On whether descriptive, non-predictive stats really have use

As many of you know, I love reading about baseball and soccer analytics. I think that in baseball’s case, having the “first mover” element means that later-adapting sports like hockey can look to copy many of their concepts and ideas, even if the sports are quite different. Soccer, meanwhile, is quite a similar game to hockey – just a slower version – and therefore many of the more specific practices translate quite well.

Soccer is at an interesting point though because they, unlike baseball, are uncovering new statistics (courtesy of companies like Opta) while also just now figuring out which of those statistics are meaningful. You can get an idea of how far behind analytics in soccer is by the fact that its main predictive statistic: Total Shots Ratio – which is essentially the soccer version of corsi – is actually based on corsi.

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On P.K. Subban and the NHL’s Marketing Gaffe

I was chatting with a friend yesterday and the discussion turned to hockey. Now this was somebody who has worked in a professional sports front office in analytics, has met with a number of commentators, coaches, managers, and players in the sports world. It’s safe to say ESPN is glued onto his TV screen for major live sports. The guy knows sports, and he happens to be of a minority group. “The Calgary Flames,” he told me, “were always a team I liked because of Jarome Iginla. He’s great, and he’s black!” “Oh,” somebody else chimed in, “well what about P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens?” “Wait, there’s another black star in the NHL now?” was the response.

I was shocked and yet somehow not surprised.

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On Akim Aliu, Racism, and Character in Hockey

I’ve been reading Gare Joyce’s “Future Greats and Heartbreaks”, a book about a journalist learning the art of scouting, and there have been a number of neat tidbits about the 2006 and 2007 NHL drafts and the junior hockey that was being played at that time. But there was one story that I didn’t find as much neat as I did sad. There’s no secret that there’s a race problem in hockey. It’s no longer hard racism so much as it is soft. White Canadian coaches prefer compliant, dull, white Canadian players, and so when a guy like P.K. Subban –  with a lively personality and something of an ego – comes along, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and words like “enigmatic”, “selfish”, “undisciplined”, and “cocky” get thrown around.

As Joyce travels around the Canadian Hockey League venues, he encounters a draft-eligible prospect by the name of Akim Aliu. As a hockey fan, I remember Aliu as somebody who was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Blackhawks, who briefly played for the Calgary, and just recently played a season with the Hamilton Bulldogs. But it turns out there was a lot more there I had missed.

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On Neilson Numbers and Alternatives to Corsi

Roger Neilson

I received an email the other day with a proposal for player tracking, which for the sake of privacy, I won’t go into here. But the proposed metric was similar in some respects to the somewhat infamous Neilson Numbers (which you can read up on here). I thought I’d publish some of my thoughts on these types of metrics here, since at first glance they seem much more useful than something like corsi.

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On the Green Bay Packers and public sports ownership

Packers ownershipJack Han, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens, now of Habs EOTP, wrote an interesting article yesterday on whether the Canadiens should allow their fans to vote on the team’s captaincy, or, on a larger scale, whether sports are trending towards a non-profit model.

It was only this summer that I found out that such a model was present anywhere, let alone  in the NFL – for a Bears fan, the idea that the Packers are innovative frustrates me to no end – but I spent several hours researching the idea, and was fascinated by what I found. For those that don’t know, allow me to summarize.

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On the Chicago Cubs, Draft Inefficiencies, and the Last Mover’s Advantage

061312_epsteinThere’s a scene in Moneyball where Red Sox owner John Henry offers his vacant GM position to Billy Beane. “Anybody who’s not tearing their team down right now and rebuilding it using your model,” he says. “They’re dinosaurs.” The Oakland A’s were the first movers of modern sports analytics. They took a risk, and while there were stumbles along the way, they benefitted as a result. In hockey, it took a decade longer for any kind of true analytic implementation, and we’re still not quite in “tear down and rebuild using your model” territory. So why has it taken so long? I think the answer lies in the hockey world’s view of baseball. NHL executives are drawn to the differences between the two sports rather than their similarities. Yes, baseball is a stop-start game whereas hockey is fluid. And yes, baseball involves more one-on-one matchups and less team play. But beyond that, the games – and the strategies that result in building the best possible teams – are actually quite similar.

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Introduction to AP Hockey

IMG_0488In June of 2010 I joined Twitter, and I had no idea at that point what an impact it would have on my ability to analyze and process the game of hockey. In the four years since, I’ve read thousands of articles, and was fortunate to be welcomed into Habs Eyes On The Prize, able to share my writing, research, and analysis with its loyal and diverse readership. Don’t worry, I’m not stepping down from anything, and I hope to continue to contribute analytical Habs-related content to EOTP, but I decided near the end of last season that I wanted to start my own blog, giving myself ultimate editorial freedom and the ability to jump from team-to-team, sport-to-sport, topic-to-topic and serve what I hope will become a readership of my own. Now that we are nearing the beginning of another NHL season, I thought it was the right time to act on that decision.

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