FROM THE PRESS BOX
In the dog days of summer, there is still the matter of overtime and how unsatisfactory I find the current shootout format. I will hammer at this point until changes are made. We also look at the addition of front office staff to focus on new game analytics.
Overtime and the Shootout
Ok, I admit I am a fan of tradition and history when it comes to hockey. That's why I have used this space to rail against one of the most troubling aspects of the modern NHL.
I don't think that a shoot-out, basically an individual skills competition has any place in determining the outcome of a team game. It really bothers me that soccer allows a penalty kick competition to settle games and even world championships. Using the shootout to settle regular season games is bad enough. Could you imagine a Stanley Cup Final game being decided in this fashion? That would be a travesty.
Now, I get how fans rise in unison in anticipation of the shootout as quite a visual spectacle, but that's still not the way I want to see a result in this team game. I think you could still have it as a gimmick to entertain during an intermission segment, in the same way as Hockey Night in Canada filmed its Showdown series during summer months in the late 1970s.
When I cite a problem area such as this I also like to offer an alternative. I would much rather see the five-minute, four on four overtime segment be followed by a five minute three on three period. This would still involve team play and strategy that relates to the game of hockey. That three on three segment would lead to an even higher number of scoring chances than in the four on four game and would surely lead to a large number of conclusive outcomes. If after these two overtime frames, the teams are still tied, I would have no problem seeing each team awarded a point for the tie.
Some similar advocates of this format and related results have also offered a different scale for awarding team points. I would agree to award teams three points for a regulation win in 60 minutes and a two-point win if achieved in overtime. This point scale would ensure that teams don't sleepwalk into the current overtime session to ensure a point. In my plan, teams would always be encouraged to go for the win.
I am more optimistic than ever that the current overtime format will not survive and that some form of my plan will prevail. I will not rest or hold my tongue until that day comes.
What do you think?
Stats as Analytics in Hockey
The reams of statistical information that flow out of the modern day analytics in pro sports have given the diehard fan another frontier in terms of dissecting the professional leagues in the sports landscape. They also give scouts more information in evaluating players and provide coaches with additional measures of player performance.
The fact that this is an aspect of growing importance was given another push when the Maple Leafs hired 28-year old Kyle Dubas as their new assistant GM. Dubas is a stats guru who had been serving as the GM of the Ontario Junior A Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds. He has been given some of the credit for their recent success, joining them when they were a last place team and then helping to oversee a rise in fortunes that propelled them to first place in three years.
Other teams (Devils and Flames) have followed suit, in hiring addition staff, whose main responsibilities are also in this relatively new area of study.
Now, I know that hockey is a very fluid game and it may be harder to make sense of the analytics and how meaningful the game stats may be, as compared to the stop and start nature of baseball, for instance, when there is a pause between every pitch that gives us time to process and anticipate outcomes. Dubas has factored that into his method of statistical analysis. He is not about forcing the statistics to dictate the way management and coaches run a team.
You are also reminded that yours truly introduced the first wave of statistical analysis with the introduction of Real Time Scoring in the NHL, which was implemented in 1992. Since then, the NHL game stats summaries have been able to track individual player ice time most accurately, along with tallying other game events such as face-offs won/lost, hits, giveaways, blocked shots, missed shots, etc. All of these are significant game events and can help in the analysis relating to player matchups and which events were critical in leading to goals and soring opportunities.
They and the modern statistical measures (CORSI and FENWICK, for example) are designed to add value in the understanding of the flow of the game. They provide an added value in measuring the game and are not meant to replace what has gone before in terms of game preparation.
This is a constantly evolving new part of the study relating to hockey and other sports, for that matter. To ignore the possibilities of such measures is to fall behind available technology. Just see how technological advances have changed in our lifetime.
Why shouldn't it help the evolution of the games we watch and play?