Monday, August 22, 2005


Splitting Hairs over Satan

When I posted some interesting statistic splits of Miroslav Satan yesterday, it was more out of curiosity and interest than anything else. I didn't think much of it at the time, but a few people seemed quite disturbed or interested in Miro's extreme performance variations in wins and losses.

Tom L, author of the new (and very well done) Sabre Ratting took me up on my comments regarding Miro and his importance to the Sabres.

Taking off my homer glasses for a moment tells me that when motivated to play Satan was a huge difference maker. When he was willing to lead, the team responded off his effort. When he didn't they weren't able to overcome the loss of his lack of desire.

The big problem was how to deal with a guy making $5 million a year and not consistently earning it? How can you expect a group of second-liners to overcome 20 minutes of a forward floating around and refusing to play? The answer is, of course, that you don't. Satan averaged the same amount of Ice Time in both wins and losses and for me that -33 sticks out like a sore thumb. On the nights when he wasn't helping the team win we wasn't working to prevent a loss either.
Now, let me play the Devil's Advocate (bad pun intended) and look at the other side of the coin.

As good as Miro is, he cannot simply step onto the ice and score at will. There are opposition goaltenders, defensemen, and forwards all working to stop Satan from his evil reign of goal scoring. Just because Miro wasn't scoring in his team's losses doesn't mean that he wasn't trying. I know Miro was petulant last year and wanted out of Buffalo, but it's not as if he wasn't giving a good effort in some of those losses. Maybe we can say that the Sabres were losing to good teams who knew how to defend better than poor teams.

To refresh thy memories, here are Miro's splits from 03/04.

In Wins: 37GP 23-22-45 +17 103shots 22.3%
Losses: 38GP 5-6-11 -33 85shots 5.9%
& Ties: 7GP 1-0-1 +1 18shots 5.6%

You can see I added shots and shooting percentage into the mix. From this, you can tell that Miro is still getting his fair share of shots (although we can't tell the quality of his shots), but far fewer of them are going in.

Just to make things more interesting, here are Miro's splits from 2002/03:

In Wins: 27GP 17-26-43 +26 89shots 19.1%
Losses: 42GP 5-21-26 -26 115shots 4.3%
& Ties: 10GP 4-3-7 -3 36shots 11.1%

Not quite the extreme splits that we saw 03/04, but Miro was obviously a big factor for Buffalo in their victories. If I was the opposition coach and our team was playing the Sabres, I would tell my team to focus their efforts on stopping Satan. Not only did the Sabres fair poorly when Satan wasn't scoring, but you can see that he had less shots-per-game in the games when his team was losing. When you face a team with such little firepower, it really does pay to focus extra attention on their lone potent weapon.

If you stop the Lord of Darkness, the rest of his army just doesn't have the strength to says the Bible of Golbez (Mikita 10:37).

...and just to finish off with a bit more silliness, it looks like Miro REALLY loves to play the Maple Leafs. Here are his stats versus the Centre of the Universe.

2002/03: 5GP 3-7-10 +5
2003/04: 6GP 4-7-11 +5


Very nicely done. The numbers are definately interesting. I do have to say though that a team that is 10th in the league in scoring is not lacking in firepower. The numbers you posted suggest exactly what we die-hards see, that the minute the game gets tough, Miro vanishes. There was enough support for him to work with in 03-04, he chose not to participate.

Satan is a crafty player who, when motivated, has the ability to change a game. He proved that on the abysmal 2002-03 Sabres. Something happened in the 03-04 campaign, and my pet theory is that there was finally some competition for his status as 'The Man.' The emergence of Briere, Hecht and Dumont changed the character of the team. Ruff could ride him harder for his lapses and he didn't like it at all. Character is shown when the chips are down. Satan doesn't have it.

Thanks for the compliment on the blog, btw.

It's too bad too, I used to love breaking out the Cheetos and Light Beer in preparation for Our Worship at the Dark Lord's Coming.... *sigh*

Re: the Leafs factoid.

