A Note on "Statistics"

There's a lot of anger out there at hockey "statistics."  But what are hockey statistics anyways? 

When Harry Sinden kept track of Corsi-type data during the 1972 Summit Series, were those "statistics"?  Isn't it just systematic scouting and data-tracking?  Should Sinden have not systematically recorded this data and instead "just watched the game"?

NHL teams track tremendous amounts of data: scoring chances, breakouts, forechecks, passes, even touches.  Are those statistics?  Is it a bad idea to keep track of that data and use it in evaluating players? 

You often hear people say "forget the stats, watch the game."  Except all of this data collection involves watching the game.  Over and over.  In slo-mo.  And taking notes on everything that happens.  And then, frighteningly enough for many people, drawing some conclusions. 

Powerless bloggers are an easy target for the anger against and fear of statistics.  But when Mike Babcock says things like this:

"If you go through the chances, for us we were outchanced in the first period.  They had four power plays, and they outchanced us.  They outshot us and outchanced us.  If we don't have some puck luck in front of our net and things don't go the way maybe they're up, and then the game's different."

It should be clear that NHL teams are counting chances and shots and they're well aware of what the totals mean.  (And in no uncertain terms do they discount the role that luck plays in the game.)  Mike Babcock isn't just some egghead who should step back from his "stats" and watch the game.  To ignore systematic data collection and the conclusions arrived at from this data collection (aka stats) is to ignore how the NHL is run.

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