• Erik Karlsson, Bobby Orr and Stats, I

    by  • February 29, 2012 • Hockey • 64 Comments

    Erik Karlsson is having a pretty amazing season. The Ottawa papers are writing stuff like this:

    Just think of the great ones: Bobby Orr, Doug Harvey, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque, Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Paul Coffey.

    Not to mention Red Kelly, Chris Chelios, Tom Johnson, Rod Langway, Doug Wilson and Scott Niedermayer, all among the more accomplished defencemen to play in the National Hockey League.

    Heady company, indeed, especially for a 21-year-defenceman who is only in his third NHL season.

    However, that was the company that Erik Karlsson found himself in after Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk reached for hyperbole on Monday and predicted that Karlsson would “go down in history as one of the great defencemen of all time.”

    Hilariously, Karlsson goes on to say that you can’t judge a player on one season, a quote that probably made his agent as unhappy as the Melnyk quote made him hapy.

    Karlsson has scored 15-51-66 and is running away with the scoring lead for defencemen. As it so happens, I’ve been thinking a bit about assists and defenceman offence lately. It’s interesting stuff. I went through Karlsson’s ES assists this year and I think they can be pretty easily broken down into four groups: a) plays where Karlsson was trying to pass for a scoring chance, b) plays where Karlsson was just putting the puck on net, c) plays where he was moving the puck across the blue line and d) hilarious assists awarded for no appreciable offensive play. I’ve taken pictures of his contributions – lets go through them.

    Plays where Karlsson was trying to pass for a scoring chance

    Karlsson sees Da Costa back door – they’d actually just tried this but Da Costa hadn’t been in a good spot to pull the trigger and sent the puck back out to Karlsson to re-set things. Karlsson makes the pass, Da Costa pulls the trigger.

    Karlsson sees Spezza back door and makes a nice pass through to him. Spezza scores.

    Karlsson finds Jared Cowan in front of the net in overtime to win the game against Buffalo.

    Karlsson finds Spezza in what I suspect is a set breakout for the Senators – note the Senators player skating along the offensive blue line, pulling the Devils defenceman away from the boards and opening up space for Spezza to skate through once Karlsson makes the pass. I counted this one as a play for a scoring chance, because he was obviously trying to hit Spezza but without someone like Spezza on the other end of the pass, this play goes nowhere.

    Karlsson skates the puck up ice and pulls up as he crosses the blue line. The two Senator forwards with him skate forward towards the Ranger net, pulling the two defencemen with them. Karlsson makes a really nice play to buy a little time while Milan Michalek catches up; he then puts a nice pass on his stick which he buries.

    I watched this one a zillion times and couldn’t figure out whether Karlsson makes the pass to Alfredsson in the slot or whether it bounced off Eberle. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Alfredsson proceeds to bury the wrist shot. I probably could have also classified this as a pass along the blue line – the Oilers have just finished serving a penalty and haven’t yet adjusted to having five skaters on the ice. Someone really ought to be putting some heat on Alfredsson.

    Classic NHL quality broadcast here. I’m not sure why it looks like a snuff film but understand that this game was blacked out due to TSN having national rights. I treated this as a play rather than a shot because it sure looked to me like Karlsson identified Michalek in front of the net and was shooting for the deflection.

    This is the kind of pass that gets a guy a reputation. Karlsson, with the puck behind his own net, sees Mihalek at the far blue line and plays a bounce pass of the wall right on to the tape of Michalek’s stick. Absolutely incredible play. Of course, Michalek still has to finish, which he does, undressing a defenceman one on one and then abusing the goaltender.

    Another one that was a bit tough to call. Again, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He made a nice move to get out of his own end, skated the length of the ice and then dished it to Spezza at the blue line. Again, this probably could have been classified in the plays along the blue line. Spezza faked a shot and then went back door to Alfredsson.

    Karlsson slides in behind Spezza, who drops him the puck. He goes back door to Alfredsson, who puts it away.

    So that’s ten assists where he’s trying to make a play. I think I was pretty generous in doling out credit, as you’ll see below.

    Plays where Karlsson was trying to put the puck on net

    Wrist shot on net, Michalek and Spezza bang away at it and the puck goes in.

    Karlsson puts a wrist shot towards the net. It hits Zack Smith, bounces off the goalie and Kaspars Daugavins scores off of the rebound.

