The Interview & How Things Almost Ended Up All Wrong

Earlier this week I was reading a report about a man in a position of power at a large media organization and the litany of accounts from the women working there detailing his horrible treatment of them. Their stories range from “I always suspected something bad was going on” to years of abuse and manipulation.

While I was reading one article in particular, my mind was suddenly flooded with the recollection of something I hadn’t thought much about in a long time. I spent the next few hours after that thinking about every detail I could recall and then I spent a few more hours thinking about what it meant to me now.

Before I tell you the story, let me just say that I am keenly aware of my experience being nothing compared to the women I was reading about. I’m not trying to suggest otherwise and I’m certainly not telling this story so anyone will feel badly for me.

I’m telling this story because many times when people hear the accounts like those of the women in the news now, they have trouble processing the reality of these situations even if they believe the women. It all seems like someone else’s reality or the reality of some part of society they have never seen or touched or heard about outside of a movie theater.

I struggled with whether to write this and struggled even more with whether to post it for several reasons, not the least of which is that I despise appearing vulnerable in any way. To be honest, if I hadn’t looked up the person involved in this and discovered he died two years ago, I would not have shared this.

All that being said, even if no one else reads this, I can read it and appreciate how much I’ve grown as a person since then. I can read it and appreciate how good my imperfect life is right now. I can read it and appreciate that despite my many mistakes, I ended up none the worse for it.

Looking back on what happened fifteen years ago, knowing what I know now, it’s hard for me to believe how foolish, naive, unwise, etc… I was at that time. But then again, that’s exactly the point…

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The Vicious Cycle of Conservative Defensive Structure

In the Defensive Zone and even in the Neutral Zone, recovering the puck requires an aggressive mindset. Everyone can recall a time when a player made a bid to get the puck from an opponent only to miss and be caught out of position defensively. These are usually seen as reckless plays because the other players did not anticipate the risk that their teammate was going to take and scramble to cover for him. There is a way to avoid this though. A defensive zone system that builds in aggressive puck recovery ensures that the other players will shift their coverage to fill in for the player who is battling to get the puck. These systems take an “attack the puck” approach to defensive zone play. They provide for support on the boards to battle for the puck as well as a “recovery position” player whose job it is to retrieve the puck when it comes out of the board battle.

Building fail safes into the defensive zone system turns what is often viewed as a reckless abandoning of defensive position to make a play for the puck into a systematic approach to puck recovery and helps avoid players being caught drastically out of position. When this systematic approach is not used, teams often start to think they need to tighten up their defensive zone coverage because these reckless plays are resulting in players being caught out of position and the attacking team taking advantage of that to get a better shot on net. This essentially creates a vicious cycle of more and more conservative play in the defensive zone. *click the image to enlarge

conservative dz structure

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Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & The Neutral Zone

Crucial Habits for Good Shot Generation & Suppression: Overview

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Controlled Zone Exits

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Puck Recovery

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Game Flow

ZONE TIME & GOALS

We’ve covered offensive zone entries, puck recovery and game flow so far in our discussions of Shot Generation. Now it’s time to see how teams use the neutral zone to boost their shot generation.

IN THE NEUTRAL ZONE

If the puck gets into the Neutral Zone, the task of recovering the puck doesn’t just end. The same relentless pursuit of the puck that happened in the offensive zone continues. If the attacking team is able to regain possession in the neutral zone, they can either quickly get the puck back into the offensive zone or send the puck back into their own defensive zone for a regroup or controlled breakout. As I mentioned before the mantra of good shot generation teams should be: Recover, Regroup & Relaunch The Attack. These same principles apply to the neutral zone. Continue reading

ZONE TIME & GOALS

Recently, I mentioned the large player tracking project I conducted last season with regard to a post on Shot Generation. It attracted some attention and several questions were posed that spurred me to do a post on this. Instead of focusing on the individual players in the project, I’ll focus on the overall information and the details that people seem to be interested in.

A quick explanation of the project: All even strength goals and assists for 72 forwards in the NHL were tracked to capture various information about scoring. The project included goals from the regular season and playoffs spanning from the 2012-13 season through the 2014-15 season. Ultimately, there were 7142 goals that were used to create this data. Some of the goals that were originally tracked (over 8000) were thrown out for various reasons such as goals scored a few seconds after a power play ended, goals on empty nets or with an extra attacker, etc. These are usually listed as even strength goals for NHL purposes, but the information collected would not have been technically even strength and thus was excluded. The players included in the study originated from every team in the league and are listed near the end of this post. Further, I had a lot of help doing this project from some amazing volunteers whom I have listed at the end as well. Thanks to their selfless efforts, a project of this scale was able to be carried out. Continue reading

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Game Flow

CRUCIAL HABITS:

Overview: Shot Generation & Shot Suppression

Shot Generation & Controlled Zone Exits

Shot Generation & Puck Recovery

SHOT GENERATION & GAME FLOW

I recorded a number of measures from sixteen games involving various teams throughout the league to see how they used the flow of the game to generate shots. For this analysis, I broke the game into four categories of possessions: 5v5, Single, Multishot and Consecutive. 5v5 is simply the overview of what the teams did offensively to generate shots during 5 on 5 play. Single includes a single period of possession, offensive zone entry by the attacking team through defensive zone exit by the defending team, where the attacking team generated only one or no shots. Multishot encapsulates each period of possession by the attacking team wherein they generated more than one shot regardless of who controlled the previous or subsequent periods of possession. Consecutive adds periods of possession together when the same team was on the attack, i.e. Team A enters the zone, has some meaningful possession of the puck, Team B is able to get the puck out of the zone, but Team A recovers the puck and goes back on the attack before Team B can establish any period of possession in their offensive zone. Continue reading

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Puck Recovery

Overview: Crucial Habits for Good Shot Generation & Suppression

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Controlled Zone Exits

SHOT GENERATION AND PUCK RECOVERY

IN THE OFFENSIVE ZONE

When a team enters the offensive zone the obvious goal is to, well, score a goal. Scoring goals requires taking shots. Teams that excel in generating shots have a common habit in the offensive zone: Puck Recovery. These teams aren’t “gaming Corsi” just to trick stats analysts into thinking they are good teams. The spreadsheet darlings of the hockey world control the puck and when they can’t keep possession of it, work like hell to get it back.

Situations requiring puck recovery are numerous in every area of the ice. There are three main ways to go about recovering the puck, which are sometimes used in concert to regain possession, are:

  • Being Quick to the Puck
  • Checking (hitting and/or body position)
  • Anticipation

In the Offensive Zone, puck recovery is the best way to generate shots, wear down the defense and create “mini-rushes” within the zone much as power plays are designed to do. After the play has been low in the zone, the defending team gets possession of the puck and starts to breakout. The attacking team is able to recover the puck before it leaves the zone. With most of the defending players high in the defensive zone or in the neutral zone, there are less bodies available to defend against an offensive attack. This leads to better scoring chances and oddman “mini-rush” situations.

Once the puck is in the offensive zone, the attacking team has to regain possession if they have gained entry by a dump in or chip in. Chipping the puck in requires speed, timing and far more control than a dump in. Some players really excel in this area because of the lines they take, their speed and ability to deceive the defending players. If done properly, the chip in is essentially a pass to the player himself or his linemate providing close support. Dump in entries require the attacking team to use their offensive zone forecheck system to retrieve the puck. This includes waves of pressure on the defending players, speed to the puck and depending upon the situation, hitting. Continue reading

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Controlled Zone Exits

Overview: Crucial Habits for Good Shot Generation & Suppression – a post introducing this series.

SHOT GENERATION & CONTROLLED ZONE EXITS

To be a good shot generation team, you have to take a lot of shots. Shocking information, I know. We know from years of work by many great hockey minds that overall, controlled entries into the offensive zone will lead to more shots being generated. Zone Entry Data Study* Tulsky, Detweiler, Spencer, Sznajder From that same work, we know that some teams are so good on the initial forecheck into the offensive zone that dumping the puck into the zone often leads to shot generation. In a study I did, I found that controlled zone exits (carrying or passing the puck to a teammate) lead to far more zone entry attempts than uncontrolled zone exits (dumping the puck out of your defensive zone). Clearing the Defensive Zone: The Dangers of Dumping the Puck Out

Creating rushes into the offensive zone, i.e. dynamic changes in possession as compared to offensive attacks which start with a controlled breakout or regroup) lead to confusion among the defense, less defending players in the zone and chances to get a dangerous shot on the goalie. In the player tracking project I conducted, over 57.3% of the 7142 goals tracked were scored in 7 seconds or less of zone time. Zone time for the purpose of the project started when the attacking team brought the puck across the blue line into the offensive zone and ended when the goal was scored. This was recorded by stopwatch and marked down to the hundredth of a second. 72 forwards were the subject of the study spanning from the 2012-13 season through the 2014-15 season, including the playoffs. All goals and assists tracked occurred at even strength. 46.1% of the goals tracked in the project were scored in 5 or less seconds of zone time. Continue reading

Crucial Habits for Good Shot Generation & Suppression: Overview

Puck possession seems like a pretty simple concept on its face. Having the puck more than your opponent sounds like a good plan and I doubt you need me to provide you with a bunch of numbers to convince you of that. As we look deeper into puck possession, we see that there is a difference between having the puck for a long time and meaningful puck possession. Your team may spend a lot of time in the offensive zone passing the puck around the perimeter in order to set up a “perfect shot” as if they were on the power play. In terms of time of possession, this may register as a positive; however, meaningful puck possession consists of two main elements: shot generation and shot suppression.

Frankly, it’s unfortunate that we have tried so hard for so long to split hockey into offense and defense. This kind of thinking has led to a view that offense happens in the offensive zone and defense happens in the defensive zone. For years, hockey analysis approached the game as if offense and defense somehow existed independently of one another. The reality is that forwards and defensemen are equally important to all aspects of the game. My point is that our approach to analyzing hockey is often backwards.

