In February, NHL.com set the hockey analytics world ablaze as it promised to unveil “enhanced stats.”
Then the big day came. Bloggers, fans, and skeptical on-lookers (maybe these weren’t separate types of people) flooded NHL.com to get a look at the league’s official foray into advanced statistics.
As the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg said of the initial launch:
I don't know what I was expecting with new http://t.co/PhYQdldew9 adv stats site, but overall disappointed. The look and feel is not great
— Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) February 20, 2015
His sentiments were basically shared throughout the blogosphere.
Writing for Sportsnet, Jonathan Willis made it clear that the NHL’s enhanced stats were outdated, at best:
In a glitzy, self-congratulatory event, the league applauded both its statistical innovations and its dramatically improved presentation of the numbers. The sad reality, however, is that as is often the case with the NHL the actual substance of the announcement couldn’t come close to matching the vigour with which it trumpeted its own achievements…
Willis went on to add that:
[W]hile it’s an exaggeration to say the league’s new stats website is 15 years out of date it’s not much of one. None of the features made operational on Friday revealed any data that hasn’t been available through independent websites for most of the last decade. If the NHL’s intent was to match the kind of information that’s been available on a website like behindthenet.ca since the 2006-07 campaign, congratulations are in order. If it was trying to innovate, it’s still a decade behind.
At this point, it’d be easy to walk away from the NHL’s analytics offering – too outdated, too unoriginal, too clunky.
But there is a little hope.
In the enhanced stats section, the raw Shot Attempts data (known as raw Corsi data virtually everywhere else) is presented without being converted into percentages.
Why is this interesting? Because it allows for unfiltered comparison among players. Other sites have this data too but the NHL’s presentation makes the comparison neat.
So, what can we glean?
Shot Attempts: Top Ten Atlantic Division Players
The ability to create offense is strongly tied to a player’s ability to generate shots on goal. So, which Atlantic Division players are generating the most shot attempts?
|1||Senators||Erik Karlsson – D||1421|
|2||Canadiens||P.K. Subban – D||1380|
|3||Canadiens||Andrei Markov – D||1260|
|4||Bruins||Dougie Hamilton – D||1244|
|5||Panthers||Brian Campbell – D||1167|
|6||Panthers||Aaron Ekblad – D||1128|
|7||Bruins||Dennis Seidenberg – D||1121|
|8||Lightning||Anton Stralman – D||1091|
|9||Leafs||Morgan Rielly – D||1068|
|10||Canadiens||Max Pacioretty – W||1054|
Stats as of March 19th – here.
The Raw SAT Data Takeaways
In terms of shot attempts, defensemen dominate the Atlantic scene. Only Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty cracks the division’s top-ten for total SATs, sneaking in at number ten. This points to the tremendous success Pacioretty has had this season in pushing pucks towards the net.
Slick defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the pack and sits second in the NHL in total SATs behind only L.A. Kings star Drew Doughty. As the offensive catalyst for the Senators, Karlsson continues to drive attempted shots for Ottawa at an elite rate.
Finally, it’s worth noting the presence of Aaron Ekblad in the divisional top-ten. Ekblad’s inclusion in the list as the six-rank demonstrates both that Florida has entrusted their rookie star with a tremendous workload (making lots of shot attempts possible) and that Ekblad has not been tentative to direct the puck on goal in his first NHL season.
For Florida Panther fans (all 2000 of them), this is fantastic news.
Shot Attempts Against: Top Ten Atlantic Division Players
The counterpart to shot attempts is shot attempts against. Unlike the prior list, these players have faced the greatest number of shot totals against while on the ice.
|Rank||Team||Name||Total SATs Against|
|1||Canadiens||P.K. Subban – D||1269|
|2||Senators||Erik Karlsson – D||1264|
|3||Canadiens||Andrei Markov – D||1224|
|4||Bruins||Dennis Seidenberg – D||1207|
|5||Sabres (now Jets)||Tyler Myers – D||1184|
|6||Sabres||Tyler Ennis – F||1171|
|7||Leafs||Morgan Rielly – D||1171|
|8||Canadiens (formerly Oilers)||Jeff Petry – D||1136|
|9||Leafs||James van Riemsdyk – F||1123|
|10||Leafs||Phil Kessel – F||1097|
Stats as of March 19th – here.
The Raw SAT Against Data Takeaways
Many of the same names from the SAT table appear again, including Subban, Karlsson, Andrei Markov, Dennis Seidenberg, and Morgan Rielly. In each case, an appearance in both SATs and SATs Against suggests that a player is playing heavy 5-on-5 minutes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, five of the ten players listed among the leaders for shot attempts against play for either the Sabres or the Leafs. This highlights the shots against problem that both teams have struggled with all season.
