Friday, September 12, 2008

Luck, Bitches

Hockey is a luck soaked game. That's a fact. And it's not my fault that it's true.

Any team can win on the night, and often it isn't the team who played the best in the game, surely we all see that. Shit happens. We bitch when the Oilers lose games we think they deserved to win, and avoid the direct gaze of the hockey gods when they get 'W's that we know they didn't really earn (SEE Playoffs 05/06, that was a hell of a run of sevens) And just so Flames fans don't start feeling good about themselves, according to Dennis they were outplayed and outchanced most of the way through their run in 03/04, I was abroad and missed most of the Cowtown joy. And of course the same for Washington and Buffalo a few years before. Granted in the case of the Sabres, they had Hasek, they didn't need to be particularly good at any time.

We outchanced them 16-7. The process is right, but at both ends we're not getting a lot of breaks or bounces.

Alain Vigneault after loss to Calgary


We outchanced the opposition two to one in here and didn't get results. If you look at the historic ability of this group to score goals, that, even through a funk, they still have the most goal scored in the division . . . it's encouraging.

Mike Keenan after loss to Anaheim


We think with this group, if we continue to work hard and continue with the structure we've created even though we've lost a bunch of games, we've outchanced and outshot teams and we've been snake bit. We feel that will turn around if we continue to push the envelope as far as our work ethic.

Randy Carlyle during poor streak

If you google coachspeak terms, you'll get thousands upon thousands of quotes, and there are a few things that are interesting about that from an Oiler fan point of view:

Firstly, MacTavish rarely talks about this, not even in generalities. More correctly he doesn't talk about this in post game pressers. And he very rarely criticizes a win. If a coach from an opposing team quotes shots and chances or possession, and feels that they deserved a better result, then generally you can look for the opposing coach's comments and they are glad that they got the 'W' of course, but aren't pleased, and caution that the team will need to play better. MacTavish very rarely does this. Perhaps this explains some of the fog that surrounds our local media (with some exceptions of course, Tychkowski and van Diest for sure, possibly a couple of others). Not that this is an excuse for the rest, obvious is obvious, after all.

Below is a rare exception, following yet another exasperating loss that they didn't deserve in the 05/06 season.
We're back feeling like we got run over by a semi right now. We outshot them almost 2-to-1 and we must have outchanced them 3-to-1.

Craig MacTavish after loss to Boston
I remember that game really well, mad stuff. Does this game ring bells for anyone else? And afterwards I remember a thousand hockey nuts at OilFans marching in angry lock step, myself included. Tyler was the exception, and he told us that we were all out of synch. That takes some balls, and one day I'll go back and look at some of the things he was basing his opinion on, because I'm sure that he was right. Having said that, I think even he had fallen off his one man bandwagon by January. But I digress.

Secondly, it turns out that a lot of folks last season thought they outplayed and outchanced the Oilers. Now on the surface that would seem a bit discouraging, I mean the shootout thing isn't really likely to repeat, and they needed extra 'won games we didn't deserve' luck just to finish out of the playoffs? Damn.

Not to worry though, there were elevens balancing out those sevens. In games where the Oilers would appear to have the better of the play (I'm not Dennis, I can't remember the details of every bloody game) the goalies couldn't stop a beach ball. You don't win a lot with .856 EV save percentage in this league. The shooting% held up pretty well in those ones (7.4%) , just a bit off the league average of 8%. Especially considering that there was at least one game (early home game vs Minny) where they went a little shot happy. Shit happens.

It seemed like every mistake we made went in our net. We deserved a better fate. We had a ton of things go right. We outshot them. We outchanced them. We outplayed them.

Ken Hitchcock after loss to Vancouver


After two periods, they had 10 shots on goal, and it was 3-2. I don't know what else we have to do. We outhit them, outchanced them, and outshot them. It's just one of those things at the end.

Ted Nolan after loss to Pittsburgh


We outchanced them all three games. I think territorially, we did everything we wanted and didn't come up with the win.

Joel Quenneville after loss to Dallas
Also, I've yet to find a quote of this sort that doesn't reference a game where the losing team had a decided advantage by the shot metrics, and also by the measure of where the shifts ended. I suppose this is fairly obvious anyways, because of course outplaying drives outchancing, and it is extremely rare for a team to outplay another team by a wide margin without having the puck a lot more, and inevitably having a lot of stuff happen in the right end of the rink, some of which the NHL makes a hard record of. Not always, and it's not like it's a razor accurate measurement, but a sensible person who knows hockey can't deny the simple reality of it.