    Karlsson puts a slap shot towards the net that hits the Capitals’ John Erskine. The puck then bounces to Eric Condra, who is as surprised as anyone else, and puts it away.

    Karlsson takes a slap shot from the point that is saved by Ilya Bryzgalov. The puck bounces to Bobby Butler in front of the net, who puts away the goal.

    Karlsson takes a wrist shot into a crowd in front of the net. The puck rattles around, Nick Foligno kicks it to Chris Neil and Neil scores.

    Karlsson takes a wrist shot as he’s rubbed out on the boards. The puck is saved and played behind the net by the goalie. The Duck defender gets his stick lifted before he can touch the puck and Nick Foligno puts the puck out front to Chris Neil, who scores.

    Plays across the blue line

    Karlsson throws the puck across the blue line to Filip Kuba, who shoots it. Chris Neil deflects it in for a goal.

    Karlsson kind of knocks the puck over to Foligno to escape from pressure. Foligno skates into the slot, shoots and misses the net. The puck caroms around to Jared Cowen, who has pinched in. Cowen shoots, it hits a Penguin and goes in.

    Karlsson throws it across the blue line to his defensive partner, who fires it towards the net and it goes in.

    Karlsson isn’t trying to do anything

    After an icing, the Flyers clear the zone and go for a change. You can see Jagr pressuring Karlsson. Karlsson moves it ahead to Spezza. Four touches of the puck between Spezza and Alfredsson occur before the Senators score.

    The Panthers try to clear the zone but shoot the puck off of Karlsson’s foot. Colin Greening picks up the loose puck and scores.

    Karlsson MAYBE touches the puck in his own end in a fight in the corner with a couple of Rangers. Michalek comes back, plays the puck off the boards to Spezza, the Senators break out and Spezza finds Michalek trailing the play for a goal.

    This one is my second favourite. Karlsson, who isn’t even facing the Flames’ net, touches the puck ever so briefly before Jesse Winchester grabs it and escapes the Senators’ zone. A quick pass later, the Senators have a goal and Karlsson an assist.

    The Senators win a faceoff immediately after scoring a goal. The puck comes to Karlsson, who passes it through the middle to Zack Smith. Smith directs the puck over to Daugavins, who bursts across the Oilers line and scores a goal from a terrible spot on the ice with a wrist shot.

    Karlsson skates out from behind his own net and passes the puck over to Gonchar. You can see Spezza breaking out in the photo. Gonchar puts it to Spezza after Spezza finds some space and Spezza does the rest of the work.

    Karlsson saves a puck from coming out and knocks it deep. Alfredsson is there and he finds Spezza in the slot, who makes with the goal.

    With the Sabres’ net empty, Karlsson wraps his arm around the Sabres’ player with the puck and effectively brings him down. He actually does the whole “lift your arms in the air thing as if they’ve been there all along and you couldn’t possibly have tackled a guy.” Eric Condra picks up the puck and scores the goal.

    What does any of this mean?

    I’m going to come to that. Tomorrow. Unfortunately, before you can get to the interesting part, you need to do the proof of concept (or at least proof of possibility) work and this is that. The key takeaway from this should be that, of his 27 ES assists this year, about ten of them actually involved Karlsson making a play with deliberate intent to create a scoring chance, as opposed to a play like a pass across the blue line, clearing his own zone or throwing it into the mixer in front of the net.

    It’s probably also worth mentioning that half of the assists that were actual plays have come during the past three weeks. If it feels like the hype meter’s been turned up on Karlsson lately, that’s probably one of the reasons why.


    64 Responses to Erik Karlsson, Bobby Orr and Stats, I

    1. DSF
      February 29, 2012 at

      Now, do the same for Orr :)

      • Josh
        February 29, 2012 at

        Yeah, I wonder how that relates to others around the league also. It also makes me think those of us tracking scoring chances might need to award goals/assists in addition to chances.

        • Cam Charron
          February 29, 2012 at

          At Canucks Army we count (although we haven’t actually tallied up) “chance assists” which we describe as a clear pass made with the attempt of creating a scoring chance.

          Henrik Sedin is very good at those.

          • Josh
            February 29, 2012 at

            That’s a really good idea. Wish I’d thought of it.

            • Cam Charron
              February 29, 2012 at

              We only have it for half the seasons’ games, but I’d really like to get a few more teams in on this.

            • Josh
              February 29, 2012 at

              I’d definitely like to do that for the remaining Stars games. Sucks to not have that info for the remainder of the season, but interesting going forward nonetheless.

