Sometimes my brain leads me into some strange places. Other times, it asks incredibly mundane questions, such as is it better to score goals or prevent goals? To win games, you obviously need to do both, which is why the question sounds dumb. But it’s a fundamental part of team philosophy. The cliché is that “defence wins championships” and even if defence and offence are nearly equal in determining success, that “nearly” can make all the difference.
In this case, that dumb question led me to spend a whole bunch of time poring over numbers, creating graphs, and pondering how defence is handled by the current advanced statistics we have available. I probably should have left well enough alone.
Earlier this week, I wrote a post about Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, and introduced you to the idea using the regular season charts for the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings. The charts are useful for quickly seeing what role a player filled in comparison to his teammates and roughly how well they performed in that role. Sometimes making comparisons between individual players can be difficult just using a list of names and numbers: the player usage charts make this task a lot easier.
The only problem is that the regular season charts aren’t necessarily all that applicable to the playoffs, where some players get used in more highly specialized roles (particularly defensively), players with questionable defensive skills get more sheltered, and some players struggle where they previously thrived. So I took it upon myself to put together playoff player usage charts for both the Devils and the Kings.
Anze Kopitar's reaction when I asked him to look at charts. They're fun charts, I swear! (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)
One of the issues with advanced statistics in hockey is that the material can sometimes be quite dry or difficult to grasp. They’re frequently presented in lists of names and numbers that can make your vision go blurry. The statistics have odd, counter-intuitive names that frequently act as a barrier to understanding. Sometimes, it feels like we need a new way to present the information.
On Friday, Robert Vollman of HockeyAbstract.com and ESPN Insider released the 2011-12 Player Usage Charts, which are a graphical representation of the Zone Starts, Quality of Competition, and Relative Corsi statistics, with a separate chart for each team. The charts are a visually interesting way to immediately see how a player was used by a particular team and how well they did in that role. They’re not perfect, but they are useful.
The PDF of the charts complete with expert analysis is available for free here. After the jump, I’ll do a brief rundown of how the charts work and take a look at the regular season charts for our Stanley Cup Finalists, the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings.
Over the summer we’ve been working on some big changes to the hockey section here on TheScore.com. With the hockey season starting back up I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to present to you my in-depth statistical findings for the upcoming season. After struggling with Brownian Excursion, Projective Harmonic Conjugates, Impredicativity, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems and countless other mathematical equations, I’ve created a few visual graphs of my findings for you. Please let me know if I’ve made any miscalculations, although I don’t think I have.