Flames
Average: 11.25
A highly efficient (third best True PP) powerplay is what makes the Flames dangerous so far this season. I’d also like to say “not employing Mike Keenan” is another strength in their favor.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets
Average: 12.75
Oddly enough, the Blue Jackets are a little bit weak in Net Goals Scored (19th best) while having strong special teams. Don’t be shocked if this club makes the playoffs again this year.
10. Chicago Blackhawks
Average: 13.75
A surprisingly tepid PP (ranked 20th in True PP) underscores just how scary this group will be whenever they get healthy returns from Captain Serious and Marian Hossa. The John Madden acquisition looks like a smart move.
11. (tied) Ottawa Senators
Average: 14
The Heatley-free Senators are pretty weak with a man advantage (25th in True PP) but sport the best True PK in the league. Hell, they’ve only allowed seven PP goals while scoring four shorthanded!
11. (tied) New York Islanders
Average: 14
Perhaps the biggest hole in this ranking system, the Islanders have at least shown a notable friskiness so far this season. They’ve managed to stay in a lot of games with efficient special teams but lack the talent level to do much 5-on-5. You cannot ask NYI to do much better than 5-5-5 in 15 GP.
13. (tied) Vancouver Canucks
Average: 15
The Canucks’ numbers are all over the place, but ultimately they’re fittingly middle-of-the-road. It’s going to be tough for Vancouver to make the playoffs this year, let alone win their division, with the schedule and obstacles (Luongo injury) they are facing.
13. (tied) Minnesota Wild
Average: 15
The Wild make it this high because of their absolutely excellent PK and a respectable PP. The bottom line, though, is that they’re 27th in the NHL in Net Goals Scored. Middle-of-the-road is probably their ceiling at this point.
15. Washington Capitals
Average: 16.75
There was a time when it seemed like Washington might compile the greatest PP unit ever. That unit slowed down considerably, but the Caps rank highly in Net Goals Scored (7th) and should be a top-1o team in these rankings by the end of the season. Even if Ovie misses a few weeks.
16. (tied) Buffalo Sabres
Average: 18
Buffalo is playing over their heads right now, with the sixth best ranking in Net Goals Scored despite mediocre special teams numbers. Let’s hope Ryan Miller and friends can keep it together, though.
Ham and Eggers

16. (tied) Edmonton Oilers

Average: 18
Despite finishing with the same average as Buffalo, the Oilers are the quintessential mediocre NHL team. They rank middle of the road in all four categories. They average one point earned per game played (15). Yawn.
18. New Jersey Devils
Average: 18.25
Nothing surprising about these Devils, really. My guess is they make it to the playoffs and then find their thin defense unable to support anything more than a second round run at best. Still, with all the turnover in this decade it’s amazing this team can keep up year after year.
19. (tied) Los Angeles Kings
Average: 18.5
The Kings ultimately are brought down by a fairly awful penalty kill (28th ranked True PK%) but are around the top third in the league in Net Goals Scored and True PP. The Kings really could be primed for a playoff run this season.
19. (tied) Dallas Stars
Average: 18.5
Dallas is in an odd spot this year. Yes, they do have some serious talent but this team is far from elite. It’s ultimately unclear what direction the Stars want to take. Is simply making the playoffs the only goal year after year?
21. Detroit Red Wings
Average: 18.75
These stats were taken before Chris Osgood managed a nice shutout of the fledgling Boston Bruins, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Red Wings have left a lot to be desired in their own end. Their PP is still pretty damn deadly, though. They’ll be OK. Will they be great? That remains to be seen.
Government Cheese

22. Toronto Maple Leafs

Average: 21.5
Toronto is an odd duck in these stats: the best True PP% and the worst True PK% on one team. Let’s face it, though, those special teams numbers won’t really mean much if Toronto remains the fourth-worst team in Net Goals.
23. St. Louis Blues

Average: 21.75
Quietly one of the league’s most disappointing teams.
24. Carolina Hurricanes
Average: 23.25
The worst team in the league in Net Goals and that’s before the team was shutout. Yikes. Their plight shows that you shouldn’t make team building decisions based off of nostalgia.
25. (tied) Boston Bruins

