Did you say shoot? Hemsky was listening

Jonathan Willis
December 09 2008 05:50PM

HITS statistics -- until recently known as RTSS (real time something something) are something that the NHL tracks and makes known to the public.  These statistics were brought to the game primarily by Roger Neilson and are now accepted as a way to track player performance that doesn’t show up on the score sheet -- hits, shots and blocked shots being the most prominent of these “other” statistics.

One of the problems with these statistics is that each rink counts them differently; in some cases recording every minor jostle, and in other cases counting almost nothing. As a result, it’s difficult to compare across teams -- a player in Carolina will have seen different counters than a player in Edmonton. For comparisons within a team, however, these numbers should have a high degree of validity.

Another problem is that these numbers aren’t adjusted for number of games played, or ice-time. I thought it might be useful at this point in the season to compare players' statistical rates in the three categories above -- hits, shots and blocked shots. To do this, I’ve taken the HITS numbers from NHL.com, and adjusted them to an average over sixty minutes of ice-time.

Forwards

Hemsky -- 1 hit/60, 0.7 blocks/60, 9.3 shots/60

Moreau -- 6.8 hits/60, 3.1 blocks/60, 7.9 shots/60

Horcoff -- 1 hit/60, 1.5 blocks/60, 7.1 shots/60

Pouliot -- 3.4 hits/60, 2.6 blocks/60, 7.1 shots/60

Cole -- 6.8 hits/60, 1.4 blocks/60, 6.9 shots/60

Gagner -- 0.8 hits/60, 0.5 blocks/60, 6.9 shots/60

Pisani -- 4.0 hits/60, 1.5 blocks/60, 6.5 shots/60

Cogliano -- 2.4 hits/60, 1.6 blocks/60, 6.2 shots/60

Nilsson -- 2.4 hits/60, 1.1 blocks/60, 5.8 shots/60

Penner -- 4.0 hits/60, 2.2 blocks/60, 5.2 shots/60

Brodziak -- 3.0 hits/60, 1.7 blocks/60, 4.9 shots/60

Reddox -- 7.5 hits/60, 2.7 blocks/60, 4.1 shots/60

Stortini -- 12.0 hits/60, 1.4 blocks/60, 2.8 shots/60

MacIntyre -- 15.3 hits/60, 1.7 blocks/60, 0 shots/60

Defensemen

Souray -- 2.1 hits/60, 8.1 shots/60, 2.4 blocks/60

Visnovsky -- 1.6 hits/60, 4.3 shots/60, 4.8 blocks/60

Gilbert -- 1.8 hits/60, 3.6 shots/60, 4.1 blocks/60

Staios -- 4.4 hits/60, 2.7 shots/60, 6.5 blocks/60

Smid -- 10.1 hits/60, 2.4 shots/60, 3.2 blocks/60

Grebeshkov -- 2.0 hits/60, 1.9 shots/60, 3.5 blocks/60

Strudwick -- 5.2 hits/60, 1.8 shots/60, 4.3 blocks/60

Worth Noting

-- Ales Hemsky is more inclined to shoot than any other player on the team. This is obviously a good thing. No other forward on the team has a shot as dynamic as Hemsky’s, and very few forwards turn into elite offensive producers without being willing to let go of shots. Hemsky isn’t quite into Ovechkin territory (15.1 shots/60) but he compares well with Crosby (9.2 shots/60) by this metric.

-- We all knew that Sheldon Souray fired the puck a lot, but he’s currently sitting third in the league in total shots (behind Shea Weber and Dion Phaneuf) and his rate eclipses that of not only all the defensemen, but of all forwards not named Ales Hemsky. Speaking of Souray, he has a surprisingly low hit and block count, but personally I think that’s a good thing as there’s no question the Oilers are a better team with him than without him.

-- Outside of end-of-the-roster-type forwards, most everyone is grouped between five and seven shots per sixty minutes of ice-time. The sole exception is Ethan Moreau, whose offensive totals have climbed along with his shot count. Moreau also leads the team in shot-blocking, with Pouliot and Reddox the only guys in the same range. Reddox is also a surprisingly frequent hitter, which lends credence to his reputation as an agitator.

-- Although it was obvious that Smid was willing to throw his body around, I find it a little surprising that he does so with twice the frequency of any other regular defenseman. This also makes it a little more obvious as to exactly what MacTavish was looking for when he dressed Smid as a forward.

Does anything else jump out here?

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 jeanshorts
December 09 2008, 07:21PM
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Is this the same math that Jayman Master Builders uses to calculate how much money they are giving to MS?

