On the Fallibility of Ryan Malone

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone was arrested for DUI and possession of cocaine early Saturday morning. The details aren’t one hundred percent clear yet, but they don’t really matter hugely outside of a court of law. We know enough to know that there were no injuries and there’s no real reason to suspect he was framed, not that anyone appears worried about that particular scenario. But the details don’t really change anything as far as most of us are concerned.

What matters to most of us is that, once again, we’re playing out a symbolic play using Ryan Malone as the canvas. He is the fallen, the guy who screwed up, who did something wrong. He’s the exception that shows the righteousness of the hockey community. He is the living embodiment of choices and their consequences. Continue reading

Hockey Stats Crib Sheet

For those of you who are trying to remember what all this stuff is. This is, by the way, the absolute basics. If you’re looking for explanations of these concepts, there are myriad places these days to get it. I recommend Down Goes Brown’s Faker’s Guide to Advanced Stats in the NHL.  There’s also a good series at Second city Hockey. And I did an Advanced Stats Primer at Raw Charge a while back that covers some of the basics. Continue reading

Do the Lightning play worse in front of Lindback?

It’s a common refrain all across the hockey world: a team plays differently in front of a backup than a starter. Right now, the assertion is that the Lightning are “sloppy” when Anders Lindback is in the net compared to when Ben Bishop is. And this is the kind of thing that’s extremely easy to check on.

If the Lightning are sloppier, they’ll be giving up more chances and more shot attempts, right? Basically mistakes will be so much more common that opponents will get more chances than they do when the Lightning are not sloppy. If it’s not anomalous and infrequent–if it is a pattern–it will show up in the data. If corsi is lower, it implies opponents got more zone time. If fenwick is lower it implies opponents got more scoring chances. If it happens once or twice, it won’t show up as clearly. If it happens all the time, there’ll be a clear pattern. Continue reading

Teddy Purcell, shooting, and perception: Or, things aren’t always what you think they are

Perception is a funny thing. Humans take in stimuli and interpret them and that becomes our perception. Light waves, sound waves, smells, weight, tactile sensation. All of these things get interpreted in the human brain. They’re all placed in the context that we’ve learned over the years. Every new stimulus is subject to our tendency towards patterning the world around us. And human beings are pattern-making machines. Our brains take in chaos and produce order, whether that order exists or not. And once we’ve discerned some kind of pattern, whether it’s real or imagined, it can take monumental effort to escape it.

Take Teddy Purcell, for instance. Teddy never shoots anymore, they say. Teddy would look for a pass in a shootout. If Teddy has an open shot that he would have two years ago, this year he’ll try to force a pass instead.

The thing is, by all the data, Teddy Purcell is not shooting less than he did two years ago. Continue reading

It’s not just a business

A beloved player gets traded or signs with another team. Fans grieve, get angry, and feel betrayed. It happens all the time, in every country, in every sport. And every time, out come the curmudgeons. “It’s just a business like any business. People leave for their own reasons. Stop blubbering about it.”

It’s not, though, just a business, and it’s certainly not a business just like any other business. Yes, sport generates huge amounts of revenue and there are certainly business aspects to it. But sport is far more than just a business.

Sport is, for fans and for the people involved in it and for society at large, a highly symbolic enterprise. Continue reading


Anders Lindback positioning on “slot chances” Feb 28 (SYR)

Because I’ve been accused of “cherry-picking” when I said that Lindback didn’t play especially deep in his crease during his Crunch debut, I hereby post the proof that I was not.

Of the 65 chances I captured where the puck wasn’t in the corner or to the outside, 32 are of Lindback. Of those 32 chances, 9 are especially deep. Most of those depth decisions are explainable by the fact that the puck was low and outside and then moved towards the slot area, meaning Lindback is coming off of his posts.

This doesn’t mean he was especially aggressive. Only on a very few occasions did he get higher than toes on the outside of the line. But he didn’t tend towards especially deep positioning, either. At no time was his ass under the crossbar with the puck out front. Lindback didn’t play any “deeper” on the whole than Peter Mannino did.

On Captains and Unhappiness

I’ve been trying to put into words exactly what it means to me that Martin St. Louis probably asked for a trade from the Lightning. It’s a separate issue from whether or when or for what he might be dealt. It’s a separate question from what Steve Yzerman would hold out for in return. I have to cope with the idea that Martin St. Louis, who has always embodied the Lightning for me, might not do so anymore.

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Thoughts on goaltending stats

Save percentage is incredibly variable for a long part of a goalie’s NHL career. It doesn’t really settle into a pattern until some 4000 shots, which is at least a few years into a guy’s career. My thinking on the magnitude of this variability has always been that it’s probable that there’s something that’s not accounted for in the measure.

I think that at least some of that reason that save percentage is such a bad measure of goalie performance (and such a bad predictor of future performance) is that there’s something objective that it doesn’t capture. I don’t mean intangibles like “heart” or “mental strength” or “being clutch” here, either. I mean something measurable that’s not currently being measured. It’s like trying to predict the weather before we learned about barometric pressure.

Continue reading