Maybe that explains the bizarre rumour that the Leafs were interested in Satan, despite his price tag, reputation and salary cap issues.

Based on those numbers, you'd assume he woudl put up a 150 point season if he played in the ACC every night!

Miro only put up such great numbers because he played against a crappy Leafs defense every night ;)
Also, the Sabres play the Leafs tough no matter what. It's the closest thing we have to a real rivalry.

The HSBC Arena is so full of Leaf fans that the guys play a little harder to defend their home ice.

figures don't lie, but liars figure.

hey is that stat REALLY saying that when Satan shows up the Sabres win? Or is it saying when the other team properly defence Satan the Sabres have no chance?

and just how bad is bad? What are similar splits for scorers on bad teams? after all hockey is a low scoring game, ANYtime a scorer scores, his team has a great chance of winning.

the one thing hockey doesn't need is Bill James-itis.

Just because you can compute it doesn't mean you should!

heck People can't even talk about an important stat like plus/minus without going through a month long arguement about when it is valid and what it means, and that is a stat that has been kept league wide for decades!!

I don't watch the sabres, and now i don't have to care about them at all (thanks to vastly unbalanced sched) but I'm not going to put any stock on that type of stat.

sheesh. If i really cared about Satan, I'd watch him 20 straight games and refuse to record a single stat.

Dear anonymous poster,

What hockey really needs is MORE Bill James-type analysis

I suggest you read my previous essay on the subject. You seem to have a fear of such material...why?

If I was running an NHL team, I'd want every available tool at my disposal to make better decisions than my peers. Leaving everything to subjective analysis leads to more errors than objective analysis. Hockey is a hard game to analyse through statistics, but there have been some strides made in that area.
fear? It ain't fear. It's experience, intelligence, and having worked with statistics to prove theories and then turn around and use those same stats to disprove it!

baseball is a match-up, one on one every pitch, every hit, every steal, in a team setting. hockey is a team on team, you simply can not gain enlightenment from paper tiger numbers of individuals divorced from the setting that generate those numbers in hockey to the extent you can in baseball.

Dallas Drake has OFTEN been the best blues player on the ice last season.

Prove it though. find any third generation, process and blenderized stat that shows it at all. then talk to blues ticket holders...

was Francis a player, or simply lucky to be teamed with a great one? you think numbers told the canes THAT answer? who won the oilers those cups? wayno? mark m? charlie huddy? pah

I've seen a horde of splits, stats, comparisions etc, but as i pointed out in hockey-- MOST stats that even have some use have to have a massive discussion and require such intangibles as the team he plays on (satan's spilt) the team they play against (back-up goalie numbers) a player's role on a team (plus/ minus), the style of a team (take aways/hits (i.e. you get these stats when your team DOES NOT HAVE THE PUCK, is you team supposed to be puck control?!?))

add to that the vast changes that happen over time in scoring and flow in hockey and you find you are not able to have a realistic base line for comparisions over large time periods.

even hard numbers like, oh jamal mayer's straight line speed, prove to be irrelevant cos jamel can not use his speed in a game, and can not turn at speed, or enter/leave the boards with speed. not to mention they year Scott Mellanby went hog wild to increase his bench press proved to be his worse season ever as it hampered all other aspects of his game.

and I'd bet at LEAST 50% of what you write on the main rant side that deals with skills either contains a vast arguement supporting a position backed by some stat (meaning you know the stat doesnt speak for itself) or denying the importance of stats (like in the mcarthy piece) meaning you know stats based on a previous job on a previous team will likely not translate.

anyone who wants the inside scoop on a players real daily contribution and turns to numbers before his own eyes, anyone who looks at a ranking list instead of talking to a knowledgable fan of the team he plays for, anyone who thinks topps and the hockey encylopedia answer how much better Roy is than Durnam is someone I need to be making cash bets with.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?