One of the knocks on advanced stats in the NHL is that they’re not treated as official numbers by the League -- we can find goals and assists on NHL.com, but not Corsi and PDO. This allows critics to treat them like some kind of crazy nerd voodoo rather than an increasingly legitimate means through which to evaluate players, teams and games.
Well, it appears to the nerds won.
“Absolutely,” said NHL COO John Collins, at least weekend’s All-Star Game.
Collins confirmed that while the League waits to standardize the new player-tracking system that will eventually quantify puck possession stats more accurately, NHL.com is adding “enhanced stats” to its collection of player and team statistics.
The addition is scheduled for late February.
“You’re going to see a big change in the way we present our stats, in terms of the depth and the utility of how to do it. And that’s before the puck tracking [system],” said Collins.
Among the 30 or so advanced stats being added to the NHL.com stats pages:
* Corsi, which estimates puck possession by totaling shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots
* Fenwick, which does the game minus the blocked shots
* PDO, a combination of shooting and save percentage while on the ice at even strength
* Zone starts, which designate what percentage of a player’s shifts begin and end in each zone.
* Average shot distance
* Goals and assists per 20 minutes and 60 minutes
* Penalties drawn and taken per 20 minutes and 60 minutes
The possession stats (Corsi, Fenwick) will also be presented in several ways, including game situations and as percentages in comparison to other players on the team.
The plan is to have all of this ready to roll next month, with the numbers going back to the 2010-11 season in its own stats table. The NHL says real-time enhanced stats for every game are in the plans.
How did the nerds win? By convincing the NHL that there’s a consumer base for these advanced stats.
The League has watched a cottage industry of different stats sites gain prominence, using the NHL’s own game sheets to scrape data and compute it. In some cases, the founders of these sites have found employment in the League.
Last summer, the League changed its terms of service agreement on NHL.com to ban “unauthorized spidering, scraping or harvesting of content” from the site. The speculation at the time was that the NHL was preparing its own advanced site, and that’s come to fruition.
To combat those competing sites, the NHL can boast that these are the “official” advanced stats, based on the ice time numbers the League collects from games.
(Keep in mind the advanced stats coming to NHL.com next months are still from the current game sheets, not from the puck tracking software.)
The fact is that Collins and others in the League see these metrics as a way to better sell their players and tell their stories. Same goes for the puck-tracking data, some of which we saw for the first time at the All-Star Game.
“It’s going to be able to help them to tell stories. It’ll give them a frame of reference in comparison to football and soccer. How fast a goalie moves in comparison to a pitcher’s fastball,” he said.
These additions are like the opening whistle for major changes on NHL.com in the coming months, maybe years.
“We need to create a digital record of what happens on the ice. That’s standard across the league, and goes much deeper than the current real-time scoring system,” said Collins.
When that player tracking data is standardized, it’s possible that Corsi and Fenwick turn into some other possession metric as the need to project those numbers becomes outdated.
But for now, the NHL is giving the validity of these fan-driven "fancy stats" an undeniable endorsement.