Saturday, August 30, 2014

#SeeYouAtCannonFest, more than just a clever hashtag

By now you've heard all about CannonFest and all of the greatness that it will be.  You've seen all of your friends tweet about their excitement using hashtags #CannonFestV and #SeeYouAtCannonFest.

Here's the fun part.  Did you know that by tweeting #SeeYouAtCannonFest you are RSVPing for the event? As a thank you to those that announced their attendance in advance, a name tag will be printed for you!

Don't worry, we will still have blank name tags for you to fill in if you do not use twitter or never got around to tweeting the #SeeYouAtCannonFest hashtag.

you know, that one guy
As an example, this gentleman named "James" tweeted with the proper hashtag, and here it is!  It's like magic!

Name tags are not the only special treat in store for you at CannonFest.  Once you get there, be sure to sign up for the DKM Hockey Advanced Stats game show where they are giving away a 'must have' for every CBJ fan!

There is also a video contest where you can win free pizza for a year from Papa Johns!

For more details on all of the other great offerings at CannonFest, the Union Blue summarizes it well in this post.

So we would like to know, will we see you at CannonFest?

*disclaimer: the picture used above is an example and does not represent attendance from chosen person

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Part X: The Dark Blue Jacket's Definitive History of the CBJ; Best Yet

Before 2013-14 Game 3
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord……

And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh Lord….

And with those sounds, playoff hockey returned again to Nationwide Arena in the 2013-14 NHL season.  An NHL season that saw the Columbus Blue Jackets rise from a slow start, claw back into the race, and finish in the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Falling to Pittsburgh in six games, the Columbus Blue Jackets recorded their first playoff wins, both at home, and on the road.  The incredible finish of Game 4 supplants the previous Game 4 against Detroit as ‘the Moment’ in Blue Jackets History.  A crowd that came to the Arena determined to battle to the end was rewarded with a Penguins miscue leading to a tying goal in the waning seconds of the game, and the overtime winner early in the first overtime period.  These events lead to a rafter shaking thunder that appeared as awesome on TV (check the YouTube clips) as it was to experience live. 

It is to be hoped that these stirring events end up being no more than one of John Davidson’s proverbial bricks in the foundation of CBJ events.  This would mean that the team has gone on to reach a higher level of achievement.  But before we reflect on those possibilities, we must put this one to bed, so to speak.

The Run Up to the Season

Two high priced players on the Blue Jackets had surgery over the summer between the abbreviated 2012-13 season and the 2013-14 season.  Marian Gaborik had surgery to fix a previous repair to a groin injury, and the big off season acquisition, Nathan Horton, had surgery to repair a shoulder injured in the Stanley Cup Final when playing with the Bruins.  Big questions coming into training camp were Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray.  Would they make the team this year, or spend the year in the AHL?  More importantly, would the team be able to replicate the incredible cohesiveness from the late season run in 2012-13? 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Advanced Stats: The future of yesterday

In my life time, the solar system in which we live has gone from consisting of 9 planets, to 10 planets, then back to 9 planets, and then down to 8 planets.  The demotion of Pluto as a planet caused a bit of sentimental stir in the science community.  What led to its discovery, and then the discovery of a tenth planet, and finally the reclassification of both to dwarf planets came from a change in what science was trying to answer in the first place:  why did Neptune lose last night’s hockey game?  I mean, why was Neptune’s orbit wonky?  Looking at the data, it was hypothesized that another planet was affecting Neptune orbit of the sun. Then one day, after some legal crap, a fancy flip book, and some coincidental calculation, Pluto was discovered.  To consider Pluto a planet, you had to accept its counter-intuitive behavior as a celestial body and capitulate that there was really no better way to determine its mass.    But hey, back then, it was a planet!  Science said so.  And because there was no better way to show determine if it was a planet, we accepted it was a planet.  Because, science.

