After the NHL press conference unveiling their new "Enhanced Stats," I asked Chris Foster, NHL director of digital business development, and Gary Bettman about the past, present, and future of #FancyStats research.
Foster elaborated on how the NHL was inspired by past and current statistical research, and about the future of NHL.com's "Enhanced Stats."
Jewels from the Crown: How much inspiration did you guys draw from sites such as War on Ice and Hockey Analysis?
Chris Foster: A huge amount. They really are the pioneers. They started this conversation. They are the ones, who—listen, any time anybody's talking about hockey, that's a good thing. They brought a whole new analysis, a whole new understanding to the game, and we're tremendously influenced by what they were doing. And we're not trying to replace them by any means. All we're trying to do is...we know that there's stats out there now. We just want to do the same calculations and make sure they're accurate and validate them and just put them as part of the mix. But we can live in the same universe. We're not trying to take it over. We hope that we can get to stats that are easy to use and have a good experience. That's part of the conversation.
JftC: Currently, are there NHL-only, NHL-exclusive stats on the "enhanced" stats pages of NHL.com?
Foster: I've got to double check. I'm not sure. There's zone starts, I think those are completely brand-new. And the level of depth that we're doing with primary and secondary assists. I don't think anybody's going to have that much detail. That first batch—shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts--there's a lot of that. It's that second batch of stats—primary assists and penalties drawn over time—those are the ones that will be more unique to the site. They may be out there but not to the level of depth that will be on NHL.com.
We're hoping fans love and consume it and also go on other sites and also have those other conversations.
It's funny, working on this project going on a few months. [I tell people I'm working on] advanced stats, Corsi and Fenwick. People ask, "What's Corsi?" "It's shots on goal plus missed shots and blocked shots." "That's what Corsi is?!" And I'm like, "Yeah." And once you say that, they're like, "Oh, I get it...I get it now." So that's what we're hoping for. [Corsi and Fenwick] are terms, they have character and history to them. We're not devaluing that.
JftC: In the future, what are some directions in enhanced stats that NHL.com will pursue?
Foster: We're really going to dive into game situations. Can we derive a stat that really looks at when the game is tied and the game is on the line? Really different situational limits. Because in hockey, there's clutch factor. There's clutch times. Can we derive something there? Can we analyze and mine all the data from all the situations we know and come up with something? We just started this process. I think another thing is looking at stats that aren't there, is there a better way to look at players head to head, where it's really their performances head to head, sort of relative performance versus relative performance. So we take down how their team is doing and influenced. Is there a way we can isolate those players and focus on that? Those are the areas we're looking at, is isolating relative performance and situational and see what comes. Basically, we're going to mine the data...[have] data scientists really look at those models and see, Is there any validity to what we're doing?
JftC: How much did sites [such as War on Ice] influence the NHL toward creating their own "enhanced" stats pages?
Gary Bettman: Well, since all stats originate by virtue of our playing our game, we wanted to be as broad and as encompassing and as accurate as possible, giving everybody a common database.
For what it's worth, NHL.com did release a solid #EnhancedStats primer and history today!