The next breakthrough in hockey stats is right around the corner. A small but dedicated group of online writers have committed to tracking scoring chances by team for the entire NHL season. Even though it's certain that Roger Neilson was counting scoring chances thirty years ago, the thinking minds and stats crunchers are just now unlocking the secrets contained in the scoring chances charts. In 2009-2010, Dennis King tracked the Edmonton Oilers through their long and painful voyage to meet Taylor Hall. Dennis plies his trade at mc79hockey, home of scoring chance tracking for two seasons running. Scott and I chose to continue the project into the playoffs as we tracked chances for the Avalanche, Blackhawks, Canucks, Flyers, Kings, Red Wings, and Sharks.
For those who'd like a definition: a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. And, of course, a big thanks to Vic Ferrari for making the whole damn thing possible with his awesome scripts and Dennis King for counting chances over most of the 2009-10 season, an extra-tedious task considering the state of the Oilers over that time.
Because it was such tedious work, Dennis missed 13 games, some of them around New Year's and most of them towards the very end of the season. I now believe that Dennis has some sort of precognitive abilities, as he picked some "great" games to miss, at least from an Oiler fan's point of view. At the end of the season I had grand plans to go back and record the scoring chances for those games using NHL Gamecenter, however, after running through the box scores from those games, I decided against it.
In those 13 games, the Oilers went 4-9, scoring 33 goals and surrendering 50. The goals for / goals against ratio of .66 during this "stretch" of games was much worse than their season GF/GA ratio of .753, and in fact, the ratio in the other 69 games climbs to .773. The details of those 13 games are below:
|39||28 Dec '09||CGY @ EDM||20581||1-4||L|
|40||30 Dec '09||TOR @ EDM||20596||3-1||W|
|41||31 Dec '09||EDM @ CGY||20608||1-3||L|
|42||02 Jan '10||EDM @ SJS||20622||1-4||L|
|43||05 Jan '10||PHX @ EDM||20636||4-5||L|
|56||04 Feb '10||EDM @ MIN||20848||2-4||L|
|61||14 Feb '10||ANA @ EDM||20921||3-7||L|
|66||09 Mar '10||OTT @ EDM||20983||1-4||L|
|78||03 Apr '10||EDM @ PHX||21173||2-3||SOL|
|79||05 Apr '10||MIN @ EDM||21181||4-1||W|
|80||07 Apr '10||COL @ EDM||21196||5-4||W|
|81||10 Apr '10||EDM @ LAK||21213||4-3||SOW|
|82||11 Apr '10||EDM @ ANA||21230||2-7||L|
Rather than record the chances for those 13 games, I went through the box scores and eliminated the even strength goals for on ice and even strength goals against on ice from each player, arriving at their total ESGF and ESGA for the 69 games recorded to use for comparison.
The table below contains a number of new abbreviations, even for our more stat-oriented readers. The first five stats all deal with raw scoring chance numbers. TSC = Total Scoring Chances; TSCA = Total Scoring Chances Against. Desjardins tends to use rates / 60 when displaying any stat over minutes played, but I've decided to display scoring chances in chances / 15 minutes of on ice even strength time because I feel it allows the reader to see what a player would average per game if given first line even strength minutes. That means that CF/15 = Chances For per 15 minutes of on ice even strength time; CA/15 = Chances Against per 15 minutes of on ice even strength time. The fifth stat is DIFF/15, or Scoring Chance Differential per 15 minutes of on ice even strength time.
The next three columns are traditional even strength goals for and even strength goals against stats, totaling the goals scored for and against during the 69 games measured in 2009-2010.
The last four columns are more for a meta-analysis of the relationship between chances and goals scored. CF/GF is simply Chances For / Goals For, and CA/GA is Chances Against / Goals Against. The relationship shows how many chances per goal were recorded while on ice. The final two columns show that relationship by percentage. %CONF is the percentage of chances converted for; %CONA is the percentage of chances converted against.
All of the above stats were made up by me throughout the year as I compiled Dennis' game-by-game reports, so if you have suggestions for improving them, or ideas for additional stats you think would be meaningful, let me know.
This table is sortable by column -- simply click on the desired column header cell.
- As a unit, the Oilers had the boots put to them early and often. Dustin Penner and Robert Nilsson were the only two full-season forwards in the black in DIFF/15, though Sam Gagner was very close. Ethan Moreau was just blown away in the chances department and was twice as bad as Patrick O'Sullivan in DIFF/15. Ryan Stone's 27 games were very strong, and it's not as if he was playing the dregs. It's numbers like DIFF/15 that have people worried that Steve Tambellini let Curtis Glencross Part II get away.
- Not only did Penner lead the team in DIFF/15, he led the team in TSC with 360, 93 more than second place Sam Gagner. Penner was the only regular above 5 CF/15; there were eight Oilers that surrendered more than 5 CA/15.
- Looking at ES +/- is a bit confusing when considered in context with the chances data. Penner was obviously the best forward on the team once again, but Nilsson is on the right side of the ledger in chances, yet was -14, fourth-worst on the team.
- CA/GA shows a bit more of the Nilsson story - he was scored on once every 5.25 chances, the second worst on the team. Nilsson's even strength save percentage was bad at .894, but not nearly as bad as others on the team, so was it just his "Matador Defense" that was causing the problems?
- On the flip side, Dustin Penner's conversion rate wasn't anything special, though his personal shooting percentage was above normal.
- Shawn Horcoff and Patrick O'Sullivan's conversion rates were awful. They each needed ten scoring chances per goal, far and away the worst on the team. O'Sullivan shooting half of his career average and a lengthy stint with Jean-Francois Jacques will do that to you.
- The lowest CA/15 belonged to Zack Stortini at 4.280 (though Ryan Stone was lower in limited minutes) and not only that, Stortini held his opponents to the worst conversion rate -- his opponents needed 10 chances to score on him, almost double that of Jacques and Nilsson.
- Andrew Cogliano looks pretty good by these numbers, especially considering that he's well clear of both of his most common linemates in CF/15 and CA/15.
Next up - the defensive chances.