Advanced Stats: Has hockey achieved it’s E=MC^2 moment?

Posted: 07/21/2013 by bc in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Imagine success in hockey explained by a number. We do right. It’s called Wins. Naw, we’re not talkin’ after the fact though. Many claim there’s a new way of looking at the game that is so powerful, it’s predictive of future results. Never mind that the claims aren’t supported by facts.

We’re talkin’ Corsi and all its permutations, Corsi/Fenwick, Fenwick Close and something called PDO that is unrepresentative of its meaning. Yeah, an acronym absent any meaning whatsoever. PDO is shooting percentage plus save percentage.

First a little history;

What happened was a guy named Jim Corsi, goalie consultant with the Buffalo Sabres liked to study how much work goalies actually do during a game. So, he began tracking shots, attempted shots, missed and even blocked shots. His very valid theory, is an attempt to measure (quantify) how much work a goalie actually does during a game.

Well, along comes this guy, an engineer named Gabriel Desjardins who looked at Corsi’s work and had an epiphany. Dangerous things epiphanies. Anyway, Desjardins figured that when teams have the puck in ES situations, that they are singularly focused on creating a shot on the opposing goal.

Yeah, yeah, we all know better but, let’s not the facts get in the way of a good theory.

Eureka! Here’s the epiphany part. Desjardins credited the value +1 to the shot taking team and the players on the ice. He also charged a -1 to the team and players who gave up the shots.

In the middle of this, along comes a guy named Fenwick who mused, take out the blocked shots.

Desjardins then concludes that shots indicate possession. Teams that take the most shots, possess the puck most often, ergo these are the teams and players most likely to be successful in the NHL.

Desjardins went on to create a website, behindthenet.com that has achieved cult standing among some reporters and some hockey fans.  The inconvenient truth being that Desjardins needed to hang his notion on the back and work of a pro, hence the name Corsi.

Anybody notice how far removed Desjardin’s Corsi has moved away from the original study of how much work goalies do? Such it is with frauds, charlatans and the merely misguided followers.

If there were any validity to Desjardins’ notion, we’d see PDO reflected in team standings, players stats and salaries.

Yesterday, Matt Fenwick tweeted:

If possession was the be-all-end-all, no one would ever dump the puck in. Or out.

btw, the goal with Corsi & its variants was to establish a proxy for scoring chances, not for possession per se.

(((DOH))) why did Fenwick have to say that? Doesn’t he know how much ego is invested in the Advanced Stat movement? Doesn’t he care that he could be demystified by the legions of charlatans spreading Desjardins’ Advanced Stat gospel?

There are so many erroneous assumptions in Desjardins work. About the only thing he and his proponents prove is that a little bit of knowledge is dangerous.

On page one of his website, Desjardins advocates the predictive capacity of his stat analyses and links gambling sites where you can put your money behind his theory.

Now you know what this stuff is really all about. A guy got a theory and monetizes it as a gambling tool all the while supported by legions of wannabe experts in mainstream media, the blogosphere and in the Twitterverse.

Many of these folks claim that Alain Vigneault applies Advanced Stats in his coaching strategy. Coach Vigneault does send out his better scoring lines to take offensive zone faceoffs. Conversely, he uses his checking lines most often to take defensive zone faceoffs. Really? Coach Vigneault needs an Advanced Stat to help him make that decision? That’s laughable.

Fact is, there is no stat to explain or substitute for team chemistry, willingness to sacrifice, play through injury, backchecks, forechecks, saucer passes, creativity, positioning or in short, all of the reasons why we play, study and love this game.

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Comments
  1. bbdux93 says:

    Stats are great for predicting some outcomes, but Not when you’re dealing with the unknown human factors as are common in the game of hockey.

  2. bc says:

    This post was about a year brewin’ bb. It is the most thoroughly researched post on hockey that I’ve published. I chose to go with it yesterday, after Matt Fenwick disavowed Desjardins and his promoters.

    There are some solid researchers, using sound methodology and generating meaningful analyses out there. One of them, Eric T. can found here. I’m looking forward to helping with the Zone Entry stat count.

  3. bbdux93 says:

    Thanks for the link – I look forward to reading more of his articles.

  4. Sam Brief says:

    Great piece. I love your closing: no number can truly quantify the beauty of hockey.

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