A Brief Introduction to my Zone Exit tracking project.

Zone exit data has become more common over the past year or so, however since the NHL doesn’t track them, this particular type of data requires manual tracking which many bloggers and hobbyists have decided to put the effort into tracking zone exits and other microstats for one or many teams/players.

So for this upcoming season, I will be tracking zone exits by player for every single Canucks game. To slightly decrease my workload and only look at the most valuable data, I will only be tracking defensemen. For those of you who aren’t familiar with zone exit data, this is how it works or at least this is how I will be doing it.

EXIT CATEGORIES

Exit Type Definition
Controlled Exit When a player moves the puck across the blue line with possession of the puck. (Good)
Passing Exit When a player moves the puck across the blue line by passing the puck to a teammate who is able to retain possession of the puck. (Good)
Cleared Exit When a player clears the puck out his zone but possesion is not retained. (Ok)
Failed Exit When a player is unable to move the puck out of his zone, this is caused by a turnover, a clearing attempt held at the blue line by an opponent or an icing (Bad)

DATA CATEGORIES

Data Type Definition
Raw Data This is simply the number of each type of exit each defensemen has recorded.
Rates based from Time On Ice The number of each type of exit divided by total ice time and then multiplied by 60. Many stats are presented in this fashion such as Corsi For/60 or Points/60.
Percentages The percentage of one particular exit a player has recorded, for example if a player has made 6 successful exits and he has made 11 exit attempts, his Success rate would be 54%

All of the data I record will be at Even Strength, as it is the situation when the majority of play takes place.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT

This data allows to see which defensemen are the best at moving the puck, how exactly they go about doing it and if that is the best way they should attempt to breakout, it tells us who is the best puck mover on each defense pairing, it lets us know who are the most prone to turnovers and who is good at making plays under pressure. It can also help us understand what the Canucks coaching staff wants their defensemen to do instead of what the player wants to do.

These two sequences are examples of how breaking out of your own zone can affect subsequent plays:

http://imgur.com/a/aFjai

http://imgur.com/a/AjZjQ

We all know puck possesion is important today, so having the ability to retain possesion of the puck is just as important. We constantly see people cite the Corsi percentage of X player, this type of data can help us understand why a particular defensemen has a positive or negative possesion impact on their team.

Now it’s important to realize that not every poor zone exit will have the same negative effect, and not every good one will have the same positive effect. But generally the majority of this data we can draw some sort of conclusion from. Something as simple as moving the puck out your zone could have a bigger impact on the outcome of a play, a game, or even a number of games than you might think.

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