Average: 25
An absolutely abysmal special teams and a general lack of firepower (not to mention some crucial injuries) leave the Bruins among the dregs of society. The truth is that this team is somewhere between their current state and their euphoric year in ’08-’09. My bet is that they make the playoffs, but it’s going to be tough.
25. (tied) Nashville Predators
Average: 25
Is there a team more in need of a top draft pick than the Predators? All those years of barely making/missing the playoffs left them with a shallow pool of genuine NHL talent. Time to tank, I’d say.
Just Ugly

27. (tied) Montreal Canadiens

Average: 25.25
All that money spent for a team that will need to fight and claw desperately to secure a 7th or 8th seed. Without Andrei Markov, the Canadiens don’t even have a particularly effective PP.
27. (tied) Anaheim Ducks
Average: 25.25
It’s been an ugly season for the quackers so far. With the league’s worst special teams plus/minus and some serious blueline issues, the Ducks will need even better work from their 14th-best powerplay. Anaheim managed a near-miraculous run to the playoffs last year, but can they really affordable to dig such a big hole with Los Angeles and Phoenix emerging and Dallas showing some life?
29. Tampa Bay Lightning
Average: 26.25
A real oddball team. Steve Stamkos looks like the real deal while I’m starting to wonder if Vincent Lecavalier is really overrated.
30. Florida Panthers
Average: 28.5
What happens to Florida if Vokoun walks? This team is grasping at straws as is, but without Vokoun’s elite-ish goaltending they would be in some serious trouble. Then again, I guess they already are?

Here’s the spreadsheet:

Return to Stat Nerdia: An Update on True PP, True PK, Net Goals and Special Teams Plus/Minus

November 4, 2009

The sample size is still pretty small, but I thought it would be a good time to take another look at two of the stats I made up (True PP and True PK) as well as where each team ranks in Net Goals and Special Teams Plus/Minus. The original posts can be found here and here. Each screen capture will have an explanation of the stats that are included. Click on them to get a better look.

Net Goals (all stats taken before Tuesday’s games)

Net Goals refers to a simple formula: a team’s total goals for minus a team’s total goals against.

Special Teams Plus/Minus (all stats taken before Tuesday’s games)

(Powerplay Goals For subtracted by Shorthanded Goals Allowed) minus (Penalty Kill Goals Allowed subtracted by Shorthanded Goals For) is the formula for Special Teams Plus/Minus.

True PP%

To simplify things, True PP% is a lot like PP% except it factors in the Shorthanded Goals a team allows along with the PP goals it scores.

True PK%

Much like True PP%, except this considers the SHG a team scores along with the PP goals it allows.

In Case you love percentages: factoring in shorthanded goals to PP and PK%

October 16, 2009

One more stats nerd post and I’ll be this guy’s wingman.
Note: like the last post, these are stats from the 2008-09 season although going forward I’ll be using 2009-10 stats …

Unless I come up with one more stat that I publicly deem dopey while ultimately find semi-clever, this should be the last stat introducing post for the foreseeable future.

The last flaw with simply listing PK and PP% is that shorthanded goals aren’t factored in (or not seamlessly) to the equation. Even if SHG are rare, they can be gigantic for momentum. See: Jordan Staal in Game 6 of the SCF.
More than that, though, I think it’s a subtle reflection of good coaching and/or heady players. For instance: the Philadelphia Flyers are known for having a scary-aggressive PK with Mike Richards but they’re also amazingly efficient on their own PP. Unless I read incorrectly, they only allowed 1 SHG last season!
So I decided to see how much SHG negatively affect a PP and positively affect a PK. (The stat is the same as PP% except it’s PPG scored – SHG allowed divided by PP opportunities.)
Let’s take a look at True Powerplay Percentage (or should it be called “Net” PP% … or the PP Efficiency Rating? I dunno, True PP% sounds pretty cool doesn’t it?)

Click to enlarge TRUE PP%

What I like about these stats is that they create a more pronounced “upper class” or elite group of PP units.

The Red Wings’ absurd PP is reflected better here: they are heads and shoulders above the rest of the league (as they should be). It also reflects just how bad the Blue Jackets’ PP was; 12% is pretty bad as it is but the team let up a lot of SHG too. When you think about it, when the CBJ went on the PP something good would happen only nine percent of the time. (LOL)

I still think sheer quantity (ultimately PPG – SHG allowed) is the best way to judge a team’s PP unit but this is pretty interesting, too.