      • Douglas
        March 2, 2012 at

        Nice, I belive in looking into gretzky’s assists as well.

    2. Fraser
      February 29, 2012 at

      I agree that the comparisons are a bit ridiculous especially because they’re based largely on the number of assists accumulated by the players on the list. As you point out, raw assist numbers can be misleading.

      However, I disagree with the separate characterization of attempted shots from deliberate attempts to create a scoring chance. How more deliberate can you get than by directing the puck towards the net? Although a different skill set may be on display, Karlsson’s contribution in both cases was only one play removed from the goal.

      • Firmverm
        March 1, 2012 at

        With shot blocking these days, getting a puck through to the net from the blueline is very difficult to do. Karlsson does this as well as anyone, and if a goal results from the rebound, I hardly see how that should qualify as an “inferior” type of assist. Quite the opposite.

        As for the chance assists, every other player in the league should be able to get these type of assists. Regardless of how you break them down, Karlsson still has way more than anyone else. The whole premise of your article is pretty lame.

        • Douglas
          March 2, 2012 at

          I do not believe the argument is lame and has no merit. Look at how they used to hand out assists to gretzky like it was halloween candy.

      • Douglas
        March 2, 2012 at

        I agree with you assesment of offensive playmaking with just shooting the puck towards the net. However I still believe with some players like gretzky the assist counter/clicker or whatever it is called is too generous.

    3. Ribs
      February 29, 2012 at

      What’s wrong with a pass along the blueline? I assume you mean the offensive blueline? Shifting the puck to the other side of the ice can make a huge difference on a scoring play.

    4. kinger
      February 29, 2012 at

      I’ll admit it, DSF made me laugh.

    5. Lobanovskyi
      February 29, 2012 at

      Nice work. At the risk making a faulty assumption, don’t you need to analyze the plays in which Karlsson deliberately created a scoring chance that did not result in a goal to provide a more complete picture of his offensive contribution this season? I expect you’ve thought of this – am interested to see your analysis.

      • Douglas
        March 2, 2012 at

        Your perspective is a good point to consider.

    6. Triumph
      February 29, 2012 at

      It feels like you’re about ready to declare war on the assist as it is awarded in the NHL, which is only right, since many assists have very little to do with the goal that ends up being scored. I suspect basketball and soccer are much more judicious with their assist giving.

      • Randall
        February 29, 2012 at

        I think this came up once in a discussion about Linus Omark and his numbers in the SEL and KHL. Someone pointed out a big drop in assists in his KHL days, and someone else replied that the KHL is stingier about handing out second assists, which probably hurt his numbers. Not sure if that was here or on a different blog.

    7. Darrell
      February 29, 2012 at

      I am somewhat skeptical of the 4th category, because I see two distinct types of plays in it. The first type is where he is trying to do something, either breaking out of the zone (3 of the 8) or keeping a puck in at the blueline (2 of the 8), both of which are important skills that contribute to winning and scoring goals, yet rarely yield assists (though they do occasionally). The other 3 are more truly just random, basically pointless assists where Karlsson didn’t really contribute to the goal at all. I would add that I consider his breakout ability to be his strongest asset for the Ottawa Senators as a whole, and it’s an asset that doesn’t generate very many points.

      As for the other 3 categories, Karlsson is really, really good at getting shots on net (16th overall in the league, 1st amongst D), so no surprise that he gets alot of assists from shot attempts, and he is really good at waiting for the opposition to really commit to him before passing the puck (which makes the guy receiving his D to D passes more open), and he is good at putting the pass where it needs to be, so no surprise he has a bunch of DtoD pass assists as well.

    8. Derek Johnson
      February 29, 2012 at

      The bottom line on Karlsson’s play is that he can flat out play.

      As a great d-man he facilitates the puck getting into the offensive zone…so he gets assists.

      As a great d-man he protects the puck well and is very sure handed, so he gets assists

      As a great d-man, he skated like the wind constantly causing players to have to move around to defend him and as such creates shots for his teammates…so he gets assists.

      As a great d-man, he has a hard and super accurate shot from the point, it may not always score but it gets there so he gets assists.

      As a great d-man, he steals a lot of pucks of sticks and turns the play quickly whichputs the other team on their heels in transition…so he gets assists.

      As a great d-man, he is a super accurate passer…so he gets assists.

