Hockey, to me, has always been the best sport - the best to play and best to watch live. You get a level of speed and excitement that rewards my soccer instincts with extra adrenaline. The concept of hockey should be straight-forward enough for soccer players, but those extra layers of speed allow the years of practice and repetition to melt off, leaving only that still raw, instinctual love of game day (I haven’t played in years, but I imagine this is why I loved playing so much).
This is the foundation I’m coming from as I press start on my first post, this side of the Vox wall for SLGT. I’d like to take some time and paint my approach to statistics in a new sport, and the writing style that will color it.
First, my goal is to determine core characteristics of the Blues organization over the years. When I approach an aspect of the present team at some undetermined point in the future, I will be trying to mentally optimize my analysis with those base characteristics. If I’m critiquing an element of the team, my hope is to also recommend a path to improvement, hopefully within the context of the organization as opposed to necessitating a laboratory environment, if that makes sense.
To frame what I mean here: I’m not going to look at the St. Louis Blues and say “you know what, you should really be the Pittsburgh Penguins.” That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in finding wrinkles or characteristics other teams employ that might integrate nicely with what we have.
I’m hypothesizing that there’s a core of what the team, organization and fanbase “is” and that core has to be properly suited to wield various strategies, capabilities or stylistic weapons. Before taking an advanced approach to contemporary style, having a core that can handle that approach better than the competition requires having an organization and fan support capably in favor of the approach.
In the future, I plan to take a historical look at a variety of Blues teams to identify what type of core and stylistic complements might continue the organizational success we’ve seen in recent years, while having a chance to strike nostalgic chords with generations of fans.
Ok, now that we’ve moved past the abstract fluffery, let’s move on to the real-talk.
Our journey to building an identity begins at hockey-reference.com. On first descent, I was mostly interested in the current team, diving into a morass of numbers with no compass or map and making wild claims as their meaning. Alas, such a romantic meeting was not to be as Hockey Reference had different designs for me. I landed on some data dump of team stats, a look at the history books.
We’re going to use the Original Six OGs as the foundation for our analysis of the Blues’ soul. There were, in fact, an original two: Montreal and Toronto started flipping pucks back and forth in 1917. Eventually Boston got infected with the fever, becoming the American liaison to posting up pucks in 1924.
Finally, things get Original in 1926 with the introduction of the high life society of New York City, Chicago, and Detroit. We proceed from that to the wonderful expanded world of hockey next. The year is 1967.
What do the Blues have to show us?
Since 1967, the Blues have 1961 wins against 1661 losses for a points percentage of 53.5% and a total 4527 points. For about 55 years, the Blues have been significantly above average at the game of hockey.
The only team with more wins than the Blue Note from our second batch of teams are the Philadelphia Flyers with a lead of 135 wins. If we beat them by 10 games a year, it’ll take over a decade to eclipse that franchise. Sniffing our back-end are the Pittsburgh Penguins, right up in there, 24 wins behind.
I’m living and dying on this “wins” hill, all right? But I’m gonna sneak a peak at some other stuff while I’m up here. To get a feel for how good the Blues have been over their almost 55 years of play, consider the Chit show five hours north of us has a point percentage of only 50.3%. Over their almost 100 years of having a hockey team, they are just about exactly dead-average.
As I’ve said, I’m looking for the core characteristics that make up the Blues tradition and the feeling the fan-base will have gleaned from it. So when I consider what it presently looks like, I’m trying to find a quality of product target that’s something we think that will work, aimed through what’s in our past instead of at some other team’s statistically ideal present. The one thing that jumps off the page is the lack of regular season losing. What the Blues would seem to most definitely have is a long-standing, durable core of winning games. Stubborn.
In the next paragraphs of my notes we beat the comparison horse a bit more by progressing into the Original 6, Stl::Chicago::Boston:Detroit (‘67::OG6). If you want me to copy and paste that stuff, jump in the comments.
So the first core element that I’ve identified is stubborn winning.
What can you expect from my future columns?
I intend to get into puck possession statistics, quality of chances and any other publicly available metrics in order to get a more specific handle on the type of things we’re doing out there. From where I’m sitting right now, I do see that as distortion. My plan is to use older statistics to get a feel for the underlying beast so I can more specifically use the current run of advanced statistics more specifically.
As an example of what I mean: aggregate possession stats aren’t initially going to have insight into what that possession means. Was a team playing keep away with a big lead against a broken opponent? Was a team not wanting to touch the puck because they didn’t want to get clobbered, but won anyways because they had highly skilled scorers who took their shots?
My hope is that by approaching the bulk stats from a historical perspective, the change in style of stats used will provide us with interesting insight into how to use the newer stats. Historical analysis to identify roster and league dynamics with known results, and advanced stats to dissect on perhaps a period by period basis how things are working now.
First up will be a retrospective analysis of the 1999-00 Blues. By SRS or Simple Rating System, they are clearly the most dominant team in franchise history. They held the franchise win record for a decade and a half, a point percentage of 69.5% and an SRS of 1.08. That is the only SRS over 1 in franchise history.
This is a great starting point to start from, everything in the extreme. See ya next week.