Colby Cosh had a good line a while back about the NHL and statistics (he was specifically talking about high event versus low event players, but the quote is of general application):
This will be the next stat revolution in hockey when the league finally realizes it already has the data–it just needs to present them to the fan. (Ideally, in some intelligible form that encourages number-crunching, as opposed to making it a bigger pain in the ass than rectal cancer.)
The NHL has presented more data to fans this year than ever before and they should be commended for that. They should be vehemently criticized though, for the fact that it’s harder to compile than ever. I used to have a spreadsheet with a VBA script that did most of the dirty work for me; it’s been rendered useless by the changes to the site. One of my favourite developments is an apparently new policy whereby they present different information on the event sheets and game sheets from game to game. For instance, they started presenting shots broken down by game state this year. It’s not compiled anywhere on their site (FYI: they seem to have difficulty compiling information correctly as well) so if you’re interested, you need to scrape it. Of course scraping it is a pain in the ass because you don’t know where it will be from game to game. As a source of anything more than general statistics, their site is borderline useless. I can’t believe that this would be that difficult to fix; hire a computer science student for a summer and turn him loose. They would do well to pay attention to MLB.com, who are currently making the Pitch f/x data available free of charge almost instantaneously, in an easy to grab format.
Anyway, as a result, I’ve been just grabbing the Oilers PBP files as the season went along. There’s a ton of interesting stuff in there, fodder for more than a few posts over the course of the summer. Today, there’s something that’s proven popular as we’ve gone along throughout the season: ES SF/SA data for all Oilers. I’ve split it into the two halves of the season for the sake of discussion.
If that’s too small for you, pop over to Flickr and look at the large version.
I’m just going to offer a series of stream of consciousness thoughts on the whole thing:
- I’d be leery of signing GlenX to a contract on the basis of last year’s numbers and thinking that he can make the jump to being a second or third line guy. I made the point a few times last year when people were talking about him replacing Torres that he was doing it against nobodies and it looks like he was having a big year as far as the percentages go while he did so, with a 13% shooting percentage when he was on the ice. That’s completely unsustainable. I like him a lot but if I was running the show, I suspect he wouldn’t end up coming back because I’m probably not willing to pay him what somebody else is.
- It’s going to be a few years before we have any sort of consensus on the question of player impact on save percentage but I continue to think that it’s going to be pretty small. I fiddled around with looking for a relationship between first and second half save percentages when a given player was on the ice but was unable to find anything. It’s going to be a tricky question to answer because roles and teammates change over the course of the season but there was nothing there with the Oilers this year; if anything, the relationship between save percentage in the first and second halves was a negative one.
- Accordingly, trumpet Stortini at your own risk (although those few who did have been out on a limb all along and are presumably fine with that). The Oilers fourth line was absolute dynamite down the stretch; it was really all percentages.
- The Pensky duo really fell off in the second half. I’m guessing that a lot of the blame for this can be heaped on the Horcoff injury.
- It’s not surprising that Pouliot’s EV+10 EV-4 in the second half was percentage aided. The small sample +21 in shot differential is nice though. I’m getting to the point where I can’t remember who was playing with who but I don’t think he was playing with anyone who would have been driving that number for him.
- I’ve seen Nilsson get a lot of credit in some places for his fine +/-; interesting to see that he was riding the save percentage bus all year long, right beside Stortini.
- I know that he was coming off a broken leg in the second half of the season but how long can Matt Greene be a bad third pairing defenceman for without losing his spot on the team? Some day in the future, it’d be interesting to know whether the Oilers braintrust thinks that the development of a (hopefully) middling third pairing defenceman justified the critically reviled Spring 2006 Matt Greene Festival of Penalties.
- Dennis has made this point before, I think, but while Pisani was back on the ice, he wasn’t back.
- Gagner’s improvement in the second half looks more likely to be repeated than Cogliano’s to me.
My early thoughts on next year’s team is that it could be better than this year’s team and not do as well. While I think that there was some real improvement in terms of the puck spending more time in the right end of the ice, I also tend to think that there was a big jump in terms of percentages that won’t necessarily repeat next year in the second half. It’s interesting looking at this list, trying to figure out where the lines that are going to dominate are going to be for the Oilers next year. I’m thinking that, at best, they can hope that the first and fourth lines can play with the opposition on roughly equal terms. The second line, likely Gagner/Nilsson/Cogliano, looks like it’s going to probably get outshot to me, although they might be able to get by on shooting percentage; I think Gagner is probably one of those guys who raises the shooting percentage when he’s on the ice. In order for them to experience any real ES success, the third line, say Pisani/Torres/Stoll, is going to have to handle their opposition and come out on top. That’s an awful lot to heap on a guy coming off colitis, a guy who missed half a year with a knee injury and a guy coming off an atrocious year who still looks like he’s suffering from a concussion. Of course, if Mathieu Garon isn’t playing 60 games in 2007-08 form or better, none of it will matter.
EDIT: I’m just fiddling around with some of the cooler things that you can do with the shot data. Here’s something that I think is interesting, with the possibility of developing useful information – you can figure out things like the ratio of shots for/against for a forward with a given defenceman on the ice and get closer to isolating the impact of certain players. For example: Horcoff in 07-08 with Tom Gilbert 157 SF/153 SA for a 1.026 ratio. With Staios: 124/133 (0.932). With Pitkanen: 115/107 (1.075). With Smid: 72/92 (0.783). With Souray: 81/72 (1.125) With Greene 30/40 (0.75). It’s interesting to me how consistent he is with Gilbert, Staios, Pitkanen and Souray and how bad the ratio is when Smid and/or Greene are on the ice, particularly when you consider that Smid and/or Greene were presumably playing softer minutes than the aforementioned four.
By way of contrast, let’s look at Tom Gilbert with the various centres. With Horc: 157/153 (1.026). With Stoll 157/199 (0.789). With Gagner: 151/199 (0.759). With Brodziak: 134/155 (0.865). It’s intriguing to me because those four guys probably played dramatically different levels of competition, with Stoll/Horcoff at the top (pretty amazing difference between the two with Gilbert on the ice), with Brodziak following and Gagner bringing up the rear and yet Gilbert posted his best results with Horcoff. One thinks that you could do some pretty cool stuff with this.