The Steve Dangle Podcast - Steve Simmons: Part 1

Steve Dangle
April 17 2014 09:07PM

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 11.02.45 PM

On this episode, fan of the podcast Steve Simmons joins us in Adam's mom's basement to talk hockey. 

This is part one.

Listen to the show on iTunes by clicking here

Or SoundCloud


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Steve Dangle has a YouTube channel with over 3 million views and is the co-host of the Steve Dangle Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Steve has also worked for CBC, the NHL Network, Leafs TV, Nike, the KHL, and most of all, the Toronto Zoo. stevedangle.com
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#1 reimerfan2
April 18 2014, 07:44AM
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Simmons comes off as an awesome here. You guys shouldn't have interviewed him as now I feel guilty with the mean-spirited bloggers and twitter folks trolling him.

Contrary to the mitten stringer protrayal he is level headed and knowledgeable of hockey reporter and coach. And I didn't realize that much of his insights and stories come from talking to various scout and management contacts.

Now that I got that off my chest, I need to say that Simmons sucks because he blames Reimer and I can live with being a shallow, negative and mean spirited hockey fan.

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#2 Brandon
April 18 2014, 07:32AM
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Arvind wrote:

I think you guys were very polite to him, and credit to Steve Simmons for showing up. That said, it seemed like he was missing he point in a lot of cases. He was focussing a lot on 'micro' events, isolated incidents that he said stats couldn't explain. The thing is, no one uses stats to explain micro events. They use them to understand the broader picture, not to predict or describe a single play. No one uses shot totals to predict how the next goal will occur. They use them to predict what is more LIKELY to happen in the future.

To use the Gunnarsson play he mentioned as an example, poor defensive play such as that WOULD be reflected in possession. If you have poor gap control, or concede the blueline easily, that would result in more shots against, and more goals against. That would be measured by possession numbers. Similarly, all the 'little' things he mentions (puck battles, active stick) would be reflected in the data. If you do those things well, your team will have control of the puck and dominate the game when you're on the ice. Players who have poor defensive discipline would give up more shots against than those who don't. Players with a 'bad stick' would not be as productive as players with a 'good stick'.

Simmons also makes the mistake of assuming people JUST look at possession numbers, using McClement as an example. He points out that last year, McClement and Komarov had poor possession numbers but were valuable players. But he ignores the situations they were forced to play (heavy defensive minutes, against top competition), as well as the roles they were given (to dump the puck out and get off the ice), which partially explain their poor numbers. In reality, people who use zone starts, QoC and QoT knew this, and didn't say that they were horrible players. Rather, they were decent players placed in a very defensive role.

In terms of his aversion to S%, I would just tell him to look at the S% leaders from year to year, and note that very few players are able to sustain a high S%. Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Bozak will go far too high in fantasy drafts next season, just like Nazem Kadri did in this one.

On another note, Simmons points out that so many goals occur because of random defensive breakdowns and good luck. If you have the puck, and you're always in the offensive zone, it's more likely that those breakdowns benefit you, and that you get goals out of it. Having more possession means that there's more opportunity for things to go wrong for your opponent. Conversely, if you're always in your own zone, there are more opportunities for things to go wrong, and more chances for your opponents to grab a goal out of it.

I don't think he was saying possession doesn't matter.

Obviously possession does matter to an extent. He's playing the same flute to my understanding as some of the Leafs management, which is shot quality is just as important. Instead of throwing blind pucks to the net at every chance you get, waiting for the right opportunity and creating a great chance. You don't have to shoot the puck to possess it. Simmons brought up the example of the Russian team who had something like 25 shots every game (correct me if I'm wrong). When they had the puck though they would always pass it around and end up creating great scoring chances on which they would capitalize.

To me, there are two sides to every coin and there is absolutely nothing wrong with Simmons perspective. I actually agree with it to an extent. But I, like most people, would LOVE to see the Leafs shoot more and possess the puck more. But that starts with good defensive play, "good sticks". Which they don't have and is something which I hope they address in the offseason.

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#3 glgbill
April 18 2014, 08:31AM
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The problem with Steve Simmons is not that he can't be level-headed and thoughtful, because he can. Just as easily, he can take a mind-numbingly stupid position designed only to provoke outrage. There is no internal consistency. None. He's trolling for eyes and ears and works for a paper that pays him to do so. Integrity? Ethics?

So, yes, guys like Simmons can step into a moment like this with charm and grace. BUT, guys like Simmons also believe they need to shock and provoke to ensure their own viability. They are sensationalists, nothing more. Everything they say and do must be viewed through this lens.

Glad you guys enjoyed your time with Simmons for the podcast. But how much longer before your recent impression of him is skewered by something he says or writes?

Clock is ticking...

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#4 Dan
April 18 2014, 04:17PM
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After listening, I don't think he changed my perspective of the game or my position on analytics. I get what he's saying, and understand that there are aspects of the game you cannot quantify. But his outright disagreement of individual stats, claiming that they lack merit, is preposterous. Analytics are a tool - he even agreed on that point. While there are many parts of the game you cannot quantify, these stats play a huge part in painting a better picture of explainig the game and individual success. I love how he cherry-picks LA and says how they are a great possession team but can't score...how they "only" finished 5th in the West (THEY HAD A FRIGGIN 100 POINT SEASON). Kudos for not exploding on him at times boys, good on you for giving him the respect he deserves. I think he's a great reporter and media figure, but he just seems not to "get" the purpose of any of this analytics talk quite yet.

