The Rebound Tracking Project: An Introduction

Posted by The Coach on October 07, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, Stats / 2 Comments

Of the four major North American sports leagues, hockey has been the slowest to take to advanced stats. It’s no surprise really. Hockey isn’t parcelled out into nice little segments like baseball and football. The possession’s aren’t as neat and easily definable as they are in basketball. Hockey is a dynamic, fluid mess of players and equipment. Attempts have been made, and it is amazing the progress that has been made in the development of advanced stats given the paucity of data. Hockey is similar to basketball this way. Go back a few years ago, and the most advanced stats going on were on-court/off-court plus-minus, and other similar measures. Any hockey fan should know the dangers of judging a player by plus-minus. Basketball was probably behind hockey until SportVu was introduced. Suddenly, there was an overflow of data, and smart people were able to take that data, and figure out better ways to play the game, better ways to assemble rosters, and a whole world of other ideas, many of which don’t leave team facilities. Hockey needs a SportVu.

Now there has been talk of this happening for a couple years now. In the meantime, intrepid people like Eric Tulsky and Corey Sznajder decided to stop waiting for a SportVu-esque data collection measure to come to hockey and just track items themselves. Primarily this has been through scoring chances and zone entries/exits. Through this fantastic work, we’ve learned a lot about the game of hockey. We are finally connecting dots between the classic hockey thought and advanced stats. Every coach in hockey history has emphasized the importance of the the blueline. Now we know how important it is, and what the best way to cross it or defend it is. We know what plays gain added value from this. That’s a massive step forward from using shot attempts to sorta, kinda measure possession. Alison and I at the Union Blue want to continue on in the good spirit of those who started tracking games (since most of them now work for actual NHL teams).  Continue reading…

Everyone is Wrong and I Hate Everything

Posted by The Coach on September 18, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / 1 Comment

So I’ve been on vacation the last little while. During a few minutes of downtime the other day, I took some time to catch up on the ongoing Ryan Johansen saga. I posted some of my thoughts on Twitter the other day, but this whole thing is just too complicated and nuanced to really do justice in 140 characters (or even several continued 140 character segments). So here are my full thoughts on this ridiculousness: Everyone is wrong. And most of the thoughts, comments, and what not from those involved in this saga (and even those not) make me hate everything. Continue reading…

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The Salary Project Part 3: Anisimov, Horton & Jenner

Posted by The Coach on August 27, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / No Comments

Happy Wednesday! I am now fully moved, back up, and operational. Which means I’ve had time to complete the latest edition of The Salary Project. For those who missed the earlier editions, Part One can be found herewhile Part Two is here.

The Salary Project is a look at the entire CBJ roster, using an arbitration-style analysis to figure out who their closest comparable players are around the league, how much those players make, and how much to expect on a player’s next contract and/or if they are providing good value on their current contract. This is done through using filters on the entire NHL. We are looking at forwards again this week, so we eliminate all defensemen, all players more than two years apart in age (with an exception this week), then break down goals, assists, and special teams time on ice by a percentage filter. Generally, it’s players within 15% of the goals and assists, and 25% of time on ice stats, however there are occasionally exceptions, which are noted, and only when there are not enough players in the standard filter to get a good idea of value. Part 1 covered Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Brandon Dubinsky; Part 2 hit Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, and Ryan Johansen. Part 3 covers Artem Anisimov, Nathan Horton, and Boone Jenner. Let’s do this. Continue reading…

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Some More Thoughts on Nick Foligno

Posted by The Coach on July 31, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, Contracts, Stats / No Comments

In yesterday’s Salary Project post, I took a look at Nick Foligno (as well as Scott Hartnell and Ryan Johansen). In it, I advocated for letting Nick Foligno walk after this season. That isn’t sitting particularly well with me right now. See, I love Nick Foligno. He’s probably number three on my list of favorite Jackets players (behind Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Murray). He seems like a great guy, he works hard, he does a lot of little things pretty well. So looking at comparable players around the league in terms of his age and offensive production, and seeing what the market was for those players was a little disappointing. I wasn’t expecting anyone outstanding to show up, but wasn’t expecting the kinds of guys still sitting as unrestricted free agents either. Continue reading…

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The Salary Project Part 2: Foligno, Hartnell & Johansen

Posted by The Coach on July 30, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / 3 Comments

Welcome to the Salary Project Part 2. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here. The Salary Project is a look at the entire CBJ roster, using an arbitration-style analysis to figure out who their closest comparable players are around the league, how much those players make, and how much to expect on a player’s next contract and/or if they are providing good value on their current contract. This is done through using filters on the entire NHL. We are looking at forwards again this week, so we eliminate all defensemen, all players more than two years apart in age, then break down goals, assists, and special teams time on ice by a percentage filter. Generally, it’s players within 15% of the goals and assists, and 25% of time on ice stats, however there are occasionally exceptions,which are noted, and only when there are not enough players in the standard filter to get a good idea of value. Part 1 covered Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Brandon Dubinsky. Up today are Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, and Ryan Johansen. Let’s get to it.

