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Do NHL Players Resent Analytics?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Newly signed Canadien Ben Chiarot was forced to defend himself this offseason, as some analysts in Montreal weren’t impressed by the acquisition. Enhanced analytics have exposed some of the limitations to Chiarot’s game. Some expressed their opinions and it didn’t sit well with the former Winnipeg Jet.

“A lot of those analytics guys sometimes I wonder if they played a game of hockey. There’s more to it than what the analytics show with a lot of players. It doesn’t always give you the full picture. That’s something new that’s kind of come up over the last couple of years is the whole analytics. And then you get all of these new hockey experts that come up when they get all of these numbers. That’s just one part of the game and one to evaluate a player.”-Ben Chiarot, Canadiens Defenseman, TSN Montreal

Colleague and friend of the site, Sheng Peng from Fear of the Fin, views the game differently than most. He’s heavily influenced by deep statistics that predict or highlight a player’s ability to create, or limit time and space. Peng never played the game but understands it well, sometimes that isn’t enough. He’s had a few confrontations with coaches and players when asking analytically focused questions. Defensive pushback can make it difficult to get the responses Peng would like.

“The challenge is figuring out which players are open to the subject. There are players who are completely resistant, players that need it framed the right way, and players who are open.”-Sheng Peng, Fear of the Fin

Former three-time Stanley Cup winner Aaron Ward is involved with the next generation of NHL analysis, advanced player tracking. Ward genuinely believes player tracking will accurately evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

“Active players get lost in what the analytics say about them. You’re trying to dissect certain circumstances and understand how they react in that situation. It’s based on tendencies. As the science evolves… you’ll find new ways to break down players that maybe a benefit or a relevance for players in that role.”-Aaron Ward, TSN 690 Montreal

As much as Ward sees future improvement with chip tracking, he understands why players are sensitive to negative statistics of any kind. It’s tough for a professional athlete to recognize their inabilities.

“I think what happens is a player will come out and get an idea of how they played. When the numbers don’t fit it, and they don’t match the way you play, they immediately dismiss it.”-Aaron Ward

Which goes back to the problematic situation reporters can have in the locker room. Do we ask questions without worrying about the reaction from a player or a coach? Or leave out statistics that may annoy them?

“For the players in the middle, the fact of the matter is they sometimes don’t want the information or the question coming from somebody like me, who never played. If it comes from another coach or a fellow player, that’s a different story. That’s certainly understandable.”-Sheng Peng

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the league regenerates and prospects become every day players, the attitude towards advanced stats should be much softer.

“But there’s no doubt that players are becoming more receptive. In some cases, like Nic Hague’s, they play their formative years in analytics-driven organizations. So they have a receptiveness to the topic from Day One. This will be the trend in the coming years.”-Sheng Peng

Like Peng mentioned, the Golden Knights use stat driven analysis, on top of other methods to scout talent. Vegas prospects should be accustomed being evaluated by real-time statistics via puck/player tracking. Next generation stats may tick off some players but in reality, it could help their agents in negotiating contracts. Possibly earning players more loot.

It’s clear the NHL and hockey fans want more progressive, interactive and accurate statistics. Which is something active players will have to deal with. Or they can continue to snap at Sheng for our entertainment.


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  1. Sclabuji

    When can we start to use advanced analytics on the front office. I wonder how GMGM would respond to media pointing out his tendencies with evidence.

  2. Dman

    Media guys who have never played hockey at any level do not understand the intangibles factor of the game, the grit factor.

    They don’t realize how much players value a teammate who blocks shots, plays physical, protects his teammates, is a pest, or a verbal instigator, or a difference maker, or a locker room catalyst or leader.

    All of that contributes to a successful team, and hockey is more of a team sport than others. You don’t need an allstar team to win, as much as you need an all-for-one team to win.

    a defensive dman needs a puck mover with him, and vice versa. and a goalscorer needs a setup man, etc

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