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#5 SpenceDangles
April 18 2014, 01:38AM
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OMG THIS IS HAPPENING

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#6 Arvind
April 18 2014, 07:08AM
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I think you guys were very polite to him, and credit to Steve Simmons for showing up. That said, it seemed like he was missing he point in a lot of cases. He was focussing a lot on 'micro' events, isolated incidents that he said stats couldn't explain. The thing is, no one uses stats to explain micro events. They use them to understand the broader picture, not to predict or describe a single play. No one uses shot totals to predict how the next goal will occur. They use them to predict what is more LIKELY to happen in the future.

To use the Gunnarsson play he mentioned as an example, poor defensive play such as that WOULD be reflected in possession. If you have poor gap control, or concede the blueline easily, that would result in more shots against, and more goals against. That would be measured by possession numbers. Similarly, all the 'little' things he mentions (puck battles, active stick) would be reflected in the data. If you do those things well, your team will have control of the puck and dominate the game when you're on the ice. Players who have poor defensive discipline would give up more shots against than those who don't. Players with a 'bad stick' would not be as productive as players with a 'good stick'.

Simmons also makes the mistake of assuming people JUST look at possession numbers, using McClement as an example. He points out that last year, McClement and Komarov had poor possession numbers but were valuable players. But he ignores the situations they were forced to play (heavy defensive minutes, against top competition), as well as the roles they were given (to dump the puck out and get off the ice), which partially explain their poor numbers. In reality, people who use zone starts, QoC and QoT knew this, and didn't say that they were horrible players. Rather, they were decent players placed in a very defensive role.

In terms of his aversion to S%, I would just tell him to look at the S% leaders from year to year, and note that very few players are able to sustain a high S%. Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Bozak will go far too high in fantasy drafts next season, just like Nazem Kadri did in this one.

On another note, Simmons points out that so many goals occur because of random defensive breakdowns and good luck. If you have the puck, and you're always in the offensive zone, it's more likely that those breakdowns benefit you, and that you get goals out of it. Having more possession means that there's more opportunity for things to go wrong for your opponent. Conversely, if you're always in your own zone, there are more opportunities for things to go wrong, and more chances for your opponents to grab a goal out of it.

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#7 Arvind
April 18 2014, 07:38AM
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@Brandon

He said he likes possession at a team level, but not at an individual. I discussed it in my first post.

As for shot quality, there is scarce evidence to show that actually exists. The thing is, shot based metrics work BECAUSE teams don't just try and shoot blindly. The argument that teams would throw everything at the net and thus increase their Corsi/Fenwick is silly, in many cases, because that's generally not the goal of teams. They try and increase the amount of goals they score, meaning they trade off between the amount of chances they get and the quality of them. Very few teams just throw anything at the net for no good reason.

If you look at this site (http://hockey-graphs.com/2014/01/17/maple-leafs-blackhawks-oilers-bruins-shot-distributions-friday-quick-graphs/) you'd note that between the highest and lowest scoring teams, the distribution of shots is relatively similar. That's because teams are trying to find the optimal balance between quality and quantity of shots, which empirically, seems to converge to the distribution shown.

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#8 Mironov's Nose
April 18 2014, 06:09PM
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@Brandon

@Brandon -

"Obviously possession does matter to an extent. He's playing the same flute to my understanding as some of the Leafs management, which is shot quality is just as important. Instead of throwing blind pucks to the net at every chance you get, waiting for the right opportunity and creating a great chance. You don't have to shoot the puck to possess it. Simmons brought up the example of the Russian team who had something like 25 shots every game (correct me if I'm wrong). When they had the puck though they would always pass it around and end up creating great scoring chances on which they would capitalize."

Others have pointed out that there doesn't seem to be much evidence showing that shot quality matters over a large sample size. Another flaw in your argument is that if a team was controlling the play and just being picky about when they shot it would show up as low possession numbers for the other team.

Also, watching the Leafs this year it was clear that they weren't simply waiting for good chances. They were hemmed into their own zone far too often and had sustained OZ pressure far too infrequently.

Finally, here are a pair of articles suggesting that the Leafs poor possession numbers are the result of Carlyle's systems and not necessarily the fault of the players.

http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2014/4/17/5618696/toronto-maple-leafs-wowys-randy-carlyle-edition

http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=6917

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#9 leaferfan
April 18 2014, 06:47PM
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@Mironov's Nose

I read those articles but a drop in corsi can just as easily suggest a lack of player execution of the system. A team that is not defensibly responsible and does not win sufficient 50/50 puck battles will see the puck possession as measured drop. I see some indicative evidence that carlyle is not a good coach but the players are the problem. And this is a great spot to marry what those possession stats say with the leaf in game effort and the lack of committing to play defensive hockey.

Good interview too dangles.

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