Today, the great debate in science is advanced stats in the NHL. Ok, maybe they aren’t the great debate of our time.  But advanced stats are certainly the topic de jour in an NHL speak-easy near you.  I remember the heady days of Slew Footing, man-in-the-crease violations, and the bane of Six-foot-six superstars everywhere: clutching and grabbing.  Those were topics that dominated discussion around the NHL back when superstars of the 70’s were assuming front office jobs and ruining hockey in the 90s.  Today, the topic that everybody (except players and coaches) is talking about is advanced stats.  Spoiler Alert:  I am a data hound.  In my day job I use metrics as a starting point to help solve issues surrounding profitability and on-time performance.  There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t use metrics at work, which in turn pays the bills.  But, to me, advance stats are A STARTING POINT TO SOLVE A PROBLEM, they don't define the problem or provide the solution.  They serve as a starting point for discovery. Why didn’t we meet our margin goal yesterday?  Oh, this analysis over here says my margin in Houston sucks.  I’ll start looking at how Houston is running their operations.

Of course advanced stats are here to stay because they’ve been around forever.  Read that last sentence again.  Ok, read on.  Advanced stats as they exist today show us things that many coaches and scouts already know, but perhaps they couldn’t articulate them outside of the film room.  Just because coaches likely already know what the stats tell us today doesn't make them any less relevant. Corsi, Fenwick, PDO, and Zone start data are some of the more popular advanced stats in discussion.  I like advanced stats, I love advanced stats in hockey.  However, I am very cynical of their sacred cow status by those largely in the media and bloggin community.  Maybe it’s the nerd subculture that exists with the NHLs social media demographic, but I am beside myself at the nerd rage that ensues when the sanctity of advanced stats are questioned - much like when the ‘planetary status’ of Pluto was first questioned back in the 1970’s. 

Having said that let me also say that advanced stats must be mandatory curriculum for any person filling a roster spot on a professional hockey team.  Zone starts, PDO, quality of teammates, and quality of competition are good indicators of a player’s effectiveness is specific situations.  These things must be considered when vetting candidates thru a trade or free-agency. But any scout worth their salt has been able to communicate this to a head coach or front office from a game planning perspective for a long time.  Analyzing where a player starts in certain situations and where they are vulnerable is nothing new.  A good scout can tell you when a player is likely to turn a puck over, make a bad decision, or why a power play is struggling.  A good coach doesn't need many advanced stat to tell him which players are ineffective in key situations. 

However, it wasn’t until very recently that we were able have a statistical representation of those instances – advanced stats.  Now, we can throw the statistical representation of that data into a slideshow and blog about how awesome or lousy some players or teams are.  But the advanced stats summarize what many coaches already know and put it in a much neater presentation format than a scribbled scouting report.  You have a neat statistical representation of a player's efficiency in an easily digestible format.  If you’re looking to fill an open roster spot you’re already using advanced stats whether you realize it or not.  If you’re not directly or indirectly using advanced stats to fill your roster, they you’re probably doing color commentary, studio analysis, or talking about how awesome you were as the Blue Jacket’s first President and GM on TSN after getting canned. 

Hockey is not a complicated sport unless you make it that way.  Hockey at its core is simple.  In fact, a good coach doesn’t over complicate drills in practice, but looks to maximize the drills efficiency.  A well-coached Pee Wee travel team practice will look a lot like an NHL practice.  In fact, many good and effective youth hockey coaches already know 80-90% of the drills used in an NHL practice.  I’m saying all this to emphasize hockey is not a complex sport at its core.  I think many new fans and people who didn’t play competitively wrongly assume hockey is vastly complicated in its systems and schemes.  So when they see and “advanced stat” and understand it, they feel like they’ve cracked the code of hockey.  They fiercely defend that portion of the sport they can relate to.  Seriously people, hockey’s not that tough to understand. 

Advanced stats help articulate the ‘why’ in the outcome of a game.  The “advanced” part of used in the nomenclature is not that the calculations themselves are advanced, but that they are an advanced way of interpreting data – which is a good thing.  Ok, the dudes that came up with THoR use some ridiculously complex calculations.  More on that in a little bit.  However, as a coach in the NHL, advanced stats aren’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know.  In the minds of players, their effectiveness on the ice goes beyond what analysts are able to throw into a workbook and graph. 

