"Advanced stats" in hockey are anything but. Corsi and Fenwick measurements simply take into account shot attempts for and against as rates and ratios in various situations, and seem to correlate, in large sample sizes, to success.
The BaD Radio program on The Ticket got Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff to delve into the subject a little last week while on their road trip, and I'm finally getting around (say sorry) to bringing those quotes to this space this morning.
The National Hockey League has been slowly embracing these types of measurements, or at least working to ascertain their value and develop metrics of their own, often in secret. Many teams employ stats personnel involved in scouting amateurs and the professional ranks alike.
Frank Provenzano, formerly an assistant to Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, was forthcoming about the previous administration's interests in them last season. Finding a team official that will profess their absolute value one way or the other is tricky, but there's enough smoke to know that there's a fire kindling somewhere, though the final results likely won't use the words "Corsi" and Fenwick" when it's all said and done.
Just as we were starting to get a peak at the Nieuwendyk administration's interest in such things they were, as you know, relieved of their duties- So we wondered if the incoming regime would cozen to such ideas.
Until the incoming regime was revealed to be headed by Lindy Ruff, whose goaltending coach Jim Corsi started the whole thing.
Ruff mentioned it in passing in his introductory press conference, but it took Bob and Dan to dig a little deeper last week to get a better look.
"That's the greatest debate," Ruff responded, when asked if those kinds of measurements have any value.
"There's stats that I keep. There are 'chances per,' saves, There's a lot of shots that don't have a chance of going in during a game. There's a lot of chances that are 'B-chances', 'A-chances' and we look at all chances inside a certain area. We look at the shots and the attempts."
You might recall that we (Josh) kept "chances" for the Stars in the 2011-2012 season and found it similarly useful (though time consuming) and a bounty of information confirming what the eyeballs say, and Ruff seems to favor this approach as well.
His analysis sounds like ours many nights.
"For the most part we're one of the best teams in the league in shots for and a lot of times in attempts, but on the other side of it we've given up a lot of shots too."
We look to Corsi and Fenwick as, most importantly, FAST and EASY ways to quantify puck possession over a period of time. NHL coaches with staffs can afford to spend the time to grade the chances a little more finely.
"A common stat that is good for us is really the chances inside that certain area that we keep," Ruff continued. "There's this Pucks! Scouting System that keeps- and I'll reference that because we have that and I'll look at it- They give out a lot more chances that for me are low percentage."
The software he references is seemingly this "Pucks! Hockey Software" or something similar, that claims to be employed by as many as 17 NHL teams currently, but he's quick to point out that they keep their own numbers as well.
"When we play well we're holding the opposition in the 13-15 range," he added. "Then there's the type of chances- Whether we're giving up offensive zone chances that typically don't go in as regular as a rush chance where you're caught up ice and you're trying to race back and before you can get in position they score."
"So we try to keep those chances down versus defending in your own end where if you defend with passion and block shot lanes, those chances don't seem to mean as much as the length of the ice chances."
Sounds like coach likes Fenwick (which does not take blocked shots into its account) over Corsi.
"We're using some of those numbers, but I never reference Corsi with our players. I use my own stats, I use the scouting system stats."
It's one of the more frank discussions an NHL coach has given in recent memory pertaining to their nightly evaluations and data usage. Great stuff from the Bob and Dan radio show there.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the film room today when chances are discussed.
The "length of the ice" chances were bountiful last night for the B's.
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