Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Flames Game Night

I've just been mucking around at Behind The Net for a half-hour or so, inadvertenly reinforcing a couple of my firmly held opinions about stats in general. Which are:
  1. There is a lot more that can be done with data that already exists, before worrying about inventing new things to measure.
  2. It's quite rare that the stats demonstrate something very counter-intuitive; it's much more common that it matches what you see with your two eyes as a fan.
I was listening to Mirtle on Bob Stauffer's show last Wednesday, and they were chatting briefly about plus/minus (prompted by Mirtle's post about Brad Richards). They kind of agreed, as most of us do, that it's somewhat flawed (even if you play a lot of PP and you're great at it, you'll invariably pick up some minuses for SH GA; when your goalie is pulled, the EN GA gives you a minus; etc.).

As I say, just about everyone seems to agree that these factors make the +/- stat less valuable and less instructive. So I guess the first question is, why is it still tracked that way? The second question is, assuming that the NHL itself doesn't care enough to change it (and they don't), why doesn't some enterprising media outlet that spends millions of dollars on hockey coverage -- including paying the salaries of numerous people who air this same beef -- track plus/minus in a way that's more instructive?

Anyway, lucky for us, we have Gabe Desjardins; at the click of the mouse, you can see 5-on-5 GF and GA for every player in the league. And then with Excel, or a calculator, or an abacus, you can figure out 5v5 +/-.

What I was just doing was taking all the forwards with at least 30GP and 5:00 per game of EV TOI, sorting them by team and by 5v5+/-, and looking at what jumped out. There is so much of interest there, I'll have to do a separate post. The one thing I'll put out there right now is that any skepticism I ever had about the fact that it's the forwards rather than the defense that drive results is gone. The top 20-30 D-men is a hodgepodge of stars, journeymen, and in between.

By contrast, there are 27 NHL forwards with a 5v5 +/- of +10 or better. I deleted the 7(!) Red Wings; here is the top 20 non-Wings. While all the standard caveats about common sense, competition, & linemates apply, it looks awfully All-Star-ry, doesn't it?

The Flames play Phoenix tonight for the 1st time this season (7PM MT, RSN West & HD). I'm eager to see what the deal is with the Coyotes. Is Derek Morris now a cagey veteran defenceman? Is Special Ed as crazy as ever? Is Radim Vrbata seriously a difference maker? Will Coach Whiner lose his mind again like on Saturday? Tune in to Millions & Somebody to find out. Until I see them good myself, I'm Missouri.

Calgary 5 (Iginla x2, Lombardi, Nolan, Tanguay)
Phoenix 1 (Hitmen alumus F. Sjostrom)

Go Flames.


This new stat certainly gives credence to Jean LeFebvre's piece in today's Herald about Tanguay vastly improving his defensive game.

It's also interesting given who's not on the list (Lecavalier, Kovalchuk, etc.)

I think Phoenix has something in Vrbata; he's small, but is generating a ton of their offence at even strength.

Derek Morris is also having a great season in more of a shutdown role. Who would have thunk?

No kidding about Tanguay. Imagine if he had playing with someone who could convert his passes a bit more the last few weeks - the differential would be even bigger.

Phoenix's three goal scorers so far had a combined six career goals coming in.

It's been that kind of season for Gretzky so far. Unbelievable.

I got free last minute tickets to the game tonight. Wow. Thank god I didn't pay for that monstrosity. I think the 2nd period might have been the worst period I've seen the Flames play all year. Just ugly all around.

Missouri/Misery ..

BTW, I could spend hours on the Desjardins site as well. It's incredible.

What's that? A Flames loss? Ooo and the Canucks take the division back! It's going to be a crazy race to the finish for the NW Division crown.

hey, I added +/- to the tables. There are just too many stats to keep track of!

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