Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Toilet Thoughts as we’ve moved from Friday to an early week two-flusher. Management felt the alliteration of Tuesday Toilet Thoughts sounded better. We’re not going to waste time, so sit on that pearly throne and hold on for dear life.
1. Bob Hartley Thoughts
I’m not the biggest Bob Hartley fan, it’s been well documented. Most of which stems from the inability to be a truly above-average coach. Above-average in the sense that you see him semi-seamlessly adjust and not panic. Of course we know that not to be true, as he often blenders lines hoping for a glimmer of hope when panic sets in. It’s the same old, same old and it’s incredibly frustrating to observe. More so than watching them lose.
One of the shortcomings in this team really shows in Hartley’s lack of growth. Sure he won a trophy for being the best coach for riding those wild numbers. Sure the hype of Hartley taking the team to the post-season is old news, but it’s fodder for Hartley supporters regularly. Just like his Jack Adams, which should not absolve him of criticism, which many think it does. As mentioned countless times that it’s nearly deafening, all of these issues are systemic of the lack of actual systems being used.
Apparently Ramo was Hartley’s guy: he’s gone now. Logically a big trade that shakes up the room is next, if Treliving has the cojones to do it. But hey, if that happens, and the team still struggles because of the same old, same old then we know what’s next. Let’s hope if it happens, it’s after a quality coach like Bruce Boudreau is available.
2. I have no idea what to make of this
#Flames coach Bob Hartley on missing Bouma/Ferland: “Those physical guys, it’s like replacing a 30-goal scorer or your best defenceman.”
— Wes Gilbertson (@SUNGilbertson) October 25, 2015
This could have been a loaded question or he was baited into it, though it might be one of the worst things to say when your team is performing below expectations. There is no chance either of these players individually or collectively would fix this issues plaguing this team. This quote just showcases the enamored feelings he has towards these types of players.
If only everyone wanted it more, had more compete, and had more heart. Maybe everyone can keep blaming Mikael Backlund in the comments for this, god knows folks love blaming him for everything.
3. Colborne, Smid, and Bollig – *fart sound*
Speaking of not so talented players that Hartley loves, let’s talk about this trio.
So Joe Colborne misses plenty of time already with an injury and comes back to score an important goal. Good for him, it’s incredibly Colborne of him to do so given his knack for doing the opposite of productive. It’s hard to understand Hartley’s unhealthy obsession with trying to make Colborne a “thing”. Colborne does small amounts of things well, but beyond being a big local boy he is nothing more than your average bottom-six forward.
All of which is increasingly dumbfounding with the volume of cheaper and better options for the bottom six long term. It’s cringe-inducing to consider him getting a contract next summer with the promising depth in the organization.
Ladislav Smid’s career is sad at this point; mostly he isn’t very good, even for replacement level standards. I don’t understand the choice of using him over Jakub Nakladal, the gentleman who switched places with Brett Kulak. Everything we know about Nakladal justifies he is at least a bottom-pairing defenseman which should give him a chance.
Through three games, Smid has a combined 30:59 of ice time. In that time he’s been a 46.9% CF defenseman, propped up with whatever time he gets with Dougie Hamilton. Whereas he hasn’t been an utter tire fire, he isn’t worth playing for the limited impact he provides. That is to say, Nakladal would potentially be a better option, given he can skate and move the puck better than Smid.
Finally, Brandon Bollig, my favourite former child-actor. I have no idea how you are able to slot into this lineup but I applaud you for being given the chance to actively contribute to this team’s demise. As I sit here on my toilet, legs falling asleep, I cannot help but question whether or not you’re a sleeper agent from OilersNation hellbent on destroying this team.
4. The Stretch Pass Sucks
CGY has tried four home-run passes from below its own goal line. All four easy icings. Stuck in neutral here.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 27, 2015
This tweet sums up every fan’s frustrating with this gimmick, an outdated one that is failing to work. The entire blueline is guilty of attempting this, though often a common part of Russell’s repertoire it has become overly painful to watch.
When it fails (and boy does it ever), it’s either picked off in two spots: the blueline of the defensive zone or the neutral zone. When it’s picked off, it often leads to zone entries against and subsequent shelling. When it misses, it results in an icing call.
The whole issue with this pass further enforces the lack structure in any breakout strategy and the offensive system. The entire team operates on a very basic and predictable on-the-rush attack for the most part.
On the rush scoring was the linchpin in the top line’s success last year. Keep in mind it’s noticeable the lucky bounces are few and far between with it and the strategy. Abandoning it and building a breakout of short, smart passes with intelligent puck support would work a lot better. Less individual play, more team-based systems.
5. PK Systems Project Update
I don’t have much to share now besides one thing that I’ve been working on for a few days now: the visualizations element. One of the biggest things in this project was simply studying the systems aspect of the penalty kill. The further I studied game footage and plotted shot attempt data, the more I noticed how important passing became. Again, I was sitting on the toilet when the initial idea of plotting passing location data came to me. The problem with doing this is it’s incredibly time consuming. One penalty kill took me about 30 minutes of work, but what came of it was something really interesting:
Every ‘x‘ is a player passing and receiving the puck. The line between the markers are successful passes completed on the power play of the opposing team. The arrow pointing away from an ‘x‘ indicates a player that received a pass and moved to the tip of the arrow to shoot or pass.
Letter markers indicate a shot, missed shot, blocked shot, and successful clean zone entry against. The shaded line indicates a shot attempt that was blocked. Since then, I’ve removed that and plotted blocked shots at the point of the shot attempt. What we can gather from this single PK against Vancouver are a few simple things:
- The Canucks did a lot of puck cycling and passing on one side of the ice, a side predominately seeing Kris Russell and a few others in this game.
- The Canucks created a lot of successful passes to keep their PP working, looking to move players around to create shooting lanes. A smart decision given existing knowledge of the Flames’ system.
- Calgary clogs up the middle of the ice, as their entire system on a high-level view is protecting the middle. It has no real inherent strengths at this point besides the notion of survival and lucky breaks.
It’s not perfect but it does allow me to create some interesting metrics and stats for this project. A few I had been considering are Successful Passes Against/60 or SPA60, Zone Entries Against/60 or ZA/60, and a few others I’m considering tracking.
The passing plots may eventually improve to a point where I track player numbers in their location instead. Right now I’m hoping to find some semblance of value in this that might result in me sharing my findings at the Vancouver Hockey Analytics Conference in April.
As always, any feedback here or on Twitter would be great on flushing this out further.