With 1059 shot attempts against, Tyler Bozak would rank 12th among Atlantic Division skaters, joining his linemates James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel who rank ninth and tenth, respectively. The trio has faced more shot attempts than any other line in the NHL – no other team has three forwards in the top 60, let alone the top 12. Not considered a group of shutdown checkers, the shot attempts rate for the Leafs’ top line suggests awful puck possession for the van Reimsdyk-Bozak-Kessel trio.
Colorado has two forwards in the top 60 (Jarome Iginla and Matt Duchene) and Buffalo had two (Matt Moulson and Chris Stewart) before Stewart was dealt at the trade deadline. After the Leafs, these forward lines face the most shot attempts…but their shots-against rates don’t match the Leafs’ line.
Shot Attempts Differential – The Good, the Bad, and the Sabres
Without some context, pure shot attempts for or against is tough to judge. Sure, Karlsson and Subban face a lot of shot attempts against but if they generate even more shot attempts for, then they are having a positive effective on possession and shot generation.
Here are the Atlantic leaders in shot attempts differential, both positive and negative.
|Rank||Team||Name||Total SAT Differential (+)
|1||Red Wings||Tomas Tatar – F||293|
|2||Bruins||Patrice Bergeron – F||293|
|3||Red Wings||Pavel Datsyuk – F||280|
|4||Lightning||Anton Stralman – D||266|
|5||Bruins||Brad Marchand – D||239|
|6||Bruins||Dougie Hamilton – D||234|
|7||Red Wings||Darren Helm – F||199|
|8||Lightning||Nikita Kucherov – F||193|
|9||Red Wings||Brendan Smith – D||188|
|10||Lightning||Ondrej Palat – F||183|
Stats as of March 19th – here.
Barely featured in the previous two sections, skaters for the Red Wings, Lightning, and Bruins emerge as dominant shot attempts differential producers.
The Red Wings feature three forwards in the top ten – Tomas Tatar, the Atlantic’s best in terms of shot attempts differential, along with the timeless Pavel Datsyuk, and Darren Helm. The Red Wings forwards are joined by quietly effective defenseman Brendan Smith, who has posted the Atlantic’s ninth best shot attempts differential.
Perennial Selke candidate Patrice Bergeron leads the way for the Bruins, with Brad Marchand and Dougie Hamilton close behind. The Lightning feature two forwards and a defenseman in the top ten as well – Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, and Anton Stralman.
No Canadiens. No Sens. Definitely no Sabres, Panthers, or Leafs. The players that dominate in shot attempts differential tend to be from the same team, indicating that team strategy or style of play may be a big factor.
|Rank||Team||Name||Total SATs Against (-)
|1||Sabres||Rasmus Ristolainen – F||540|
|2||Sabres||Tyler Ennis – F||479|
|3||Jets (formerly Sabres)||Tyler Myers – D||474|
|4||Sabres||Zemgus Girgensons – F||444|
|5||Wild (formerly Sabres)||Chris Stewart – F||438|
|6||Sabres||Josh Gorges – D||430|
|7||Sabres||Nicolas Deslauriers – F||396|
|8||Sabres||Mike Weber – D||386|
|9||Sabres||Andre Benoit – D||384|
|10||Sabres||Matt Moulson – F||354|
Stats as of March 19th – here.
Though it isn’t much of a surprise to know that the Sabres are bad, it is a little jarring to see just how bad.
Sabres players (including the recently traded Tyler Myers and Chris Stewart) account for the bottom-nine shot attempts differentials in the NHL. Eight more Sabres (including recently traded Drew Stafford) appear in the top 30.
Icing essentially an AHL-level/expansion-calibre team, Buffalo has been utterly dominated in shot attempts differential all season long. For Sabres fans, the only hope now is securing the number one overall pick in the NHL draft, drafting Connor McDavid, and hoping that one generational talent can speed up the rebuild.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 15, 2015
Mainstream hockey analysts are beginning to accept that plus-minus (even a +11!) is a meaningless stat. Instead, statistics like shot attempts for and against are seen as better indicators of a player’s impact on the game. By providing easily sortable raw data on shot attempts, NHL.com’s enhanced stats offering provides a little value.
- the Bruins, Red Wings, and Lightning are producing positive shot attempts differentials across the lineup.
- the Sabres are doing the same thing, but in reverse
- the Leafs’ top trio has played like a bunch of Sabres this season.
- Tomas Tatar deserves consideration as a strong two-way player for his highly positive effect on shot differentials for the Red Wings
What do you think, stats fan? Has the NHL provided anything of value with the creation of an “enhanced stats” page? Are you surprised by the utter futility of the Buffalo Sabres this season?