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Watch the Nerds, Game

Deadlines are still a pressing issue for the Ishes at the moment, which means a brief spell in scoring plays charts and analyses.


With deadlines still kicking the collective Ish household in the, well, ish-makers, I take a break to share thoughts. This is especially timely as it comes off a blow-out loss to the Florida Panthers. (Who, by the way, played fabulously and deserved the win.)

So-called advanced stats (that aren't that advanced really) are being used more casually by more fans these days, and that's to everyone's benefit. As we continue to push "fancystats" numbers around, the more the methods of shot-based measurements will trickle into the hockey landscape and overall conversation. It is needed, because the people in charge of hockey operations at higher levels are a fraternity of people who love crap like grit and "compete."

At the same time, we are now at a place in time when the casual use of numbers versus those who are using them correctly could become problematic. Context is still everything when utilizing any stat. A lot of context is lost in the recent surge of Corsi and Fenwick trackers, most predominantly as it comes to predicting team strength and I want to remind people that no single number can account for everything in hockey. That being said, we're getting ever closer to it all the time.

Last week, Micah McCurdy published this wonderful article about shot-based metrics use going forward. It is superb but it is long. Nonetheless, please go read it if for no other reason than to see the sort of care and hard work put into testing and using the measurements we use. Here it is. For my money, this is the best thing I've read in the last year, particularly as it comes to ranking teams.

Now to some extent, standardizing the process of applying shot-based numbers requires a removal of contextual information that truly explains what is happening on the ice. That's good for a broader level view, a sort of "this team is here in terms of puck possession play" at a glance. We've all been doing this for a while now. But now using score-adjusted numbers, we have a stronger beginning point for properly analyzing teams and seeking the insight and context necessary to understand the whys of said numbers.

The key site to use for your score-adjusted numbers is the cleverly renamed (Get it?) Like the above post outlined, score-adjusted Corsi and/or Fenwick are superior measures than score-close Corsi and/or Fenwick since... Reasons (I want you to go read the above post, so I won't share them). From my usage of the site, puckonnet updates the next day.

Notice something there versus what is evident in score-close data from, say, The Ducks are seventh in score-close Corsi, fifth in score-close Fenwick, and sixth in score-close shots on goal using war-on-ice's close numbers. But Anaheim's score-adjusted numbers are more telling: 12th in Corsi, 11th in Fenwick, and ninth in shots on goal measures.

The maths support the score-adjusted numbers, as the post above shows. But score-adjusted numbers are probably more in line with what you've been watching from this team than the score-close numbers anyway, I'm sure you will agree. So both the stats and the eyeballs line up here: the Ducks are not a top table possession team quite yet (contrary to what score-close numbers suggest) and are still hovering right in the middle in terms of possession, which has largely been the case in the games we see.

Getting that far is important, and seeing members of the community continue to push the boundaries of what numbers we use (and why) is likewise necessary. Going further with it, finding out for ourselves why the numbers match the play, is the context that should be applied to each team. As fans or bloggers (or whoever) using fancies, we need to use them to start the conversation, not be the conversation. And most of us do just that.

In breaking down Anaheim's goals, I've found a lot of context. I think I've shown that to you already through the beginning of the season. But that only addresses context on offensive play when it all works out. As I've mentioned before, if I could analyze every play all the time, I would. There's a lot more context to be found in zone entries (DZ to NZ, NZ to OZ) as well as the transition from offense back to defense that I simply can't do.

But organizations will eventually begin doing this as the conversation among fans continues to be on metrics and not heart and compete levels. Someday, the Ducks will have an analyst or two who breaks down plays using numbers and video and can show coaches, "hey, even though Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen have very low CF% when together, they have even SF% and an outrageous GF%. They might not be the top pair in most instances, but do you need a goal? Play them together!" (These numbers are from a very small sample at evens, of course.)

Context is everything.