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Fancy Stats Metaphor: Pizza/Hockey>Wings/Fighting

Pizza, Wings, Possession, Fighting... We've got it all here.

Brad Staubitz, really good at...something... maybe? No? OK, no he's not.
Brad Staubitz, really good at...something... maybe? No? OK, no he's not.
Doug Pensinger

A quick note for those interested: a big name in the advanced stats scene has self-published a nifty little book. Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract is a pretty decent reference for someone who knows a little bit about fancystats. His site is here, ordering info is there as well. I recommend reading the last half of the book before the first half – it’s more enlightening that way.

How does a coach’s system play into things like possession or its equivalent measures found in advanced stats? There’s lots of ways, blah blah blah. What’s our thought on buffalo wings with pizza, folks? See, I’m a bit of a pizza purest. I love pizza. If pizza and nearly anything else is put in front of me, I will eat pizza.

It’s fine that others don’t always agree – more for me, right? Yes, fine. Until it comes to ordering a wheel and dealing with the extra cost of some ish I ain’t even gonna touch, all on my dime. Buffalo wings are today’s offenders.

I don’t want your buffalo wings, pizza co. I don’t want the buffalo wings, wifelady kind enough to order her boys a wheel. No thanks! Well, I mean, thanks for ordering it (and paying for it on my card), but no thanks on the add!

Buffalo wings are pretty good. They go well with beer. Or, if you’re Irish like me, they go well with that beer you’ve added two shots of hard liquor to and maybe even an orange slice, for like, "culture" or something. (I’m a fan of spicy wings too. That’s not relevant to pizza talk though.)

Wings probably go well with pizza too. Honestly, the only time I’ve tried the two together is when there isn’t enough pizza, and by that point, wings are no substitute for the disappointment of no more pizza.

If a coach is one of these wings and pizza guys, your possession’s gonna falter. Wings in this case represent all the stuff not relevant to scoring goals. I mean, I’m stretching this a bit...wait. Let’s swerve the metaphor entirely: wings are goons. They are goons who hate freedom, and pizza!

Buffalo wings are fabulous alone, and while they make for a wonderful snack at a bar or some such, they don’t belong at the table pizzametrics built. P-mets is about goals, son. AND PIZZA.

Pizza-metric_mediumStatswise, pizza. I could end this right there, because pizza.

When you order pizza for delivery, you’re taking the puck on goal. There’s no room for wings in there. There’s no need to have your dumbass goon drop his mitts with the other team’s dumbass goon when you have the puck. (And invariably, when two goons drop the gloves and embrace in the best renditions of manly hugs around, the game of "hockey" stops.) Oh, what, now Kid hates fighting? UN-NORTH-AMERICAN!

Fighting is, like it or not, part of hockey. I’m fine with fighting in the game. This is a game with hitting and cheating and a ton of passion. There are moments when two guys won’t give another inch, and the passion erupts. This violence isn’t just done for its own sake but is a narrative itself, a storyline. The emotion of those explosive moments is part of the sport. There isn’t a Ducks fan out there who won’t instantly recall Beauchemin and Iginla going at it early on in game six, the Ducks down a game and needing to set a tone for the game. It was beautiful.

What isn’t beautiful is this staged fight crap. Two coaches share an unspoken moment in their heart of hearts and ice their worst players so that, off the faceoff, they can engage in a fight that lasts just as long as the ones between two skilled players in a heated moment – and without any actual story or purpose. Or hell, if they can’t agree to fight off the faceoff because they couldn’t decide on which caveman language to use, they wait until a dump in or in the middle of a guy speeding up ice with the puck, so they might get together and "change momentum."

Or when all that fails, how about after one player lays down a beautiful and legal hit against another, and in that guy’s "head down" honor a tough guy has to go slash at and challenge the hitter? Honor and the "code" of legal and awesome hits demands a moron seeking justice in a completely unnecessary manner, you see. And look, a fight is a fight, it is the simplest expression of raw emotion there is – so yeah, everyone stands for it. Everyone gets excited to see two guys punch the buffalo wing breath off each other.

But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t stick with us. It isn’t a "moment," it doesn’t truly affect change or anything. And two more important points: it doesn’t really win or lose games and it doesn’t sell the sport properly. The guys in the locker room don’t have a more magical intermission thinking their goon really stuck it to that guy who hit their player. (Actually, they probably think the guy getting hit should’ve kept his head up, but saying that would be, you know, instructive. Eff that, let’s let goony take care of it over there. For the team! Rah!)

How about illegal hits and defending a teammate then? Well I’ve done zero actual research on this, but my hindsight experience tells me that in those Wisnowski OHKOs Seabrook for hurting Perry moments, it’s just regular shifted hockey players who stick up for their mates. Generally, those guys are out on the ice for the real emotion and rough stuff, as they are the guys who skate real minutes. And THAT builds a team, momentum, a moment, a story – sometimes, a suspension. I want to note, I don’t approve of the high hit delivered to Seabrook. In terms of "sticking up for a teammate," this was simply the first recent play that came to mind.

I can return to this argument at another time, because at its heart I’m just saying I think there’s a difference between guys like Shawn Thornton and Colton Orr. When you get a dude who can be a legit tough guy and provide at least fourth or third line play, you have a good depth player. A goon is the guy who skates four minutes a night and takes a two minute slashing penalty against his opponent’s fourth line – that’s the very definition of stupid. I hope Brad Staubitz never plays for the Ducks again.

Randy Carlyle loves him some buffalo wings. He loves wings even more than pizza, I suspect, even though when he was a player he ate so much pizza people thought he was a plumber. They were like, "Hey Randy, your princess is in another castle!" And he was all, "pfft, get me a pepperoni, toady."

But no, fancy Coach Carlyle loves wings way more now. He loves goons who play very few minutes and provide no cushion for top tier skill guys who are literally exhausted by the end of the third, down a goal, because Randy only has two lines worth of actual talent. The Ducks came back from very few deficits back then, and every end-of-game while down a goal saw the most exhausted top line in the sport while four "tough guys" rode the bench without touching the ice for 20 minutes.

Conversely, Bruce Boudreau loves him some pizza [Ed. Note: That was clearly pizza sauce on his face in 24/7 -CK]. Toppings can be a matter of some debate, and clearly he likes all his toppings, but there’s no denying it: give him pizza, or give him at worst a specialty pizza with, like, BBQ sauce and chicken on it. I mean, it isn’t PIZZA, but at least it tries. I may scratch that thought, because I’ve never tried something so obviously not-pizza. What’s funny is, when Boudreau wasn’t a pink enemy-swallowing, power-stealing badass and was just a minor hockey player, he also loved pizza. By "funny" right there, I meant "makes total sense."

This systems discussion didn’t really go the way I wanted, but I had a deadline earlier this week. So I mean, it was this enlightening bit of pizza wisdom or nothing, and I can’t do that to you.

Next time though: PIZZA AND BREADSTICKS!