I saw a game once, a while ago now, Flames at home to the Canucks with Garth Snow in net. It was late in the year, Sutter was coaching, and the Flames were out of the playoff race and struggling to score goals. Sutter must have over medicated, or had some huge argument with somebody and was trying to make a point with a symbolic gesture, or maybe this was a living farm metaphor of some sort. I don't know. I do know that the Flames shot from everywhere and anywhere. I'm not talking about minor stuff like "Hemmer should have taken an extra step before firing" or "Moreau should have tried to get the puck into the slot instead of shooting from that angle" or "Oh crap, the Blues are playing a rookie in goal, MacTavish is going to have them shooting too much early on", I'm not talking about that at all. I'm literally talking about shooting from everywhere. These cats would have shot from the blue line on a breakaway. It was bonkers.

It was a meaningless game, but I couldn't stop watching it, hilarious stuff. I'll try to dig up the scoresheet, post game pressers and recaps one day. By my rusty memory Snow got a shutout and actually seemed genuinely insulted by the whole thing, "It's like they were trying to warm me up" or some such, and wasn't accepting many kudos for the goose-egg. But I digress again.

Two cool quotes on the subject.
If you go through the chances, for us we were outchanced in the first period. They had four power plays, and they outchanced us. They outshot us and outchanced us. If we don't have some puck luck in front of our net and things don't go the way...maybe they're up, and then the game's different.

Mike Babcock
He's talking about period one of game two of the Stanley Cup Finals. I would guess that his team was only outchanced in 9 or 10 periods all playoffs for crying out loud. Plus it's a game they won, and outplayed Pittsburgh in the other two periods, and he's waving red flags? Damn, Mike, you worry too much.

And the polar opposite:
We outchanced them by a large amount and we outchanced them in the right ways. It was through hard work and determination. It was through real good pressure and winning puck battles. When you do those sorts of things, good things are going to happen for your club.

Marc Crawford after shootout loss to Edmonton
Christ, Marc is just happy that they outplayed someone, even though it was a nonplayoff team and they lost in the shootout. How bad is your team when the bar is set that low? You'd almost think they won, the way he's talking.

Also, it should surprise nobody that the Oilers didn't win the possession battle very often last season. I mean obviously most games are pretty close in this regard anyways, there is a lot of parity in the NHL now, even though games like the territorial shitkicking in San Jose in February(?) stick in the memory more. I set the bar pretty low though (just outshoot and outzone in the same game) to define a game where they very likely had the territorial advantage, and the chances that generally follow with that (though as Keenan and Hitchcock both like to remind, outplaying doesn't turn into outchancing if the bounces go the wrong way).

Even at that low threshold, only 15 times did they they manage this at even strength. That's not encouraging.

A month or two ago MacTavish assured us that the Oilers team, with the talent on the roster now, would be a good possession team in the future. They need to be, it's a problem. And hopefully the 'future' includes 08/09.

And finally, I know some folks root through the gamesheets and such to get information. I know Bruce does for sure, other guys too. I've posted some even strength information online, it's one big table with the basic stuff on it, hopefully it helps save some people time. So if you want to look at this type of stuff, or home/road splits or whatever, it should just take moments to do. And if you're looking for other data, I may very well have scraped it off of NHL.com, parsed and uploaded to the web already. So if you're looking for data, before you start collecting it off of separate gamesheets, or whatever, it's worth sending me an email to check if I already have it consolidated.

13 Comments:

Blogger HBomb said...

Ah, that Boston game. First Saturday in December in 2005. Up 3-0, lost 5-4 in OT, I believe. I think Markkannen was in net that night. That was a piss-off of a loss, because they DID outplay Boston. Then again, we were in the midst of the "Conkannen" experiement, and even at that time (three months befor Roloson arrived), it was so bloody obvious this team needed a goaltender, it was absurd. They WERE outchancing teams more often than not, even prior to adding Spacek to firm up things on the blueline, but they weren't winning their "share" of games. Somehow, things balanced out that season, starting around mid-April. Frankly, I'd take that deal every year as a fan if I had a choice.

Reminds me of another game on the first Saturday in December in 2001. Oilers vs. Dallas. 3-0 first period lead on a pair by Anson Carter, lose 6-4 on an empty net goal. Considering the team got off to a hell of a start that year (the Oilers and Flames were right with Detroit for the conference lead around this time), this was the game that seemed to start a long slide through December, January and February, ultimately culminating in the Oilers missing the postseason for the first time since 1996.

