Sunday, February 26, 2012

Driving Play Podcast - Take (Forty)5 & Listen!

As the day of truth approaches, we're again back with the fifth edition of the Driving Play podcast. For our Eastern Conference middling teams podcast including the Canadiens, Leafs, Panthers, Jets, Senators, and Devils, we're joined by Julian of the fantastic Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets.

Thanks to everyone for listening, and we'll be back soon to discuss the deadline winners, losers and everyone in between. Enjoy.

Download (Right Click and choose "Save Link As...")

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Driving Play Podcast - Take Three & Fore(checker)

The latest two additions of the Driving Play podcast come in a bit of a somber mood. We had originally recorded an extensive chronicling of the Western Conference buyers, but like your favorite European in the playoffs, Jared's hard drive couldn't handle the pressure and gave out on us.

In addition to the excellent discussion we had with Geoff Detweiler of Broad Street Hockey about the buyers of the East, we luckily salvaged an interview about the Nashville Predators with another of our favorite bloggers, Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck.

Below are the third and fourth editions of the Driving Play podcast, first with Geoff and then the interview with Dirk. Enjoy.

Eastern Conference Buyers

Download (Right Click and choose "Save Link As...")

Discussing the Predators with Dirk Hoag

Download (Right Click and choose "Save Link As...")

Friday, February 24, 2012

Driving Play Podcast Take Deux

Hello, today. With the deadline fast approaching, the Driving Play podcast marches on. This time, we're privileged to be joined by none other than Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue to discuss the sellers of the Western Conference.

Though Jeff Carter was actually traded today, do your best to let it sink in that Scott Howson only got Jack Johnson and a first round pick in return.

Anyway, enjoy.

Download (Right Click and choose "Save Link As...")

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scott Gomez Modified Corsi

I recently watched the film Moneyball - in it, the essence of sabermetrics and finding efficiencies in the 2002 baseball market was reduced to three words: Get on base. Baseball has come a long way since then - on-base percentage has come to be correctly valued by the market. I also re-read the book Moneyball has a chapter devoted to the concept of DIPS (Defense Independent Pitching Statistics). Voros McCracken found that aside from home runs, walks, and strikeouts, pitchers have no control over how many hits they give up. However, that's not quite true - some pitchers have a little better control and it manifests itself over a career. It's not worth all that much - maybe a few hits over a season, maybe a run or two a year - but some pitchers give up a few more hits and some a few less hits than we would expect by just assuming that everyone gives up hits at the same rate. I got to thinking about applying this sort of winnowing to hockey - as the years go by, we're accumulating more and more data, now it's time to really look at some of it.

There's been some amazing work done on shaping Corsi/Fenwick into something more intelligible than it is in its raw form; I don't need to list off every blogger in this field. It's not like these concepts are being ignored. So someone may well have done this before, but I'm not consciously stealing their material.

Now, to hockey - I'm a Devils fan, and so I watched Scott Gomez play for 8 years. I didn't really understand shooting percentage when I watched him, but now I do, and I can say unequivocally that Scott Gomez is a horrible shooter. finds only one forward with more than 1000 shots on goal and a career shooting percentage below his - Henri Richard, for whom we only have shot data for the final 8 seasons of his career. Bear in mind that New Jersey, the place where he played the majority of his career, tends to undercount shots - there could be between 25 and 100 saved shots that went uncounted over the course of his career there, driving his shooting percentage even further down.

Yet I see bloggers all over praise Gomez's Corsi and his potential value even as his shooting percentage slides further into the toilet. For me, the reason why Gomez's Corsi has always been high is pretty simple - he loves to shoot the puck from all angles, and many of his shots are extremely low-percentage shots that are merely an attempt to generate a rebound that a teammate can score on. Keep in mind that before I conduct this experiment, I think that Gomez's Corsi will not be affected very much at all - it's still going to be quite good. Still, we have to account for the fact that he is a terrible shooter, and that we finally have enough data to be pretty darn sure that his presence on the ice lowers shooting percentage.

Now unfortunately for ease of data collection (and the fact that behindthenet has been spotty the last couple of days), I am only closely examining data from between 2007-08 to 2009-10. presents the data I wanted in a much easier format for me to compile. I'll spare you the raw data and just present a simple chart: shooting percentage with Gomez on the ice at even strength versus shooting percentage with Gomez on ice with Gomez's shots removed. In all 3 years, his teammates actually shot better than he did while on the ice with him. This doesn't seem that remarkable, but we have to remember that 2 of his teammates are always going to be defensemen, who typically shoot much at a much lower percentage than forwards.

YearS% With GomezS% W/O Gomez Shots

Now unfortunately to complete the post, I had planned on getting more shooting data so I could compare Gomez's shooting rate to an average forward both in terms of shots on goal and in shooting percentage at ES, but I can't find that data anywhere. It would be a haphazard look anyway - what I will do instead is look at Gomez's Shots % while on ice with Shots For normalized such that 8% of shots were goals, as that is generally considered to be the NHL average at even strength.

YearShots % ActualShots % Modified

Is this 'correct'? No - obviously in 2008-09, Gomez's teammates were just as much of a letdown as Gomez himself, as the shooting percentage doesn't move much with Gomez's shots taken out. It looks like that year he was certainly unlucky, in addition to being a poor shooter.

