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October 11, 2013 | 9:03am ET
Statistical enhancements
 A number of teams are using different ways to track their own success, Patrick Kearns reports.

NEW YORK, NY -- While hockey's advance statistics movement is still in the infantile stage, two new websites to complement others emerged this season to provide hockey fans with a fresh perspective on the game and players they love. Extra Skater and Shift Chart give users a look into ancillary factors into play when it comes to coaching strategies and systems.

Look around, the amount of data and information out there is truly remarkable. It's also testament to the incredibly careful and hard work done by those who collect and generate the stats.

A large amount of pundits and "traditionalists" -- although that word can be infuriating because tradition sometimes correlates with being too lazy to work towards accepting change -- have expressed their doubts and concerns with advanced statistics, but they are forgetting one important thing. Advanced statistics fail where they don't claim to succeed and for some reason that bothers hockey people. Because there isn't a simple "be all end all" stat, often hockey minds are quick to dismiss. But a quick look around the hockey world shows that it's not just the media that are using these stats, but teams as well.

Chris Snow, who works for the Calgary Flames, operating under the official title of director of video and statistical analysis, is proof that NHL teams are beginning to incorporate traditional scouting techniques while trying to get an edge on their competition by employing newer techniques.

"Chris Snow is responsible for the complete and comprehensive planning, implementation and oversight of the club's video and statistical data mining programs including designing, developing and implementing a proprietary database of hockey information for use by the club," the team's website states.

Calgary isn't the only team that openly speaks about their use of advanced stats; other teams employ zone matching strategies and follow scoring chance stats.

Even a coach, seen as a traditionalist like John Tortorella, admitted that his team was tracking chances in a unique way for his players last year, without of course divulging much more than that because he is, after all, John Tortorella.

Now, with the launch of two new advanced statistics sites to complement already existing ones like Behind the Net and Time on Ice, it seems that in depth statistics are gaining more traction in the hockey community.

First, Shift Chart is an excellent visualization and infographic of who is on the ice in different moments, i.e.: after a goal, or after a penalty kill. It provides a closer look into how much strategy goes into line and player matching. It shows which players are relied on to try and tilt the ice after a goal, or settle things down after a long penalty kill. It's also interesting to see how long the shifts that some players get and how frequently they are put onto the ice.

Probably the coolest feature of the site happens when the user hits the play button and a colorful looking spreadsheet begins to dance. It shows, as it follows the timeline of the game, the players changing shifts.

The other site, Extra Skater provides real-time advanced stats while games are taking place. The three most discussed stats used to measure performance are corsi, fenwick and PDO.

Extra Skater provides a very helpful glossary for first time users who view the stats as daunting, which they certainly can be.

Corsi, the one maybe discussed most often, is described as "the number of shot attempts by a team or player. In other words, it's the sum of a team or player's goals, shots on net, shots that miss the net, and shots that are blocked. It's used as a proxy for puck possession: since we can't (yet) measure how long a player or team has possession of the puck, we use corsi as an approximation."

Puck possession is interesting because it's pretty darn important to have the puck if you want to score a goal. The reason the corsi relates to puck possession is because it's assumed that if you have the puck in the offensive zone a lot more than the opposing team, there is a good chance you are going to be directing the puck at the net more.

Of course there can be aberrations, like if a team is obsessively cycling the puck and looking for the perfect shot.

Fenwick is a similar stat to corsi. Extra Skater states: "Fenwick is the number of unblocked shot attempts by a team or player. It's the same as corsi, but excludes shots that are blocked. It's used because over many games it's a slightly better proxy for possession than corsi. It's not used exclusively instead of corsi mainly because over smaller sample sizes, the larger corsi number is more accurate in reflecting puck possession."

Finally, PDO is something often discussed by those interested in exploring advanced stats. It's a combination of shooting percentage and save percentage. Typically, over the course of a season it average out to 1,000. So if a player's PDO while on the ice is 1,135, there's a good chance they'll regress back to the mean of 1,000. Same goes for players under 1,000, there's a good chance they'll progress to the mean.

So if a team is operating at an above 1,000 level for the first half of the season and are a safely in a playoff spot, it would be less than surprising to see them falter a bit in the second half. If a team's PDO is right around 1,000, there's a good chance they are playing to their capable level.

That's just a small sample of what Extra Skater provides, there's plenty more information to dig through.

Remember, don't kill stats for not being something they never claimed they were. And without any further anthropomorphizing of stats, just check these sites out and enjoy all of the hard work that goes into them.

Patrick Kearns is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the New York Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.
 

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