9/13/2008 8:09 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I was with you, HBomb. If my memory hasn't let me down, at the time, MC79 had argued that the Bruins had just made their shots. People were vicious in their responses to him as well.

That was what happened though. I'd just watched the game, I knew it was right. I just couldn't accept that any bugger could be that unlucky that often. The only one he had a chance on was the OT goal, and that was a slap shot from the high slot, maybe even mid slot, at any rate the Bruin just teed it up and hammered it. I'm pretty sure that it's not humanly possible to react to a shot like that from there, it pretty much just has to hit you.

Jussi timed his drop a bit wrong though iirc, and it went through him a bit somewhere, maybe squeaked under a pad or 9-hole. I remember thinking that he should have had that one hit him in any case.

In the postgame, someone asked MacTavish if there were any goals that Jussi should have had. He was exasperated, hemmed and hawed, and said he didn't even know what was a good goal any more. I remember because I was feeling the exact same way, it had way too many games of that (and I came off the Conklin bandwagon at game 1 of the season, though in fairness to TY he was playing with a pulled groin, Jussi was out with a broken clavicle I think.)

Then he said he didn't know and they'd have to look at the tape, or something like that.

It was frustrating as hell.

I told MC that he was dead wrong, that the "new" NHL was a different ball of wax. So I did a quick check of the EVsave% against a Monte Carlo simulation with rolled dice (weighted to career EVsave%) ... because for some reason that works stunningly well every year (for PPsave%, not so much, however, though still decent), and it was working just as well that season. Which is really strange. But unstoppable, it will happen this season too, and every one after until we're all dead I suspect.

That's when I realized that Brodeur probably wasn't done, or missing Nieds and Stevens, that was an aberration. There are some patterns that just can't be missed, and this is one of those.

There should have been two guys that distance from their career average though, and there were three. The other two were Conklin and Markannen. Though they had such short track records that the career EVsave% wasn't based on very many shots.

But I wouldn't have even thought about it again until the first game with Roloson. In the Shark Tank the Oil should have been given a 41% chance of winning on the day if Conkannen were in goal (by memory, and I think both were playing with one day's rest, the bookies still hadn't given up on the Oilers)

And that's exactly what the early line came out as. Damn.

And you know I respect the oddsmakers.

The human brain can't accept large coincidences, I know that. Even though we all know that dice are dice, 99% of people can't stop themselves from betting with the guy at a craps table who is on a crazy tear. Just can't.

So with hockey we have no hope, no matter how square your head is.

And even though I know it's probably a junk stat:

Conklin had help from the goalposts 3 times all freaking year (2W - 0L - 1OTL) iirc. Or did they tie in New Jersey that year?

Roloson must have had at least half a dozen in that back to back vs Vancouver alone.

And after the playoff run I'm sure they had to repaint them at Rexall.

I don't know man. Oilman is probably right that goalies aren't as good with less action. Dawgbone showed that once with data, and I looked at at some of those games with a whack of shots, ones that I had seen, and a lot of them were games where I remember there being a lot of really good quality chances. So go figure.

But never bet against career EVsave% HBomb. Holland got a deal on Conklin (I haven't looked up his career EVsave%, NHL stats machine will have them for each year) but I would guess that it's a bit better than average.

Of course I wouldn't want Conklin back here, for the same reason DET couldn't bring back Legace. But Conklin seems to be able to stop pucks at a decent rate. So he probably will again.

9/13/2008 10:23 am  
Blogger HBomb said...

Vic: all you need to look for in the proof is that Markkannen had his run in the finals and Conklin recovered to the point he had a nice 2007-08 in Pittsburgh.

Things are never as bad as they seem, nor are they as good as they seem. Everything gravitates back towards the historical average. This is why bringing in Souray seemed foolish to me (still does), and why I dislike the Torres deal in spite of liking Brule's possible upside. Shooting percentage works a lot like save percentage, I'm guessing.

Your skill establishes your midpoint, and from there, luck is what drives your outliers (career seasons and "off years", or whatever term we're using to describe the opposite of a career year). Simple as that. I suck at statistics (my math is all that crazy vector-related shit they teach you at engineering), but to the logical mind, it seems like a simple concept to understand.

The Oilers were unfortunate that they had Conklin and Markkannen both on a tremendously bad run of snake-eyes in 2005 and 2006. Morrison rolled sevens for a bit, but was never heard from again (kind of sad, I liked the guy really). But from the perspective of the guy betting based on someone else's strategies at the table (i.e. Oiler fans), things evened out after the acquisition of Roloson, and the ride continued all the way to mid-June.

