The NHL has myths. Every sport has them. Dumb assumptions of “logic” that are accepted as fact because… well yeah, you know, its like… true. Right? I mean… I’ve never researched it or anything, but it sounds true. It’s been that way for years… I was told it was true… That’s good enough!

Stop. It’s not true. Its bad. I’m re-educating you. I have taken it upon myself to make you a smarter hockey fan.

By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde

Forget these old haggard narratives. They’re lazy. And all it requires, is a bit of thinking.

Stupid Myth #1 – Fights = momentum

How do you judge a change in momentum? Honest question.

I’m not anti-fighting. I quite enjoy watching two dudes get mad pissed and spontaneously decide to fill each others face in. Call me a caveman. Whatever.

If Team A’s puncher wins, but Team B scores, then what? Did the fight fail? Did the loser “get the momentum” despite “losing”? What if after a guy wins then nothing happens? Like there is no scoring? What happened to the momentum? I have no idea.

The good guys at NHL numbers found that “winning” a fight leads to conceding the next goal 54% of the time.

Fighting is a thing, but don’t give it more credit than it really is.

Stupid Myth #2 – Big players are always better than small players

This is John Scott. He is quite possibly the worst player in the NHL, but he’s 6’8″ so he continues to get paid. He doesn’t do anything conducive to winning. In fact, winning teams keep releasing him and immediately win more when he’s gone.

The flowchart goes as follows.

Talented big player > Talented small player > Untalented big player > Untalented small player.

Yet, when you see the number of small decent players unemployed after every free agency or the number of high scoring small junior players not picked after every draft then you’re left scratching your head.

Why would a team draft a big guy who can hardly play junior hockey and not someone who’s proven to be at least a semi-successful amateur?

Why do teams continue to pay the Luke Gazdic’s, Tanner Glass’s, Shawn Thornton’s and John Scott’s of the world when competent players like Raphael Diaz and Andrei Loktionov could help fill the Lake Ontario size hole in your lineup?

Stupid Myth #3 – #fancystats are useless

I’m actually really happy that we had the “Summer of Analytics” in the NHL, where a lot of teams publicly embraced their usefulness. It was the only way that dinosaur writers would stop spewing crap for at least like, a few days.

It’s merely trend analysis, like one the most single most important predictors of success. They use it in baseball to great success. It’s used in the NBA to sweeping changes. I hear its used in “footy” too.

Hockey is like anything else. A series of decisions and actions. Now, if you can find data in those actions to help you make better decisions to lead to better actions, why wouldn’t you? You’d be dumb to ignore it. It’s just another evaluation tool to help make better decisions.

Anyone who just looks at a players/team possession numbers and goes “Good/bad” isn’t really doing it justice. People looked at the Leafs terrible possession numbers and went “hmm, maybe something is wrong in the system” and then did huge pieces picking apart the points in Carlyle’s system that hamper the Leaf’s ability to ever have the puck.

Same thing happened in Nashville and Edmonton where people saw that the faceoff numbers didn’t correlate properly with various possession and picked out parts of why and what those teams were doing that was ineffective.

Anaheim lost an absurd amount of offensive faceoffs compared to their offensive possession numbers, then people noticed a tactic where the wingers were doing things differently compared to other teams and would recover the puck exceptionally well. That stuff is the value.

Stupid Myth #4 – Fighters protect star players

Plugs are going to be plugs and play like plugs. I’ve seen lots of plugs take runs at stars that play on teams with goons. They don’t care.

The only way they won’t is if coaches and managers stop rewarding plugs for being plugs, which they are wont to do, or if the NHL took a hardline stance against it, which they are also wont to do for whatever reason.

Having the equivalency of a bouncer sitting on the bench playing 5 minutes a game isn’t going to deter anything. You’re not intimidating anyone. You’re not stopping anything besides the ability to have an effective fourth line.

Did Ben Eager or Luke Gazdic stop Zack Kassian from running wild on the Oilers? Did any of the meatheads that Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Buffalo pick up stop the Bruins players from pushing their team around? Did the toughies on Boston stop the meatheads on Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Buffalo from taking runs at the Bruins players?