      It is not his intent with the puck at the last second before he gets rid of it that dictates how and why he gets so many assists, it is his overall game and how he changes the way teams have to scheme aganist the Sens that leads to the assists.

    9. Cam Charron
      February 29, 2012 at

      My whole notion is that “the assist” as traditionally referred to is sort of a bullshit stat that’s propped up by the shooting percentages of a player’s linemates.

    10. Josh
      February 29, 2012 at

      That Florida game with the low-quality broadcast was, as you say, blacked out by TSN (it was on a Wednesday, and TSN gets an exclusive window that night) and not broadcast anywhere in Florida. The only TV footage of it is from the in-house production at the Panthers’ arena. They took that and aired it on Centre Ice with the Panthers’ radio broadcast over top.

    11. Derek Johnson
      February 29, 2012 at

      My rules for assists would be:

      1. no pass from behind the red line should count as an assist unless it leads to a clear breakaway.
      2. no second assist should be awarded if there is any more than one pass between the scorer and first assist player
      3. no assist should be awarded if the goal scorer stickhandles the puck more than 4 times before shooting unless on a clear breakaway.
      4. no assist for any shot not buried on the first rebound
      5. no assist for a carrom

      An assist should confined to finding an open person for a goal or hitting the net with the intention of scoring or creating a rebound. Players who make great individual efforts to score goals should get full credit. It drives me crazy to see a d-man shoot a puck that misses wide, have a forward pick it up, off the end boards, skate around the net and tuck it in on a wraparound and still see the d-man who shot it (and sometimes even the player who moved it to the D-man) get credidted with assists.

      • Darrell
        February 29, 2012 at

        1. Seems overly harsh, what about creating a 2-1 or 3-2 rush?
        2. I can buy, though I’d probably make it 2 passs
        3. How do you define 4 stickhandle 4 times? I think I get your point though and agree, perhaps a posession time max should be included.
        4. Disagree on this, often it takes multiple whacks to get a puck in the net, shouldn’t penilize the guy who set that up.
        5. Disagree as well, some carroms are luck, some are planned, and hard to distinguish between the two.

        Now, having said that, I think that many times the player who really helps create the goal doesn’t get an assist, so I would like to see assists awarded for other non-touching the puck plays that lead to goals, (the first 2 are the most obvious, 3 is harder to quantify, like your stick handle rule):

        1. Screening the goalie
        2. Hit that leads to turnover and a quick goal.
        3. Any movement that attracts attention leading to a goal, i.e., the guy who drives the net on the 3-2 opening up the slot, etc.

        But really, at the end of the day, we really want to quantify players who help create a goal, which I think is best done somewhat subjectively by awarding goal shares based on what each player did, because no matter what you do, not all assists (or goals for that matter) are created through equal effort.

        • Douglas
          March 2, 2012 at

          Your position and perspective make sense to me, but the generosity of giving assists to some players more than others seems to happen.

    12. Pierre Poutine
      February 29, 2012 at

      This might be the silliest thing I have seen online since watching “Loose Change”. By no means am I saying that Karlsson would be compared to the greats, he’s 21, if he does this year in year out for 10 more years, then yes. He is an incredibly talented defensman, he makes plays, he draws people to him creating room for the scorers, he gets pucks to the net. All those things create assists. I am sorry that you refuse to recognize a great season by a young talented player. Maybe you should make one of these for every high scoring d-man, I bet a lot of them get their assists through these sneaky loopholes Karlsson is exploiting in the scoring system. Shame on them.

      • Pierre Poutine
        February 29, 2012 at

        Wait, you guys are Oiler fans???? You don’t qualify to speak on talented defenseman. Draft one, and come talk.

        • March 1, 2012 at

          Weird thing: the Oilers fans are not a part of the management group of the Oilers. Believe me, they wish they were.

    13. Spatso
      February 29, 2012 at

      Collateral activity is directly measurable to velocity. Essentially it means there would be a proportionate spill over of incidental offensive coincidental. A guy who has very little offensive game would pick up very few cheap points. A guy like Crosby would pick up many cheap points because because of his overall offensive velocity. Same principle applies in an attacking military force.

    14. Sens_dude
      February 29, 2012 at

      Gosh, I wonder how this analysis would apply to Oiler great Paul Coffey? It would seem to me that he had some pretty unusually talented linemates playing with him who had some small ability to finish and it was during an era of much higher scoring (uh…. 200 point seasons ring a bell??), so I look forward to your “analysis” of how Paul Coffey also was really not a very good player. I get that the hype around the guy annoys you, but with the same rules, in the same era, this young 21 year old Karlsson is head and shoulders above other D men for the moment in his ability to generate scoring.