Only problem was, on the way out of the casino, you got caught with your buddy that was counting cards at the Blackjack tables, taken into the basement, and beaten the shit out of for the next 12 months (Pronger trade to Souray signing, more or less).

9/14/2008 7:44 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I don't think Souray is as bad as advertised, HBomb.

Sometimes every mistake you make just ends up in your net. And then when some other bugger makes a mistake, or some other opponent makes a play, when you are on the ice and it ends up in your net ... people see that you were on the ice and it meshes with what they already believe [anger]Another minus for assclown!!!!1!11)[/anger]

I don't believe that Souray was as bad at evens as he seemed to many Habs fans in Montreal. I mean he kept playing second pairing opp and mid level type opposition. And presumably Carbonneau isn't an idiot.

The save% behind him was poor for that team. And the Habs had a bad shooting% when he was on the ice. Shit happens.

This past season the bounces obviously rolled the other way for Sheldon, at least at his own end. I mean if you look at the type of icetime Souray played (overall it was a real mixed bag of course, the Oilers were all over the place in terms of gameplan in the year of player development) and his results just by goals against ... well you would have a to conclude that he was the best EV defenceman on the Oilers. This of course is not true to the eye. He is an average EV defenceman methinks, just like Carbonneau played him.

Put another way, the EVsave% behind him last season was .023 points higher than the team average, handily the highest of the Oiler D.

And of course, this should mesh really well with the "Error Stat" that some of the wackier kids were recording this year. They were measuring luck of course, Ken Hitchcock's remark above expanded with the collective wisdom of the other quotes explains that.

It's a lot of money for a PP specialist who is merely average at evens, of course. But with some of the money being bandied about this past summer, every bad contract from previous years looks less bad in that light.

The Ryder and Finger contracts especially, but there were a bunch.

9/14/2008 8:56 am  
Blogger mc79hockey said...

It's a lot of money for a PP specialist who is merely average at evens, of course.

Particularly a guy who isn't really THAT much of a PP specialist (outside of 2006-07) and who seems to have the Ethan Moreau thing where his bones are made out of glass going for him.

I agree with your +/- point Vic; I'll have to publish the list along with sv/shooting percentages at some point. It's a ton of guys who had great sv/shooting at one end (along with some guys who are big outshooters) and lousy sv/shooting at the other. When I was bitching about this deal, the +/- wasn't really the huge thing for me. Interesting to note that he seems to have done poorly for a few years though and MTL has had decent goaltending in some of those years. Mid-pairing is probably about right but that's a ton of scratch. You know as well as I do that someone will have to get moved somewhere by somebody at some point; it'd be nice to have that $5.5MM. Or to have Smyth, and Penner's $$.

9/14/2008 6:45 pm  
Blogger HBomb said...

I don't think Souray is as bad as advertised, HBomb.

Neither do I, but I just continue to look at the injury history and think it's a bad bet.

If the guy plays OK at evens playing on the 2nd pairing with Staios (my choice is to run Gilbert with Visnovsky at the ES tough minutes, based on current personnel), and kills on the PP and PK (I think his real strength is how he can play on the PK, given that he's busting up the cycle and not having to play on the rush, the thing that really exposes his lack of foot-speed sometimes), he could very well earn close to that 5.4 million per season.

I didn't like the deal because it was a bit too much annually and WAY too long for a special teams specialist on the wrong side of 30. The player though? From the limited amount I saw last year, WAY better than advertised. Not a Pronger, but not chopped liver by any means.

9/14/2008 6:53 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

MC, you don't like Souray on the powerplay? I don't think he moves the puck well, or does much to help you gain the zone, but that booming shot from the right side is something else, and it has to be respected.

Plus Hemsky is the engine that drives the Oilers PP, and he's more effective on the left side board, so it's a perfect fit.

The puck doesn't need to be right dead centre in his wheelhouse for him to get it away, either, and he keeps it low almost always, which is really important. And extremely important for whoever sold Penner career insurance.

I mean M.A.Bergeron can shoot it just about as hard as anyone in the league, but if the pass comes just a bit towards his back foot it seems like there is a good chance of it being 100 MPH and head height.

Nolan was using Bergeron in that gig for a while, and he did score quite a few goals, but damn, it was frightening. When he was winding up and the pass was coming across the slot would clear as if someone had spilled anthrax there, teammates and defenders alike. And you can't count that as cowardice, it's just basic sense.

Apparently he broke the glass a bunch of times at the Isles practice facility, which impressed the hell out of a lot of the fans, but damn, that's going to end badly for someone eventually.