Nope. In fact, the best teams don’t have “goons” and they do fine and no one really bothers their stars. Remember the last person to take a run at anyone on Chicago? What about Ovechkin? Crosby? Stamkos?

Being a “tough team” doesn’t come from one useless plug who gets punched in the face as often as he punches someone else. It comes from the entirety of a team. Devoting a player to “it” is useless.

John Scott is useless, contrary to San Jose’s belief. So is Colton Orr. They’re all useless.

Stupid Myth #5 – Plus/minus is a reflection of a players defensive play

  1. Jeff Schultz once had a +50 season. He isn’t a great defensive player. In fact, he’s quite bad.
  2. Patrice Bergeron, the gold standard for two-way centres, +38 last season. Ryan Kesler, regarded just below Bergeron’s level, was -15.
  3. Shea Weber, -2 in 2014.Paul Stastny was only +1. Both are regarded as excellent defensive players.
  4. Zdeno Chara had a worse +/- than Johnny Boychuk. Which player do you take?
  5. Dustin Penner was +25 last season, but he’s only a total +6 in his career. Did he magically learn defence last season?
  6. Christian Ehrhoff was one of the NHL’s +/- leaders when he was on one of the best teams in the NHL. Then he went to one of the worst teams and his rating plummeted. Did he forget defence?

The point I’m making is that it is all over the place. Good teams have players with good +/-. Bad teams have players with bad +/-. Average teams have players with average +/-.

Especially in a day and age of zone starts, line matching, systems play and emphasis on line butchering for situational play, I don’t see the value anymore.

There are plenty of better, though complicated, metrics for this. Things that can help eliminate statistical noise, and focus on actual things, like not having pucks shot at your net, the ability to control zone entries and exits, and the rate at which goals are scored against you, to name a few.

Stupid Myth #6 – “Clutch” is a real thing
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I’m going to refer to a Twitter conversation I had with a very smart man named Hoover (@CH00ver):

  • Hoover: People arguing with that “clutch” is a real thing are cute.
  • Adam: people that argue pat Kane is clutch because he scores well in games 5 to 7. No mention he is invisible games 1-4. Imagine how many more series Chicago could win if he was “clutch” earlier
  • H: Jeter has lots of clutch hits. Also been a Yankee forever and has played a million more important games than anyone.
  • A: know who isn’t clutch? Players on bad teams. Good teams have all clutch players.
  • H: it’s all ridiculous. Either you scored a big goal because of chance or you do it often because you’re actually a good player.
  • A: know who isn’t clutch? That guy that scores on a regular basis. The clutch guys only score when its a big deal!
  • H: doesn’t score? is a choker and/or doesn’t care. [Unless he breaks his drought. Then Clutch]
  • A: “yeah, I guess he had 7 points in a 5 game defeat, but they weren’t clutch points. Winners score points better”
  • A: “I’d rather have a guy that can get me 4-5 game winning goals than a guy that scores 20. You need GWG’s to win!”
  • H: Bolland is garbage and is making money off of one goal that happened to be important. Right place, right time.
  • H: nobody also never mentions that his ass was stapled to the bench most of the third until that shift. Circumstances.
  • A: and before that he rode the reputation he earned shutting down* the Sedins. *to only a ~PPG each series vs Chicago but he was punchy
  • A: but I guess clutch guys don’t try until it counts.

A guy can have a “clutch” moment, but don’t call it more than chance because that is what it really is.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @adam_pyde.
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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. […] NHL regular season is set to kick off.  Teams are about to officially debut their shiny new toys […]

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  2. […] The NHL regular season is set to kick off.  Teams are about to officially debut their shiny new toys fresh off newly signed contracts. They’ve warmed up in pre-season and are set to light the world on fire. But in some cases, they’re more likely to be lighting the teams money on fire. Last year gave us David Clarkson, Vincent Lecavalier, Alexander Semin, and Sergei Gonchar among others as players to bust in year one of their shiny new contract. […]

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About CanadianAdam

Professional fake wrestler. Fake professional hockey player. Pushing the pull doors since 1990. Making obscure references since 2008. Check out my personal blog for movie stuff

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Adam Pyde, Home, Ice Hockey, Talking Baws

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