I sat down this afternoon and recorded all of the Oilers touches for the first ten minutes of the game. (Coincidentally, Jonathan Willis has just written a post on something similar that he did last night.) The good thing about this: I think you pick up a lot of interesting stuff. The problem: it takes bloody forever to do.
I’m wondering whether there’s any appetite to build a group of people to do this. It took me about two hours to do ten minutes of game time; I would expect it would be less once I had some more experience at it. I divided the rink into 24 zones and recorded where each event started and ended. I did, I think, come up with some interesting stuff, even in only ten minutes. I was recording what happened with the puck when a player touched it and where he touched it.
So, for example, Oilers defencemen attempted 11 passes in their own end in the first ten minutes at EV. Petry tried one, Barker, Smid and Sutton two and Gilbert four. They went 7 for 11 with the passes. Sutton went 0/2 – watching it this way made me notice how he, in these ten minutes at least, tended to be in less of a good position to make a pass, as both of his passes had him basically trying to play it off the boards blind to a winger he knew was there. Gilbert was 3 out of 4 and, to my eye anyway, seemed to consistently be in a better position to make a play with the puck. If that 3/4 to 1/2 difference were to continue, that’s a big deal, I’d think. With this sort of data, we could start to ask questions like what influence a decreased success rate in passing out of one’s own end has on goal data.
Whenever a player skated a puck from one box on the ice to another, I recorded a “skate” event. I determined success based on whether the player lost the puck – if he chipped it in or attempted a pass or a shot, it was successful. There were 18 “skate” events at EV in the first ten minutes. The only guy who had unsuccessful ones were Eric Belanger, with both of his ending in him losing the puck. Dennis commented over at Lowetide’s that he noticed Belanger labouring and that there was some mention of a problem with his back.
The Oilers gained the blue line five times at EV during the first ten minutes (there was another offside). Smyth and RNH both gained the blue by skating it in, Omark got a touch on a pass from Petry that ended up in the offensive zone, Jones dumped it in once and Hall passed to RNH to gain the blue line. With a more substantial data set, you could start to look at outcomes based on how the blue line was gained.
There is, in short a ton of stuff that could be tracked and who knows what sort of investigations could be done on it. As indicated above there’s a problem: it takes bloody forever to do. There’s also a solution though, I think, which is sharing the recording work. At a bare minimum, I think I’d want 15 people or so; that’d be enough for a group each doing four minutes a game, which should take 30 minutes or so once people got the feel for it.
Is there any interest? I’m open to discussing the parameters of what gets tracked and what doesn’t. If you don’t want to comment but are interested in participating anyway, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think “Gee, this is something I’d be interested in, but I’d want to have a place to write about it where people might see what I think,” don’t worry – within reasonable limits, I can provide that space.