TRH GAMEDAY 59 PRESENTED BY SAP: DETROIT RED WINGS – Pandora’s Box Score

A dark, harrowing precedent has been set in the National Hockey League this past week. And I’m not even talking about the Los Angeles Kings scoring goals outside.

As everyone within the hockey community is now keenly aware of, the NHL revamped it’s statistics engine over the weekend. Which means that sound you heard late Saturday night was not the cheers of Kings fans whose team just dished the San Jose Sharks yet another helping of devastation. Rather it was the unabated cheers of joy of the pocket protector-sporting nerds our good friends in the hockey analytics community celebrating the dawning of the age of #FancyStats.

I can only assume the reaction of many analytics people
looked something like this.

But I was definitely not one of the people who were doing a ceremonial dance around the PD-Oracle after the new NHL.com/Stats was officially launched.

Why? Let’s begin by saying I fashion myself a words guy. I managed to scrap my way through four years of college (at a liberal arts school of course) without stepping foot in one math class – both so I could work toward my English and Media degree and because numbers made my head hurt.

EricDrinksHisOwnPee

The one on the right is mine.

I’m the type of guy who needs a calculator to determine what period a game is currently in. Which was all the more reason I was excited to embark on a career in writing, where more often than not you can navigate yourself out of an unfortunate situation by spewing copious amounts of verbose, mostly superfluous rhetoric.

Covering hockey has primarily been something that is easy for the arithmatically-challenged; scores hardly ever deviate from the single-digits and the standings are easy to track because of the wonderfully arbitrary point system. What could be considered the most complicated stats to understand – save percentage and goals-against-average – I had experience with as a goalie and are really simple to interpret: above .900 SV% = good, above 3.00 GAA = bad.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.14.56 PM

Sorry Bryz.

But ever since people on Hockey Twitter started sprinkling in Corsi and Fenwick like they were name dropping their old boarding school classmates, I began to get a little stressed out. Bloggers and insiders alike were throwing out percentages and abbreviations and decimals that looked like they belonged in a textbook rather than on a stat sheet. Instead of reading something simple like “Jonathan Quick stopped 94 of 98 shots over his last four games” (#NotElite), you can now find frightening visual depictions like this.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 7.20.18 PM

I don’t need all this know that shots from the slot are more dangerous than those outside the blue line

For the longest time my numerically-impaired friends and I could take solace in the fact that the growing analytics fad was just that, a fad. I mostly brushed it off, thinking Team #FancyStats was little more than a cult movement based around shot attempts and zone starts. Coaches and players scoffed at those who took it seriously, and one person in particular said that anyone in Hockey Ops that makes personnel decisions based on advanced statistics should be tarred, feathered and then fired.

PierreTerminator

Watch out analytics community, he’s coming.

But little by little the fad kept growing, and now it is official. The NHL has been ransacked by the #FancyStat pirate ship and has flown the colors of the Advanced Stats Revolution. Or make that “Enhanced Stats”. The tracking of blocked shots, assists-per-period and even average shot length are no longer just niche practices, they are here and they are in our faces.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 7.19.00 PM

I thought you got 200 points on your SAT for just writing your name…

A sidenote – I don’t want to risk sounding like I am vehamently against advanced statistics. I accept that puck possession and winning the shot battle over your opponent are typically good indicators of team success. By the same token, I also accept the fact that approximately 87 percent of anything more complex than a players’ plus/minus will go right over my head. Which is a frightening prospect considering that now hockey writers are starting to adapt these advanced metrics into their everyday repertoire. This has to be what it felt for the traditional ink-stained wretches at newspapers across the country when social media began to take over the world.

https://twitter.com/ulyssesjim/status/566821896709107713

These crazy kids and all of their newfangled numbers

After all, if I wanted to pursue a career that involved a significant amount of data analysis, I would have been an Econ major like all my friends, and probably have a job right now. But I didn’t do that, so now I have to learn how to crunch the numbers by myself, at fear of falling behind the rest of the stat-saavy hockey media.

But there is one number that I can make sense of for the LA Kings without needing to dig out my abacus.

Seven.

Seven straight wins is a good thing. Winning seven straight games has historically brought positive results to hockey teams, both in the regular and postseasons.

But eight wins are better than seven, so the Kings should try to win tonight against Detroit.

How’s that for statistical analysis?

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Knick Rickle was a former junior and college goaltender and is a current aspiring journalist and mediocre adult league goaltender. While growing up in Minneapolis, he learned how to play by attending Robb Stauber's goalie school, which unbeknownst to him at the time was the first step in becoming a Kings fan. The rest of the steps came when became probably the first person ever to move to California from Minnesota to play hockey. He currently is unemployed, holds an English degree, while contributing to #TeamTRH, so you be the judge how his hockey career turned out. You can follow KnickRickle on Twitter @KnickRickle.