Random Thoughts - On Process vs Results

Kent Wilson
December 20 2013 08:51AM

 

 

The recent struggles of Sean Monahan is a topic of interest for me, in part because it sparked a discussion about the nature of analysis, particularly regarding valuing results and processes. Let's get to the Monahan stuff first and the rest will follow. I'll talk about Mikael Backlund (yes, again) here as well.

Monahan's struggles

Since returning from injury, the Flames rookie center has been getting absolutely killed. Not including last night, Monahan had been outshot (including blocks and missed shots) 48 to 15 or -33 over just three games at even strength. That's a corsi % of 24%(!!). To put that ratio in context, the worst regular skater in the league by this measure so far this year is the Leafs Frazer McLaren at 36.6%. Brian McGrattan's corsi% is 41.1% so far (worst forward on the Flames).

Keep in mind, this is while playing with Curtis Glencross and Jiri Hudler and getting fairly generous zone start bumps - the kid's offensive zone to defensive zone faceoff ratio in those three games was 80%, 55.6% and 60%, respectively. So circumstances don't explain him getting run over.

Even in such a small sample of games, these are worrying possession numbers and suggest something has gone terribly wrong. Either Monahan has hit the dreaded "rookie wall" or he has come back from injury too early. Either way, his night in Detroit began the same way, if you're wondering why the kid was benched in the third period.

Anyways, my noting the Monahan's dreadful outshooting numbers after the Rangers game (22 shots against, 6 for, -16 corsi) led to some discussion on Twitter. I was reminded that the Monahan line scored two goals despite being grossly outshot and that those are the only results that matter. Two goals for and zero goals against means a good night of work, all other considerations be damned.

Well, not really. As I note here continually, the best long-term predictor we have for outscoring in the NHL is outshooting (ie; positive possession). I think even the most innumerate amongst us can also recognize that getting outshot 22-6 but coming out with a 2-0 goal differential is more horseshoes than ability.

This brings me to the discussion of results vs process, which I'll illustrate with a personal anecdote:

Years ago some friends and I used to get together monthly for a night of texas hold'em poker. This particular evening I was fortunate to be one of the last two players at the table. The game had gone on for a long time, it was a weeknight and my stack was beginning to dwindle. We also gave out a portion of the pot to the second placed guy, so with the guarantee of winnings I simply decided to throw the game and go home.

On the next hand, my two hold cards were a 2 and 9, off-suit. Perfect, I went all-in before the flop. My adversary called with something much stronger - a couple of face cards or something similar. He was much more likely to win, which was my intent anyways.

Except the flop happened to come up 9, 2 other. I had two pair and I went on to take the hand. I got a good result despite a terrible, low percentage play. It happens in cards.

And it happens in hockey. One of the reasons I was drawn to better, more predictive metrics in the early days of my own hockey writing is because I found myself too often chasing my tail in terms of my assessments of teams and players. I frequently found that the "numbers that matter" - ie the results like goals and wins - didn't seem to accurately predict who was actually the better player or club down the road. I found myself bouncing around and flip-flopping, resigned to deploying shopworn, retroactive narratives like confidence and other pop psychology to explain away things when they didn't accord with what had seemed to be solid conclusions.

Like a bad poker player who chases flushes, projects his betting habits and doesn't understand how to bluff, bad hockey teams and players can nevertheless experience pockets of success. Sometimes you get the cards. Sometimes the puck bounces off a skate and goes in or your goalie stands on his head. Sometimes luck can favor you for longer than a game or hand. But, eventually, playing lousy catches up to you.

The objective in hockey is to score more goals than the other guy. When that happens, it can be seductive to assume that the game was played well. But it can be a false signal. Process matters. That's why, despite winning big with a 9-2 off suit that one time, I still fold the hand whenever it pops up.

Backlund's Ascension

Which brings us to Mikael Backlund, whose recent spate of good play has ironically made him a player of contention in some quarters again.

Let's first break down his last few games like we did with Monahan - in the last three, Backlund's raw possession numbers have been +33 -28 for +4 or a ratio of 54%. This is especially noteworthy because the Flames have been soundly outshot in each of those contests - Backlund's corsi rate relative to the rest of the team in those games was +15.7%, +32.9% and +13.3%. Unlike Monahan, Backlund wasn't starting more shifts in the offensive zone either - his o-zone to d-zone faceoff rate was 22%, 23% and 45%, respectively.