      • Mr DeBakey
        February 29, 2012 at

        “so I look forward to your “analysis” of how Paul Coffey also was really not a very good player”

        I think you’re being a little hard on Mudcrutch, and a little Sens-itive about Karlsson.
        “Absolutely incredible play.”
        “Karlsson makes a really nice play to buy a little time”
        “Karlsson is a poopty player”
        “Karlsson finds Jared Cowan in front of the net in overtime”
        “Karlsson sees Spezza back door and makes a nice pass”

        • Sens_dude
          March 1, 2012 at

          I probably am being sensitive, but being constantly bombarded with idiot troll comments on all our message boards and having one of the best players in the game and our longtime captain booed in our own barn by “fans” of the “hockey team” down the 401 from us makes some of us a little sensitive.

          That said, the point about linemates is hugely valid, on the up and downside. As others have noted, how many times has Karlsson done something amazing only to have someone like Eric Condra or Chris Neil or some other stone-handed Sens forward fail miserable?

    15. sacamano
      February 29, 2012 at

      Meh. I hope you also tally up all of the legitimate scoring chances created by Karlsson that the Sens forwards screwed up. My guess is that assists as currently counted is probably a reasonably decent proxy for scoring chances created since all of the bullshit assists are offset by failures of pass recipients to score when they should have. But I’d be happy to be proved incorrect.

    16. Mike
      February 29, 2012 at

      I think an assist should be exactly what an assist is. Giving Erik Karlsson a total of 51 on the season, 12 more than #2 Brian Campbell. At 21 he is the NHL’s leading scorer among Dmen. He leads by a margin of 23 its. His 66 its has him 7th amount NHL skaters, ahead of Daniel, Datsyuk, Kovulchuk. And to round the whole thing out he leads the NHL in takeaways. He is one of the fastest players on the ice every night, he has a cannon for a shot and the confidence to start the rush.

      You break down nothing but his even strength assists into a few subjective categories to say he’s over-hyped?? You ignore the fact that the assist is a standard that ALL players are held to. Doesn’t matter what anyone thinks an assist should and shouldn’t be (IMO the merit of an assist should not be subjective), it is a fair metric to judge the talent of this kid as it directly compares him to his peers. Assists aren’t random, the same superstar players lead the category each year. And again, he leads the league in takeaways.

      Do a pretty picture analysis of his takeaways and see how many of those were “a player slipping and falling”.

      He is the best player in NHL at his position. He is the real deal. To compare him to the greats is premature because we don’t know if he can produce this consistently over his career. But this season he is a Noris Trophy candidate and a Hart Trophy candidate.

      • Triumph
        February 29, 2012 at

        Takeaways are a worthless stat – the way they are judged is incredibly arbitrary.

        Karlsson is quite excellent and I don’t think this article is trying to take that away from him.

    17. Derek
      February 29, 2012 at

      Great post. Assists in the NHL are basically just a byproduct of a goal being scored and the league scrambling to attribute credit for the process that led to it, somewhat arbitrarily.

      With Karlsson though, I think there’s a legitimate case to be made that for every cheesy assist he’s been handed, there was very likely a scoring chance he created that didn’t end up in the net. His Corsi/60 rate is an absurdly high 12.34 (although that in turn is driven by his ~57% ozone start rate) and, as such, despite the slew of EV assists he’s only working off a 10% on-ice SH% which is nothing outrageous and probably sustainable in the long term seeing as he gets a lot of time with Spezza and Alfredsson.

    18. RiversQ
      February 29, 2012 at

      I don’t really find this kind of analysis all that compelling. I don’t see it having a lot of value given the level of subjectivity and the complete absence of all those plays that didn’t lead to goals that Sacamano mentioned. What does this tell me that PDO or points percentage won’t already tell me about Karlsson’s luck at the end of the year?

      I don’t see this telling me whether he’s a good/great player or not. Perhaps that comes later tonight.

    19. Leafsuck_always
      February 29, 2012 at

      You’d love to have him on your awful Oiler blue line. Douche.

    20. sacamano
      March 1, 2012 at

      In guess the other missing piece of this analysis — if I’m to be convinced — is what % of assists are bullshit on average. Is Karlsson piling up bullshit assists at a higher rate than other D-men in the league, or isn’t he?

