Have you even used a calculator, jock?

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There has been quite a lot of talk over the last couple of days about how unhappy NHL players are with the escrow hit they take on every paycheque.

Unfortunately, when you have a collective bargaining agreement that specifies how hockey related revenues are to be split between owners and players, an escrow account is a necessary evil. Because the players’ share is paid out under the provisions of 700 or so individual player contracts throughout the season, there needs to be a mechanism to reconcile those payments with the total share following completion of the season, when all hockey related revenues have been accounted for.

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How Can We Quantify Power Play Performance In Formation?

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Last week I wrote about a new metric, ZEFR Rate, which measures zone entry success on the power play and is relatively repeatable and predictive of future goal scoring efficiency. The metric was based around the idea that getting into formation efficiently — most frequently a 1-3-1 — is a catalyst for power play success.

But now let’s say you’re a team that has perfected your entry scheme, and you find yourself setting up in formation at a consistent rate. What now? How can one maximize one’s use of possession in formation to score goals at the highest possible rate?

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Looking back at the NHL trade deadline

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On Monday, fans tuned into one of the quieter NHL trade deadlines in recent memory. Despite the slow pace of movements, Matt Cane (@cane_matt) and I set about making visuals to give our takes on each trade.

Here, we’ll look back on a few of our takes from the trade deadline. We’ll focus ourselves with three categories – a trade where we had a similar take, a trade we disagreed on, and our favourite viz from the day.

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Can defensemen control rebound opportunities? Putting the eye test to the test.

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One of the attributes that is often attached to defensemen is the ability to clear rebounds. You hear this quite often on NHL broadcasts, usually after a flurry of rebound shots that ultimately wind up in a goal. The colour commentator will jump in and imagine the goalie is saying to his defensemen, “I’ll stop the first three, you get the fourth one.”

But just how much is there to defensemen’s ability to prevent rebound shots?
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Jakub Voracek’s Goal Drought

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Jacob Voracek is having an especially poor season.  After averaging above 1.6 Primary Points per 60 at 5v5 the last few seasons, he’s down to .6 in 2015-16.  Voracek’s assist rate is down, and most prominently, he has only scored one goal at 5v5.

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What is causing this run of poor form? The most direct route of analysis is to examine his shot metrics. How does Voracek’s 2015-16 season stack up against his previous seasons?

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Rebounds, Extended Zone Time, and the Quest For More Offense

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Long has it been argued that sustained zone time is a reliable way to not only prevent your opponents from scoring but as a way to produce offense of your own. The argument that is often made, or at least the one that’s often heard, is that the longer you are in the offensive zone the more likely it is that the defense will become fatigued and make a mistake that leaves someone open for a prime scoring opportunity. 

So let’s test that theory by asking a more data driven question; does sustained zone time lead to an increase in shooting percentage?

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Are there unintended consequences to the coach’s challenge?

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On a Canucks broadcast earlier this season, Sportsnet’s John Garrett pointed out that we seem to be getting a lot more offside calls this year. And for once, I actually agreed with him.

Garrett theorized that maybe this was an unintended consequence of the coach’s challenge. Perhaps linesemen don’t want to be responsible for having a goal called back because they got the call wrong at the blue line. So if it’s a close call, just be conservative and whistle it down. Coaches can’t challenge an offside call, after all.

The NHL introduced a coach’s challenge to try and get more calls right. And clearly, it should be in everyone’s interest to do so. But what if we’re not just getting more calls right? What if we’re also getting more calls, period?

Ever since that broadcast, every game I’ve watched seems to be rife with offside calls on any play even remotely close at the blue line. It doesn’t matter the player, the team or the score. Bobble the puck? Offside. Drag the skate? Offside. Make an extra move? Offside.

At best this is slowing down the game, but could it also be contributing to the reduced scoring we’ve seen so far this season?

If so, this is an observation that both John Garrett and I picked up on just by watching the games. Maybe Brian Burke is right and hockey really is an eyeballs sport.

Let’s find out.

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Has the NHL’s new faceoff rule increased goal scoring?

Mise au jeu BOS @ MTL Faceoff” by Fleurdelisé. Licensed under Creative Commons via Commons.

Over the summer, the NHL made a number of significant rule changes to make the game more entertaining to fans and more fair for teams, with 3-on-3 overtime being the most revolutionary and thus far the most applauded.

Buried down at the bottom of the list of rule changes, however, was a much less significant note. It involved faceoffs – you know, that thing data analysts get peeved at commentators for overemphasizing. For years, the standard procedure has been that the visiting team’s player is required to put his blade on the ice prior to his opponent. This is an advantage for the home player, as he can attempt to secure the puck back to his side with one consistent motion rather than having to move his stick forward and then backward.

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Blue Jackets Coach Todd Richards’ Firing, & Why the History Doesn’t Agree With Mike Harrington

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Photo by user “Arnold C,” via Wikimedia Commons; altered by author

The Columbus Blue Jackets made a bold move today, firing their coach of 3 1/2 seasons Todd Richards in favor of noted firebrand and Brandon Dubinsky fan John Tortorella. The move, riding the coattails of a 0-7 start for the Jackets, was done unusually early in the season, so unusually I decided to spill a little ink on it.

Around the same time I was rounding up the data, the esteemed (Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame!) Sabres writer and analytics pot-shotter Mike Harrington decided now was the time to defend a decision that made little sense, about a team he doesn’t write about. It started with a reasonable tweet from Friend of the Blog Micah Blake McCurdy:

At which point Harrington followed:

Alright, Mike, let’s take a look at the “numbers that count,” according to you. There’s a fun history here.

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#RITHAC Recap with Slides!

After a wildly successful Hockey Analytics Conference at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I wanted to say a few words of gratitude to everyone involved.

First off, this means a huge thank you to all that attended and viewed online. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your weekend to come listen to us all wax on about hockey analytics and things we spend hours laboring on. I feel I can speak for all the speakers when I say, it really does mean a lot to see that support and encouragement. So, thank you.

Next, to Matthew Hoffman and Paul Wenger, both professors at RIT. Matt was instrumental in paving the way to make this happen. Paul was a big hand helping out with the live stream and time-stamping the presentations so quickly after the conference ended. Huge thanks to both of them. Great guys and they deserve a ton of thanks for this event.

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