So that's some quality work and the reason why Mickis has lead the Flames forwards in ice time recently. You have to go back to the end of November to find the last time Backlund was scored on at even strength (against the Ducks), which is a function of good play and luck (100% ES SV%!). Still, this is Backlund's under appreciated talent - the puck moves the right direction when he's on the ice. He doesn't do it by hammering opponents with big hits or making Datsyukian dekes through the opposition. It's just quiet, dogged puck pursuit and an ability to read and react to the play. Which is why he's an uninspiring player to many pundits and fans - we tend to notice and remember the profane and spectacular and not much else.

One of those pundits is Dean Molberg (Boomer) on the FAN960 in town. A recent exchange between him and friend of the program Ryan Pinder on the radio this past week sparked me to write this section...

The argument was over Backlund, with Pinder's defense couched in possession metrics. Boomer, a staunch disbeliever in corsi, stated that whatever the numbers say, Backlund seems too passive and uninvolved to be a player of any value. The argument devolved into Molberg more or less telling Pinder to step away from the "nerd stats" and watch the game with the implication being that Backlund would fail the eye-test absent the crutch of arcane measures. 

Let's first establish that the legitimacy or utility of evidence is not subject to any given person's subjective appraisal or incredulity. Information is information, even if what it implies is personally hard to digest or fathom. Every major discovery or advancement of knowledge in human history was initally met with disdain, contempt and dismissal by people in general and established authorities in particular. Truth is immune to popularity.

Furthermore, let's also establish that anyone who has to muster a smear or stigma to invalidate evidence is immediately behind in an argument. One of the easiest ways to rationalize away uncomfortable or counter-intuitive information is to label it as somehow heretical and therefore not worthy of serious contemplation.

An analogy...the theory of evolution is based on lots and lots of data and evidence. It's the best understanding we have of how life grows, changes and persists on this planet. But there is a large swath of so-called "creationists" who dismiss evolution out of hand because its conclusions do not accord with religious dictum. So the evidence behind evolution is labeled blasphemous and redacted from the minds of true believers because it is rationalized as inherently wrong. 

My intent is not to call Dean the hockey version of a creationist (seriously...I've met Boomer and like him), but to point out how  cognitive dissonance can make people act and think in less than rational ways.

Check Your Premises

The irony is that suspicion of numbers is not unwarranted. As I mentioned above, people most certainly should be suspicious of the value of outcomes like wins, goals, points, etc. (particularly in small samples). One wonders if the established hockey orthodoxy grew distrustful of stats over time because so many of them (*ahem*plus/minus) didn't paint an accurate picture of a team or player.

The problem is, no one treats their observations with a similar level of suspision. We're hardwired to believe what we see and, further, to take subjective impressions and compelling anecdotes as implacable indicators of truth and reality. No matter how much you respect the power of a given metric or series of numbers, they never seem as viscerally real as the instant judgements and gut feel we get from watching tha action.

Which is why it's sensible to respect and investigate quantitative evidence and admit, at times, that subjective evaluation might not completely line-up with reality. Humans are good at naturally detecting patterns in data, but we're terrible at telling when those patterns represent real causal relationships or not.

I'll finish by noting that the current disruptive "new stats" like corsi and PDO that give so many established MSMers (and some authorities in the league) fits weren't constructed by theorists in a lab far away from the game. They were stumbled upon and tested in a series of iterative studies by passionate, invested hockey fans and analysts - a sort of crowd-sourced empiricism where the utility of possession metrics and percentages was tested and re-tested and then built upon when they proved to be relatively robust. To put it another way, these aren't numbers cooked up by people who don't watch hockey and are simply looking to completely up-end current conventions because "screw you jocks!"

For my part, I think the point of discussing and disseminating this sort of analysis is to remind folks to have humility before the facts. Or, to put it another way, to check their assumptions now and then. Experience can lead to people creating mental short-cuts (rules of thumb) that are easy to apply and generally represent a reasonably good proxy of the truth. The problem is,  when these heuristics either get raised to the level of principles or ossified into dogma.

