This counts as two hits because it was HUGE. In my opinion.

In hockey, there are a lot of important plays that don’t show up in a player’s boxcar numbers (which are goals, assists, points, PIMS etc.) – those things are downright easy to quantify.

But the plays that aren’t so black and white are obviously more difficult to total up. Plays like hits, giveaways, and takeaways are open to interpretation.

How hard to you have to hit a guy for it to be a hit? Does any mild bump work? Does the glass have to rattle?

What about a giveaway? “They were sort of fighting for the puck there, and the one guy tried to bat it to a teammate, but it hit that bump on the ice and….oh what the hell, ‘giveaway.’”

Because of these realities, the home scorer in every building is going to have a different perception of what’s what. They may be biased to their home team, one person may be diligent while another is lazy…there are just a lot of factors. And, each team plays 41 games at home in front their stat people, and that makes for some unlevel numbers.

Because of all that, it’s nearly impossible to learn anything when you click “real-time stats.”

If I’m a coach, I hire my own guy who takes the same stats every game, just so I can compare my own guys apples-to-apples from one night to the next. League-wide it just doesn’t work.

Here’s a fun example: when doing a little stat-mining earlier today, I came across this: here are the home and away numbers for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. They’ve played three more games at home than on the road this season.

722 HITS 486

Woosh. So wait, they’ve turned over the puck almost 300 more times at home? Maybe they’ll make that up over their next three road games…

Of course not, those numbers are ridiculous.

I’m not pointing that out as a knock on the Toronto stat guy – odds are he just pays super-close attention and is a little bit more leniant on his qualifications of what’s what. Maybe the road teams are getting those big numbers in Toronto too. But it’s certainly not happening everywhere – the numbers tell us that.

Stat skews are prevalent around the league though. As Neil Greenberg pointed out to me today: The New York Islanders have 413 takeaways at home (15.9 per game), just 148 on road (6.7). And @MNorman87 highlighted this fact: “Dallas has averaged 449 more hits @ home than away over the last 7 seasons.”

I personally think the stats are fine for some generalizations, like say, “Matt Martin of the New York Islanders hits a lot.”

But when you look at giveaways, think about it: whoever gets a lot of ice time has way more opportunity to turn the puck over than someone who doesn’t play much. As proof of that, among the top-10 guys with the most giveaways, you can find names like Kovalchuk, Thornton, Getzlaf, Kessel, Spezza and Yandle.

So when you want to argue that player A is better than player B, keep that in mind: real-time stats are just too inconsistent to matter much. You’re better off with something rock solid and unshakeable…like plus/minus.

Comments (6)

  1. I would like the league to find a way to standardize some definitions of “what a takeaway is” etc. Find out what you want a certain stat to say, make people accumulate the totals based on that definition, and be sure that it is known exactly what it is meant to illustrate.

    Like your “They were sort of fighting for the puck there…” example, someone needs to decide whether or not that should count. There will be some grey areas (there always will be), but this could go a long way in making the stats more meaningful.

    I like stats…

  2. Top (Highest) 5 defensemen in giveaways:

    1 – John Carlson
    2 – Keith Yandle
    3 – PK Subban
    4 – Dion Phaneuf
    5 – Dan Boyle

    Bottom (Lowest) 5 defensemen in giveaways (minimum 40 games):

    1 – Anton Volchenkov
    2 – Adam McQuaid
    3 – Jack Hillen
    4 – Jared Spurgeon
    5 – Matt Niskanen

    Yeah… which group do you want?

    • Well you also have a group of five defensemen who handle the puck a lot and play a lot of minutes, and then a group of defensemen who handle the puck a lot less and play less minutes. Just listing it like that is like Don Cherry’s infamous rant against Corsi for saying Ryan Johnson sucks. Without applying any kind of context to the stats, they are useless. Problem is there is no way to really determine that context for giveaways.

  3. Hits are the worst. I remember one year some not-particularly-physical defenseman (Robert Svehla or something) lead the league in hits over guys who really did nothing other than chase hits all game (guys like Kasparaitis or Tyson Nash) and 80% or thereabouts of those scored hits came at home.

    Little surprised that shot misses and blocks would show so much home bias, though.

  4. It should not be difficult to arrange some standardized test that these scorers can take in order to see that they are awarding too many or too few events, so they can recalibrate themselves.

    There should be a couple pre-scored recorded games that they can watch that have explanations of why events were or were not counted (“this is not counted as a hit because.. this was counted as a takeaway because..”).

    These aren’t the most objective stats, but there should not be a 2-3 times difference in some stats (420 vs 122 giveaways… sucks to be a guy on the 420 team trying to convince the GM you actually don’t suck defensively and deserve an extra $0.25M/yr)

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