Sunday, November 25, 2007

Token Grey Cup Post

Having the opportunity to watch my Bisons claim national glory this weekend and my city's Bombers fail to do so, I have had some time to think about Vic's excellent post here about the likelihood of scoring a goal within a minute of a faceoff varies depending on where that faceoff was taken. On first impression, Vic again does a fantastic job of applying evidence to "common" sense and in this case proves intuition to be correct: you are way f*cking more likely to score when you start in the opposition's zone.

Combine Vic's post with the football I've been watching all weekend (with surprisingly little accompaniment from alcohol, go figure) I pretty much have the idea of field position as a driving force behind points scored firmly ingrained into my skull. After a quick scan through that thread's comments I realize that no one has yet suggested the obvious: what if a hockey team actually applied the notion of where play starts to a real, breathing, game? After all, assuming your team is good enough to have the puck every once in a while during a hockey game, you can dictate to a certain degree how many offensive zone faceoffs you get.

On a team like the Oilers that has Horcoff and Penner as the only two guys who can successfully retrieve a puck on the forecheck, it sometimes seems like a waste of effort to dump and chase at all. What if, instead of chipping the puck into the corner and futilely chasing after it, Edmonton just chipped the puck on goal and skated it down? I would suggest saying this method could earn you a deep faceoff 3/4 of the time wouldn't be a stretch - as long as you didn't get trigger happy and were content to loft a one or two hopper towards the opposing tender.

Is it such a crazy idea? Why wouldn't it work? What percentage of games are won by the team that has more faceoffs in the offensive zone? Would fans get bored, would players get offended, etc - what am I missing? I really, sincerely think that playing a hockey game for "field position" during faceoffs would actually be a viable strategy. I ask again, am I crazy? It just seems so simple.


Blogger speeds said...

What about the idea of holding the puck behind your net for 20 minutes each period, and playing every game to a 0-0 tie? If you could guarantee that you take every game to OT, you'd end up with somewhere between 82 and 164 points, tilted towards the higher end if your team is better than average at 4 on 4 play and/or shootouts.

11/26/2007 3:10 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

And thankfully, Edmonton is excellent at shootouts. Clearly my suggestion does not agree with you.

11/26/2007 3:42 pm  
Blogger speeds said...

I'm actually not being sarcastic in my first comment.

As for your specific idea, I don't know if it would or wouldn't work. I suppose it could leave you exposed if the goalie can move the puck quickly and the other Oiler linemates were changing/tired.

11/26/2007 5:17 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Most of your post Showerhead jives with the Russian team that damn near killed us in 1972. I would describe that team as a pure "puck possession" unit and although they didn't shoot the puck and force a faceoff much of the activity in the game came at their pace.

Much of the games in Canada saw the Russians passing and passing and passing and even when the Canadians would have tried a shot or two they'd pass it again. That's why Dryden was the suck against them.

The Russians were a football mindset in that way, applied of course to hockey: pinpoint passing using only obvious and open options (often passing backwards to go forwards), quick, darting attempts to attack the zone (exceptional tape to tape passes in the neutral zone on the fly) and of course passing when shooting was a very good option (hockey's version of the counter tray).

11/26/2007 10:16 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

LT: Since you're quite the baseball fan.. have you noticed any actual changes to the way it's been played since the rise of Bill James? It's one thing for managers to have a more accurate view of which players are and aren't going to help them win (and of course in what contexts) but it's clearly quite another to be forced to change how you play because suddenly you realize one decision is more likely to help you win than you thought it was.

For baseball examples, and bear in mind I don't know much about the game... could stealing bases have been over or underrated previously, causing a direct change in what contexts players ran? Anyhow, you get my point. Even if my idea is someday proven poor, I'd like to think the value of what the numbers folk of the blogosphere do is even more significant than advantages in asset management. When these ideas go from undercurrent status to manager and then to coach.. only then will the "revolution" truly have occurred for hockey.

11/29/2007 2:18 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

I would say that the new baseball math had a major impact in several areas:

1. Pitching: the trend causing complete games by SP to reduce annually took a giant leap under Sparky Anderson in the 1970s but by the mid-80s it was a flood. I doubt we can give too much credit to James for that specific innovation but certainly the numbers were not broadcast during games in the 1970s. You'd often hear the announcers talk about a #4 starter as being poor if he didn't pitch complete games, often flying in the face of W-L or ERA. And no one in 1975 said "k/w ratio" out loud within earshot of more than 100 people (obviously I'm taking license but you get the point).

2. Platoon advantage. It shocked even James to see the huge difference in platoon numbers there were, specifically a lefty pitcher against a lefty hitter. Although matchups happened before his study, it became much more the norm to have a couple of "Bob McClure" lefties in the pen afterward.

3. Minor league equivalencies. No one, and I mean NO ONE argued that you could (somewhat) accurately predict a minors-to-majors move for a hitter. James imo created a new universe with it, specifically by predicting Jeff Bagwell would win the batting title as a rookie.

He didn't actually do that. He ran the minor league E's and then predicted the following season's numbers for MLB hitters and Bagwell's minor league to major league E's had him as the batting champion.

It created a lot of buzz when picked up by another writer (don't remember who) and Bagwell's progess as a rookie became a daily item for baseball fans.

He hit 25 points below the batting champ but that was a helluva prediction.

I don't know really how much credit James deserves for this (and other) changes in the game. I do know that I won two Edmonton Roto league championships and won enough money to build my deck because of his k/w ratio information.

11/29/2007 8:56 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

I used to get (and read from cover to cover) that Bill James Baseball Abstract every year from about 1982-88, but then James stopped issuing it in that format. His Historical Abstract and his Guide to Managers were also great stuff.

I understand he now does a new annual of some sort. Haven't noticed it in the bookstores though ... comments welcome.

I do know that James not only changed the way I looked at baseball, but also hockey and even non-sports numbers-and-logic based endeavours, such as astronomy. He just opened the door to a whole new way to consider and relate numbers, and to find patterns through consistent application of logic. He wasn't always right, but his batting average was pretty damn high. A brilliant man and a true inspiration to a geek like me.

11/29/2007 11:51 pm  

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