With rules of thumb, sometimes the nature of the relationship between the variables is lost until all that is recalled is a fuzzy correlation. For instance, good goalies make it much more likely their team will win because they inhibiting the opposition's ability to score more goals. Therefore, it's a good heurisitic to say "good goalies have good win totals". On the other hand, goaltenders have no control over how many shots their teams give up or how many goals their skaters score, which are also key factors in winning, making it entirely possible to be a good goalie but have an uninspiring W-L record. 

So the proper expression of this heuristic is: "Good goalies will probably have more wins, but not necessarily." What that so often gets simplified into is: "Good goalies get wins," to the degree that the direction of the relationship is inverted: lots of wins means a goalie is good, which is at times completely false and can lead to poor analysis and bad decision making.

This relates to my recent discussion of size and toughness. All things being equal, it's usually preferable to have bigger, tougher players. It's important to keep that qualifier in mind, though, because all things are rarely equal. Bigger = better is another one of those rules of thumb that too often becomes over-simplified and deployed as if it's a principle rather than a rough guide with caveats.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 EugeneV
December 20 2013, 05:23PM
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mattyc wrote:

My understanding is that a lot of the people doing this 'research' are engineers or analysts by day, making them pretty qualified to do this type of stuff. There are also some universities that do work on this type of stuff (in peer reviewed journals - Michael Schukers comes to mind).

The peer review process for this type of stuff is a little lax (imo), and anyone can draw a best-fit line and put it on their tumblr, but in general this work is pretty statistically sound.

There is, however, a fundamental problem with the scientific approach in that it requires abstraction and simplification in order to be formalized in a mathematical model.

I take issue with the conclusions you draw from this (there are lots of tools to get around/approximate probabilistic systems), but a hockey blog probably isn't the place to debate probabilistic dynamical systems.

So, Corsi values those players we all hated playing with growing up who got over the red line and were looking to take a shot, whether they missed the net or not.

Really, Look back at the '72 series or any of the Canada Cups etc... The Russians were always turning down unproductive shots in favour of looking for the open man. Canada or the US would skate up, shoot and look for rebounds and would have buried the Soviets Corsi wise according to counting shots taken.

You (not necessarily you mattyc, but stat freaks in general per se) deride Monahan and his line mates for being out Corsi'ed but being able to score goals by being lucky.

Just like your stupid Corsi, I will provide zero context of where the shots were actually taken from, how many of the shots required a save or block to be made so a goal didn't result. I also won't provide context on the nature of the shot, because I will just look at the stats like Corsi, instead of looking at the game my eyes.

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#52 KetchupKid
December 20 2013, 05:50PM
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@EugeneV

First of all: if they missed the net, it wasn't tallied as a shot.

Second: corsi looks at scoring chances and not all shots are scoring chances - the reason being more or less covered in your post. *I stand corrected. Apologies*

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#53 EugeneV
December 20 2013, 05:59PM
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KetchupKid wrote:

First of all: if they missed the net, it wasn't tallied as a shot.

Second: corsi looks at scoring chances and not all shots are scoring chances - the reason being more or less covered in your post. *I stand corrected. Apologies*

Corsi is a tally of ALL shot attempts, whether they are blocked, miss the net, get deflected over the netting, are saved, go in the net, Miss the net and go around the boards all the way back to your own end without another player touching it, hit Crosby in the face or you name it.

However a SOG is defined as a shot taken that wasn't blocked and would have resulted in a goal if not saved.

Goals and assists are the most important stat, nobody drives the play into the net. The puck must be propelled into the net by force.

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#54 mattyc
December 20 2013, 06:00PM
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@EugeneV

Russian's would have been a great corsi team in all likelihood, since they would have possessed the puck a lot more than their opponents (can't shoot if you don't have the puck).

I agree with you that context is important

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#55 SmellOfVictory
December 20 2013, 09:26PM
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@EugeneV

Re: "zero context": there has been a substantial amount of analysis done of Corsi and Fenwick vs scoring chances (scoring chances being defined as shot attempts between the dots and the net; essentially being shots from the slot). This analysis has shown a strong correlation between Corsi/Fenwick and scoring chances - in other worse, proportionally, the more shots a team/player takes in general, the more scoring chances they tend to get. That may not hold for a specific game, but over the course of a season it is a very strong correlation.

