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Loose Change: To hell with the Joneses

To all those previously unaware, the Edmonton Oilers – as of mid-March, at least – lead the league in the number of times their opponents hit the goalpost with an errant shot.

Nashville’s Dan Ellis has the best save percentage against ex-NHL teammates.

Oh, and Buffalo’s Toni Lydman is the most likely player in the league to take a hooking penalty.

I happened to find these little nuggets of information while thumbing through some recent issues of The Hockey News. This proves three points:

1.    I don’t retain much on the first read.
2.    Dan Ellis must have one hell of a phone bill.
3.    Nerds have officially taken over hockey.

Truth is, I’m having a real hard time with the whole concept/reason/need/use for statistics like these.

First off, who does this job? Unless the league has developed some sort of automatic counting device, the NHL has someone on the payroll who – incredibly – does nothing more than keep track of tings. Imagine adding that to a resume.

You would also have to presume the league must employ a veritable army of stat people to track this kind of thing. Think about the sheer logistics of tracking something like time on ice – those wholesale line changes; the line matching; the guy who jumps on the ice too early for it to be considered a legal change. Someone puts a pen and paper to log this data.

Heaven forbid if someone hit the post during a line change. Then again, that’s Jim’s job.

The real concern here is whether we even need to log this type of stat in the first place. To know Colorado’s Peter Budaj has the worst goals-against average during penalty-killing situations accomplishes what exactly? Does that mean the Avalanche – obviously fully aware of this awful, awful number – would replace him while Kurt Sauer is serving two minutes for elbowing?

Sports statistics are akin to the goofy noises you make while trying to convince a wailing 4-year-old he didn’t just ram his head into the toaster oven. The numbers – at least most of the numbers – are simply there as a distraction. They’re meant as mindless trivia; that annoying little anecdote Gerald from Accounts Receivable brings up to impress people at the party he really wasn’t even invited to.

It’s meant to satisfy the people who essentially have no life.

Yeah, you got it, baseball fans.

In the big picture, game statistics are the filthy demon child of the world of baseball. You know, the sport that devotes an inordinate amount of time having teammates disagree over what pitch to throw; the sport that has third base coaches spastically touching and groping various parts of their bodies in an attempt to “signal” some ingenious winning strategy based on disjointed blinking; and, the sport that has more men adjusting more cups than lunch break at Starbuck’s.

You see, baseball needs statistics. It’s a horribly boring game. If you didn’t spend your time debating the validity of pinch-hitting for that Dominican kid in the third inning, you’d realize you could have spent the afternoon reading the footnotes in the phone book.

Hockey’s not like that. The guys on the ice actually do something. This game moves so quick and is so enticing you shouldn’t even have the time to look up Josef Vasicek’s plus/minus rating on alternate Thursdays following a holiday.

Leave the stats to the only people that truly love and embrace them (in lieu of girlfriends).

The meek may indeed inherit the earth. They just can’t have hockey.

The preceding was purely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. By entertainment, we mean we hope you laughed while reading it, framing it, or burning it. Any similarities between this and actual events is strictly coincidental and frankly, dumb luck. Remember to remind your lawyer about the made-up part, OK?

Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.

Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at charlieteljeur@hotmail.com.

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