Friday, February 20, 2015

Fancy Stats: An Average Fan's Perspective

I wanted to tweet how I feel about fancy stats, but it's just too much for 140 characters.

A great divide has come between those who use fancy stats and those who don't.  There has been discussion lately on my timeline between the two sides and it seems that the attitude and "smugness" is what's turning more fans away from learning more.

I understand fancy stats and their usage.  I believe that they are a wonderful tool for coaches and GMs to use, combined with watching players closely for whatever other intangibles that specific player can bring to the game.

I am not a coach. I am not a general manager. I have no desire to be either.  I also have no desire to be hired by an NHL team to work in their analytics department.  Perhaps this separates me from the people who are obsessed with using these statistics to create a story.

For the past few days, I have been trying to figure out why I am so bothered by much of the fancy stat discussion that I see on twitter.  Then I saw one tweet that made me just stare at my timeline for a minute.  I had to process this because it felt almost like a personal attack.  Of course, it was a tweet from someone that I do not communicate with and someone who likely does not even know that I exist.  Regardless, it gave me insight into how the other side feels.  To paraphrase, it said that people who don't want to use fancy stats are comfortable in watching the game without completely understanding it.

I understand the game.  I watch the game and see what happens.  I understand what fancy stats mean and why they are useful.  While I do not necessarily agree that shot attempts for and against are a perfect measurement of possession, I do see the correlation.  I also completely understand that there is a correlation between having the puck and winning the game.

Tweets like that however, are why people feel that there is an aura of superiority within the fancy stat community.  The tweets and blog posts filled with charts and explanations of why that chart is more important than what you saw when you watched the game.  They imply that if you don't care about the stats then you are comfortable being an ignorant fan.

Here is my response.  I am a fan of hockey.  I am a fan of both the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks.  I watch the game for the intensity of hockey as a sport.  I watch the game to be frustrated when there's a lane open and no one shoots the puck.  I watch the game to laugh at the people who yell "shoot" when every lane is sure to produce a shot block.  I watch games that don't even involve my two favorite teams because I love the sport.  The fancy stats community is telling me that I enjoy the sport wrong because I don't have any interest in analyzing who was on the ice for the most shots for or shots against.

It's no secret that Derek Stepan has been one of my favorite Rangers since he put on his first blueshirt.  This year, fancy stats tell me that he has been one of the worst players on the ice.  Fine, let the stats say that.  Let those who tweet about how important these stats are telling me that he has been awful this year and isn't worth the contract that he is sure to get in the off season.  I will watch him on the ice and enjoy the way his incredible vision and intelligence are on display.  I will look at the stupid, boring statistics like how many points he has and how drastically different the team's record is with and without him in the lineup.

I don't think Tanner Glass is a very good hockey player and I don't need numbers to tell me that.  However, Alain Vingeault has won 500 hockey games as a head coach in the greatest league in the world.  While he has not won a Stanley Cup, he has brought two different teams to the Final.  He has won President's Trophies.  I have to believe he knows what he's doing.  But what do I know? I don't want his job.

Here's one last thing that I learned in law school that seems relevant: there is always going to be a statistic available to support the story that you want to tell.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dear Brad.

I haven't used this blog in a while, but I feel like starting again. I will begin by sharing a collection of letters that my friend, Siobhan, and I have written to Brad Richards.

Dear Brad, please pay attention, love Derrick

Dear Brad, wake the fuck up and remember how you got your Conn Smythe <3 EVERYONE

Dear Brad, Remember what scoring goals and passing to players on your own team? Can you um, remember more quickly and get to it? K, thanks, <3 NYR fans

Dear Bradley Glen, It would be Delite-ful if you showed up to a game. <3 Your mother

Dear Brad, Remember, 60 minutes, the game is 60 full minutes, sometimes more. love, Jim Dolan's checkbook

Dear Brad, Getting bench sores? I have some creams for that <3 Stu

Dear Brad, I understand...<3 Chris Drury

Dear Brad, Number one centers are supposed to lead the team in points, right? <3 Derek

Dear Brad, $7 million a year is supposed to help the team, no? <3 Hank

Dear Brad, The season in New York lasts longer than in Dallas. <3 Torts

Dear Brad, Showing up in the playoffs is kind of a big deal. <3 Brass

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Difference Between Winning a Stanley Cup and Being the Worst Thing in the World

Henrik Lundqvist.

