• Eakins and Fighting

    by  • September 12, 2013 • Hockey • 12 Comments

    From Oilersnation a few months ago:

    Rishaug: What’s your coaching philosophy on the role of the, not necessarily the nuclear heavy weight, but the aggressive player who can play, but also look out for the skill on the ice, and how do you employ those types of players?

    Eakins: I still think that hockey is a game of fear, and before we even get to that part, I want other teams to fear our skills, fear our speed, and fear our physicality. Is there going to be fighting in hockey in the future? I believe that there will be. It’s a high contact sport, these guys are in each other’s faces. There’s a lot of testosterone out there and that is just going to lead to a fight.

    I think that it’s important, especially with a young group, to have a certain level of toughness that these kids can continue to develop in a place of no fear. So I do have a place for it. I think that it’s an important part of the game, not the most important, but certainly I never ever want our team to be nervous or in fear and that’s something that we’ve got to go through as we add pieces to this.

    Is it necessary to get a guy who just fights? Well maybe it isn’t. But maybe we can have some guys who are good checkers, who are good players, who can back it up as well. It will all depend on the roster spots, and what’s available and how we see the team makeup going forward.

    I’ve always been a believer in looking at what people do rather than what they say. People say all sorts of things and people who have to talk to the media probably learn pretty quickly to say things from which the listener can hear whatever they want to hear. Eakins answer here sort of strikes me as a kind of cotton candy answer – there are a lot of words that can be taken a lot of different ways. Fighting will be part of hockey! Maybe it’s not necessary to get a guy who just fights! Maybe we have guys who can back it up!

    There were some more mixed messages yesterday. TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted this: “Expect EDM to be on lookout for a heavyweight fighter. Currently without that element but GM MacTavish and HC Eakins believe it’s required.” A little while later, Joanne Ireland tweeted this: “#Oilers Dallas Eakins wants toughness but not convinced his team needs a “gunslinger.” He’d also want enforcer who can play, not just fight.” Heavyweight needed! MacT and Eakins say it’s necessary! Eakins not convinced his team needs a gunslinger!

    I have to first take issue with Eakins’ point about testosterone. I should just re-print these graphs once a year. This is 2010-11 regular season data:




    If Eakins is right, and there’s a lot of testosterone out there that leads to fights, it is spectacularly curious that it only leads to fights during relatively low leverage times of the game. About one fight for every four periods of tied first period hockey that you watched in 2010-11 and one fight for every 70 periods of tied third period hockey that you watched in 2010-11. It’s as if fighting isn’t really about testosterone that just leads to fights but it’s a thing that some teams do during relatively low leverage parts of the game.

    Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 1.17.20 PM

    Fortunately, Eakins has a track record we can look at. In his first year as head coach of the Marlies, they were third in the AHL with 95 fights. Look at the AHL team numbers for the next three years though – I’ve put them in the table at left. His team evolved into what that didn’t fight very often relative to the league norms. This, despite a pretty pro-fighting culture above him in Toronto.

    My suspicion is that, whatever he and the Oilers say, that track record tells us more about how often Eakins’ Oilers will fight than anything else and, in particular, whether they’re going to dress a designated heavyweight type guy. My guess would be that they won’t (although I’ll admit that I find it odd that they’re talking about it if it’s not an issue for them).

    An early tell on this might be which player, if any, out of Ben Eager and Mike Brown makes the Oilers this year. A quick Twitter poll suggested an overwhelming consensus that Eager’s a better player, something that I agree with. Brown’s probably a more willing fighter though. The choice between those two guys will probably tell us something about how much room there is for guys who can’t do anything other than throw punches.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    12 Responses to Eakins and Fighting

    1. Gordoil
      September 12, 2013 at

      Could it be that after 95 fights in the first year as the Marlies coach, the other teams had a little of the fear he talks of. Just a thought, I am not familiar with the Marlies line up at the time line up.

    2. Oilanderp
      September 12, 2013 at

      Your charts confuse me. What does ‘minutes per fight’ mean? I thought every fight was 5 minutes. Do you mean fights per minute? Please clarify. Also, what do you mean by “…it’s a thing that some teams do during relatively low leverage parts of the game.” What is a low leverage part of a game? While I was rarely the smartest in the class, I was never the dumbest and so perhaps others have these same questions. Thanks.

      • Tyler Dellow
        September 12, 2013 at

        What does ‘minutes per fight’ mean?

        If there are, say, 10 fights in 100 minutes of hockey, I’d say it’s “10 minutes per fight” – for every ten minutes you play, you get a fight. It’s a more sensible metric than fights per minute,which would be very small.

        ” What is a low leverage part of a game?

