Zone exit tracking project

Most readers here may be familiar with the Zone entry project. For those not, check out this article by Eric T from NHL numbers. Bascially, a group of bloggers for the past few years have taken it upon themselves to track Neutral zone performance for several teams.

The results of such work has been incredilble, and we are learning that the Neutral zone is probably the most important zone in hockey (for everyone but the goalie of course).

And while there is still much work to be done with continued tracking of zone entries (if you are interested in helping track zone entries, shoot me an email at, tweet me at @pcunneen19, or tweet Eric at @BSH_EricT (his email is also in his twitter bio) ), a few of us have decided to take a closer look at the defensive zone.

Specifically, we would like to focus on Zone exits. Zone exits are anytime a defending team is able to clear the puck out of their defensive zone.

Zone exits are undoubtedly a very important aspect of hockey, and understanding them better may help lead us to better understand defensive performance.

So why should you care

For one thing, you will be changing our understanding of hockey. The zone entry project has helped revolutionize our understanding how teams dominate play and what can be the difference between winning and losing. We have that same opportunity with tracking zone exits.

This is also an opportunity for you to learn some amazing things about your favorite team. Learn who moves the puck more between a pair of D-men, which defensemen are turnover machines, or which D-men are a detriment when it comes to moving the puck with possession out of the D-zone.

All these questions can be answered by tracking zone exits.

So how does one go about tracking zone exits

It's not too complicated. All you have to do is watch a game and record when a team sends the puck out of their defensive zone, noting the time, the player, the exit type, whether the play was pressured by the opposition, and the strength (5v5, 5v4, 4v5, etc). For exit type, all you have to do is write down a one letter or two letter code depending on how the puck was advanced across the defending blue line (C=carry, P=pass, Ch=chip, etc).

Below is an example of the first minute of the Rangers vs Flyers game this past season that I recorded.

Period Time Exit type Player Pressure? Strength
1 19:55 P 8 YES 5V5
1 19:45 C 8 YES 5V5
1 19:27 CH OPP YES 5V5
1 19:15 I OPP YES 5V5
1 19:05 P OPP YES 5V5

That's all there is too it. Just like with the zone entry project, we have decided to not record the opponents numbers (in order to save time, since most fans can't recognize players from other teams very easily). There are a few other things we excluded/included, and if you are interested in joining the zone entry project I can fill you in on those things.

So what can we do with this info. Well for one, we can evaluate players based on how often they clear the defensive zone and how often they clear the zone with possession. We can also evaluate teams. Once we get enough data from enough teams, we can determine how often "good teams" are able to exit the defensive zone with possession.

We can also link up zone exit data with zone entry data and figure out how often certain types of exits generate zone entries with possession/without possession.

There are plenty of other things we can determine with this data along with zone entry data. That's why I want to remind everyone that there are still plenty of teams that require zone entry tracking.

So if you have a NHL game center account (relatively cheap) or a NHL Vault and want to learn a bunch about your favorite team, this summer or next season, and/or want to make an impact on our understanding of hockey, shoot me an email at or tweet me @pcunneen19 to get all the information on either zone entry tracking or zone exit tracking. I will further explain the process of zone entry/exit tracking and what you need to do.

Note: I will update this post as I (hopefully) get volunteers for tracking zone exits/zone entries. If your team already has people tracking zone entries or zone exits, don't be afraid to volunteer to track for another team. What better way to learn about your arch rival than to track zone exits or zone entries.

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