Yes, I wrote that title. Not only did I write it, but I mean it.
“Dumb” basically means lacking intelligence. Most NHL statistics, frankly, require no intelligence. Let’s look at the complicated math involved in the basic statistics on NHL.com’s summary page.
- Goals: Watching and counting
- Assists: Watching and counting
- Points: Adding goals and assists (or, alternately, watching and counting)
- Plus/Minus: Watching and counting
- Penalty minutes: Watching and counting
- Power play goals: Watching and counting
- Shorthanded goals: Watching and counting
- Game-winning goals: Basic addition, watching and counting
- Overtime goals: Watching and counting
- Shots: Watching and counting
- Shooting percentage: Basic division, watching and counting
- Time on ice: Watching and counting
- Shifts per game: Watching and counting
- Face-off percentage: Basic division, watching and counting
Basically, if you’re capable of turning on your TV and counting things, you can create almost any NHL statistic from scratch. If you’re capable of doing that and then later using the division key on a calculator or computer, you can create any NHL statistic from scratch. I’ve listed a bunch above, but they’re all basically the same – goalie stats involve counting shots, goals and minutes played, real-time statistics all consist entirely of counting, and so on.
What about all those fancy advanced statistics that get thrown around? Scoring chance percentage, Fenwick, Corsi, EVPTS/60 – those are more complicated, right?
Scoring chances involve somebody watching the game and counting. Scoring chance percentage simply involves taking the number of good scoring chances, and dividing them by the total number of scoring chances. In other words, if you know how to count and can press a division key on a calculator, you can have a firm grasp of this “advanced” statistic.
What about Fenwick? Well, you take those shots and missed shots that somebody counted up, and then you add them together – just like plus/minus. Corsi is the same thing, except that it includes blocked shots as well.
Points per 60 minutes of even-strength ice-time (or EVPTS/60) is almost as simple – one takes all the points a player scored at even-strength, and divides them by ice-time at even-strength to create a scoring rate. It is, once again, counting and pressing the divide key on a calculator. Pretty much as simple as can be.
But let’s go back to scoring chances. In an article yesterday, I did something audacious – I added up scoring chances for and against for Oilers’ defensemen. In the comments section, Robin Brownlee jokingly advised one commenter (i.e. not me) to do the following:
Your only option is to watch the games and draw your own conclusions.
Personally, I think that’s a great idea for everyone. It’s a little obvious, perhaps, but still a great idea.
It is, after all, what I do. I look for specific things – which players play the best opponents, what part of the ice players start their shifts in, how often players helps their team create a scoring chance, and how often players make mistakes that lead to chances against. As a rule, I try and get a gut feel for the game based on those things (others too, of course – which players take bad penalties, who wins faceoffs, etc.). Rather than watch the game multiple times and count those things up, I rely on others to do it – the NHL keeps track of a lot of these things (as mentioned above, by watching the game and counting) and people like Dennis King and Gabriel Desjardins catch the rest. I find that a firm number (i.e. Eric Belanger won 7 of 10 faceoffs) is better than my gut feeling (Eric Belanger wins a lot if faceoffs), so usually I’ll use the firm number instead of simply repeating my gut feeling. It’s the same thing with scoring chances – I know that Cam Barker’s getting heavily out-chanced by his opposition, but rather than say something like “man, that Cam Barker looks really bad” I’ll look up Dennis’ work and say “Cam Barker has been on the ice for 35 chances for and 49 against, which is one of the worst totals on the Oilers!” Afterward, rather than add “and he looks bad even though he’s got an easier job than other defensemen” I might use a number – like how many times he’s started shifts in the offensive zone, or how often he’s played the other team’s top line.
Of course, when I say “Barker has been on the ice for 35 chances for and 49 against” rather than “man, Cam Barker looks really bad,” someone comes along to tell me I should “watch the games.” I laugh, because it’s funny.