• ‘Doogie’ Hamilton ready to fill the enormous void left by Chara injury

    Ken Campbell
    Dougie Hamilton (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Shortly after earning the second assist on the Boston Bruins first goal of the evening Saturday night, Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton was referred to as ‘Doogie’ Hamilton by Air Canada Centre public address announcer Andy Frost.

    A little bit like Doogie Howser, Doogie Hamilton is something of a child prodigy. All right, that might be a stretch for a 21-year-old kid, but considering he’s already in his third year in the league and due for a big payday next season, we’re prepared to declare him on the fast track. (It also gives us an excuse to run this video.)
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  • Neal-Hornqvist trade a win-win for Penguins, Predators

    Josh Elliott
    Patric Hornqvist and James Neal

    The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are less than 10 games into the regular season, but the early returns are pretty clear: both sides came out winners from their big off-season swap.

    The Predators acquired snarly goal scorer James Neal from Pittsburgh in the summer for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling in a rare value-for-value trade that both sides can be happy with.
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  • Senators, Maple Leafs, Canadiens hold touching tribute following Ottawa shootings

    Josh Elliott
    Ottawa shooting tribute

    For a nation that identifies itself strongly with hockey, it seemed only fitting that Canadians should gather in their rinks and at their TVs to share a healing moment before puck drop Saturday.

    The Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs staged a touching simultaneous tribute Saturday night to two soldiers killed in separate, unprovoked attacks in Canada earlier this week. Ottawa took center stage in the tribute, as Senators players stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the visiting New Jersey Devils for a stirring renditions of the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada from anthem singer Lyndon Slewidge.

    Fans in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto sang the anthem in a simultaneous blend of English and French, while projectors lit up all three rinks with Canadian flags. Read more

  • NHL teams advancing past advanced stats with state-of-the-art video

    Ryan Kennedy
    Kunitz and Crosby (Gregory Shamus/NHLI/Getty Images)

    Although the advanced stats revolution has been swift, it’s by no means complete. Corsi and Fenwick have easily displaced plus-minus as a go-to metric in evaluating a player’s worth to a team, but in essence, those measures are simply more accurate versions of plus-minus, since they draw from a bigger sample size of shots instead of goals.

    What the so-called fancy stats crowd really wants to know is whether or not a player is driving puck possession when he’s on the ice or simply tagging along while a linemate does all the work. And as amusing as it may be to picture a blogger painstakingly pausing their DVR every time a pass is made in a game to write down who has the puck and for how long, a much more rational solution is coming to the fore.

    Video is the savior, but not just any video. We’re talking about cameras that record an image every one-tenth of a second, compiling reams of data that can then be sorted by programs to give a more accurate representation of what’s going on during a game.

    “You can throw Corsi out the window,” said Marc Appleby of PowerScout Hockey. “Because we know how long a player had the puck.”

    So for every Chris Kunitz or Pascal Dupuis hater who thinks Sidney Crosby does all the work on his line, the answer will arrive soon. PowerScout, which has teamed up with tracking tech company ProZone Sports, was originally hatched from analytics research in 2009. It had contracts with two NHL teams last season but recorded more than 50 games in 25 NHL and major junior rinks overall.

    Using three Ultra-HD cameras, Appleby’s firm can set up in any rink, right down to midget games, and doesn’t require any permanent installation (though that’s also an option). The cameras track every action in the game and the raw data is filtered through a cloud-based portal called Icetrax. The range of applications is stunning: a client team can look at zone entry speeds, how long a player holds the puck, the distance between two defense partners and even heat maps (see example, for Crosby, below) that show where a player spends most of his time on the ice.

    “We’re actually measuring the little things,” Appleby said. “We’re analyzing on a micro-level.”

    Crosby Heat Map

    Appleby is a second-generation stats fiend. His father, Terry Appleby, invented a board game called National Pro Hockey back in 1985, which took real NHL player stats and allowed players to assemble lineups, with results based on probability. That same concept has led to one of PowerScout’s most ambitious goals: figuring out if a player made the best choice when he had the puck.

    Using probability, the company can mine countless situations from the past and see what the ultimate outcomes were. For example, if Taylor Hall carries the puck into the offensive zone, is he better to stop inside the blueline and wait for help or charge to the net? PowerScout can look at the probability of the Oilers scoring on that play and relay that info to the team, which can then tell Hall if his instincts are helping or hindering.

    Video analytics first came into sports in the 1990s, when optical tracking was used in soccer. The practice has expanded to many sports, including basketball, where PowerScout’s main competition reigns. SportVU, a technology run by the company STATS, uses six cameras for NBA games and is installed in all 30 team arenas via the catwalk. SportVU is interested in hockey, and the battle for hearts and minds is being waged in meetings throughout North America. Still, even among the game’s most progressive minds, there’s doubt.

    “The camera structure and logistics of it would have to be changed for hockey because of the different dimensions of the surface, how difficult it is to track the puck and the issues hockey has versus soccer and basketball,” said Kyle Dubas, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ new assistant GM and a darling of the advanced stats community. “In hockey, substitutions can happen on the fly, while in the other sports it has to be at a stoppage. So it’s being able to identify which players are going on and off the ice. I think there are some companies doing that stuff now, but we’re still a long way away from where we need to go.”

    If you’re worried all this info will take the fun out of hockey, keep in mind that even Appleby doesn’t project a cookie-cutter NHL should video win the day.

    “Teams define scoring chances differently,” he said. “We want to give them data that compares apples to apples.”

    If the NHL teams do become believers, however, there will no doubt be a rush to order. Every edge helps when building a Cup contender.

    This feature originally appeared in the September 15, 2014 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.

  • Top 10 rookie seasons by goalies in the salary cap era

    Josh Elliott
    Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederick Andersen

    Frederik Andersen is tearing it up this young season as the newly-anointed starting goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks. His stellar play has banished all thoughts of the departed Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth, and he’s stabilized the Anaheim net enough to ease the expectations placed on goalie of the future John Gibson.

    The 25-year-old Dane is rocking it in every statistical category there is right now. Andersen has won all six games he’s played this season, posting a mighty .951 save percentage and a 1.32 goals-against average. He also has a shutout this season against the St. Louis Blues.

    But that performance should come as little surprise after his strong rookie campaign last year, as Andersen’s 2013-14 numbers put him among some of the best rookie goalies of the salary cap era.
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  • Watch Brian Boyle help push Lightning reporter through tough workout

    Jared Clinton
    BrianBoyleWorkout

    Brian Boyle is, undoubtedly, one of the hardest working big-bodied forwards in the NHL. A defensive monster throughout his career, Boyle eats tough minutes and isn’t afraid to get in front of a booming shot.

    Off the ice, however, Boyle works just as hard. To get an idea of how hard he’s pushing himself off the ice, the Tampa Bay Lightning had their reporter Michelle Gingras get into the gym with Boyle to see what exactly the power forward gets up to: Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: Is Dallas going Star searching?

    Tyler Myers

    The Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers is enjoying an early resurgence, tied for second on the team in shots with winger Matt Moulson and ranking fifth overall in ice time among NHL players this season as of Friday. His play is also garnering attention in the rumor mill.

    Vogl cites recent reports by TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger linking Myers to the Detroit Red Wings. They claim the 6-foot-8 blueliner could be on the move if the Sabres lower their asking price, which is currently said to include Red Wings prospect Dylan Larkin. Read more