Corsi, while I understand it, grinds my gears a little bit.  Everyone, including the Corsi fan boys, will admit that the stat is a compromise.  It is the best of what’s around as far as a possession stat.  I agree that while they tell a different story, that Corsi is a better indicator of a player’s contribution to their team’s success than ye olde +/-.  But you have to ignore the counter-intuitiveness of Corsi and that’s what irks me.  There has to be a better way.  If you swear by the sanctity of Corsi, don’t you dare moan when Wisniewski rips four shots in a row four feet wide.  And you Corsi whores better not be the ones yelling “SHOOT IT” when there are four shin guards and a fully dressed goalie filling a shooting lane on a power play.  Context my dear friends, context – it is impossible to garner context from stats.
Most advanced stats provide instant gratification and are often used to answer the “Why” of how a team won/lost in the form of statistical representation.  But the “why” is not “how.”  Stats will tell you why, a coach will tell you how.  Corsi will tell you that Atkinson firing a snapshot into Lucic’s shinguards is neutral at worst, an NHL coach will find out who Atkinson’s pee wee coach was and slap his mother about the head and face.  

There is unfounded resistance to advanced stats and equally there is Jonestown-sian devotion to them.  The vocal nerdy hockey media rips apart anyone who remotely questions the logic of advanced stats.  Critical thinking applied to the theories in advanced stats is often met with ridicule, some of which I’ve experienced first-hand.  On the flip side, there is a lot of push back from the people that actually do the hockey thing for a living.  I understand why.  Ask yourself this:  Would you take workout and dietary advice from the fat guy at work who smokes two packs a day and eats nothing but Speedway hot dogs and ding dongs all day?   Then think of it this way, You’ve spent 40 years playing, coaching, and loving hockey and you get ripped for not taking player utilization advice from a guy who can’t even run a mini-mite practice?  Can a beefcake bro in an Iron Man T-shirt and a Contra Spray Gun tattoo be considered anything other than fake-geek?  You see where I am going with this now?  

One of the things that define a hockey player is their conviction to a belief structure in specific situations.  IE, passive or aggressive pressuring of the points during a penalty kill?  “Five on a dice” even strength Dzone coverage or roving center?  Not shooting the puck on 2-on-1 when your line mate’s relative position to the puck dictates that you should shoot it.  Coaches call this ‘buying into the system.’  And those systems are just the empirical knowledge of advanced stats supported by years of anecdotal evidence and enforced the ability to demonstrate those concepts during practice while seeing the results in games.  The circle of life is renewed as player becomes coach and coach becomes management.  That is the culture of hockey.  Better coaches, players, and GMs are always willing to look at things a different way – if those different ways aren’t gimmicky.  A head coach and player are going to approach advanced stats differently.  A player or coach will say “advanced stats don’t tell me anything I don’t already know” and a GM will say, “This kind of information is very useful in helping me fill a roster spot from the players that are available.”  And to not to beat a dead horse, but when Tyutin misses a wide open net, nobody’s congratulating him on a positive Corsi event.

So, for the better part of two pages I’ve talked about how advanced stats as they pertain to situational usage don’t tell a coach/scout anything they don’t already know, and that Corsi and Pluto (the dwarf planet, not the dog) are related.  I’m a data guy, a couple of my DKM/DBJ compatriots are data guys, and we’re going to do some stuff with data.  Of all the advanced stat stuff out there, I like Total Hockey Rating or THoR.  It won the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics award in 2013, long before most people knew Corsi was a name and not an acronym.  THoR gets a bad rap from awkward sci-fi movie watching nerds because the data inputs it uses are suspect – it solely relies on the NHL’s RTSS.  I think when real nerds at MIT, who were Valedictorians and post-secondary standouts, out-smart the socially awkward sci-fi watching introverts, the lesser nerds get ragey which is why they poo-poo THoR. 

