Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: Randoms: Rebounding, The Captaincy and Analytics
Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.
By John Saquella (@jsaquella)
Just a few random thoughts:
-The struggling Flyers met the struggling Oilers on Saturday afternoon in South Philadelphia and finally put together a sixty minute effort where they managed to outwork as well as outplay their opponent. From top to bottom, a lot of players played they way that they need to, if they want to have success in the NHL. Claude Giroux not only scored, but he played his most effective and most aggressive game of the season. He was involved, went into traffic and showed fire and a passion that had been sometimes lacking.
Granted it was against a bad defensive team, and one that is facing their own issues, but hopefully it will be a harbinger of things to come. The Flyers need Giroux to be the straw that stirs the drink, and to be that, Giroux needs to play like he did Saturday afternoon.
-On that same vein, there have been some calls for Giroux to be stripped of the team’s captaincy, from the media and fans alike. I feel rather strongly that Claude Giroux’s struggles are not from him being the team’s captain. I feel Giroux’s struggles come from a multitude of reasons. First, nobody on his team, from the leadership group that is supposed to support him on down, has played well. Second, Giroux suffered a hand injury late in the summer and didn’t have the benefit of a full camp. Third, the team has experienced major upheaval after the firing of Peter Laviolette and almost constant line juggling by his replacement, Craig Berube.
In the NHL, teams have a leadership group, which is supposed to support and assist the team captain. They have failed in their roles as well, yet some are ready to rip the C off Giroux’s jersey and pop it on the jersey of another player, who has struggled as Giroux has. I’m not discounting the importance of the captaincy, but it’s also not the massive monolith that some folks make out of it. It’s an honor and responsibility and on some players, that C on the jersey can act as a lead weight. I don’t see that being the case for Giroux.
-Advanced Stats. Say the word Corsi to some people and they make the sign of the cross and tell you to screw off. Others worship at the altar of numbers. People need to find some middle ground and stop the nonsensical attitudes about the use of analytics.
I use advanced stats, because I want the fullest possible picture of a player’s worth and abilities I can get. I want a full toolbox to do the job. But I have to use the tools properly. A Hammer is a fine tool, with many uses. But one of those will have little effectiveness when trying to repair a chipped tea cup. To me, there is simply no stat that can replace the eyeball test. Most serious proponents of advanced stats agree with that. What stats proponents want to do is quantify what makes a successful player and team.
People who don’t hold with stats will dismiss them, and point out that legends like Ted Lindsay have no idea what Corsi is. True. But Lindsay does know that possession of the puck is the best way to win hockey games. That’s really what stats like Corsi tell us. There is no stat that is the end all, be all to tell us that a player is good or not. All stats do is give us deeper insight. Anyone who has played the game knows what teams need to do to win games. Advanced numbers do little more than quantify that.
A lot of the issue in the adoption of more advanced numbers is the seeming clash of personalities on both sides of the matter. Some stats advocates are insufferable when you dismiss the use of numbers-and it’s not just in hockey. A guy like Brian Kenney is just an outright prick about his advocacy of statistical useage in baseball. There are some of those in hockey circles as well.
But those “old heads” who just dismiss the stats community are ignoring tools that can help them get a better perspective. Those nerds compiling numbers aren’t just sitting there with a calculator and stop watch, they’re watching the games, as well. For those that complain about advanced numbers taking the joy from the sport, there’s an easy answer-don’t use statistical analysis except when evaluating afterward, to confirm what your eyes saw. I don’t watch a game wondering what a player’s Corsi or Fenwick score is. I watch a game with the eyes of a child to enjoy the sheer brilliance of the sport. I don’t worry about the numbers until after the enjoyment of the game.
Isn’t enjoyment of the sport the reason we started playing and watching hockey in the first place?