No, I'm just kidding.  While he is a big part of the reason the Rangers haven't sucked enough for a top draft pick in the past few years, he is not the total difference nor the middle ground.

I was at MSG last was the 3rd loss for the Rangers in the last 15 games.  However, the people were beyond pissed.  If they were saying things like "wow, this game sucked," it would have been one thing, but they were complaining about the team sucking and saying "same old shit."  Fewest regulation losses in the league (though much of it through luck, not necessarily outplaying the opposition), but this team is awful.

Why are Ranger fans never satisfied?

Rangers sign the biggest free agent in the league last summer, the guy who many teams wanted.  His contract is  too long, he's already a disappointment.

Rangers let Matt Gilroy go.  People complain.  Tell me, other than score in the first game of the playoffs, where was his great contribution?

However, when the Rangers plays like shit for 2 periods, then light up a shaky Roberto Luongo, they're the greatest team ever.

When there's a missed call against the Rangers, no one seems to notice or many deny there should have been a call.  Rangers get a soft call, there's a riot.  Other team gets a soft call, a crime was committed.  Refs miss a call, they're playing for the other team.  Pittsburgh and Sidney Crosby aren't the only ones who get refs in their favorite.  Sure, sometimes it's obvious and annoying, but it goes both ways.
Maybe part of this comes from being a Blackhawks fan as well...I've watched games where I notice the Hawks getting a lot of calls in their favor and calls being missed on them.  It annoys me when that happens too even though last year their power play was lethal.
I'm just tired of blaming the refs.  The refs are not responsible for a team being unable to capitalize on golden chances.  The refs are not responsible for a defenseman being completely out of position allowing someone to get a shot off that Hank doesn't have a chance of stopping. 

This team can be incredibly frustrating....but that happens when a team has an identity of hard work and not the most skill and finesse.  Enjoy the winning when it happens, but don't get cocky.  When the team loses, brush it off and support them.  Without fan support, what reason to the players have to come out at MSG and give it their all?  If they're under a long term contract, they get paid whether they play or not.

The Season Thus Far

I have greatly neglected this blog in the past year just because time gets away from me.  I graduated law school, took the Bar Exam, then went on the never ending search for legal employment.  I still have a lot of opinions, so it's time to express a few of them.  I'll do mostly a player by player analysis, but not about everyone.  I'm not even sure anyone will read this, but I can never get a full opinion out on twitter...damn 140 character limit.
I want to mention Bobby Ryan too...I would have loved to have him, but not if it would cost any of the top 4 defensemen...or Chris Kreider.

Since it's relevant at the moment, I'll start with the contributions of Michael Sauer.  It really bothers me how few Rangers fans actually recognize his efforts.  He is solid night in, night out, he's incredibly consistent, and he (almost) always makes the right decisions.  While he is far from an offensive player, right now I am in fear of the length of time that we will be without him.

Next...I will move on to Brandon Dubinsky.  Most people who know me know that I'm not his biggest fan, but I don't hate him as much as some think I do.  I know he's better than how he's playing.  I thought after they returned from Europe, he was playing pretty well.  He was hitting, he was creating, he just wasn't scoring and I'm of the belief that scoring isn't everything.  I was at MSG for his first goal, sitting literally 2 feet from where he celebrated it.  Since that puck hit the back of the net, he has played worse than he did before that.  He's not hitting, he's not putting pressure on the defense...he's not doing the things that make him an effective player.  I know he can do better than this and I want to see that; if he doesn't, this team might not go anywhere.