Anyways, THoR uses some real heavy-duty genius-level mathematics, in addition to commonly accepted advanced stats to determine how many wins a player is responsible for generating.  But what I like about THoR is one of the calculations they use - they weigh the cause and effect of every action that happens on the ice.  So, when a check, or a shot, or a pass happens they calculate what happens in the next five seconds of that event.  I like that in the sense that it indirectly looks at a Corsi events and considers what happens in the next few seconds after that event.  You can be jealous of THoR and rip on it all you want, but it considers if ripping a shot 4 feet wide is a good thing or not.  It also helps put statistical merit to things like the value of out-hitting another team beyond the intangible physical toll.  If there is a set of stats a hockey coach should try to look at, it’s some of the theories and calculations that are considered in THoR.

I understand Corsi as it relates solely to possession, I do.  I can’t tell you how many blog pieces I’ve read that say “ignore the conflicting/counter-intuitiveness of the data that goes into Corsi.”  I get it.  It is better than anything else out there - Just like the mini-disc was.  But at its fundamental core, how can we say that things which often generate turnovers are positive benchmarks for possession?  And goalie came up with this stat for crying out loud?  Goalies take too many pucks to the head and are quirky.  So this weekend I’m going to watch some CBJ games and do three things:

1.       Augmenting the benchmarks of THoR, I will establish a percentage of how many blocked shots and missed shots turn into turnovers with 3 seconds of the event – ThoR uses 5 seconds which I think is a little too long.  Hell, they go to MIT and I dropped out of college twice – maybe I should use their standard of 5 seconds.    It will either confirm the grain of salt I eat with my Corsi, or it will make me shut up.  To me through 30 years of anecdotal evidence, in an even strength situation, a missed shot or a blocked shot from the point often leads to a turnover.  We’ll see.  And turnover in this instance is defined by a blocked/missed shot going to an opposing player either directly or through the course of a commonly defined turnover.


2.        Corsi does a great job showing comparative data on possession.  It doesn’t show me diddly-poo on the efficiency of those events.  Without giving away my formula for fear it will be stolen before my finding are published, I’m going to borrow from the existing Corsi structure and augment it to show offensive efficiency.  But what I will look to answer the question: Are the shots attempts high quality changes or mostly garbage? 


3.       One of the first mainstream possession studies done was the USA Hockey puck possession study conducted during the 2002 Winter Olympics.  12 years ago they were able to establish an average baseline of ‘for every X minutes the player was on the ice they had Y seconds of puck possession.’  How was this possible?   That kind of technology doesn’t exist today, how could they have had it back then?  EA Sports are the only ones with this kind of technology to calculate “ATTACK TIME.” Well, I know how they did it and I’m going to apply it to the CBJ game footage I watch.  I’m going to track possession time in the offensive zone and come up with a possession efficiency stat derived from Corsi.  Hey Edmonton Oilers, 2002 called and they want their advanced stats back. 


I will publish my finding along within the next few weeks and share all the variable of my experiment – even if the results show I should get “CORSI” tattooed on my face.  I will disclose what game(s) I watched, any errors in data collection, and how many beers we consumed conducting the experiment.  Heck, I might even call an NHL coach or two to pick their brain about advanced stats!  I am excited to test my theories regardless of the outcome.  More importantly, I excited to see what things we’ll discover that we hadn’t anticipated.  And while I may not discover the next Pluto, there’s a very good chance I'll end up staring at Uranus.




Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pontificating RE: Milano

2014 Development Camp
Today, good old @BluejacketsNHL threw me a bone, by retweeting something they posted back on Tuesday, which was Sonny Milano stating that he was committed to attending Boston College.  I like this choice a lot by Sonny.  True he might have played more games with Plymouth of the OHL.  And I think Plymouth wants to be a credible junior team, so no worries about the desire to win.

But Boston College has a very competitive NCAA program. and Sonny will face seniors in the games he plays.  And, as a rather slight individual. the ability to firm up his physique will help him in a quest to reach the NHL.  Here's the thing though....