        “Leverage” is a bit of a baseball concept but it applies equally well to hockey. Basically, there are points in the game where one goal changes things more than at other points. IF you get scored on 10 seconds into the game, your chance of winning goes from 50% to, say, 30%. If you get scored on with 10 seconds left in a tie game, your chance of winning goes from 50% to like 1%.

        Additionally, if a game’s a blowout, a goal doesn’t matter too much. What we see when we look at the data is that fights are way more likely to happen when a goal doesn’t matter too much. If fights were so important, I’d expect we’d see them ore with the game on teh line.

    3. Oilanderp
      September 12, 2013 at

      I would be highly interested to see what these charts would look like pre instigator-rule. I’m not sure if this is true but it’s my opinion that the game seems to be called more closely these days. I wonder how that affects a player’s decision to fight. In the 1970s, for instance, how did these graph curves compare? Less steep? You’ve got me interested.

    4. John
      September 12, 2013 at

      Off topic but saw this and thought of you:


      M. Ilard

    5. Jon B
      September 12, 2013 at

      I see a bit of connection between the last two posts.

      To me the interesting thing about the Quinn interview wasn’t him alluding to an out of shape Gagner it was the implication that management basically vetoed a lineup request made by their brand new head coach

      Isn’t that a little concerning?

      Couldn’t the fact we are getting conflicting reports as to whether or not the Oilers may or may not desire a heavyweight be because there is a little disconnect between managment and coach on this issue?

      Further to Godot’s comments I remember watching a Sportscentre segment on Gagner’s training regiment as an 18 year old. He was running up sand hills pulling tires and he looked like he was completley yoked up even as a teenager, can’t see him being out of shape at camp

    6. garkin
      September 13, 2013 at

      your point is very good but the graphs don’t illustrate it very well

      when the goal differential is high and there are more fights

      the poor little bar graph is small

    7. daryl
      September 13, 2013 at

      I thought the graphs were great – illustrates the point much better than raw numbers.

      This might be impossible to discern – does the number of fights change much based on the number of relatively high skilled players on a team? i.e. can we measure how much teams fight to “protect” their stars? That’s really the only reason I can see the Oil now are in this market and kind of makes me discount the Eakins-Marlies numbers without context in that.

    8. Peachy
      September 13, 2013 at

      I don’t know of anyone who’s made it, but if Cherry et al. were to see this data and process it in a semi-intelligent (but misguided) fashion, I could see the following argument being made:

      “Enforcers deter other teams from running up the score because they make it an unpleasant proposition. In other words, enforcers make us better by making us harder to play against.”

      Is there enough data to make the determination that teams who fight frequently in low leverage situations are less likely to have the score run up against them, i.e. remain in higher leverage situations more frequently?

      (Not that this determination would change the mind of anyone advancing the position.)

    9. sacamano
      September 13, 2013 at

      “Leverage” is a bit of a baseball concept but it applies equally well to hockey. Basically, there are points in the game where one goal changes things more than at other points. IF you get scored on 10 seconds into the game, your chance of winning goes from 50% to, say, 30%. If you get scored on with 10 seconds left in a tie game, your chance of winning goes from 50% to like 1%.

      Wait. Are you saying there IS such a thing as Big Goals?

      I too am confused by your graphs. Minutes/fight? That’s an insane label. It makes it seem like when the game is tied in the third period, fights last for 1400 minutes. That’s a helluva brawl. Wouldn’t converting everything to a ratio (e.g., # fights/20 minutes played) be simpler and have the added bonus of allowing you to put all three periods on the same stacked line chart?

      Such a chart would also let you see clearly, that three goals seems to be the magic moment. At a differential of 3 goals or fewer, fights/period are roughly similar (at least in the context of a 4+ third period). But at a four-goal differential, you are essentially guaranteed to see a fight in the third period! This is useful information to know when evaluating whether to leave the game early to beat traffic or to stick around to see some fisticuffs.

      • dawgbone
        September 13, 2013 at

        I don’t think anyone has every said there wasn’t big goals or important goals, the issue has been whether guys are capable of repeating such events (i.e. Chris Drury in OT, clutch Eberle, etc…)

        And minutes per fight means how many minutes of hockey play per fight. So in a tie game in the 1st period, you’ll see 85 minutes of play for every fight you see.

        You could flip it around and say you’ll see 0.012 fights per minute of 1st period tied hockey, but once you get to the 3rd period it’s 0.00071 fights per minute of 3rd period tied hockey.

    10. May 6, 2014 at

      i can’t say i can speak much for london ..im white & from new york. but id say our hotisry has put the blacks down, and kept them down for our own reflection of why whites are better. all of our low income minority housing development neighborhoods are always surrounding the richest of our neighborhoods. its like before they leave the house they like to take a stroll thru poor town for a confidence boost. i will say things have progress greatly since the 90 s though.

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