Why Analytics Matter

photo by mattbuck via Wikimedia Commons

The other day, while helping a friend at work prepare for a pool, I directed him to the multitude of hockey analytic sites on the web. After emailing him the information I went over to his desk in an attempt explain which stats he should focus on and which were essentially noise. As I was explaining this to him the guy across from him piped up "Those fancy stats are crap! The only number I need is 149!".

At first I was confused but quickly realized that the 149 was a reference to the NHL Centre Ice package. He went on to tell me that gut instinct and observation was all someone needs because hockey isn't really suited for analytics like baseball is.

I argued my point about analytics being used to compliment the game, that your eyes can deceive you and your gut instinct cannot be trusted. It didn't matter how much data or analysis I presented to backup my point, I could not convince him that his viewpoint was flawed. Then I stumbled across this video.

Most people have seen the original video and that was what I hoping for in this case. He was looking for the gorilla and told me right away. What he didn't pick up on were the other anomalies in this particular video.

I pointed this out to him and emphasized that because he knew that the gorilla was going to appear he was looking for it. I also pointed out that his eyes couldn't be trusted to catch the other anomalies that were right in front of his face. Finally I asked him to watch the video again to see if he could catch those anomalies now that he had the data. Sure enough he did and every time he watched the video he couldn't help but pick up on the anomalies. Because he had the information he couldn't help but see the anomalies every single time.

This is what analytics does for hockey. These analytics helps build a more detailed picture to help understand an out come. It builds on our understanding of the game and helps make light of the "hidden" pieces that are right under our noses.

So the next time you find yourself trying to argue analytics in hockey give this one a try as well. You can never have enough ammunition in your arsenal.

The Copper & Blue is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Edmonton Oilers and hockey in general. These posts do not necessarily represent the views of the staff of The Copper & Blue.

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