Continue reading…

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The Salary Project: Introduction, Atkinson, Calvert & Dubinsky

Posted by The Coach on July 24, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, Contracts, Stats / 2 Comments

Ahhhhh the doldrums of the offseason. With one major exception, everything in CBJ-Land is settled for the coming year. Even considering Ryan Johansen‘s lack of a contract, we still have a very good idea of what the Blue Jackets roster will look like for the coming year. The exact lines and defense pairings are still up in the air, but we can deal with that closer to when we actually get to see them. Right now there is one thing (almost) going on in the NHL: arbitration hearings. I say almost, as hearings basically NEVER happen anymore, with all the scheduled hearings getting canceled so far after the players and teams have come to agreements. However, I know a thing or two about arbitration in the NHL, having penned this article at the Score, this MUCH longer in-depth paper, as well as first hand experience working on NHL arbitration cases. I figured I’d take the arbitration approach to the current Blue Jackets roster. By looking at what players around the league would be comparable to the current CBJ roster based on their current seasons, we can see if their salaries (and by salaries I mean cap hits) are commensurate with what they contributed last season.

So how did I do this? Well I used a 15% filter (with exceptions noted) for goals and assists, a 25% filter for time on ice, a plus/minus two years in age filter, and of course a positional filter (although all forwards are lumped together). Those sets were used for every player, with a 25% filter for special teams play for players that warranted it. This was done over the last two seasons to find a group of five to ten players who best matched the CBJ player in question. Players on entry-level deals weren’t considered, as their contracts are not merit based (at least not NHL merit). I then looked over the resulting list and figured out where the CBJ player fit. That gives us a nice little range for what each player should be paid based on their market value (from last season), how they compare to players of similar ilk, and what kind of contract to expect for each player moving forward. For today’s post I’ll be taking a look at Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Brandon Dubinsky. Why didn’t I start with Ryan Johansen? Well the outrage from some mainstream media folks over the Dubinsky project is what initially led me to this idea, I wanted to do them by lines (more or less), and I can only do so much in one post (these are VERY research intensive). Don’t worry, Johansen will be in part two. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Continue reading…

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The Coach’s Offseason Thoughts (So Far)

Posted by The Coach on June 30, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, Roster Talk / 1 Comment

I had the majority of a post put together for an offseason game plan post featuring all the moves I wanted to see the Jackets make. I’d figured out reasonable cap hits for the guys I wanted to be signed, figured out a nice trade or two that made sense, and wrote a nice long paragraph about how no one in their right mind would deal anything of value for RJ Umberger. Then it all got blown to hell. It came out that Jason Spezza had Columbus on his no trade list (I had him as a trade target), Nikita Nikitin was dealt to the Oilers, and Umberger was somehow traded for Scott Hartnell. In my opinion, those moves took care of a lot of what the Jackets needed to do this offseason. So instead of a post detailing everything I wanted to see, I figured I’d hit everything that has happened so far, and what I want to see happen the rest of the offseason. Continue reading…

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A Look at the 2013-14 CBJ WOWY Numbers

Posted by The Coach on June 17, 2014
Stats / 2 Comments

WOWY. Also known as With Or Without You. It’s not just a U2 love song, in fact it’s a pretty useful tool for looking at how players perform with certain teammates, what players are driving their lines, which ones are dragging their lines down, and which combinations seem to work at bringing the best out of each other. The basic data came from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, and boy do they have a lot of data. Within those pages you can find WOWY details for pretty much every player over the last few seasons, combined seasons, when the score is close, and much more. For this post, I used 5v5 data from the 2013-14 season only (to keep the sample size as large as possible). So I took all that information, and made a nice big fancy chart. It shows the Corsi percentage that each player is better (or worse) with each player. So the corresponding space in the chart of Johansen With (along the top of the chart) and Foligno (on the left side of the chart) shows the difference between Ryan Johansen‘s Corsi For % with Nick Foligno, and Johansen’s Corsi For % away from Foligno. Got it? Good. Let’s take a look at the chart, then go over a few things that need to be considered. After that is the good stuff: the players who come out best (and worst) in this analysis, the best combinations of players, and various ideal/terrible/etc. lineups.

Continue reading…

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Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, and the Roles of Defensemen

Posted by The Coach on May 28, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets / 4 Comments

Jack Johnson. James Wisniewski. Two divisive players playing the same position. A quick Google search will bring up loads of examples of people saying how bad Jack Johnson is. A quick search of Twitter post-playoff elimination would have found numerous examples of people saying how bad James Wisniewski is. What all that super analysis tends to forget is the role of a defenseman. Which isn’t always easy to judge. It’s much easier to watch a forward play, look at his stats, and decide with reasonable accuracy how good (or bad) he is. For defensemen, it is MUCH more difficult. That stats aren’t quite as telling. Some of the most important aspects of playing defense have no stats, are barely perceptible to most viewers, and are significantly influenced by the role the defenseman plays on his team. Put a guy in his own end, against the best players, and make him the primary puckhandler on his pairing, and you’ll see a lot of goals against, a lot of turnovers, and not a lot of points. Put a guy in the offensive zone, against lesser competition, playing with scorers, and make him one of the focal points of the offense, and you’ll see less turnovers, lots of points and goals, and less goals against. Switch up either of those roles on the fly,  and you’re likely to see the results switch up. There are only six defensemen on a team, so unless they are just rolled over willy nilly, you can’t compare teammates (well unless they are partners). You need to look at how those defensemen compare to other defensemen playing similar roles. So that’s what I did for Johnson and Wisniewski to try and find out if they are good, average, terrible, or deserving of buyouts.
Continue reading…

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The Second Annual tUB Awards: King Clancy Memorial Trophy

Posted by The Coach on May 23, 2014
Columbus Blue Jackets, tUB Awards / No Comments

Here it is folks, the day you’ve all been waiting for. I bet every single one of you has been waiting on pins and needles to find out who wins the Clancy. It is awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. Generally, this one goes to players who do extremely awesome philanthropy. As we aren’t exactly privy to that information (for the most part) it took on a little different flavor. And your winner is….. Continue reading…

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