For most of my adult life, hockey stats consisted of what we now call boxcars: goals, assists, points. About 2000, I started reading some interesting stuff online about advanced statistics. My reaction? Bill James stuck with baseball stats, you should too. However, a funny thing happened along the way: I learned something.


The recent announcement on the Nations pages that NHL numbers has been transformed into something resembling an ongoing "Hockey Abstract" is welcome news. I’ll be the first to admit that the kind of work being done by the group gathered together at NHLN is going to be a challenge to comprehend at times, and fully admit that I’ll maintain my charming stubborn streak when it benefits me view.

But this is a wonderful chance to learn together. If you’re a hockey fan like me without the math savvy to figure these things out, there’s a wealth of talent available to field your questions. I’ve always wondered if it would benefit us to count "successful sorties out of the defensive zone" by pass or conveyance. I bet Pat Quinn would have benefited from miles of research on leaving Lubo the hell alone in this area and suspect there is something to be learned by simply tallying up successful missions per season per defenseman.

But it’s all out there in the ether, and this (to my knowledge) is the first chance we’ll have to address the "pro’s in the know" with items that have us curious about this wonderful game.


I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. If you’re open to new ideas, then these gentlemen should help us understand the modern game better so we can enjoy it to the fullest.

Now. What is the impact of a bad line change? How often does a baserunner go first to third on a single to left and what is its value? Kidding. There’s plenty of time for that. πŸ™‚



This week’s episode is devoted to NHL Numbers and the new innovations. Your questions are welcome via email at and you can leave comments below. Also, twitter works @lowetide_ Scheduled to appear:

  • Derek Zona, managing editor of Copper and Blue who (these are the direct words of Wanye via his Manor) will be heading up the new initiative. If you’re on twitter, you must follow Derek for his avatar alone. Sam Gagner and I do.
  • Kent Wilson from the Nations and the man who will work with Derek to make sure you and I can catch up with the fine reading and envelope pushing.
  • Cam Charron, another big brain signed up for NHL numbers. Cam is young and funny, but has a strange attachment to Hootie and the Blowfish.
  • Thomas Drance from Canucks Army. Thomas continues to run of big brains and is probably the one Canuck commentator who sees the team through the cold grey of dawn. Or something like that.
  • Benjamin Massey writes for Copper and Blue and 86 forever. We had him on last week but the call was cut off when Benjamin’s RocknRolla lifestyle took over the moment.
  • Corey Graham from the Edmonton Oil Kings will tee up G6 and what might be a championship evening.

Noon to 2 on Team 1260, archive within 24 hours. Hope you can join me.

  • Stocc

    While I’ve got your attention can I ask what, exactly, is meant by “sortie” or “sorties”? Judging by context it seems to slide back and forth between shift or line rush. Maybe somewhere in between? Am I on the right track?

    • Lowetide

      Sorties as in each rush or defense of a rush is one sortie, one mission. I’d really like to know how great a difference there is between Schultz’s numbers in a season as compared to someone like MA Bergeron (as a for instance).

      Because we measure offense, but what if Schultz successfully defends 100 more sorties per season than Bergeron? What if it is 200?

      What is the value?

      Because, honestly, measuring defense is something we’re just starting to get started on.

  • Lowetide

    Nice Blog LT.

    I’ve always wondered if there was a way to calculate potential. whether it be a player coming out of junior into the pros or it be a player coming to the end of his ELC or even a player coming to the end of his career.

    Thanks! Keep up the good work! Love the podcast!

    • Lowetide

      I like Desjardins NHLE for the forwards and comparables are always a good indicator too. That’s my favorite part of the game, watching these kids and tracking their progress.

      It’s kind of cool to watch #1 overall’s and track them too. Lordy. πŸ™‚

  • The Soup Fascist

    Are you familiar with the book, Hockey Compendium which came out in the mid to late eighties? I remember driving to the bookstore in my Fiero with Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy spinning in the new fangled CD player thingy to pick up the latest edition. But I digress…

    The book by a couple of Toronto (or was it Buffalo? – doesn’t matter both cities suck) writers, Klein and Reif was a heavily stats based analytical view of the game. But it was laced with a lot of humour. There definitely was a wink and doff of the chapeau to Bill James’ Baseball Abstract. It had mind numbing stats but was actually a lot of fun.

    Anyway my point was this book was an amazingly good read and was light years ahead of its time in terms of using stats far beyond what was the norm for that era. Any book that used stats to show why some guy in the thirties named Goldie Prodgers was a more impactful hockey player than Wayne Gretzky was going to be (remember this was 1986) was entertaining, if not wholly accurate. I recommend reading a copy of it, if you can find it. The genius of the book was that it did not take itself too seriously.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Like ths saying goes; ‘God is in the details’. I hope somewhere there is an algorithm that demonstrates why Horc and Belanger are in the NHL and that we are not just spitting in the wind.

    Hockey has always had an old-timey feel to player evaluation and I am sure that won’t be completely replaced by quantifing the relative merits of stay-at-home D and rushing D. I’m still gonna like what I wanna like, I guess I just have to learn to accept the new ways.

  • justDOit

    Although PP stats may not be as important as others, the way they’re currently represented has always bothered me.

    If a team goes 2/7 on the PP, that means they scored at a rate of 0.143 goals per minute of PP time.

    But lets say that those 2 PP goals were scored at the 20 second and 40 second marks of each penalty, and two of their other chances were only 1 minute because they took a penalty during them. The other 3 PPs were all 2 minutes in duration. Considering this, they scored 2 goals in 9 minutes, meaning the PP scored at a rate of 0.222 goals/min.

    Traditionally, they scored at a rate of 0.143 G/min, but they actually scored at a rate of 0.222 – substantially higher. This gives a better idea of how efficient the PP was for that game.

    And let’s add another wrinkle – the PP on that team gave up a SH goal. Subtracting that from their G/min would mean they scored at a rate of 0.111 G/min.

    • Rocknrolla

      Great concept!

      Yes that stat is obviously flawed. I was thinking about that this year when comparing oiler PP numbers. Another item to consider is on a double minor, and a major. When scoring on these opportunities there is no weighting and they should not be viewed as the same as a minor.

      Also, an interesting stat would be % of PP time in control in offensive zone. Tracking those teams or PP units that can get setup for more time should show efficiency.

      So kind of like the points per 60 min stat, Team PP should be shown in Goals per min.


      What would be a good basic resource or FAQ on the basics of all these terms? Corsi, Zone Finish, Corsi Rel, etc?

  • DieHard

    There are many questions to ask and a lot of and/but/ifs to be aware of. But anyways:
    Do you think advanced stats are used to rank players entering the draft or more the standard boxcars and saw-him-good?

    Can advanced stats determine player chemistry or does player chemistry determine their advanced stats? Is this a way to put players together or apart?

  • Wax Man Riley

    Ok, a bit of a thread-jack, but I had a good conversation last night about Gretzky. Would Gretz be as dominant in today’s game? Hard to say, different time, and players being bigger, etc…but I think he would be.

    My argument is Teemu Selanne. Was Selanne a better player than The Great One? Most would say no, and Teemu still led his team in scoring this year.

    And….. stats are good.

  • TwoSkidoos

    I just like watching hockey and enjoying a good play whether that’s a gaffe on a defensemans part or a bounce that went the wrong way or an unbelievable move around Ian White to score your first NHL goal and goal of the year.