Hockey is an incredibly fluid game that does not lend itself well to a rigid, two sided understanding of “Offense” and “Defense”. In hockey, offense and defense or, to more aptly name them, shot generation and shot suppression, are active at all times in all zones. Continue reading

“Watch the Game, Nerds!”

Hockey has long been a sport in which hard work is cherished as the ultimate virtue. You certainly won’t find me arguing that players and coaches do not need to work hard, but somewhere along the line, an undercurrent of distaste for intelligence has developed. Using analytical tools to evaluate players and teams has been met with suspicion and often even hostile disapproval.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about all intelligence being frowned upon here, just the kind that comes from the mouths of those that have never played the game at the NHL level. Intelligent analysis or strategy from “hockey guys” is of course granted a place of almost mythical honor in the sport, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that hockey rejects smartness as a whole. It’s more that hockey often demands that you have the appropriate level of street cred, or rink cred, I guess, in order to be considered to have intelligence of any actual value.

The heart of the now years long stats vs anti-stats battle lies in this mentality. Traditional analysis in hockey tends to put the most stock in experience and knowledge gained from years of playing the game. Statistical analysis in hockey tends to put the most stock in the gathering of data and analysis based there upon. “Watch the game, nerds” and “Your eye-test sucks” spring from the perceived disconnect between those two sides.

Traditional analysts see statistical analysts basing opinions of a player’s skill or value on numbers and perceive a lack of “hockey knowledge” in the results of a computation. This hockey knowledge has in many cases been built through playing the game at an elite level or being part of the game for many years. No one wants to feel like their hard earned skills are not unique or special and are easily replaced by a nerd behind a computer who didn’t have enough talent to play the game. What they usually mean when they say “Watch the Game, Nerds” is “Watch the game the way my years of experience tell me to watch it. Value the qualities that I value.” Continue reading

A Quick Thought On The Slippery Slope Of Hate Politics

We seem to be living in a very precarious time in the US, where average white Americans are becoming increasingly more radicalized against anyone who doesn’t look, think, pray or love exactly like them. I know the people who have been the targets of hatred have felt like this for years, but I, perhaps naively, thought we had been making some small steps toward a more inclusive society. At this point, my overwhelming sense of dread for what is to come has prompted me to put my thoughts into written form.

This is just my opinion on my own personal blog, so take it for what it’s worth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how what we are seeing play out in American politics feels like the long, slow ascent up the first hill of a roller coaster. It will not take much to propel it over the top and send it plummeting down a terrifying hill. The people willingly along for the ride aren’t nihilists hell-bent on the destruction of the Earth. They are just regular people whose fear and anger have made them easy targets for manipulation.

It reminds me of the slow transformation of Germany before World War II. I think the passage of time has made many forget that the Nazis didn’t start their assent to power by saying “we need to exterminate the Jews (and others).” It took years of misdirection, deception and fear-mongering to incite the requisite amount of anti-Jew, anti-Polish sentiment for the German people to even start to support their country’s involvement in another war and even then, acts of aggression by neighboring countries were created or exaggerated in order to sway public support (much like the reports and events that swayed public opinion in the lead up to the Spanish-American War).

The Nazis painted the German way of life as under attack by foreign aggressors. They played upon the economic woes and fears of the regular, everyday people, like you and me, and used their lingering resentment over previous wars and confrontations with neighboring countries to plant the seeds of acceptable hatred and the denial of compassion for other human beings who were different from them. Every bit of this was done under the auspices of making the world a better, safer place.

Even after the German people were at a “sufficient” level of disdain for their government’s chosen enemies, the Nazis didn’t just lay out the details of the plans for the “Final Solution”. They continued to use propaganda and deception (we’re building hospitals, we’re helping them, stay out of the ghettos because it’s not safe for you there, etc). All the while, the real aim was the acquisition of power, empire building and genocide. Many of the people believed the party line because the sentiments the Nazis worked so meticulously to instill made them easy to satisfy with deceptive information and made them lack any impetus to question whether any of it was true or what was really going on.

This is the truly terrifying reality of what we are seeing in the United States. We keep asking “who are these people?” that support leaders with such blatantly hostile approaches to any person or group of people who aren’t exactly like them. The answer to this question is “They are us”. They are your parents, your siblings, your cousins, your aunts and uncles, your friends, your co-workers.

We have eaten up the spoon-fed doses of what is happening in the world laced with the poison of hatred and resentment for so long that what should be considered radical ideas of intolerance and unacceptance no longer seem all that extreme to many people. They believe that the world is not a better, safer place because it is constantly under attack by whatever group of people they have been led into resenting so strongly. This belief is what allows people to accept that immoral means are justified by seemingly moral ends. The sentiment of “If we can just get back to when things were good, before {insert group here – women, black people, Muslims, gays, immigrants, etc…} messed everything up” allows people to rationalize a host of actions they would otherwise consider reprehensible and detach themselves from human compassion.

Just something to think about.