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.
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.