Failing at simple math

Jean Lefebvre
November 05 2009 09:21PM

In the hockey world, it’s never been easier to crunch numbers.

With a few wiggles of the fingers, we have instant access to a dizzying array of statistics – everything from Corsi numbers and Qualcomp to good old goals and assists. Thanks to computers and spreadsheets, any mildly educated hockey fan in a flash can make those numbers sit up and beg.

It’s stunning then when numerical half-truths and flat-out inaccuracies are uttered, especially by professionals who should know better. And so it was Wednesday night when TSN was broadcasting the Flames’ game in Dallas.

The wording may not be exact, but on at least three occasions the tag team of Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire said things along the lines of:

“Jarome Iginla always has a tough time scoring early in the season.”

“Jarome Iginla is glad October is over because it’s never been his month.”

“Of course Iginla opened the scoring, it’s November now.”

Now no one is suggesting No. 12 distinguished himself during the month that has just passed -- he didn't -- and by now you’ve heard or read exactly how disenchanted Brent Sutter was with Iginla’s most recent October, but to casually suggest that rotten opening months are par for the course for the Flames captain is ridiculous.

In the past nine seasons and 100 October games, Iginla has 48 goals and 106 points. That’s a rate of 0.48 goals per game and a point rate of 1.06.

In 545 non-October tilts over that span, Iginla has 277 goals and 562 points. The goal and point rates for November-April are 0.51 and 1.03.

In other words, Iginla has scored at pretty much the same damn rate in Month 1 than he has in Months 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

So why the urban legend, brainlessly repeated almost every year, about the lousy starts?

Well, there were a few years Iginla didn’t score in the first couple of games and that prompted a premature “What’s Wrong With Jarome?” story by the media or endless panic threads on the Flames message boards. More often than not, Iginla heated up by the second week of play but the seeds of No. 12’s supposed sluggish starts was planted and ready to sprout again the next time the man had the temerity to not score a goal until Oct. 10.

Or perhaps this is lingering bad reputation stems from the 1999-2000 campaign, when Iginla could manage no more than three assists in 10 October outings. Of course, that Jarome Iginla was only 22 years old and besides, a decade is a long time to hold a grudge even if you did have Iginla in your hockey pool that season.

Since then, Iginla has had a couple of shady first months (e.g. six points in nine games back in 2003) but many more spectacular beginnings (including 19-point Octobers in both 2001-02 and 2007-08). So bash Iginla if you must, and there are certainly valid reasons to do so if you’re so inclined, but please find something other than the “poor starts” dodge.

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 b1ackhat
November 06 2009, 03:41PM
Trash it!
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Wow! Great article Jean, I had no idea that Iginla wasn't actually that bad in the start of the season given all the focus that has been put on it by the different MSM outlets.

I love this site

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#2 Dark Cloud
November 06 2009, 04:05PM
Trash it!
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trashes
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props

You would think guys like Gord Miller and Pierre Maguire would actually _know_ the stats instead of just pretending (or so it would seem).

Jean, in your experience, are these commentators always shooting from the hip like this, or do most of them actually do their home work and examine the stats? I'm curious to know, because although these guys appear to be just "Talking heads" i bet they do a lot of research and reading and other work behind the scenes.

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