In other words, "shot quality" is generally a poor argument. There are elite players who can create consistently better shot quality than others, but we're talking a personal SH% difference of like 5% for high volume shooters, or an on-ice (shooting percentage for the whole team) difference of maybe 2-3%. And that's guys like Sidney Crosby.

Also, literally everything counted as a "shot" requires a save to be made so a goal doesn't result. That is the definition of a shot. If a shot attempt even hits the inside of the crossbar and does not pass the goal line, it is not counted in the NHL.

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#56 SmellOfVictory
December 20 2013, 09:31PM
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Regarding Boomer's "Backlund seems too passive and uninvolved to be a player of any value": uh, what? You can completely disregard the analytics argument and this statement is still complete crap. Anyone who watches the Flames regularly (the players, not just following the puck around) knows that Backlund is probably the most defensively involved/aggressive forward on the entire team, and although he occasionally takes too many outside shots offensively, he is a strong forechecker and he consistently tries to get the puck to the net.

Literally the only arguments you can make against Backlund as a player are that he does not score a lot of points - if you're arguing from a "top 6 player" perspective - and that he generally does not make flashy plays. He is, however, insanely effective in nearly everything he does. In the past three seasons, even with his somewhat unimpressive point totals, I don't think he's had more than half a dozen bad games.

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#57 EugeneV
December 20 2013, 09:40PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Re: "zero context": there has been a substantial amount of analysis done of Corsi and Fenwick vs scoring chances (scoring chances being defined as shot attempts between the dots and the net; essentially being shots from the slot). This analysis has shown a strong correlation between Corsi/Fenwick and scoring chances - in other worse, proportionally, the more shots a team/player takes in general, the more scoring chances they tend to get. That may not hold for a specific game, but over the course of a season it is a very strong correlation.

In other words, "shot quality" is generally a poor argument. There are elite players who can create consistently better shot quality than others, but we're talking a personal SH% difference of like 5% for high volume shooters, or an on-ice (shooting percentage for the whole team) difference of maybe 2-3%. And that's guys like Sidney Crosby.

Also, literally everything counted as a "shot" requires a save to be made so a goal doesn't result. That is the definition of a shot. If a shot attempt even hits the inside of the crossbar and does not pass the goal line, it is not counted in the NHL.

Smell of victory wrote: "Also, literally everything counted as a "shot" requires a save to be made so a goal doesn't result. That is the definition of a shot. If a shot attempt even hits the inside of the crossbar and does not pass the goal line, it is not counted in the NHL."

Exactly, but that is not how Corsi shot totals are calculated, is it? For Corsi everything counts

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#58 SmellOfVictory
December 20 2013, 09:44PM
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EugeneV wrote:

Smell of victory wrote: "Also, literally everything counted as a "shot" requires a save to be made so a goal doesn't result. That is the definition of a shot. If a shot attempt even hits the inside of the crossbar and does not pass the goal line, it is not counted in the NHL."

Exactly, but that is not how Corsi shot totals are calculated, is it? For Corsi everything counts

It's true, Corsi includes blocked and missed shots. But that's because it's an analog for puck possession rather than straight scoring chances. It just happens that puck possession is also heavily correlated to scoring chances (if you have the puck, you're more likely to get a legitimate shot on net).

Also, for those who are interested in it, behindthenet (where the basic stats for Corsi are displayed) breaks up the components into shots on goal, missed shots, and blocked shots, so it's entirely possible to go in and remove missed shots if you really want to.

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#59 loudogYYC
December 20 2013, 10:05PM
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The best part about the 'new wave of info' that is advanced stats, is that it gives you a chance to learn even more about a game you already love.

It's not that knowing these stats replaces having a feel for the game, it compliments it. As soon as more of these dinosaurs in MSM grasp and embrace that concept, hockey's gonna change for the better.

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#60 Fred
December 20 2013, 11:27PM
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loudogYYC wrote:

The best part about the 'new wave of info' that is advanced stats, is that it gives you a chance to learn even more about a game you already love.

It's not that knowing these stats replaces having a feel for the game, it compliments it. As soon as more of these dinosaurs in MSM grasp and embrace that concept, hockey's gonna change for the better.

Or does it allow people who don't really understand the game, a feeling that they do??

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#61 EugeneV
December 20 2013, 11:30PM
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loudogYYC wrote:

The best part about the 'new wave of info' that is advanced stats, is that it gives you a chance to learn even more about a game you already love.