And I like that out of the regular forwards, Cole is near the top of the pile when it comes to hits. We crap on him for having a shitanusly® bad start to his offensive game, but at least we know he's still in there mucking around, and it hopefully means his offense should pick up here any day now, right? RIGHT??

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#2 Gord
December 09 2008, 08:16PM
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How is it that Cogs and Nilsson are outhitting Horcoff? I have no problem with Hemsky not hitting as he is the offensive catalyst, but Horc needs to be hitting guys to free up some pucks in the corners. He should be ashamed of that stat.

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#3 Fiveandagame
December 09 2008, 08:28PM
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Horcoff hits other players about as often as Souray thinks twice about shooting.

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#4 Jason Gregor
December 09 2008, 08:43PM
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JW,

I'm not sure where you heard that Reddox is an agitator because he is far from it. Dustin Brown leads the NHL in hits, but no one considers him an agitator.

Reddox doesn't say spit to anyone on the ice, and he looks like a gnat when he hits. He never makes an impact but does just enough to pester you. Which is fine, because he isn't big enough to inflict a lot of damage. But Reddox's willingness to at least throw a check doesn't make him close to an agitator.

To me is a poor man's version of Fernando Pisani. He will kill penalties, block a few shots, be solid defensively and maybe chip in 10-15 goals. (And please no one bring up his 14 goals in the playoffs. It was a great ONE TIME run. He hasn't scored more than 18 in a full season)

Reddox goes down the minute Pisani is recalled. Brule is far more likely to be cast as an agitator, because he runs over guys now and then, not just in to them.

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#5 Jonathan Willis
December 09 2008, 09:19PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Red Line Report had this to say about Reddox in his draft year: "Agitator extraordinaire. Industrial strength abrasive. Plays like a pit bull — locks on and won’t let go." I haven't seen enough of him to know one way or the other with any certainty, but I've got a fair level of confidence in Kyle Woodlief & Co.

I agree that Reddox tops out as Fernando Pisani; personally I doubt he gets that far because Pisani's a heck of a player.

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#6 Jonathan Willis
December 09 2008, 09:21PM
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This is the link to the Red Line 2004 Draft, and the full quote:

"Liam Reddox — Agitator extraordinaire. Industrial strength abrasive. Plays like a pit bull — locks on and won’t let go."

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#7 alphah
December 09 2008, 09:26PM
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Cole's hits are like Reddox's hits.

I miss having Torres' hits out there...

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#8 Jason Gregor
December 09 2008, 09:35PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Well I guess that proves that sometime they can be a bit generous in their evaluations. I don't question his work ethic or heart, but he has no resemblance of a pitbull for me.

As for Pisani, he is reliable, but outside of that great playoff run, rarely was he an impact player in any element of the game. Not a slight on him, just how I see him as a player.

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#9 B.C.B.
December 09 2008, 09:52PM
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St. Pisani is an impact player, in my opinion, in the defensive side of the game. If I was the coach, and obviously I am not, he would be my first choice to put out on the ice in the last minute if we were up by one. OR if we needed to kill a power play chance at a certain time. I think being as reliable (and defensive) as Pisani is an impact skill- just not one the is count in (traditional) stats.

personally, I am shock to see Poo out perform Brodziak in everyone of these categories. It is not the what I have seen/felt while watching, but I do have a hate on for Poo. I am impressed, hope he can keep it up, and maybe his box-car numbers will increase to (then we can trade/package him for something good).

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#10 Jonathan Willis
December 09 2008, 10:22PM
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Thing to remember about these numbers: they are very rough indicators of a player's ability in whatever area - Reddox outhits Cole at a per minute rate, but there's no doubt which of the two is more effective physically.

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#11 Jonathan Willis
December 09 2008, 10:29PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Well I guess that proves that sometime they can be a bit generous in their evaluations. I don’t question his work ethic or heart, but he has no resemblance of a pitbull for me.

I haven't seen it either, but I've heard similar things from people who've watched the Falcons over the last two years. Still, I haven't seen it yet at the NHL level; could be he's still feeling his way in or whatever but there hasn't been much evidence of it yet.

Jason Gregor wrote:

As for Pisani, he is reliable, but outside of that great playoff run, rarely was he an impact player in any element of the game.

I think I rate Pisani a little higher than you; either way though, for a fringe prospect like Reddox to land himself an NHL career, even as a reliable third-liner, we can agree he's overachieving, right? There are a ton of these guys in the Oilers' system (Spurgeon, Sestito, etc. all have some similar qualities) and only a few are going to make it.

