Applying Sabermetrics to Hockey

As we dig deeper and deeper into hockey analytics, the wise move would be to continue looking at baseball Sabermetrics for inspiration. Now, obviously baseball and hockey are two completely different sports, especially when we try to measure them, One thing remains inherently equal though. Runs lead to wins in baseball. Goals lead to wins in hockey. It’s the deeper digging that will separate the sports further (what leads to runs or preventing runs versus what leads to goals or preventing goals), but the root remains the same. You want to maximize runs for. You want to maximize goals for.

At the basis of this core in baseball, sabermatricians have come up with ways to calculate expected winning percentage based off of run totals. These analyses have been proven to correlate VERY highly to actual winning percentage. Which led to my curiosity: Can we substitute runs for goals scored in these evaluation tools, and see the same correlations?

Bill James:

Bill James’ expected winning percentage formula is based off the pythagorean theorem, and is widely recognized as one of the most accurate winning percentage calculators in baseball. At first, the formula was (R^2) / (R^2+RA^2).


When Do NHL Forwards Regress?

Something that has puzzled me since learning about Nate Silver’s PECOTA for baseball, where they can predict how a player’s career will play out based on previous similar players of that caliber, has been at what age do hockey players actually regress?

[that was a very, very baseline description of PECOTA]

Often we hear that hockey players are in their prime from ages 27-31, and it’s downhill from there; but is that really the case?

In order to find out, based purely on their ability to compile points, I took a dive into the stats to find out.

Using only forwards, since this is a scoring metric, who have played in 10 or more games in a given season (since the lockout), I compiled the points/60 for each age that came up in the analysis (18-43). The ten game mark was used to remove any noise from players aged 18 who only appeared in 9 games before their NHL team opted to return them to Juniors as to not burn a year of their ELC.

On a quick full run, here’s what I found:

What does this tell us? Well, nothing, really. If you took this at face value and ran with it, you might come away thinking that hockey players just don’t regress as we thought they did.


Why Alain Vigneault Failed the Rangers

After a day to reflect on the end of the New York Rangers 2015-2016 campaign, my initial thought has not been swayed. Coach Alain Vigneault failed the New York Rangers organization this season.

There are a few reasons that stick out on specifically how AV failed this year. Some easy to prove, others not as easy.

In no particular order but how they pop into my mind, I’d say the following are the most egregious in my opinion:

  1. Inability to adjust
  2. Inability to evaluate his personnel appropriately
    1. Use, or lack thereof of young talent
    2. Use, in this case too much, of struggling veterans
  3. Special teams… what the hell?

No three of these things should come as a surprise to Rangers fans. These three items where AV failed the Rangers were the top three items discussed by Vancouver Canucks fans in their warnings to New York in 2013; specifically AV’s puzzling use of his personnel, which is where I’m going to focus this blog.