Captain Cally.  Ryan Callahan has been and always will by my favorite Ranger.  He had a slow start, a lot of the same woes as Dubi.  Since then however, he's picking up his game.  Then again, he makes some of the same moves every game, but they're working.  He's the only one on the power play that gets in the goalie's face and in the league today, when it's a forechecking team, that's how you have to play.  Sure, he's gotten too close to the goalie a few times...or tried to glove the puck in.  I'm not going to pretend he doesn't make mistakes or have off nights and will never be one of those "Cally does no wrong" people...but I do believe he is providing the type of leadership that was expected of him.  When Cally plays hard, the team plays hard.  He just REALLY needs to work on shot accuracy.

Now, my second favorite player on the team and the player who in my mind will be the future of the NYR blueline.  Ryan McDonagh.  Last night, I could not have been more disappointed in how he played.  He was being owned all over the ice.  Usually, he can out-skate the opposition and he's the king of the poke check.  He brings everything to the game and since the day he was called up in January, there has been no looking back.

On the topic of not looking back, welcome to New York, Carl Hagelin, I hope you're searching for an apartment because you are not going back to Connecticut.  I know last year with Zuc, everyone thought he was going to be staying and that he was the real deal.  I see something in Hags that I never saw in Zuc; he has a passion, he has speed, he has raw talent.  Forget the 4 points in his first 4 games and look at the little things.  This kid is here to stay.  I know I'll be forced to eat my words if he slumps and goes back down, but for right now, I'm contemplating a Hagelin jersey next year.

I was gonna talk about Boyle and Prust, but then I realized that they've been pretty invisible.  Though if Prust fights in the first 2 minutes, the Rangers win.  He's had more positives this year than Boyle, but he's not as noticeable in every game as he was last year.

Dan Girardi is a beast.  Need I say more?  Vote him into the All Star Game.

I miss Staalsy.

Gaby is back to his fantastic ways and actually scoring goals consistently and he's doing pretty well defensively.  Sure, people are still going to bash him if he goes a game without a point, but hey, that's what NYR fans do.

I love the addition of Brad Richards.  He's scoring clutch goals, making big plays, and setting up goals when needed.  He's doing what we needed him to do.  I see complaints about his contract everywhere, but NYR fans are never satisfied.  Wait 5 more years before you complain about him...right now, he's doing exactly what he was signed to do.

Henrik is king.  I don't care about his soft goals, he keeps the team in games and he helped both win streaks happen.

Marty Biron is the best veteran back up goalie in the league. Case closed.

This has been my opinion...maybe there will be more coming soon.

ETA: I forgot about Michael Del Zotto...ooohhhh Michael (and his parties).  He has improved since last year.  He hits the net about 20% of the time and his offense is returning to how it was before.  However, his defense needs work.  For every good defensive play he makes, he dives across the ice only to be undressed by the nearest offensive star for the other team...or the nearest fourth liner who hasn't scored all season.  I still don't think he's a "dud" as many do, but he is showing that the skill is there.  Now he needs the effort...remember skill + effort = success.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New York Rangers on 24/7

The news started to come out a few months ago that the Rangers were going to be getting the 2012 Winter Classic against arch rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. However, that's not the important part...the fans care more about 24/7 and why not.

But what are they gonna show?

Will the rivalry between Mike Richards and Brandon Dubinsky be front and center?  I wonder if HBO and the NHL will try to push Torts to give Dubi an "A" for that reason. (I'm not going to get into why I don't think Dubi should get a letter, but for an idea, check out the amount of color in interviews from Torts' letter wearers in the past). Mike Richards and Brandon Dubinsky have a lot of respect for each other and have shown this through many fights in the past. Maybe we'll even get to see a montage of the past battles and a preview through an earlier game.

How many times will HBO show "the shootout"?

Will there be a special feature on teaching Paul Holmgren the meaning of the word "goaltender" and why they are necessary in the game of hockey?

Will Jeff Carter be a Flyer and if so, will he be competing with ths Sleaze Crew for how to get the most questionable characters on the show?

Will we see Michelle Trachtenberg? Or will Prusty, Boyle, Del Zotto, and whoever else chooses to join them find others who are attracted to the HBO cameras in New York City.

