Gus Katsaros

Hockey Analytics

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Dump Outs as a Strategy

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Controlled zone entries and exits are keys to maneuvering through the neutral zone.

 

The better a hockey club handles neutral zone game flow, the more organized they are to face backchecking pressure or to apply forechecking pressure. Controlled zone entries are key to maximizing shot attempts once entering the offensive zone. Controlled zone exits are key to move through center ice to initiate a controlled zone entry.

 

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Inducing controlled exits/entries theory downplayed the use of dump and chase strategy in the offensive zone, insinuating with data the degree to which the play is detrimental to shot generation. Dumping the puck out of the defensive zone as a defensive strategy, whether to relieve pressure or force opposition players to leave the zone and re-enter followed the same contempt as the dump and chase. As a defensive mechanism, it was viewed as throwing the puck back to the opposition for possession.

 

Dumping the puck out of the zone as a strategy, however, is more common and skewing the area of ‘controlled’. It’s not universal yet, but moving the puck out of the zone into center ice and forcing the puck battle in a less risky spot, is being incorporated as methodology to increase potential turnovers and in turn scoring chances. Essentially, it’s gone from taboo to strategy. Coaches have a knack of bending norms to circumvent conventional game strategy and introduce their own methods of manipulating game flow. Dump outs are becoming more inherent in this game theory.

 

Anthony Petrielli from Maple Leafs Hot Stove did a piece on the Leafs using the play to dump pucks out into center midway through the 2016-17 season. Toronto has adopted the concept to aid in transition, not as a defense mechanism.

 

Corey Sjznader has been tracking passes, zone entry and exits, adding value to the Passing Project that originated with Ryan Stimson to provide a more robust set of data to implement into analysis. Corey’s excellent work is fueled by the public, mostly via a patreon page to help him do his job. His work on each team spans the last two seasons, updating a set of team files, despite a lack of uniformity across all teams.

 

Along with passing data, Corey collects positional data to compliment zone entry/exit data, in addition to clear types, dump outs or transition. He even tracked plays under pressure. Using some of this microdata offers glimpses into playing styles at the team level.

 

Lately, his data has been featured in a pretty neat Tableau visualization that allows users to select criteria and dig deeper into the microstats.

 

 

That visualization allows any interested parties to delve into different stats and combinations that can spark ideas about different playing styles.

 

Dumping the Puck Out


My curiosity led me to the micro data to discern any noticeable difference in how teams handle dumping pucks out of the defensive zone/high off the glass (HOG) plays.

 

Using Corey’s data, the table below outlines the percentage of zone exits as dump outs in the first column, and the percentage of pressured dump outs. There’s a distinct difference between the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars inherent to a smaller sample size, for pucks being thrown out while being pressured.

 

Regardless, the teams gathered at the top of the list here are clearly doing things in a different manner than those at the bottom of the list. The standard deviation is 1.22, with a variance of 4.33 standard deviations between the Sharks and Panthers.

 

View post on imgur.com

 

Pittsburgh put on a display of using the dump out and flipping pucks to the neutral zone plays en route to the first of two Stanley Cups in an interesting game theory during the spring of 2016. They still use that as a tactic and as Petrielli pointed out, the Leafs have adopted the style.

 

Nashville, with its vaunted blueline, is surprisingly high in the list. Featuring fleet skaters P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, the Predators may be dumping pucks out of their own end may be a bit more strategic than to alleviate defensive pressure. Some video analysis here would benefit the reasoning and usability of this tactic.

 

Circling back to Toronto, they were well known to blow late game leads and playing a sometimes perplexing defensive game in 2016-17. The leaky defense continued in 2017-18 – masked by the entertaining high power offense. That offense incorporates streaky and speedy forwards that can push back defensemen off the line and induce chaos in the neutral zone en route to controlled entries.

 

View post on imgur.com

 


In Corey’s sample, Toronto has a distinct ratio between forwards and defensemen dumping pucks out, with 16% of zone exits by Leafs defensemen. San Jose is a little more balanced between forwards and blueliners – with the caveat of less events to consider overall.

 

The Montreal Canadiens moved away from blueline mobility, jettisoning the likes of , Mikhail Sergachev, Nathan Beaulieu and Andrei Markov, in favor of old world defensive stability. The effect is forcing forwards to generate scoring on a more singular basis, relying less on the blueline to assist in scoring chance generation. It’s no surprise to see them near the top of a team list focusing on dump out zone exits.

 

The Avalanche have been decimated by blueline injury in 2016-17, and their troubles overall were very well evident even without the use of any fancy stats. The simple box scores told a story of frustration and the team being torn apart from within. Once again, video would be appropriate here, but for the most apart, the Avalanche were dumping pucks out and essentially giving it away to the opposition only to carry it back into the offensive zone to continue the assault.

 

There’s more to the micro data that I will delve into the coming weeks. For now, I hope that everyone that wants to learn more about the data tracked by Corey and other hobbyists can be accessed via the Tableau visualization.

 

Next week we are going to revisit ‘rushers versus movers’ defensemen using Corey’s data – and is somewhat related to this topic of defensive zone dump outs.



Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey
Email :Gus Katsaros



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