It's not that knowing these stats replaces having a feel for the game, it compliments it. As soon as more of these dinosaurs in MSM grasp and embrace that concept, hockey's gonna change for the better.

Yes, I agree they are complimentary, but I feel that they are still in their infancy, and lack context.

We need a plan.

When I look at the Flames, I know they are in a rebuild, so I look at the players as pieces to a puzzle. They are not my Flames at the moment, but I see them in my minds eye 5 years from now. This also only includes players currently in the system and not some pipe dream players like Ekblad or pieces we get in the future.

The only players I see on the Cup winning Flames 5 years from now are:

? Monahan Poirier

Gaudreau ? ?

Ferland Backlund ?

? ? ?

? ?

Brodie Wotherspoon

Sieloff ?

Gillies

?

No fantasies, I just hope that we can draft well in 2014 & 15, sign the right free agents at the right money and at the right time and trade some of our prospects for pieces that can fill in the question marks.

Might also be nice if some Western Canadian boys decided to come home to win Cups where the cup was meant to be won.

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#62 Burnward
December 21 2013, 12:22AM
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I appreciate CORSI et al...but to me, the real value of it is to evaluate players that are 3rd-4th liners.

Top six guys you can measure by watching play a lot and looking at their "real" stats.

It's the bottom six guys that I find this most useful for.

I have yet to see this stat change my mind about a player, but I have taken notice of lesser players because of it.

Oh, and it still has the Mike Weaver effect going for it. So there's that.

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#63 Derzie
December 21 2013, 01:55AM
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You can drive the play/possession all night. But if you make 2 mistakes on the PK in your own end that turn into goals, your stats still look great but you were front and center as to why the team lost. Stats can be interpreted to suit most any hypothesis. Boomer and Pinder are both right. Backlund has some nice defensive numbers and he is prone to turnovers and fails the eye test a lot.

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#64 SmellOfVictory
December 21 2013, 10:40AM
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Burnward wrote:

I appreciate CORSI et al...but to me, the real value of it is to evaluate players that are 3rd-4th liners.

Top six guys you can measure by watching play a lot and looking at their "real" stats.

It's the bottom six guys that I find this most useful for.

I have yet to see this stat change my mind about a player, but I have taken notice of lesser players because of it.

Oh, and it still has the Mike Weaver effect going for it. So there's that.

Disagree. Ville Leino was (still is?) a top 6 forward in Buffalo, and he is downright terrible. Even in the season where he fluked into a decent number of points, analytics would've helped show that he's actually a godawful NHLer. There are a number of "pretenders" who make their way into the top 6 of various teams due to coach's favour, luck, or other circumstantial things that have nothing to do with actual ability. They end up putting up points purely because they get lots of TOI with good players, and it can obfuscate the fact that they actually kind of suck.

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#65 Kevin R
December 21 2013, 11:24AM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Disagree. Ville Leino was (still is?) a top 6 forward in Buffalo, and he is downright terrible. Even in the season where he fluked into a decent number of points, analytics would've helped show that he's actually a godawful NHLer. There are a number of "pretenders" who make their way into the top 6 of various teams due to coach's favour, luck, or other circumstantial things that have nothing to do with actual ability. They end up putting up points purely because they get lots of TOI with good players, and it can obfuscate the fact that they actually kind of suck.

I guess the moral of this story for an NHL GM is do not sign a player to a huge long term contract after they had just had a career year. I agree with Burnward, the stats really help Management identify good possession bottom 6 players & assist in determining good value contracts for these role players. That's huge in itself.

Top 6, true high end talented players probably swing & have larger variances in their peaks & valleys because of how they are playing(in a funk)& other factors that are having an affect on their play on the ice. I keep saying the stats need to take things to the next level in the analyses.

In conclusion to Backlund, I think the stats & sample size are showing that Backlund would be a top 3rd line bottom six player, excellent value at his salary & capable of playing top 6 minutes when inevitable injuries come into play during an 82 game season. If Burke is as smart as we all hope he is, Backlund does not get traded anywhere. The return just does not justify the value based on the stats.

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#66 SeanCharles
December 21 2013, 12:30PM
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Monahan will have his ups and downs, especially after injury. He responds well to challenges so he will work his way out of this slump..

