NHL to revamp statistics section on website

NHL website will be including advanced statistical analysis to evaluate players beyond traditional categories

Slowly but surely the NHL has entered its own "Moneyball" era, with most teams employing experts in advanced statistical analysis to evaluate players beyond the traditional categories of goals, assists and plus/minus.

The league's website, nhl.com, soon will acknowledge the popularity of Corsi and Fenwick ratings — metrics that measure puck possession — by including them and other stats in a revamped section of the site.

The first part of the project will be unveiled Feb. 20, in connection with the Stadium Series game between the Kings and Sharks on Feb. 21 at Santa Clara. The league will announce specifics about the changes and further enhancements due in April.

"Our stats section is pretty much 8 years old, so the look and feel is outdated," said Chris Foster, the NHL's director of digital business development. "This is a nice overhaul. I think it's going to bring a lot of value to our fans."

The site will offer variations on Corsi (total shot attempts) and Fenwick (total unblocked shots) based on time on ice, whether a player's team is even, has a large lead or is close, and other criteria.

"Really, it's our traditional stats with new calculations," Foster said. "These are stats that have been popular on other sites and in the hockey analytics community. This is the first time we're bringing them in-house and they're going to be based on real-time data, so this is the authentic data we're using for these stats."

Among the new features will be an interactive leaderboard, milestone tracker, who's been hot, and who's trending. Other intriguing information will include which players draw the most penalties and who has the most primary or secondary assists on goals.

Some stats will remain subjective because they're recorded by people who have different definitions of shots, hits or faceoff wins. Player tracking, which would generate precise data in many areas, was experimented with during All-Star weekend. Chips were embedded in the puck and players' uniforms, providing information such as how fast the rubber and the humans moved. However, the NHL Players' Assn. has concerns about how player tracking might be used by clubs, and the two sides haven't agreed on its possible deployment. That's a little way off.

But increased availability of advanced stats and an expansion of the NHL's online historic data are imminent, benefiting fans who live and die with analytics and those who merely dabble in it.

"We're not saying one stat is better than the other, or, 'This stat is the answer to how to analyze hockey,' " Foster said. "We want all the tools out there and we want to make sure they're authentic."

Road to Stadium Series

The teams have changed, but Ross Greenburg has found one constant in his years of producing NHL-related documentaries.

"Of all the athletes I've ever covered in any sport, NHL players for the most part are very down to earth. They're fun-loving, they play real hard and they work very hard," said Greenburg, producer of EPIX's "Road to the Stadium Series," a four-episode series that follows the Kings and Sharks up to and after their outdoor game at Levi's Stadium.

"There's just something about them. They have a grit and a toughness but they also have a real soft side, and I don't think people appreciate enough how demanding physically and mentally this sport is."

Conveying those qualities to devoted and casual fans is the aim of the series. The second episode will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. Pacific on EPIX and will be available through nhl.com and the Kings' and Sharks' websites.

Crews are enjoying extensive access to players and coaches in order to take viewers behind the scenes, four-letter words and all. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter dropped many expletives in the first episode — and Greenburg said it was the G-rated version.

"To clean it up completely would not really give the viewer that inside look of reality," Greenburg said. "But we also don't want to be gratuitous with it. I always draw the analogy that we don't want to be that comic that just goes for the dirty joke to get a laugh."

Episode 2 will include footage of the Kings' visit to the White House, where President Obama congratulated them on their Stanley Cup triumph.

"I see the role of these shows much the way NFL Films used their department to create this kind of programming from the '60s on, trying to prop up the NFL as we know it today, create the mythology," Greenburg said.

"You're seeing the beginnings of this. … I think you'll see an explosion of this kind of programming in the sport to take it to the next level in terms of its fan appreciation because this really grabs people. People love this. They love getting the inside story, and it's our job to tell it."

Slap shots

Commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to attend a news conference Tuesday in Las Vegas, coinciding with the launch of a season-ticket deposit drive for a proposed team there. Bettman gave his blessing to a group led by Bill Foley and the Maloof brothers to gauge the market. Deposits range from $150 to $900. Details are at http://www.vegaswantshockey.com.... RIP Claude Ruel, the fiery coach and dedicated teacher who led the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1969. He died Monday at 76… Nice move Monday by the Sharks to acquire goalie Evgeni Nabokov from Tampa Bay so he can retire as a Shark. That announcement will come Wednesday.


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