clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Guest Editorial: Talking About Advanced Hockey Stats Could Cost Me My Job

New, comments

One columnist rejects the "fad" of advanced stats in favor of remaining employed.

Heart + Grit = Wins. That's the only math you need.
Heart + Grit = Wins. That's the only math you need.

(Ed. note: The following article was originally written by George Owens, a Pittsburgh-area TV sports anchor and former columnist for the Pittsburgh Bulletin. It is posted here with the author's permission. Lighthouse Hockey previously posted an article by Owens entitled: "Bryan Trottier: A Champion and a Career Penguin.")

*  *  *

Much has been made over the last few years of the so-called "advanced stats" that are taking over hockey. These new statistics - the two most common being CORSI and FENWICK - are supposed to replace traditional stats like goals, assists and points for skaters. NHL teams have even started hiring alleged "stats gurus" from the unemployed, unwashed hockey blogging community and are putting them in charge of entire analytics departments.

Well my corner of the hockey world has no use for these stats, mainly because talking about them could cost me my job.

In 30 years of covering pro hockey, I've learned that stats alone don't tell the whole story. The best ways to truly measure a player are heart, grit and toughness. Give me a grinder that scores and hits and fights any day of the week.

No, seriously. Give me one. Because I need to talk only about his goals, hits and fights or else I'll lose my job.

If I talked about CORSI and FENWICK instead of who's out of shape and who's a choker, I would lose my job.

This "stats revolution" takes the beauty out of hockey and reduces games to a series of spreadsheets and formulas. Fans don't fill arenas to watch numbers skate around the ice. If they did, I would need to learn a whole new way of talking about hockey and I am not prepared to do that. I could lose my job.

The "new" metrics aren't even that new. Teams have been using them for years. The only reason I didn't report on them earlier was because no one asked. And because if I talked about CORSI and FENWICK instead of who's out of shape and who's a worthless choker with no heart, I would lose my job.

Nowadays, there are too many nerds watching the stats and not enough normal folks watching the games. Regular fans don't want to hear any of this numbers claptrap. They want to know which players are cancers in the locker room and which ones you need to win a championship. That's my job. Please don't take it from me.

By boiling everything down to cold, hard numbers, these pencil-neck bookworm poindexters forget about what really separates average players from extraordinary ones - things like intangibles, desire and who my friends are. I will lose my friends and my job if I talk about advanced stats all the time. Probably lose my wife, too.

I've seen Gretzky be great and Mario be Super and Gilmour kill people. I didn't need any cockamamie stats to tell me they were among the best ever. All I needed were my eyes. This is the only job in the world that I'm qualified for. I would be nothing without it.

Advanced stats are just another passing fad, like Cooperalls or women's liberation. Once the fascination is over, we'll all go back to telling stories about clutch heroes and gutless losers, guys who give me good quotes and guys who don't. I hope it happens soon because if not, I'll be out on my ass.

The great Conn Smythe once said, "If you can't lick 'em in the alley, you can't beat 'em on the ice." Do they have advanced stats for alley lickings, too? Holy shit, I hope not or else I'm completely fucked.

___

George Owens is a nationally recognized sports columnist known for drop-kicking his jacket on his way through the door.