Lightning one of many teams using advanced stats
It's not exactly Moneyball - or, more appropriately, Moneypuck - but there has been a lot of buzz this summer about the NHL's use of advanced stats.
Sports like baseball have been more at the forefront when it comes to using analytics, and it's easier to track such numbers because of the pace of the game. But you're starting to see more NHL teams trying to find what stats they can use to give them an advantage.
The Oilers recently hired Tyler Dellow, one of those at the forefront of the advanced stats movement (@mc79hockey). The Devils brought in professional poker player Sunny Mehta to head the team's analytics department. Even the Maple Leafs, who have been slow to such innovative methods, hired Kyle Dubas, 28, known for using analytics, to be their assistant general manager. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and Stars GM Jim Nill have been more outspoken this summer on their use of stats and what edge it might give.
As for the Lightning? General manager Steve Yzerman said the organization had been using advanced stats for a couple years before he arrived in Tampa Bay in 2010. The Lightning has its own statistical analyst, Michael Peterson, who has been with them for four seasons. Peterson, who has degrees in computer science and mathematics from Texas Tech (as well as an MBA from UCF), helps assist management and the coaching staff by providing analytical and statistical evaluation for hockey operations, contract valuation, as well as giving recommendations for the draft, free agency and trades. According to the Lightning, Peterson also assists with other stat-driven projects regarding ticket sales, pricing and revenue.
Prior to working for the Lightning, Peterson also served as a consultant for the Rays and Indians in MLB.
"The whole advanced stats industry in the NHL is still relatively in the infant stages," Yzerman said. "We're all trying to figure out what is relevant and what is not relevant. We're all looking at different ways of making better decisions in trying to figure out what are those, and come up with ideas of our own."
Yzerman didn't want to get into specifics of what types of stats the Lightning uses, and Peterson isn't available to the media. But there are some more well-known possession-driven stats that are used around the league, such as Corsi (measures total shot attempts) and Fenwick (total shot attempts minus blocked shots), which have some predictive value.
But there could be a real game-changer coming soon. The NHL plans to test a player tracking system this season and, if successful, it could be implemented for the 2015-16 season, according to the Globe and Mail.
With such a system, it's possible such stats could help standardize what counts as a scoring chance, as well as more easily tracking how teams gain and exit the offensive and defensive zone. One prospective company, PowerScout Hockey, uses a three-camera system to track every player's and the puck's movement on the ice, with the computer picking up skating speed and distance skated, pass/shot and percentage, takeaways, shot attempts and a range of others, per the Dallas Morning News.
“This is kind of the holy grail,” PowerScout president Marc Appleby told the paper. “There's nothing left to measure. This I think will fundamentally change the way that teams will look at (hockey)."