“I love the physical intangibles he brought to the game.” – Pierre McGuire, explaining why Ed Jovanovski is A MONSTER!

That quote is lifted from this rather amazing Covered in Oil post from April 2008, which does a great breakdown of Pierre McGuire’s 2008 Monsters of the Year list. It’s a good read, and taken in conjunction with this rumour it just makes me smile.

Anyways, Covered in Oil responded with the dictionary definition of intangible: “not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; impalpable.”

As a guy who likes statistics, I get knocked a lot as not caring about intangibles. That’s not true. Obviously, things like leadership, guts, heart and the like can be important things in team-building. The psychological side of the game exists and undoubtedly influences outcome, but it can’t be measured by us. A coach may have a good grasp of these qualities in his players, but of course that’s biased by his own experience and perception. We can guess at the character of players, but it’s only a guess.

Physicality is not an intangible. Aside from the fact that certain aspects can be measured (size, strength, total hits) physicality is obvious to anyone who watches the game.

Even defensive ability, which isn’t easy to measure, doesn’t qualify as an intangible. A competent observer can grade any player’s positioning after a sufficient period of time; and count battles won and lost. On the statistical end of things, NHL teams have been counting scoring chances for years (and over at, Dennis has been tracking scoring chances all year), and other statistics like QualComp, ZoneShift and Corsi are helping us craft a better picture all the time. But I digress.

The point of this article is that intangibles really don’t belong in the conversation. We don’t know them; if we knew them, they wouldn’t be intangible. When someone says, ‘yeah, but he has/doesn’t have intangibles’, they’re arguing from a position of ignorance – effectively saying: ‘well, I think there’s some other, unmeasurable quality that makes X a good or bad hockey player’, and that’s simply wrong. X is a good or bad hockey player based on what he does on the ice. Saying something to the effect of “X doesn’t win puck battles” or “X doesn’t go into traffic areas” may be accurate or not, but a competent observer can watch the game and confirm or deny the statement – and that makes all the difference.

  • From Gregor Discusses Season With Horcoff April 9:

    JG: That contract doesn’t start until next season. When you signed it, was the expectation to be in a situation where you could live up to it? Do you need to be put in a situation where you will be given an opportunity to live up to it?

    SH: I didn’t get that contract just off my offensive numbers, though, I think that’s what people need to realize. What puts me in that type of pay scale is a lot of the intangibles that I bring, the situations that I play, the minutes, the face-offs and the defensive minutes. But you are probably right, in order to put up 65 to 70+ points a year, you have to play offensive situation and pure offensive minutes. Without those minutes, it will be tough for anyone. But I have to finish better, that’s obvious.

    What a douchebag.

  • Maybe it's not terribly manly, but a more appropriate term may be 'mystique' to talk about players who have that … how you say? 'I-don't-know-what'.

    I guess it means different things to different people. For someone like Brian Burke, it's a player who has a bit of a mean streak. For Don Cherry it's a Canadian passport…

  • @ Ogden Brother:
    When Horc said that people in his pay scale are paid for their intangibles I almost lost my mind. If i was there in person when he said that I would have been caught on camera laughing innappropriately at him and calling him an idiot.

    I'm with Willis, Intangibles is a BS thing to bring up and shouldnt be used unless discussing Character/Attitude, and even then how are we supposed to know? I mean I cant exactly put "Intangibles" on my Resume.