True Penalty Kill %/PK Efficiency Rating/PK Success Level is the same as PK% except it’s PPG allowed – SHG scored divided by Times Shorthanded.

Click to enlarge True PK%

The order of best PK teams doesn’t change a ton here, but it again distinguishes the GREAT PK units. The Wild’s special teams, again, were just amazing last year.

At some point I might try to come up with a “magic number” for special teams percentages combined. Is a great overall special teams a combined 110% or … what?

Jeez, I’m a dork.

What do you think, though? Is this interesting or as fun as eating a lifetime supply of microwave re-heated pizza crusts?

Special Teams Plus Minus, Net Goals in 2008-09

October 16, 2009

Photoshop by MacYapper (?)

Yesterday I posted some simple yet interesting stats for the early part of this season. It’s uncertain if I’ll be able to make that a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly special but I’ll be tracking these things all season long.

But just to make sure I’m not crazy, I thought it would be smart to study the stats from last year to see how indicative they are of team success. It also is an interesting way to look at which teams were really deficient (or really strong) in special teams yet still managed to make (or miss) the playoffs.
First, here’s the Standings for 2008-09 without sorting for the stats that tickle my fancy:

Now that you have a frame of reference, here’s that list sorted by the simplest stat that we’ll be tracking this season: Net Goals.

There aren’t a ton of surprises there.

That being said, it’s really interesting that the league’s best team in Net Goals (Boston) scored 78 more goals than they allowed while the league’s worst team in Net Goals (Islanders) allowed 78 more goals than they scored. Funny how things work out sometimes.

It’s also interesting that only two playoff teams allowed more goals than they scored: Columbus (-4) and the Rangers (-8). This also shows that the Blue Jackets must have been one hell of an even strength team.

Perhaps the most intriguing set of stats comes in the form of the Special Teams plus-minus.

The number that sticks out the most to me here is the Columbus Blue Jackets being -29 special teams goals. 78 Special Teams Goals Allowed isn’t astronomically bad … what makes the Blue Jackets totals so bad is their anemic power play. Any CBJ pundits who are still sore that the BJ’s lack a great PP point player could point to this stat and say, “How do you expect this team to make the playoffs (again) with numbers like that?”

Looking at special teams play, it must be especially heartbreaking for Minnesota Wild fans that their team narrowly missed the playoffs last season. They were second in Special Teams +/- with a +33 (12 more than the tied for 3rd place Bruins and Red Wings).

It also makes me think that maybe injuries and Sean Avery weren’t the top reasons why the Dallas Stars missed the playoffs last season.

Just for your fun and to strengthen a point I made yesterday, here’s some extended special teams stats:

This leads to a bit of discussion on a point I (sloppily) made yesterday: quantity of PP goals (and PP goals allowed) means a lot more to me than percentages, even though it’s not a huge difference and it’s easier for networks to use a %-based graphic.

There are, however, a few examples that illustrate my point. The Buffalo Sabres managed to be in the top 5 in PPG scored despite having a PP that scored about 2% less than the other top powerplays. Over 82 games, a couple percentage points can make a big difference (kind of like how a 2% save percentage difference can make a pretty huge difference in how a goalie will be perceived). Anaheim and Boston scored at 2.5% higher rate but the Sabres drew at least 40 more power plays (or about one more every other game) and therefore were able to generate more PPGs. (OK, it was only one more PPG … but still.)

Conversely, the New Jersey Devils scored at at least a 2% higher rate on the PP than other bottom PPG scoring teams but they were only able to go on the PP 307 times (compared to Buffalo’s 358) and therefore scored 17 less last season.

Does it make an enormous difference? Absolutely not. But even if it’s only a slightly more accurate way of tracking the good PPs, that’s good enough for me.

Simple stats that I don’t see often: Special Teams Plus/Minus and Net Goals

October 15, 2009

When it’s midnight and you need a photo of a cranky journalist ...
There was a point when I was like those many curmudgeon old sports columnists who looked down on complex statistics. Thankfully, though, there have been enough great stat blogs to finally teach me my lesson: some stats just don’t tell you as much as you might originally think.

