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A Line Case Study

John mentioned it in his recap last night, and if you listened to the podcast we did a fairly long segment on how we thought Jeremy Colliton fucked up the lines over the stretch of doom that erased the Hawks playoff hopes. It’s always a little silly to just look at a segment of games, because anything can happen for a week or two. And different opponents provide different challenges. In this stretch, for instance, the Coyotes and Canucks trapped the Hawks hard, so it would be difficult for anyone to produce a large amount of shots and chances against that. Contrast that with the high-flying Sharks and the utterly confused Martin Jones, and you have a very different game. Still, in this section of the schedule the Hawks have played the Avs and Flyers as well, who are at best middling defensive teams.

So what I wanted to do was illustrate the changes in lines over the end of the last winning streak, the slog of dumbassery that was the Hawks after that, and then last night in San Jose and the effects. I have to apologize at the top, as I haven’t been able to find a way to paste the data right in here without it looking like garbage or spilling over the entire page. so it’s going to have to be a link. If anyone has a suggestion on how to better do this, feel free to email me or hit me up on Twitter and I’ll come and make the changes. One last caveat, this also includes the win in Montreal where the Hawks got the win but we’re pretty much pummeled. So this goes from Toronto to last night in San Jose:

Games Lines Study

So you’ll notice that first game in Toronto, the Hawks had two lines that produced 10 shots on goal or more at evens, one line that got over 10 scoring chances and a further two that got over six. Again, it’s the Leafs who play very fast and open and though they eventually brought the world down around the Hawks’ ears, they will give you chances. The next game in Montreal the Hawks only had one line get anywhere close, which was the top of Sikura-Toews-Saad. But still, it had over 10 scoring chances which is something of a benchmark as you’ll see.

The next game is where Beto O’Colliton got cute, and you’ll see that no line produced even five scoring chances. Again, the Canucks set out to do this and keep things tight, but to have everyone’s production cut in half from the previous is a little jarring. And that trend continues…

Against the Flyers, no line cracked 10 scoring chances or shots or anywhere close. Same story in Denver, and the Avs are not setting out to make the game this way. Only in the return at the United Center did the top line of Top Cat-Toews-Kane crack those numbers, and after that there was no line to even create three scoring chances. We have a return to the flaccid against Arizona, where the Hawks essentially did nothing. To repeat, this was Arizona’s plan and the Hawks don’t have the talent to break through, but you can see the discrepancy.

To last night, the Hawks had a return of one line managing more than 10 scoring chances, another one with almost five, and neither of them had Patrick Kane on them. Things got a little goofy with Perlini’s benching, so it might have worked out differently.

Still, I’m all for the Hawks getting 15+ chances from two lines that don’t have Kane on them, because he’s going to find a way to produce even with limited chances and energy levels.

We’ll see how the Hawks finish the season, with what lines and with what interest level from their opponents. Let’s circle back at the end. This isn’t definitive, but you can see some trend lines.

-There was another tidbit on The Athletic today by Craig Custance about the introduction of player tracking. He had a quote from Stan Bowman, which pretty much sums up the Hawks right now:

“I want to see what it is first,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. “I’m not anticipating hiring a bunch of people. I think you’ve got to figure it out. It’ll be a process of learning – ‘How is this going to help us? What am I going to do with it?’ Until it comes out, I think for me, it’s premature to be jumping in.”

Now, earlier in the piece Custance mentions that the Leafs, Rangers. Lightning, Hurricanes, and Devils have already or are in the process of hiring new staff just to deal with this. They won’t be alone.

Quite simply, if you’re taking a “wait-and-see” approach, you’re already behind. Secondly, what would be the harm, other than a few yearly salaries that probably pale in comparison to the cost of the shiny new scoreboard the Hawks are so eager to boast about, of hiring people now to be ready for this? Essentially, on one day you’ll get Bowman and the Hawks paying lip-service to them using metrics and new analytics, and then you get shit like this where they’re pretty much admitting they don’t care and never will.

Especially as this kind of thing is going to take years to amass enough data to figure out what to do with it. If you sit out a year or two, that’s probably more years you’re behind. Why wouldn’t you get started? Player tracking is already making serious inroads in the NBA and European soccer, as the article notes. It’s coming to the NHL, so why would you be so dismissive?

Don’t worry, in three years or so when this is an accepted method, Stan Bowman (who will still be in the job) will come out and say the Hawks have their own system and are on the forefront of it. It’s their way.

 

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