The Most Meaningless Stats in Hockey (and Sports)

Statistics in sports are a huge deal. They give us information on key metrics when assessing a player's worth, value, production, etc. They basically serve as averages that help compare a certain player against the rest of the league or specifically another player.

But there is a stat category that gives us the red ass.  It's a stat that journalists and broadcast crews go to when they need something to feed their audience, and it's meaningless.

And that stat is Player X's performance against Franchise Y throughout Player X's career.  On Sunday, Dave LOLinari decided to take a look at the upcoming week of games for the Pens.  In a display of sheer laziness, he decided to throw these meaningless stats out to appease his editors:

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Sidney Crosby is a good hockey player.  He has proven throughout his career that he will put points on the board regardless of who the opponent is. But why has Crosby scored more points against the Islanders than any other team?  There must be a good reason.  Actually, there's two reasons:  Crosby plays the Islanders nearly as much or more than any other opponent, and the Islanders have been mud every season of Crosby's career.  Crosby has played 36 games against the Islanders.  He has played against only the Rangers and Flyers more, 41 and 40 games respectively, and has played the Devils 36 times.

Crosby's points/game rate vs. Islanders: 1.83ppg.
Crosby's points/game rate vs. Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, and Devils: 1.52ppg.
Crosby's career points/game rate: 1.4ppg.
 
Conclusion: Crosby averages more points per game against opponents and goalies that he sees more often.  In a further subset, Crosby performs even better when a divisional opponent is mud.  GASP.  The math will undoubtedly show he averages somewhere around 1.28 points per game vs. non-divisional opponents.  Crosby's career point total against the Islanders means nothing to us.

 

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Nine shutouts?!  Brodeur must have the Pens' number, right? Nope, he has the entire NHL's number.  Here are his career splits.

Brodeur's career shutout rate: 120 shutouts in 1,180 GS. 10.1%.
Brodeur's career shutout rate vs. Penguins: 9 in 78 GS. 11.5%.
Brodeur's career shutout rate vs. divisional opponents: 44 in 382 GS. 11.5%.

Conclusion:  We're seeing the same pattern here.  His shutout rate is higher against divisional opponents.  In looking at the Pens' "week ahead," why are we reading about a stat that includes a shutout Brodeur recorded 15 years ago?  So stupid.

P.S. — Brodeur's 10th shutout will actually tie his own record, as well, which he holds against the Rangers and Flyers.

 

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This is also part of Molinari's "week ahead." Four out of six seasons, you say?  It sounds like it doesn't happen almost as much as it does happen, which means it's not worth mentioning unless you're phoning in a column.  Notice a pattern in Molinari's "look at the week ahead"?  Pretty lazy.

 

So, what do we want to see? 

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Well, for tonight's game, we want to know how John Tavares, the Islanders' biggest scoring threat, sizes up against Marc-Andre Fleury, using shooting percentage as the metric.

Tavares' career shooting percentage: 85 goals on 730 shots. 11.6%.
Tavares' career shooting percentage vs. MAF: 1 goal on 40 shots. 2.5%.*

Conclusion: Holy shit.  With MAF in goal, the odds of limiting Tavares' impact greatly improve.  It is something we will watch closely.  This kind of stat means something because it is head-to-head between two players, not a player's production against a franchise's roster that changes somewhat every season.

*Tavares has scored 5 goals in 17 games vs. the Pens.  4 of those goals were scored on goalies other than MAF.  This stat took less than 10 minutes to compile, subtracting goal and shot totals from Tavares' career stats in games where MAF didn't play. In games where MAF and another goalie split time, we had to go to the games' play-by-play logs on NHL.com to see which goalie saw which shots from Tavares.

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