Still, there is a part of me that always searches for the right cross-section between simple and deep. I’d imagine that these kind of stats have been around plenty of times before, but I’ve never seen them expressed before in official sites’ standings sections (at least on ESPN or
So, with all the Power Rankings out there, I thought it would be fun to occasionally take a look at NHL teams through completely objective – and obnoxiously simple – statistics. Obviously, this first few weeks’ worth of stats will be greatly altered by outliers but you know that already, right?
(A few more notes: these stats were taken from before tonight’s games and I’m dumb and don’t know a better way to put up an Excel spreadsheet on blogspot, so please tolerate my sloppy use of screenshots)
ANYWAY, first the NHL’s leaders in Net Goals.
This takes a SUPER sophisticated formula of Goals For minus Goals Against (although the spreadsheet also provides even strength goals … which I might incorporate into something more elegant and interesting in the future).
If you’re a Maple Leafs fan, well, at least you aren’t running your car in your garage right now. Small victories. feel free to avert your eyes.

(Click to enlarge)

So those of you who hate simple arithmetic, you’re welcome. The real reason I thought to do this, though, was to take a look at special teams numbers.

It’s always bothered me that such an emphasis has been made on Power Play and Penalty Kill percentages but who gives a rat’s ass about that? To me, PP effectiveness has always been about a) sheer quantity of goals and b) timeliness. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d take a powerplay that scored 2 out of 10 than one that scored 1 out of 4.

I’m aware that is an overly-simplistic criticism, but work with me here.

To take a more “big picture” look at special teams, I think it is also important to compare teams’ PP and PK together. If your team can eek out a substantial amount of PP goals while keeping PK goals under control, you’ll have a major advantage while attempting to make the playoffs.

So, I’ve come up with (OK, I bet someone else has done this too since it’s super-simple) “Special Teams Plus-Minus.”

The formula’s almost as simple as “Net Goals”

PP Goals Scored + SH Goals Scored – PP Goals Allowed + SH Goals Allowed* = Special Teams Plus-Minus.**

* Just realized I didn’t include SHG allowed but I’ll do it next time. Promise!

** – However, if I’ve come up with something stupidly original feel free to call it a Jimbo Score. 🙂

The relative impossibility of judging Brodeur’s greatness relative to the greats

March 14, 2009

Martin Brodeur is not a Fraud.

That, ultimately, might not be the true point of Brodeur is a Fraud, but it is something that must be said nonetheless. You don’t threaten all-time records in wins and shutouts just because you have a good team in front of you.

The tricky part, though, is assessing any player in any sport compared to other players of similar greatness in different eras. Hockey is one of the truest team sports and is also a very diverse game from generation to generation.

For years, goalies could not even go down to the ice to stop a puck. The Bobby Orr era brought about a difficult time for tenders, but the Wayne Gretzky just about nuked GAA and save percentage stats.

Then, of course, there was the Dead Puck Era. A time in which the 100-point fire hydrants of the Eighties were replaced by goalies being outfitted like tanks producing once-unthinkable sub-2.00 GAA seasons.

Patrick Roy won a Cup in both eras. Martin Brodeur enjoyed his prime years in the no-score years. Some say Roy was better; some say Dominik Hasek was better than both.

But beyond his peers, how do you really compare Brodeur to … Jacques Plante? To Georges Vezina? To Ken Dryden?

The John Hollingers of the world think that you can adjust stats to tell you anything, but the problem is that these players weren’t worried about micro managing save percentages. Is it fair to say that (throwing out the steroid talk for a moment) Barry Bonds was, cleanly or not, a better home run hitter than Babe Ruth? Bonds hit more homers, but Ruth out-homered opposing teams in his day. Relatively speaking, Ruth was Gretzky-like. Incomparable. But can you say he’s a better dinger-man than Bonds? It’s futile.

Brodeur’s career, to me, is quite a lot like Emmitt Smith‘s. Both players were among the best in their position in their primes. Both were seemingly indestructible compared to their peers, allowing them to amass staggering numbers. And both were, at least slightly, damned by the fact that they played along with Hall of Fame teammates and lacked the artfulness of their best counterparts. They even share the similar quality of owning three championship rings.

Brodeur is to Smith as Dominik Hasek is to Barry Sanders.

(Although Brodeur probably butchers English less often than Smith, even if it might be his second language.)

Right now, people are trotting out “but he got his stats beefed up by SO wins!” and that’s fine. It’s relevant. But he’s 36 years old. If he plays 4-6 years, he could add 100 to 150 wins to his totals. Will that make him the best goalie of all-time?

