How many statistics do you need to evaluate the 5v5 performance of an NHL forward?

Sam Mercier
August 17 2016 12:15PM

"Who is the best forward in the NHL?" used to be a pretty simple question. As points used to be the main publicly available indicator of offensive production, it was pretty much a given the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner was also typically considered the best forward in the game.

As we all know, the number of different statistics available to evaluate the performance of forwards has literally exploded over the last 5 to 10 years. 

While two-way forwards always had some value level, the backing of evidence of just how effective certain players can be in other areas than simply point production has changed the way we view NHL players significantly.

On alone, we can extract more than 130 (!) different statistics to evaluate a forward at 5v5. 

Yet, it is simply impossible for a human being to properly consider 130 statistics at once. 

Even if you have a Ph.D. in mathematics, when you try to reconcile at once the information provided by more than 10 statistics, your head pretty much begins to spin.

This is why, when evaluating the performance of a forward, a typical approach is to select a few, maybe 3 or 4, key statistics considered to be the most important and disregard most others unless something out of the ordinary stands out. Such an approach is taken, for instance, when we use a Vollman player usage chart to compare different forwards. 

Some effort has also been made to derive an ultimate “catch-all” statistic to discriminate the performance of forwards from a single number. We recently attacked this question in the NHLNumbers "Stat of the Union" Roundtable, asking nine of hockey's brightest minds about how they'd evaluate a player.

The search for an accurate strategy to discriminate forward performance based on a few statistics is understandable given the considerations mentioned above, but raises some very important questions: can we accurately evaluate the performance of forwards from 3-4 statistics? 

Is it possible to develop a single statistic discriminating the performance of multiple forwards? Or, more specifically: what is the minimum number of statistics required to properly reflect the performance of forwards? Luckily for us, we can get a pretty good answer using a technique called principal component analysis.  

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If Quebec Played at the World Cup of Hockey

Mike Commito
August 14 2016 10:00AM


*Note: None of this happened. Mike fell asleep in the sun and dreamt the whole thing up.

After years of threatening separation and narrowly decided referendums, Quebec has finally done the unthinkable and seceded from Canada. The formation of the sovereign nation of Quebec will undoubtedly shake up the national economy, abruptly alter our demography, and forever change our cultural landscape.

The reverberations of this seismic shift will be felt far and wide and even the hockey world will not be insulated from its impact. With the World Cup of Hockey less than a month away, Quebec has already filed and won an emergency injunction with the National Hockey League that will allow it to field a team in the tournament. Wasting no time, Équipe Quebec unveiled its twenty-three man roster earlier this week as it prepares to make up for lost time in the lead up to September.

No less than two days removed from the secession, it’s clear that Quebec has already set the wheels in motion to start charting its own course in the hockey world. How this will impact the game over the long-term is unclear, but for now, we can take a closer look at Quebec’s World Cup team and how it can expect to fare in the tournament.  

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Did Patrick Roy's resignation help or hurt the Colorado Avalanche?

Pat Keogh
August 12 2016 01:00PM

The Colorado Avalanche are in need of a new coach, and may be on the verge on turning a new leaf. Patrick Roy resigned his post yesterday as head coach and vice president of hockey operations due to disagreements with general manager Joe Sakic. In a statement, Roy said "I have thought long and hard over the course of the summer about how I might improve this team to give it the depth it needs and bring it to a higher level. 

To achieve this, the vision of the coach and VP-Hockey Operations needs to be perfectly aligned with that of the organization. He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team's performance. These conditions are not currently met.” Sakic, for his part, described being caught off guard by Roy’s resignation, saying that he believed the two of them were on the same page as far as decision-making went. In any event, a new era is about to begin in Colorado, so let's take a look at what that might mean. 

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How Escrow is becoming a Growing Concern in the NHL

Chris Beardy
August 12 2016 09:00AM

Back in the spring, discussion among the NHLPA’s members (aka all of the NHL players) had a discussion that created some division inside the union. At the heart of it was a growing discontent with the shrinking of some players’ paychecks so that others could get larger contract offers. The cause of this was one 2012’s dirtiest words in hockey: Escrow. Escrow is a fairly confusing provision in the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) meant to ensure that hockey-related revenue (HRR) is split between the players and the franchise owners in accordance with the CBA. It is not necessarily something that fans need to know to enjoy the game or even understand the decisions that their team’s management and their favorite players make, but it is a concerning issue for the players and it may pop up once again in the next round of CBA negotiations.

My goal here is to:

  1. explain how escrow works in the confines of the current salary cap system,
  2. give an estimate of escrow for the 2015-16
  3. estimating the effect of the salary cap escalator on escrow in 2015-16,
  4. provide an explanation of how escrow can create a division in the players’ union, and
  5. predict potential changes to the salary cap system in the next round of CBA negotiations.

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Passing Project: Dangerous Primary Shot Contributions

August 10 2016 12:43PM

Readers of this post will probably be aware of the passing project headed by Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp). The idea behind the project is to track the passes that lead to a shot in NHL games. Volunteers track the players making the passes, the player taking the shot, the zone locations of the passes, the shot types and pass types for each shot in a given game. With this granularity of data, we can then begin to piece together which types of passing sequences are more likely to lead to goals than others. Ryan has already done some amazing work in this area over at Hockey Graphs. Reading those articles before proceeding with this piece will give a better idea of the context in which this piece is written. His first piece on playing behind the net can be found here and his second piece on neutral zone play can be found here.

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