I don't overly like him playing with Glencross. I love Glencross when he's healthy and scoring. But he isn't good at breaking out of our zone because he makes bad decisions when trying to get the puck out.

I think playing with Glencross hurts his possession numbers. I dunno the CORSI on Glencross but I'd be interested to know what the numbers do in fact say.

In regards to Backlund I think he has been playing amazing lately. You can really see his abilities with and without the puck. He is extremely good at maintaining possession by stickhandling or reading the play before it happens.

I have always like him and want him on this team, especially more so than keeping Stajan.

But I think when everyone talks about not caring about what the numbers say its because at the end of the day you need results. In this business results are goals, assists, hits, wins ect.

Backlund is a great player when he has confidence and is contributing offensively. But when he, so often does, struggle he isn't as useful.

Part of his struggles have been from injury which is out of his control but that's possibly why having bigger players, who can drive the puck north, is a better idea and what Burke is looking for.

If Backlund can be a second line center there is room for him here. But if he is going to continually have consistency issues he won't be.

I actually like the idea of having a bigger bottom six.

I hope Backlund is part of the rebuild. Its really in his hands, if he plays like he has been, for the rest of the season, he will be retained.

Backlund is really the epitome of the debate with advanced stats. The numbers say he has supreme value. But if he isn't producing offense he doesn't have value on Burkes team because he is too small to play a bottom six checker role.

I'm fine with that, even though I like Backlund a lot.

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#67 EugeneV
December 21 2013, 03:14PM
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Derzie wrote:

You can drive the play/possession all night. But if you make 2 mistakes on the PK in your own end that turn into goals, your stats still look great but you were front and center as to why the team lost. Stats can be interpreted to suit most any hypothesis. Boomer and Pinder are both right. Backlund has some nice defensive numbers and he is prone to turnovers and fails the eye test a lot.

Bostons first goal shows exactly what you are talking about.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?hlg=20132014,2,509&lang=en

WEAK.

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#68 coachedpotatoe
December 21 2013, 03:43PM
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@EugeneV

when you try and predict 5 years out you leave a lot of holes in your line up and have to speculate way to much on drafting and free agents. I suspect this team will be more competitive in two years from now, we have a good core of young prospects and no one who is postapex, Hudler has at least a couple of good years ahead of him as does both Gio and Wides on D. On the farm there are 3 or 4 forwards who will be NHL players, plus a couple guys either leaving the NCAA or CHL this year. If last year was a good draft year and only 1 of 3 where ready (I suspect Poirier will be next year) and this is a weaker draft year we might not anyone who is ready (especially if we keep sneaking points out and draft above 5th) You want a plan, have one for the start of next year not 5 years down the road.

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#69 BJ
December 21 2013, 04:28PM
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nice article....

From what ai have seen of Backlund (keeping in mind his youth) I dont think he has failed an eye test... not mine anyway.

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#70 EugeneV
December 21 2013, 07:10PM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

when you try and predict 5 years out you leave a lot of holes in your line up and have to speculate way to much on drafting and free agents. I suspect this team will be more competitive in two years from now, we have a good core of young prospects and no one who is postapex, Hudler has at least a couple of good years ahead of him as does both Gio and Wides on D. On the farm there are 3 or 4 forwards who will be NHL players, plus a couple guys either leaving the NCAA or CHL this year. If last year was a good draft year and only 1 of 3 where ready (I suspect Poirier will be next year) and this is a weaker draft year we might not anyone who is ready (especially if we keep sneaking points out and draft above 5th) You want a plan, have one for the start of next year not 5 years down the road.

Going year to year is what got us in this spot in the first place (Sutter).

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#71 SmellOfVictory
December 21 2013, 11:12PM
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Derzie wrote:

You can drive the play/possession all night. But if you make 2 mistakes on the PK in your own end that turn into goals, your stats still look great but you were front and center as to why the team lost. Stats can be interpreted to suit most any hypothesis. Boomer and Pinder are both right. Backlund has some nice defensive numbers and he is prone to turnovers and fails the eye test a lot.

Every player makes turnovers. Backlund makes less of them than anyone on the Flames, from what I've seen, outside of perhaps Brodie.