If Marty Biron goes into the interview room, how much time will the editors have to spend on each segment and will there be room on the cutting room floor when they're done? Will Marty be mic'd up during games just in case there's a shootout so we can find out what he says?  Personally, Marty Biron might be the part I'm most excited about.

Will the NHL make sure that the Pens and Caps are both featured so that they can say Crosby and Ovechkin more?  Of course we will remember the Rangers destroying both teams last year and being the best guest stars on the show.

Will we get to watch Torts blow up at Brooks?

Since its run by the league, will we get to watch Aves' on ice verbal antics or will we be forced to watch the cameras avoid him?

Will people outside of NY learn the amazingness of Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer?

Which team gets the happy story and music and who gets the sadness and dark lighting?

Which unknown player will barely be featured then be the star of the Winter Classic game?

Will Captain Cally have a chance to show everyone why we love him so much?

Will Brad Richards make any appearances on the show?

Will Brandon Prust be in pain from his beastly actions? Will we get to see him argue with Torts after it's reported that he is "a game time decision but probably won't play." Of course, he'll play and maybe even score a shorthanded goal after Boyle blocks a shot with some part of his massive body?

Speaking of blocked shots...will we get to see the bruises likely covering 90% of Dan Girardi's body?

Will the record be set straight that Girardi is Cally's #1 bromate NOT Dubi? (Dubi has said in interviews that EC is his best friend on the team)

Will Marian Gaborik show up for 24/7?

Will we be wasted if during each episode we play the "Staals are brothers" drinking game although Marc is the only one featured?

Will Hank blame himself for every loss even if the other 18 guys don't show up?

Will Chris Pronger steal the WC winning puck?

Will I manage to find my way in front of an HBO camera at MSG?

As the NHL would say...questions will become answers

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rangers v. Bolts 12/23/10

I haven't blogged in a while because I was away for the weekend and only saw the 3rd period of the game against the Coyotes.

So last night - I don't have that much to say about it.  They played one of their best games in a while, but Ellis was ridiculous and the smallest mistakes led to goals for the other team. 

I wish Prusty was able to get a stick on that loose puck when they were shorthanded.  It probably would have turned the game around right there.

If EC teaches the rest of the guys some shootout moves, can they teach him a little more consistency than he has?

Clutch rookie is clutch and perfect rookie is perfect. The Calder committee had better take a good look at Derek Stepan or they're idiots.

Zuke had a great debut, but I understand if he doesn't come back up right away.  If he can't play top 6 minutes, then let him play max time in Hartford.  The kid seems to really get that too, he just wants to play.  I also think Todd White belongs in the press box or in Hartford or anywhere but on the ice and Aves deserves more minutes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Call Ups

It seems like every fan is saying bring up Zuccarello.  I could not disagree with this more.  I absolutely think that MZA should stay in Hartford.  One week ago Torts said he wasn't ready...the kid JUST started surging in Hartford a couple of weeks ago, that doesn't mean he's suddenly ready for the big leagues. (see Torts' comment here:

There is not a single player in Hartford who can replace the loss of heart on the ice.  No one has Cally's passion and no one gives 110% every minute they are on the ice the way that Ryan Callahan does.  Bringing up someone who needs minutes to grow is only going to hinder the growth of the prospect.

Deny it all you want, but when it comes to talent...Drury and Callahan are very similar.  As much as we all love Cally, even he admits that he's not the most skilled player, it's his heart and passion that make up for it.  Drury can kill penalties, play on the power play, score at clutch moments, block shots, and throw hits.  If he practices on the wing with Artie and Dubi, he can probably develop some chemistry with them too.  I am not saying Dru can replace Cally in any sense, but he has the experience to play the minutes and from what he showed last night, he is ready for the challenge.

If anyone gets called up, it's someone who would not be harmed by playing 4th line minutes.  It would have to be a physical player who can also create offense.  Whoever it is would be playing less than 10 minutes a game.  It would be a WASTE to bring up one of the kids who is trying to grow to make the team full time next year.

One more thing - if MZA does get called up and proves that he's not ready, the entire fanbase is going to turn on him.  More reason for him to stay in Hartford for now.