We don't have quite enough data included to make any sort of sweeping statement here. We know that the Gomez trend continues - according to behindthenet, Gomez himself shot 3.5% at 5 on 5 in 2010-11, and while he was on the ice, the Canadiens shot 4.7% as a whole. This year, he has 0 goals in 38 5 on 5 shots.

And yes, before I get a deluge of complaints, I am ignoring the effect that additional shots have - an increased chance of drawing a penalty, more offensive zone starts, not being in the defensive zone, and so forth. I'll leave that to someone with more comprehensive data. All I'm saying is that with nearly 5 seasons worth of data, and a close examination of 3 seasons worth of it, we have to account for the fact that Gomez is only a +2 player at even strength despite having 406 more shots than his opponents while on ice, and that much of it has to do with Gomez's horrific shooting percentage. Corsi and its brothers are something, but not everything - we mustn't be completely wedded to such a proxy for what's actually going on.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Driving Play Podcast - Take 1

Hear ye, hear ye:

Today marks the launch of a new feature here at Driving Play. In an effort to try and examine what teams may be thinking as the the NHL trade deadline approaches, we've decided to record a six-part podcast series examining the league's buyers, sellers, and every team in between. Today, Matt and I take a look at the teams currently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.


Download (Right Click and choose "Save Link As...")

Monday, February 13, 2012

Editorial: Widen The Net, Please

It doesn't have to be all statistics and graphs here at Driving Play. Sometimes we actually have opinions about the games we're not watching (we're not watching because, obviously, we're too busy looking at our FenwickCorsi in Tuesday night games played in October). Still, the opinions expressed herein are the sole property of Triumph, and not Driving Play at large.

In 1992-1993, the league added two franchises, and scoring exploded. The league went from 6.95 Goals Per Game in 1991-92 to 7.26 Goals Per Game. It's been mostly downhill from there - the league is currently at 5.37 Goals Per Game, and it seems the trend is towards less scoring. I see more and more games with 1 or 2 power plays for a particular team, and that can only mean that scoring is going to continue to fall.

It was somewhat of a revelation when Kevin Weekes publicly questioned former teammate Martin Brodeur's equipment choices three weeks ago. Weekes told the Marek vs. Wyshynski Podcast that he felt that Brodeur did not take advantage of new equipment regulations. We've all seen the picture of an 80s goalie in his net with net peeking out behind him on all sides, whereas a picture of a current goalies leaves nothing to shoot at. Here was Weekes acknowledging that yes, basically the current trend in goaltending is to strap as much equipment as is legally possible to your body, which makes them look like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka. If the Everlasting Gobstopper actually did make your body expand like that, you can bet goalies would be interested.

I'm completely fine with the standup goaltender having gone the way of the barefooted placekicker and the scheduled doubleheader, although I have memories of watching Chris Terreri make acrobatic kicksave after kicksave at the old Brendan Byrne Arena. Still, isn't there more to being a goalie than just being square to the shooter and sitting down in the right place for 40 times a night? Isn't there more to defense than getting men and sticks in lanes and defying the puck to go through the mass of men, composite sticks, pads, and Size 251 jersey?

Rules changes can often have unintended consequences - hell, this could possibly make everything worse, but why not, right? We know the goalies aren't giving up their enormous equipment any time soon. So here's a list of pros and cons to widening the net:


1. Bring back the shot off the wing!

The red line is gone. The stretch pass is in vogue. Yet no one scores off a 1 on 1 rush without a massive failure of goaltending or a phenomenal move around a defender. Maybe this play isn't that exciting, I don't know, but now it's basically out of the game because missing the net on these plays can be so dangerous and can lead to scoring chances the other way, whereas scoring on it is damn near impossible.

2. Maybe change the way defense is played in the NHL

It's funny how people still trash the neutral zone trap, but I never hear a peep about the Tortorella-style defense in the defensive zone where everyone collapses into the center of the ice and we watch teams try to generate scoring chances through a labyrinth of players. I think this style of D is going to become more of a trend over the next five years, and I'd hope that a wider net would make this strategy less viable.

3. Bring back the acrobatic save

I see acrobatic saves all the time because Martin Brodeur's reflexes and positioning are shot so he's basically gambling on any dangerous play. But I don't see enough of it from other goalies. I'm not entirely sure if widening the net would lead to more highlight-reel saves, but I suppose it couldn't hurt in that regard.

4. More goals = more lead changes

Defense isn't going away. If defenses continue to grow more stalwart, we will see a return to the late 90s, early 00s where you could basically turn a game off if one team had a lead going into the third period.


1. Alters how goalies play

Goalies learn on one net their whole lives - changing it will fundamentally alter the game from the highest to the lowest levels of hockey. It's entirely possible that there are some goalies who would be incapable of adapting.

2. Might alter game into table hockey

I love the idea of guys coming down the wing and blasting the puck, but a game full of it might be horrendous - no flow, less passing, no board work, less beating guys 1 on 1 down low - I don't like the sound of that any more than I like the NHL's future as a series of 2-1 games.

3. Might introduce more luck, not less

Goals off crazy deflections and fluky bounces are a part of hockey, but one imagines more shots off skates and shins ending up in the back of the net with more net to cover. It might become more of a strategy to blast pucks from the point, and more of a strategy to block shooting lanes and passing lanes closer to the goalie.

Anyway, it's a fantasy - how could the league possibly introduce this? Just throw it on players before the season? And how much will it be widened? I guess they could test it out in the AHL for a season, but I don't see them being too thrilled about the position. So, it won't happen, and goal scoring numbers will continue to decline year after year.