    21. Kelly
      March 1, 2012 at

      I can’t believe I wasted my time reading that. And can’t believe you wasted your time writing it. The same could be said for EVERY high scoring offensvie player in the history of hockey. Do you think all of Malkin assists this year have been tape to tape passes for tap in goals. Ridiculous!! Karlsson gets alot of assists because he’s good and has the puck on his stick all night.

    22. overpass
      March 1, 2012 at

      I don’t know what kind of standard you are holding Karlsson to in this analysis. Were you thinking that every pass should be a tape-to-tape for a tap-in? Do you think that’s what kind of assists Nicklas Lidstrom gets? Shea Weber? Lubomir Visnovsky?

      Even strength goals in hockey aren’t often created by perfect tape-to-tape setups. Breaking down the defence, forcing defenders to scramble, and creating space for teammates is a big part of creating even strength offence. It’s not like a video game where your offensive players are great shooters who score goals or great passers who get assists. Karlsson is really good at driving the play, breaking down the defence, and creating space and chances for himself and his teammates.

    23. Daniel
      March 1, 2012 at

      On its own, this doesn’t mean anything. Every player gets a phantom point here or there (off the top of my head, Gagner’s 8 point night comes to mind). The only way for this to mean something is through comparison to other players. The real question is whether or not Karlsson gets a phantom point more often than other players. How often does every other defenseman in the league pick up an assist simply by making a breakout pass that turns into a goal? How often do other defensemen’s pucks thrown at the net become a rebound goal?

      I also have a huge issue with the criteria. It’s far too subjective. For example, who is to say that “plays where Karlsson was just putting the puck on net” don’t count as Karlsson creating a scoring chance? Isn’t it possible Karlsson put the puck on net only after recognizing that his teammates outnumbered the defenders or were in better position for a rebound? Of course it’s possible. Maybe he didn’t, maybe he did. To immediate discount this as creating a scoring chance and chalk it up as dumb luck simply isn’t fair.

      Similarly, not all “plays where he was moving the puck across the blue line” can be discounted. Who is to say that those don’t count as creating a scoring chance? As an example, anyone who has ever watched Steven Stamkos knows that a huge number of his goals come off a one-timer from his “sweet spot” at the top of the circle, and quite often this occurs after the puck has been passed across the blue line. To say that that pass doesn’t help create a scoring chance would be entirely unfair.

    24. Christian
      March 1, 2012 at

      When doing this type of analysis, you have to apply the same model to everyone. But if you insist on using a single player, you need to assume the same %’s apply to every player in the league, not just a single player.

      Which means that in the end, it’s a useless analysis that doesn’t change the results for any player in regards to their stats. If you reduce Karlsson’s stats by 10%, you do it to everyone because of the way the NHL awards assists.

      But in the end, Karlsson still ends up ahead of every other d-man.

      What a waste of time…

      • March 2, 2012 at

        I’m so embarrassed for you that you posted a link to a Hockey Buzz article.

        • browntown87
          March 2, 2012 at

          Commenting on a website instead of an article seems like you don’t understand/can’t refute the argument so you choose not to address it. Kind of like stating “if you’ve ever played hockey.” Hypocritical much?

        • March 3, 2012 at

          More importantly, that you don’t know what “skewered” means. It tends not to involve these phrases:

          In response, Tyler Dellow’s entire report – read here – breaks down Erik Karlsson’s assist totals at even strength, focusing on the validity of each. By the end of the article, you’re left with legitimate questions as to how real the twenty-one year old’s assist totals are.

          Dellow’s work here does bring an issue to the forefront, and although Ottawa fans won’t love that Erik Karlsson moved into a brief negative limelight, it certainly has (some) substance.

          It certainly doesn’t 100% back up this post but its hardly a “skewering”. Real skewerings don’t tend to be summarized as “you’re sort of right but the evidence you found is actually of something far more reaching”.

    25. SENSarmy
      March 1, 2012 at

      I really cannot think of a worse way to compare players especially defensemen. If you’ve ever played hockey you would know that a defenseman’s ability to make decisions can be the difference between the best and the worst. It is clearly evident that karlsson has the natural talent but what separates him from other offense defensemen is his ability to make the right decision. You discredit him for only making 10 passes “for a scoring chance” but they scored on all the chances that karlsson had an assist on. Is that not a scoring chance?