9/15/2008 9:42 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

"it'd be nice to have that $5.5MM. Or to have Smyth, and Penner's $$."

Well sure, but sailed ships and all that.

It could have been a hell of a lot worse. That Nylander contract would have been a far bigger albatross than Souray's contract. And giving up 3 or 4 first round picks for the right to pay Vanek a zillion dollars just might have been worse than that.

And as you mention him. I'm actually really liking a lot of Penner's game. And I rolled into the season fully expecting to hate the guy. I'm surprised that he doesn't get more love from the Oiler bloggers. He was playing centre for a stretch there, and against some pretty good players, during Craig MacTavish's Madass Player Development Extravaganza (also known as the 07/08 season). He didn't look great doing it, he was never going to, I'm sure that it's made him a better player though.

9/15/2008 9:55 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

HBomb

The injury history is a concern, for sure. I hadn't realized that he was so injury prone at the time of the trade.

I'm not worried about the age though. I suspect that much, hell probably most, of Zetterberg's and Datsyuk's icetime this season will be played against defenders over the age of 30. And obviously there is a reason for that.

Defenders just seem to get better and better at making the right decision in the millionth of a second that they usually have to do it. Eventually they hit an age where the body can't do what the head wills it to do, and they seem to fade pretty quickly (Warrener and Carney come to mind, but until very recently those guys were high end NHL defenders)

9/15/2008 10:06 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Also, I would bet real money that Staios and Souray are a mile ahead of everyone else in terms of "on the ice for more own zone draws than offensive zone draws". And probably similar in terms of shots-while-on-ice against good players as Gilbert/Visnovsky.

MacTavish must have gone on a golfing holiday with Hitchcock at some point, he's really drifting that direction. Hitchcock likes to use his best defenders for that gig heavily (Foote and Hejda last year), I mean most coaches do, but with him to the extent that he seems to send them out there even tired and then shift the D on the players bench side off for a more offensive player when/if they get the puck going north. Especially in the 1st and 3rd periods, when the bench is nearer his own net.

That's just by eye mind, and I really don't watch much of the Blue Jackets. I would suspect that you see a lot of shifts recorded for Foote and Hejda that start with an own zone draw and end pretty quickly with a change on the fly.

And on the other d:

I'm not sure that they really trust Smid to play against quality yet. And it seems clear by their actions that they don't trust Grebeshkov just yet either. I think that both will end up having good careers though.

9/15/2008 10:21 am  
Blogger Oilman said...

Oilman is probably right that goalies aren't as good with less action.

anyone else hearing that "hallelujah" chorus?

9/15/2008 1:52 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Oilman,

I've always said that goalies are crazy, never once have I said that I thought they were unintelligent. In fact usually the goalies seemed like the brighter guys on the teams I played for.

Somebody should do a study on goalies, guys who played at a high level, pro leagues at minimum. A battery of intelligence tests, personality tests, simple reaction time and choice reaction time tests.

I would guess:
Overwhelmingly right brained people, almost all above average intelligence. Convoluted minds, the super-messy desk type who someone still manage to get things done. Spiritual people as well. And of course ridiculous simple reaction times.

Check out this article from worldwidebaseballprospects.com.

It is a very brief summation of some of the work that has been done on the subject. Looks like you are smart to be catching with your right hand BTW, though it would seem that if you're a lefty it doesn't matter so much.

He provides the references if you want to look closer at any one study.

Hockey is a very cool game that way. Aside from the sublimely talented, like you see in any sport, it's a mix of polar opposites from the personality spectrum. It's a vicious game, played largely by vicious men who would struggle without it (strong family or finding religion aside). That doesn't mean they're bad people, the opposite often.

And then you have the goalies.

I mean what are the odds of so very few coaches being ex-goalies and so very many broadcasters coming from that field? (Patrick Roy is an exception, he doesn't think like you expect a goalie to think, he'll be a good coach I suspect, and his history in the game will probably get him a shot in the NHL fairly soon).

And look around here. Whoever participated in Staples' "Error Stat" thing ... I would wager that a disproportionate amount of them were goalies or ex-goalies. And that the odds of that happening by coincidence alone would be absolutely staggering.

And the people who think that "clutch" is a huge factor in winning hockey games are:
a.) Guys that scored a whack of GWG in their beer league last year.
b.) Goalies.

It's the way it is.

9/16/2008 11:01 am  
Blogger Oilman said...

Convoluted minds, the super-messy desk type who someone still manage to get things done.

You must have a camera in my office....you nailed it there.

9/16/2008 11:23 am  

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