Some will probably say yes, others will turn red faced and scream “No!”; there is simply no way to truly know. Ultimately, it’s subjective: once the stats melt away it’s all about nostalgia, rooting interest, what games you get to see and stylistic preferences.

How about, instead of grinding your teeth fighting for or against Brodeur, you just enjoy being alive to see records being broken? After all, it may take a few generations to break Marty’s records. Might as well make THE BEST of it.

Crosby hate or How I learned to stop worrying and love the stats (Morning cycle)

February 23, 2009

But c’mon guys, the Crosby hate is starting to be excessive. Look, we all understand that Sid the Kid gets media coverage that is not quite proportionate to his standing in the league. That doesn’t mean he’s not one of the best forwards, just that he’s not the only fish in the sea. Here’s the analogy that makes the most sense to me:

Consider NHL marketing a pizza. There’s eight slices and four dudes who want that stuffed crust. Let’s say we have Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla/whichever fourth forward strikes your fancy at the dinner table. It’s not unreasonable to give each guy two slices, but really, Crosby gets about 5 slices and the rest are lucky to even get one.

It would be like Lebron James receving all the attention unless Kobe Bryant found a way to score 30 points blindfolded. I get that.

Still, let’s not forget how lucky we are as NHL fans. The under-30 talent in this league is almost obscene. Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin are joined by Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ales Hemsky, Anze Kopitar and the list goes on and on.

It’s fine to dislike Crosby, but there may come a time when you regret frowning every time he touches the puck.

  • For the longest time, it seemed, stats filled my head with a rage only matched by Rush Limbaugh’s anger after a Donovan McNabb touchdown pass.

Perhaps, though, my deep hatred was for the statistics highlighted by ESPN and other networks when they cover sports rather than stats themselves. How many times per year do you roll your eyes at an obscure contextual statistic … one that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of anything?

After spending the last year getting more deeply involved in the hockey blogosphere than expected, my viewpoint of Moneyball/Bill James inspired statistics changed profoundly. It is painfully obvious that judging a player by studying superficial stats like plus/minus simply cannot cut it any longer.

Last week featured some fantastic examples of the best in stat-crunching and the last month shows my rapidly increased interest in “looker deeper.” You can find some great examples of good stat use in a footnote at the bottom of this post.* (And for not as great examples, there are a few I wrote in that footnote too.)

  • Here’s an open challenge: find a way to convince me that the Minnesota Wild can actually make the playoffs. Before you scream “they’re the eight (blanking) seed!” take a look at their positively homicidal schedule.

After they host the Kings tomorrow, they must go through this road trip: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, LA Kings and Anaheim. That’s a six game run against borderline to ironclad playoff teams. And to be honest, their schedule isn’t much easier from there.

  • And, finally, from the Be Careful What You Wish For department: in this high tech era in which people can take a photo of you with a phone, is it finally time to admit that being a public figure might just suck? At least a little bit?

Obviously, the Montreal Canadiens might not be the wisest decision makers when it comes to public intoxication, but this stuff keeps happening in sports and beyond. Sure, it would be great to sleep with gorgeous women, play a child’s sport for a living and rake in millions of dollars. No doubt about it, if I was a pro hockey player no one would be allowed to bring electronics into my home or parties and everything – banana peels, veal cutlets, everything – that goes into my trash would be shredded. Perhaps there are advantages to anonymity.

(Seriously, whoever snapped that photo of Michael Phelps might get the Wayne Gretzky/Mario Lemieux “skip the grace period” treatment. Just rush that douche into the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame.)

* – It’s non-hockey, but Moneyball author Michael Lewis took a fascinating look into the way the Houston Rockets measure Shane Battier’s under-the-radar contributions.

Matt from Battle of Alberta’s breakdown of Alex Kovalev’s struggles will leave you snickering at the surface-level “body language” type commentaries of talking heads.

Our pal Earl Sleek found some stark examples of how the Ducks currently handle tie game situations versus better time’s for the Quack attack.

Your fearful author also published some stories that crunch stats in the last month. Most recently, there was my team-by-team breakdown of goaltending tandems. Also, while moonlighting at Battle of California I took a look at the Western Conference: (bubble bursting part I, part II and part III).