      Even so, regardless of karlsson’s intent of the pass, an assist is an assist. The fact that he is able to consistently be involved in the offense means that he is doing something right. Although it doesn’t seem like it is directly related, the pass that started the breakout is just as important.

      Even arguing the points made in this article feels ridiculous.

      • March 2, 2012 at

        If you’ve ever played hockey

        Hahahaha might as well write “I don’t understand your argument and I’m going to attack you for making it instead of trying to get it.”

        • Passive Voice
          March 5, 2012 at

          Come on now, there’s a chance “Sensarmy” is Filip Kuba.

    26. @SendayObserver
      March 2, 2012 at

      As others have stated, this is ANALysis is bogus [in that] every NHL player is held to the same standard with the assist. You make no mention of deliberate plays that “should have” resulted in a goal if the shooter converted the opportunity. Waste of valuable internet.

    27. Bank Shot
      March 2, 2012 at

      Good point in the article. It’s almost certainly true that players can have lucky seasons when it comes to assists, but statistically there isn’t a way to measure it. Not the same at all as shooting percentage.

      I think sometimes if it is apparent enough, the fans can just sort of sense it. Like Gilbert’s 45 point season with the Oilers. Its a clear outlier from his career average, and if you broke it down assist by assist you would likely see the same pattern.

      GM’s should be breaking down the game tapes on these players and trying to use it in negotiations rather then offering bajillion dollar contracts to Vanek.

    28. March 2, 2012 at

      It’s really hard to quantify stats in hockey. As an example, if you’re worried about a slippery defenseman, and as a result you play a little closer to him, or have someone else cheat a little to provide backup, then that isn’t going to show up as a “play” but it will mean the other team scores on you a little more with the rest of their players. It’s not a mistake to do it. You’re minimizing the damage. But how does that show up as a stat? It would have some impact on the defenseman’s plus/minus. And their point totals, for those goals where they recently had the puck.

      A legitimate knock on Karlsson is that he doesn’t shut down the other team’s forwards. But that also ignores significant parts of the game. If you can escape forecheck pressure then that is good defending. If you can execute clean breakouts then that is good defending. If you stop a guy from getting to the net with the puck then that is good defending. Catching up to a guy who was 15 feet ahead of you and breaking in on goal is good defending.

      Failing to contain a guy in front of the net is bad defending. And it’s a very important skill. But there is no rule for defenders that says they have to be good at one part of defending and the rest is just gravy. If you’re good at all the other stuff, and below average at the most important skill then you may still be above average defensively. Simply discarding a player like that is taking the lazy way out.

      At the end of the day, each player on the team is evaluated on their contribution to the team’s success. If you can take a risk that gives you a 5% chance of scoring, and a 3% chance of being scored against then that’s probably worthwhile. And if you’re the type of player that realizes there are times when gambling is to be avoided then so much the better.

      • March 2, 2012 at

        I think this is a good comment. What I find hilarious though is that by using that logic, the Senators fans are now going back on their decade of Tomas Kaberle criticism. Makes sense that they’d flip flop on that since they flip flopped from being Leafs/Habs fans to the Senators once upon a time.

    29. Douglas
      March 2, 2012 at

      I have always made this same argument with gretzky, all he had to be was near the ice and instead of just saying he was plus one people would swear he had an assist. Crazy, I know, but you can see how the NHL plays up to their star players. I am not saying the oiler player or Karlsson are not talented, they obiviously are, just a little exagerated is all I am saying. Sheesh.

    30. Norm
      March 2, 2012 at

      Man you’ve really ticked off the Sens fanbase by daring to question Karlsson’s stats and status as best dman ever. I think most stat geeks accept that personnel at different venues award stats differently even for something seemingly black and white as shots. What is his assist rate on the road vs. home? Is he the beneficiary of some home (stat) cooking?

      • Daniel
        March 2, 2012 at

        I would classify myself as one of the “stat geeks”, and as such I believe that this analysis is completely insignificant without comparison to other players. A sample size of one player means nothing. If statistics worked like that, the census would consist of randomly sampling my neighbour and extrapolating based on my neighbour that everyone in the country is a middle aged black man making approximately $100k and we all work for a CFL team. We know that isn’t the case though. Just as a census is meaningless without a large sample of citizens, this analysis is meaningless without a large sample of players.