Say Sonny goes to Canadian Major Junior (OHL), and he tears it up, just like all us #CBJ fans want.  Guess what?  He has a choice, make the NHL, or stay in Juniors.  Say Sonny goes to the NCAA, and tears it up, just like all us #CBJ fans want.  Maybe leads his conference in scoring, or something like that, or wins a Hobie Baker award as the best player in NCAA hockey as a freshman.  Unlikely, true, but it's what we hope for as #CBJ fans! What then?  Well, from the amateur ranks, he can turn pro, and play in the AHL OR the NHL.  Keeping in mind that moving from a freshman kicking butt in the NCAA to the AHL is a logical development step, whereas if he is in Juniors he MUST go to the NHL, or he MUST be in Juniors.  The NCAA route at this point for a player like Sonny Milano gives the most options.

Mike Reilly, 2014 Development Camp.  Can you say raw
speed?  Sure you can!
Contrast this with the development track of Boone Jenner.  Physically, Boone was ready to compete in the NHL.  Going to Juniors made the most sense, and he jumped to the NHL when his play warranted the move.  It would be no slight on Sonny Milano if he needed a year in the AHL to adapt to playing against pro players.  In fact it is a natural development track for a guy without the advantage of NHL size out of the box.

The NCAA track provides the most flexibility for when to turn pro.  Look at Mike Reilly.  If he was forced to turn pro this year he might not be ready.  On the other hand, he has a really decent chance of winning the Hobie Baker as a Senior at Minnesota, but as a defenseman.  It is common for defensemen to take a longer period to fully adjust to NHL hockey, whereas that jump is often easier for forwards.   He will likely start in the AHL following his college career, which is a logical development step for him.  If he can kick the door down from Springfield, he is ready for the NHL.  But it is a wise choice for him to play his senior year at Minnesota, and compete for that Hobie Baker award.

Maybe it only takes Sonny 2 years to jump to the AHL.  The college route gives him the most flexibility as to when to turn pro.  Going to Boston College is a wise decision Sonny!  I'm looking forward to enjoying watching your collegiate career.

By the way, while I'm pontificating <purrr, it makes you feel good!> I noticed the Blue Jackets giving Cannonfest a plug on the website, which is really well done.  Wait!  Did I not shout this at you?

Cannonfest V!!! (why is this in a small font??  It's huge on the editor!!  But you get the idea!)

Sunday, August 31st, 1-4 pm

400 West Rich Street

Seriously, this is looking like a crazy good time, at a really exciting venue.  Now if only I could pressure my season ticket rep to ensure a player was there.  Hmmm.  Must diabolically plot.....


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cannonfest!! Wahoo!! Hockey in August!!

Don't have the new logo, so will have to make do with this one!
Today our colleagues over on the Cannon, in conjunction with our colleagues over on the Union Blue announced the time, date, and location for Cannonfest 2014!!  We encourage you to check out this post on the Cannon for the exciting details, but the important thing is this:

Cannonfest IV, 2013
Sunday, August 31st 
400 W. Rich St Columbus, OH 43215


Kudos to Matt Wagner, Greg May, and Alison Lukan (@bzarcher, @gregin120, @AlisonL on Twitter, give 'em a follow!) for carrying on this awesome Columbus tradition.  Now I'm not saying Jarmo is going to show up, but it's not like it never happened before either.  Who knows?  This year even Jody Shelly may show up!!!
Cannonfest II at BW3 Grandview

This is a really awesome time to get your Blue Jackets fandom rolling in preparation for training camp, and the season to start.  Mark your calendars now!!  Plan to be there!!

One of the really great things about this year's Cannonfest is that the folks at Strongwater Food and Spirits are helping to put the event on.  In a selfless gesture of public service, I have sampled their wares, and I can attest to the quality of their 'strongwaters'! 

And Boomer goes 'sssssssssssssssss' on the DKM Hockey
This is a really great time for the whole family.  Why not let the kid witness the awe filled majesty of a DKM Hockey Podcast.  A memory sure to scar, er, last them a lifetime!

It's time for Cannonfest!!  One of the greatest times of the year, when it's not hockey season!  

Mark your calendar!  Be there!