FJM-Hockey Style

Disclaimer: The Forechecker, who is one of the nerdy numbers guy I talk about below, has mentioned that this article is written by a guy who is clearly known for being humorous. It's very possible I misread the column and his tounge was planted firmly in cheek when he wrote this, meaning I am wrong to criticism him, in which case I apologize. Sometimes dry humor is the most difficult to detect.

I think everyone in the sports blogosphere (is that term even used anymore?) knows who Fire Joe Morgan is, if not they are tremendously entertaining and probably the only baseball blog I will ever recommend on this here site. Anyways they make fun of writers who pretty much don't like pesky things like statistics, numbers and objective evidence. Thanks to Mike @ Mile High Hockey look Hockey writers obviously feel left out. So I decided to make a feeble attempt at skewering the article in the same style. If any FJM writers see this remember imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Loose Change: To hell with the Joneses

First off, what does this mean?

To all those previously unaware, the Edmonton Oilers – as of mid-March, at least – lead the league in the number of times their opponents hit the goalpost with an errant shot.
If a shot hits the post, is it really errant? I mean that's pretty fucking close right? An NHL goal is 4' high and 6' across and the posts are 2 & 3/8" diameter. Pretty close.

Nashville’s Dan Ellis has the best save percentage against ex-NHL teammates.
fascinating, but pretty irrelevant in hockey terms.

Oh, and Buffalo’s Toni Lydman is the most likely player in the league to take a hooking penalty.
This is actually pretty useful if you play Buffalo, say, 8 times a season. You could adjust your play while he's on the ice, or your lines, to match him with your faster players, meaning you could give yourself more PP's against Buffalo.

I happened to find these little nuggets of information while thumbing through some recent issues of The Hockey News. This proves three points:

1. I don’t retain much on the first read.
2. Dan Ellis must have one hell of a phone bill.
3. Nerds have officially taken over hockey.

Truth is, I’m having a real hard time with the whole concept/reason/need/use for statistics like these.

Well considering you're cherry picking ones that are obviously more fun in novelty and not actually worth a damn, there's no surprise. However there ARE statistics that do tell a story and do help analysis. An astute person can examine those statistics, look for trends and use that knowledge for as an advantage.

First off, who does this job? Unless the league has developed some sort of automatic counting device, the NHL has someone on the payroll who – incredibly – does nothing more than keep track of tings. Imagine adding that to a resume.

You would also have to presume the league must employ a veritable army of stat people to track this kind of thing. Think about the sheer logistics of tracking something like time on ice – those wholesale line changes; the line matching; the guy who jumps on the ice too early for it to be considered a legal change. Someone puts a pen and paper to log this data.

Heaven forbid if someone hit the post during a line change. Then again, that’s Jim’s job.

Yes in fact there's a lot of people who do this, we call them: Scientists and statisticians. Guess what, a lot of science, especially research, is doing the same thing over and over and over again. Then doing it again, and again and again. And counting it and then putting it all together and looking at what you get. It's why Kepler knew the planets went in elliptical orbits because he, get this, observed the planets every fucking night and recorded what he saw. After some time he was able to look at that and say "Holy Fuck, the earth goes in a consistant elliptical orbit around the sun. Maybe there's some sort of math I could do to predict that orbit. Hey here's a novel concept, I'll call the math that describes it Kepler's Law's." In fact if you are going into science or Math field this kind of job would be mighty impressive on a resume.

And it's not that hard in a line change, it's called TiVo and you hit pause when the shot

The real concern here is whether we even need to log this type of stat in the first place. To know Colorado’s Peter Budaj has the worst goals-against average during penalty-killing situations accomplishes what exactly? Does that mean the Avalanche – obviously fully aware of this awful, awful number – would replace him while Kurt Sauer is serving two minutes for elbowing?

Actually you would want to go back to last year to make sure you had an accurate sample size, but if that's the case then yes, this may not be a bad idea. (Unless of course Jose Theodore had a bad save % in the first 2:00 after entering an in progress game).

Sports statistics are akin to the goofy noises you make while trying to convince a wailing 4-year-old he didn’t just ram his head into the toaster oven. The numbers – at least most of the numbers – are simply there as a distraction. They’re meant as mindless trivia; that annoying little anecdote Gerald from Accounts Receivable brings up to impress people at the party he really wasn’t even invited to.
Proof this guy hasn't a fucking clue about science, math, logic and reason. See the reason Scientists go to school for years (and the good ones go for 8+) is because it takes skill and training to interpret numbers. It's about knowing what to look for. This is why people like you don't get it, because you see numbers and freak out like you are staring Godzilla in the eyes.

But some people, we call them Number Jedi, they have numbers and statistics as an ally, and a powerful ally it is. Events create it, let them grow. Remember a Number Jedi's strength flows from statistics, but beware. Ignorance, stupidity the dark side are they.

It’s meant to satisfy the people who essentially have no life.

Yeah, you got it, baseball fans.

In the big picture, game statistics are the filthy demon child of the world of baseball. You know, the sport that devotes an inordinate amount of time having teammates disagree over what pitch to throw; the sport that has third base coaches spastically touching and groping various parts of their bodies in an attempt to “signal” some ingenious winning strategy based on disjointed blinking; and, the sport that has more men adjusting more cups than lunch break at Starbuck’s.

You see baseball = the Dark side. It's for losers. They argue about stuff like strategy and try to do things like out think their opponent. They make me angry. HOCKEY SMASH!!!!

You see, baseball needs statistics. It’s a horribly boring game. If you didn’t spend your time debating the validity of pinch-hitting for that Dominican kid in the third inning, you’d realize you could have spent the afternoon reading the footnotes in the phone book.

Hockey’s not like that. The guys on the ice actually do something. This game moves so quick and is so enticing you shouldn’t even have the time to look up Josef Vasicek’s plus/minus rating on alternate Thursdays following a holiday.

Leave the stats to the only people that truly love and embrace them (in lieu of girlfriends).

Ahh yes the "my ignorance is acceptable because the game is too quick for me to think" excuse. That's a clever defense of not embracing statistics.

The meek may indeed inherit the earth. They just can’t have hockey.
That's for us tough guys, like Roy's son. Did you see him. ROY SMASH and it was cool. More SMASH! Stas are for losers, how dare people find a way to analyze what happens in a game and a season so they can be more prepared, that's not hockey. Hockey is about smashing.
The preceding was purely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. By entertainment, we mean we hope you laughed while reading it, framing it, or burning it. Any similarities between this and actual events is strictly coincidental and frankly, dumb luck. Remember to remind your lawyer about the made-up part, OK?



  1. One thing to remember is that the article was written by Charlie Teljour (sp?), a hilarious hockey cartoonist. In other words, place tongue firmly in cheek before reading.

  2. Ahh ok, good to know, i'll add an addendum, i guess I'm not as familiar with his work.