The Rangers and the Analytics Debate

Vigneault wins his 500th (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Glass continues to be the focal point of the analytics debate for NYR fans (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Glass continues to be the focal point of the analytics debate for NYR fans (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Besides the mumps, a major storyline defining this NHL season has been the widespread use of advanced analytics and metrics. Stats such a Corsi, PDO, SAT and Fenwick are being looked at with great detail.

Advanced analytics have become so popular that the NHL has included these types of stats on their website and there are websites out there which focus solely on them. Teams have even begun forming special departments in their front office specifically dedicated to analytics. The use of advanced analytics has been the subject of great debate around the league, so let me add my thoughts.

Rangers currently rank #1 in the NHL but 19th in fancy stats CF% (stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

Rangers currently rank #1 in the NHL but 19th in fancy stats CF% (stats.hockeyanalysis.com)

To start things off, let’s look at how analytics relates to our New York Rangers. Let’s begin by stating the obvious, the Blueshirts are the best team in the NHL with 99 points. Now, using CorsiFor% the Rangers rank 19th! Yes, 6 teams currently out of the playoffs including lowly Carolina rate much higher on this scale.

Perhaps the poster boy for why Advanced Stats matter on the team has been Tanner Glass. No one single Blueshirt draws the ire of those who swear by these metrics more. Sure, he has yet to score a goal, has the same amount of points (3) as five NHL goaltenders and is a -14, but those are small in comparison to being a horrible possession player.

Rangers have been getting secondary scoring (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Rangers have been getting secondary scoring (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Not only does he have a terrible possession percentage, but he also lowers the possession percentage of those players who play on a line with him and has the least shot attempts per 60 minutes on the Rangers. Because of this, the pro-analytics fans have been fed up with AV putting him in the lineup on a nightly basis, when he has clearly demonstrated a lack of puck possession, which AV called him out publicly for, but unfortunately hasn’t changed things.

The most important argument for those who support the use of advanced analytics can be found in an article published this week by Jared Clinton of “The Hockey News.” He points out that there is a correlation between a high puck-possession percentage and winning when the weather gets warm, as the Kings and Blackhawks, the last two Stanley Cup Champions were at the top of the league in puck possession percentage.

On the flip side of this debate (this blog for the most part), one doesn’t have to look too far away to see why this advanced analytics hype is not all it’s cracked up to be. On Sunday, the Rangers destroyed the Anaheim Ducks, 7-2, getting goals from key contributors breaking out of slumps.

The Ducks outshot the Rangers 38-29 and shot attempts were 72-54 in favor of the Ducks. Did the Ducks deserve to win the game? No, but as AV put it last night, Talbot was just that much better than the Ducks goalies. Teams will have nights when they dominate the puck possession battle, but will still end up losing the game. Just look at what happened against Carolina, when the Rangers barely had the puck in the third period, yet they still won the game. Hockey is a game of opportunities, and luckily, the Rangers have made theirs count.

As for myself, I favor the use of analytics because it usually defines who plays deep into the Spring. Part of what made the Rangers so successful last season was their ability to dump the puck in, control possession, and make plays. Just look at the Dominic Moore’s goal in Game 6 vs. Montreal as an example of what good puck possession is. However, with that being said, great goaltending and timely goal-scoring will always be a major factor in how far a team advances come playoff time.

Feel free to give your two cents on the matter and debate this out. Would love to hear what you all think….. Let’s Go Rangers!!!

Follow me on twitter: @ekwestel