Pisani goes in spurts - generally he's a good fit on a Sami Pahlsson-type tight-checking line, but every so often he catches fire, like he did with Reasoner and Moreau a couple of years back. All in all he isn't a high-end player, but he's got a wide range of abilities (plus shot, "greasy" player, good mobility) and is one of the better utility players out there.

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#12 Bruthah
December 09 2008, 11:00PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

Is this the same math that Jayman Master Builders uses to calculate how much money they are giving to MS?

Classic! Nice one JS.

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#13 Chris
December 10 2008, 08:11AM
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Vishnovsky should see his shot total climb as he is looking more and more comfortable. I've seen him miss the net an awful lot through the first 26. Also, I can't wait for Big Mac's face to heal; 15.3 hits/60. I think a single MacIntyre hit should count for two...just ask Boyd.

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#14 The Towel Boy
December 10 2008, 08:22AM
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The one thing I've always thought about Fernando for years, aside from his strong defensive play, is that he has an underrated shot. He has a very smooth, quick release...it's just a matter of him finding himself in a position to let'er rip.

As for Reddox being a pitbull...his redline report may very well have been accurate when you take into account the size and age of oposition he faced back in '04. Since '04 it appears he hasn't yet hit puberty and is really quite small compared to 98% of the players he plays against. So while he may be laying down some decent numbers in hits/60, they're mostly softies in the hit parade...and, as has been stated, he's really not doing much damage.

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#15 Drew
December 10 2008, 10:27AM
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Something that stands out? The numbers show that Erik Cole is at least a little more involved in the game than we might have thought, even if he isn't producing right now.

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#16 Clayton
December 10 2008, 01:08PM
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Now I know he has just been brought up so its hard to calculate statistics for him, but I am surprised you didn't say anything about Schremp? Especially since about 85% of the voters on this site think he's the Real Deal!

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#17 Jonathan Willis
December 10 2008, 02:12PM
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@ Clayton:

I ignored everybody with under ten games - the sample size is too small.

As for Schremp, everybody seems to be on the bandwagon, but it's probably worth noting that while he's been on the ice for 3 goals for, he's also been on for 3 against.

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#18 Bruce
December 10 2008, 03:45PM
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Jonathan: Nice work on leveling the playing field by putting the raw HITS data into a per/60 context. I tried this at times last year with some of these numbers, and founnd it to me a worthwhile exercise, with limitations. Like you I find these stats unreliable but nonetheless useful; given the huge range of hometown standards, there is often more truth to be found in road games only stats (a principle Bill James introduced years ago to neutralize "park effects").

I note that the site Hockeyanalysis.com offers data on "adjusted player hits" which attempts to factor out the home scorer bias. On a team level, the "league-leading" Rangers have their team hits adjusted all the way from 822 to 568, which drops them from way out in first to 7th in the NHL, and all their players are reduced by a similar 30% or so.

I also agree with you that such numbers are far more useful within a given team rather than across teams. As with many stats. With or without adjustments, the Rangers (or the Oilers) will rank in pretty much the same order. They all play in front of the same scorers in each given game.

Finally, it's probably meaningless to add together apples, oranges, and grapefruits, but I thought it would be fun to simply combine the stats listed above into "events/hr." By this distorted definition, who are the high-event players? 17.8 Moreau 17.0 MacIntyre 16.2 Stortini 15.1 Cole 14.3 Reddox 13.1 Pouliot 12.0 Pisani 11.4 Penner 11.0 Hemsky 10.2 Cogliano 9.6 Horcoff 9.6 Brodziak 9.3 Nilsson 8.2 Gagner This appears to stratify the grinders above the skill players (for a change). The best way of moving up the charts is to increase the hit rate, where there is a huge range from top to bottom. The top 5 hitters are also the top 5 of the combined totals.

One slightly encouraging thing I draw from this is that Pouliot has drawn the minor officials' attention often enough to suggest that he is more involved in the game than it sometimes appears. That's the beauty of the per/60 metric, that a guy whose gross numbers are far enough down the page so as not to appear impressive, might in fact be doing quite a bit with limited ice time. This applies to HITS every bit as much as to scoring.

Here's the same count for defnders: 15.7 Smid 13.6 Staios 12.6 Souray 11.3 Strudwick 10.7 Visnovsky 9.5 Gilbert 7.4 Grebeshkov No surprise to find the four S's atop this list, since it seems to favour the guys who get down and dirty. Pleasantly surprised to see Smid contributing so many positive events in what ice time he has been afforded.

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#19 lavidjio
January 24 2009, 08:19PM
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lavidjio

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