Monday was a great day for advanced stats advocates. Toronto Maple Leafs GM (and former Ducks exec staffer) Dave Nonis, who believes in nothing, was on a statistics panel at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference - this thing that happens, Brian Burke is involved, lots of people are there, blah blah blah. Anyway, Nonis is an idiot.
Here is a sampling, courtesy of James Mirtle:
@mirtle Dave Nonis: "Last six, seven years, we've had significant dollar amount, budget, for analytics, but we didn't use it."
@mirtle Nonis says he likes looking at "hard stats" like ice time, goals, assists, points. Biggest thing they use is "going to watch a player play."
@mirtle Nonis says analytics are big topic b/c fans and media. Adds they invent their own stats. "Is it relevant? That's where it's getting murky."
@mirtle Dave Nonis on these new stats the fans/media keep bringing up: "As of right now, very few of them are worth anything to us."
@mirtle Nonis: "One of the things we look for is does a player have character?... You're not going to find one HOFer that didn't have character."
@mirtle Nonis: "We've had teams in the past where we were outshooting teams on a nightly basis. Our so-called Corsi stat was probably pretty good."
(It was. But they were getting league-worst goaltending and couldn't put anything together on special teams, which wrecks positive possession.)
@mirtle Nonis says the Leafs Corsi now "sucks" but they're winning games.
The lesson here? Maybe Bob Murray isn't so goddamn bad after all. I have no awareness of his preference for stats or not, but at least he didn't say anything idiotic in public about them.
Jakob Silfverberg 4P-Met
Mathieu Perreault 6P-Met
Cam Fowler 6P-Met
Dustin Penner 6P-Met
Ben Lovejoy 5P-Met
Andrew Cogliano 5P-Met
Sami Vatanen 2P-Met
Hampus Lindholm 3P-Met
Bryan Allen 3P-Met
Daniel Winnik 3P-Met
Ryan Getzlaf, C (6P-Met) - I waited this long to list the captain because he's a lay-up. Post Carlyle, Getz is a possession monster. A lot of this comes from the team play in the defensive end, because he's always been a strong driver of possession - now, he's just aided in driving offense by the play around him.
I went with Getzlaf this week because he closed it out with a first period hat trick against the Sabres. The only other Duck with a hattie in the first? Teemu Selanne. Nice name to share franchise history with.
Not a whole lot needs to be said of Getzlaf, so here's embedded video of his hat trick:
Goal 1 -
Goal 2 -
Goal 3 -
Corey Perry, RW (6P-Met) - Here's another lay-up. Like Getzlaf, this guy's numbers are fabulous. Also like the captain, he's benefiting from the system around him more than he ever was. And further to his benefit, it seems that whatever was hurting him last year has been resolved. Maybe he didn't like the impending contract dispute.
I'm blaming the sticks, of course. Going into this year, he obviously got new sticks - orange, like the Ducks. I suspect they are also Corey Perry branded sticks. Ok, it probably isn't the sticks. He's actually skating better this year, so either that's what was bugging him last year (his lower body) or that's what he worked on this offseason heading into an Olympic year on big ice, where Hockey Canada is eying...skating.
Goal 1 vs NY -
Goal 1 vs PHX -
Both of those goals? They come from right in front of the net, in the Corey Perry sweet spot.
I mentioned in the offseason that as games went on, I'd discuss things I see different between Carlyle and Boudreau. One of the first things I've noticed between the old coaching system versus the new coaching system is defensive zone play.
The old system was zone-based (as opposed to man-to-man, like Detroit or some other teams employ), like many defensive zone systems are at heart, but with some changes. The coach instructed players to "give up" the perimeter, with the defensemen or center attacking the puck along the wall when nearer the goal. Wingers were instructed to stay in the center of the ice to both cover the slot and to be available for a breakout.
Wingers were basically puck pressure but not puck pursuit. Complicating this, Carlyle generally set his winger zones lower, which hurt how they broke out anyway - and why some guys like Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne were always barked at for cheating high and seemingly doing nothing. Guys who think offense want the puck for offense, not for standing around being vague threats against. What also bugged me about this was that Carlyle instructed his defensemen to clear the puck along the walls ("safe passes") but didn't want his wingers going to the walls to fight for pucks...hmm.
See, Carlyle considered (and still does) pucks on the perimeter as "low percentage shots." Of itself, the perimeter shot is low percentage, but those shots are rarely one-and-done. The thinking is that anything from the outside is "for the goalie to stop," whereas anything from the middle is the skaters' responsibility. The problem is, so many more goals come from bounces and chances created off deflections, misses, and blocks in today's game than they do from tic-tac-toe passing plays in transition.
We know the results of this system: the Ducks were hemmed in a lot. Once they got the puck, it was dump-and-change, and it was mostly boring overall. The goaltender had to be stellar every game. And it turned the Ducks into a counterattacking team without the ideal personnel for it, as those rosters weren't built for speed or transition off extended defensive zone chances. They were built to dump and chase and hit, which is easier with the puck, not without.
Carlyle still has the Maple Leafs doing all this. Their possession numbers are awful, much like the Ducks' were under him. One difference with the Leafs to this team: they have some speed at forward that can take advantage of the sort of "high chance, low possession" counterattack his system produces. Oh and, hey look, the goaltending in Toronto is unsustainably high at an average of like .944 SV% right now. Wait until that regresses a bit and the stellar play at that position falters.
The NHL's game isn't that game anymore. The modern game is edging away from specific roles and turning more into a five-man game in each zone. Five back on defense, five moving through the middle, five attacking the net in the offensive zone. As Chicago and Los Angeles and San Jose are showing, generating more chances from all areas of the ice makes it easier to succeed when goaltending isn't stellar or the top line doesn't produce for two games or any other specific scenario because the team is playing a better system. Boudreau has the Ducks doing this.
Back to defense, what he has the guys doing different is subtle in overall design, because that area is still zone-based. The defensemen do seem to have more man-to-man leeway down low. What intrigues me is that the forwards all cycle fairly effortlessly. If a center drops low, a winger will take the center slot, and maybe the defenseman is released to the winger slot until roles can be established, depending on the scenario.
But the main change: the wingers are defenders when on defense. They don't "give up the perimeter" as a group. If the puck comes along the wall, they attack. The aforementioned cycling the group exhibits helps in that they cover for each other once engaged. And because they are still playing a zone, they reestablish their spots if puck battles are lost. Goals against occur on mistakes, the same as they do against every team, but usually on individual breakdowns and not because there are five guys out there stuck in a zone and playing sloppy overall, which I'd seen enough of previously, thanks.
The result of this is improved zone play. This has increased our transition game. The mobility on the blue has allowed for better zone entries with the puck, as well as more support in all areas of the ice. There isn't a lot of "dump" on this team - part of why the PP struggles, but that's a different day. But it all starts in the back, with our supposed "thin defense."
When all the players on the ice play defense as a unit, weakness in one or two areas can be outplayed. And it cuts down on chances against, which has allowed for more chances for, which has allowed for so much more pizza this year than any other recent year.