Number Chains – May 25, 2012

Updated: May 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm by Cam Charron


This new, regular feature on NHLNumbers will share interesting stats-related posts from around the web every week.

Headed towards the offseason, we don’t have too much to pore over this week, but there are a few concepts of note…

  • We start with blocked shots, however, which became a theme of the NHL playoffs and have actually become a pretty big story at the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, where I’ve been hanging out for the last week or so. Tyler Dellow had the definitive article, writing about a very divisive topic between traditional and progressive analysts.

Just as importantly, however, Dellow argued against a change of style of play, and how much aesthetics matter in sport, which is what makes soccer such a delight to watch:

Not only does hockey not seem to have room for aesthetics, but, like the English with tackling, the media (and I have no doubt that they reflect the people within the game on this) lionize stuff that should be something you resort to, which doesn’t even seem like it has a particularly significant impact on the game, relative to all of the other things that go on. The Rangers shouldn’t be praised for their shot blocking, which was a little bit more significant for them than it is for most teams in the regular season. They should be criticized for not being interesting to watch. You can’t choose to win the Stanley Cup. You can choose not to play a passive sort of game that sees you block a bunch of shots and isn’t all that interesting to watch.

Curious, here. Our friend petbugs13 at Canucks Army believes that “hockey respects skill and toughness, but it only loves winning”. The Rangers have their backs against the wall headed to Game 6 of their series against New Jersey. The Devils play a pretty up-tempo style and despite the high number of shorthanded goals given up, Peter DeBoer continues to run a powerplay with Ilya Kovalchuk at the point and pretty well given free reign to warm around the zone.

I tend to agree with petbugs. If the Rangers’ style doesn’t win, it won’t be hyped up going into next season. I’ve argued that the previous season’s winner sets the story for the next season. This year was all about toughness after the Bruins beat the Canucks, and after wins by Pittsburgh and Chicago, it was about having young players on rookie deals.

Back to aesthetics, however, Ellen Etchingham has another beautiful post in response to Tyler’s piece. She argues that “fast, fun, exciting, creative hockey is the game’s dream, but tight, physical, defensive hockey is its nature”. 

  • Meanwhile, over at Arctic Ice Hockey, Brian MacDonald discusses “NHL Adjusted Plus/Minus”. Link to Part 4 is here, but there are links to Parts 1, 2 and 3 in that post. Brian’s inspired by player contribution and GVT in the past. I haven’t had the chance to totally go over it yet, but from the outside there are some pretty fun conclusions. I think most of us would agree that Brian Campbell was probably a very underappreciated key in Florida this season.

Most of it is adjusted for league average shooting, so it’s sort of a goal estimate based on shot counts. Some fun stuff in there, no doubt.

What advice do Groysberg, Nanda and Nohria have to offer?

  • Winning a “star war” might be the worst thing you could do for your organization.
  • Grow your stars [proven winners] internally; do not buy them on the market.
  • Find and recruit bright people through a disciplined hiring strategy.
  • Develop them through training and mentoring, e.g., Sam Pollack had a 17-year mentorship and training period with Frank Selke, Sr.—arguably one of the greatest GMs to serve in the NHL.
  • Work to retain outstanding GMs.

Nothing necessarily that any of us disagree with. I initially saw this when Kyle Dubas, the young GM of the Sault-Ste. Marie Greyhounds, posted it to his Twitter account.

Tonight’s Eastern Finals game is analogous to the “Guarantee Game” of 1994 when Mark Messier scored a hat-trick to force a 7th game against New Jersey. Messier, the “proven winner” was given a suitcase of money by the Canucks and captained a team to the bottom of the standings.