As to "stats can be interpreted to suit most any hypothesis", that is only true if you're talking to someone who doesn't understand statistics or you use inconsistent parameters. Where is the interpretation with Corsi? Better shot attempt differential (taking into account offensive zone time) = better player. Where's the manipulation in that? Or how would it be interpreted otherwise? The only time I've ever seen it misinterpreted to serve someone's pre-existing bias is when stat-haters use the argument "some players take tons of low percentage shots which makes them look better than they are, ergo Corsi is stupid", which is such a minor/infrequent issue that it's not even worth consideration.

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#72 coachedpotatoe
December 22 2013, 06:45AM
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EugeneV wrote:

Going year to year is what got us in this spot in the first place (Sutter).

Actually it was trying to win year to year that got us in this mess, there was no plan for development.(Sutter)What I was actually speaking about was looking at what we have and let them develop from year to year. My approach would be very pragmatic and not reactionary. The organization has added 3 young forwards to the NHL team this year; Colborne, Bouma and Monahan that appear to be regulars. Backs seems to have rounded into a solid NHLer this year; giving us 4 24 year olds or younger. We have 4 others in the AHL that seem ready to take the step once we trade the UFA's; Sven, Granlund, Ferland and Knight again all under 24. In the hopper we have Johny G and Poirier who I think will both be ready next year. That would give us 10 young forwards moving forward next year. I've not included a number of other names that might be close up front.

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#73 SVENSANITY
December 22 2013, 10:53PM
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I would like to apologize to the FN community. In an earlier post out of haste i made one of those silly flaws I was referring to where i applied directionality to cause and in doing got the direction of the cause wrong.

We were having the debate about theory in the scientific method sense. One of the beautiful things about the english language is how something in everyday language can mean something completely different in another forum, in this case science.

Someone replied and suggested that theories cannot be proven. This is not strictly accurate in a scientific sense. In the regular sense this is true a theory is a form of speculation about how something works but may not necessarily have the backing of evidence. A theory in science, however, is a testable and repeatably observed phenomenon. However, all theories can at any time be falsified by continued scientific learning. That is why science is so great and why it's important for scientists to publish results.

Theories, hypotheses and the scientific method operates on the premise of rejecting the null hypothesis. A theory is developed to explain the observations tested by hypotheses. In some cases a theory is formed from a series of hypotheses. Theories really are explanations for what we observe.

Here is where I got the directionality wrong. I implied in an earlier comment the Theories which are repeatedly observed should be promoted to laws. This is simply the not the case. In fact, Laws, for example, gravity inform the theories. The law of gravity for instance states that objects which are not opposed by any other forces will fall (In simple terms anyhow). A law is just simply a repeated observable fact. The law of gravity serves to inform the theories that were set out by Newton and later Einstein. Einstein's theory of relativity didn't disprove the newton theory but instead expanded on it giving us a better understanding of it. In that sense Einstein didn't falsify Newton's law of gravity but added more dimension to it.

The theory of gravity could always be later disproven by further evidence. Though, currently it's safe to say that a theory which has been repeatedly tested with the scientific method is not so much a theory in the common sense but in fact a true part of our world. Evolution follows this course. So why should i bring this up in a hockey blog?

Advanced Statistics are like the laws that inform our larger theories about player development, skill and quality. Corsi, Fenwick, PDO are akin to taking a feather and a book to the top of a high rise downtown and repeatedly dropping it to see which if either will land first.

The statistics are then used to formulate theories about the progress of a player. For example. if we had follow adv. stats 5 or 6 years ago as closely as we're following now. One might have looked at Patrice Bergeron and said you know this kid is impressive in the defensive zone and a monster in the face-off. He has the potential to become one of the best 2 or 3rd line Centremen in the league playing against the hardest opposition on a regular night basis.

In my mind there is no doubt that advanced stats have served to inform the analysis of certain players and teams performance. What we need now is to move towards testing these observations/stats against the results. Unfortunately, this requires continued longitudinal study in order to gain a large representative sample size.

EG. Backlund either just turned or is turning 25 in the coming months. What is performance at the end of this year and what will it be over the next 3 seasons.

The adv. stats side of things are saying; Backlund will likely be in the top 10 NHL mould of defensive first offensive centre's. Let's see if that comes true. Will he become as valued as Bergeron in the coming few years?

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