        Also, although personnel at different venues are known to award stats differently (e.g. the Oilers’ giveaways/takeaways guy is off his rocker), Karlsson’s stats seem to hold steady on the road. He’s played 32 both at home and on the road and has 26 assists at home vs. 25 assists on the road. “Best dman ever”, as you say, is taking things a bit too far, but Karlsson’s numbers holding steady on the road has actually impressed me even more as most players tend to do worse on the road.

    31. Doogie2K
      March 2, 2012 at

      Regarding Rivers’ criticism specifically: yes, there’s obviously flaws in the methodology – which may or may not be addressed in subsequent posts – but I can’t fault Tyler in the slightest for taking a step beyond looking at on-ice SH% and IPP% and saying, “he’s probably getting a lot of BS assists,” and actually trying to quantify them by breaking down game tape. It’s funny, despite the fact that the stats community regularly gets railed for “not watching the game” (how the fuck do you count scoring chances, touches, and zone entries?), then you look at the plays as they unfold and get railed for…picking on someone’s favourite player? I don’t get it.

      To me, this is the difference between making an educated guess and constructing a testable hypothesis – something, incidentally, I’m learning a thing or two about right now as part of my graduate studies. It’s easy to make some assumptions and predictions based on the percentages and the common understanding of what they mean, and they’re more likely than not to be right, but I think it’s much more valuable to actually propose and validate a mechanism, to show how Karlsson is getting more assists than one would reasonably expect. You’d like to see evidence down the road that the underlying assumption – that each category of play is less likely to result in an assist than the previous – is valid, as Sac and Riv suggest, but it intuitively makes sense, which at least makes for a good starting point. Certainly, it feels much more scientific than looking at PDO and calling it a day.

      • Daniel
        March 2, 2012 at

        I think it’s much more valuable to actually propose and validate a mechanism, to show how Karlsson is getting more assists than one would reasonably expect.

        I completely agree with this statement. The problem is that Tyler didn’t do this and his hypothesis hasn’t been tested at all. Karlsson gets some of his assists out of situations where he didn’t make a play with “deliberate intent to create a scoring chance”, but we all knew that already. That rate is 17 or so out of 27, according to Tyler. I have a problem with Tyler’s definition of creating a scoring chance, but as long as we’re consistent it’s not a huge issue so 17 out of 27 it is. Using this as “evidence”, he implies that a number of Karlsson’s assists are bogus or just dumb luck.

        The implication is unjustified though. Every player gets assists like that, don’t they? (That was rhetorical, the answer is yes). This analysis didn’t show that Karlsson is getting more or less assists than one would reasonably expect in these situations. All we know now is that Karlsson picks up these assists at some rate, whatever that rate is. In order properly show Karlsson is getting assists at a significantly higher rate than others, Tyler would have to study not just Karlsson’s points, but every play where Karlsson tried to pass for a scoring chance, every play where Karlsson threw the puck on net, every pass Karlsson made across the blue line, and every random nonsense assist. He’d have to determine how often Karlsson gets an assist in each of these situations (i.e. 1 assist per __ number of passes across the blueline, 1 assist per __ times he throws the puck on net, etc.). Then you would have to do the same thing for 20+ (or ideally all) other top pairing defensemen who play similar minutes to Karlsson. How often do Zdeno Chara, Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, etc. pick up an assist in each of these situations? What is the mean and median among top pairing defensemen? What is the standard deviation and variance? Only then can you start to determine if Karlsson is picking up these assists at a higher or lower rate than other players.

        • Darrell
          March 2, 2012 at

          Yep, and then you have to control for how good was the pass across the blueline (hint: Karlsson is both a very accurate and patient passer, so he won’t pass it across until you attack him, which opens up the other point alot more than a guy who quickly fires it across).

        • Doogie2K
          March 6, 2012 at

          I agree with all of that. All I mean by my comment is that this is far from worthless, as has been suggested by some; merely incomplete. That the title ends in “Part I” indicates some awareness of this.

    32. Josh
      March 3, 2012 at

      Wasn’t there going to be a second post? Wasn’t there going to be a second post 24 hours after this one?

      • Pete.
        March 3, 2012 at

        Wasn’t there indeed? I await, with bated breath. As it stands this post is like a bloggy representation of the Gilbert-Shultz trade: it’s apparently pointless at best, and possibly quite a bit worse than that, but it could make a lot of sense if coupled with something later on. Very meta-something.

        The comments have been entertaining, though.

    33. LaForge
      March 6, 2012 at

      With your hatin’ ass.

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