Drance Numbers: I was eerily correct about the Canucks’ goal totals

It’s odd to be writing the final “Drance Numbers” post of the regular season. It feels like only just yesterday I was writing the first, a detailed post projecting the Canucks’ likely offensive output back on October 6th, 2011. Looking back on that post, it seems uncannily prescient now:

So how many goals are the Canucks going to score this season? According to my detailed forecast: the Canucks should manage in the ball park of 247 Goals For in 2011/12. That total would have put them in the top five in both of the past two seasons. Though it represents an 11-goal regression from last season’s league leading total, it should be enough to keep the team in contention for the top spot in the Western Conference.

With one game to play, the Canucks are sitting at 246 goals. So, barring an offensive explosion in game 82 (like we saw from the Canucks in 2009), my 247 projection is likely to be very close to the team’s actual total.

While I’d like to claim to possess the powers of clairvoyance, that’s demonstrably not the case, and anyway, there’s only room in the Canucks blogosphere for one nostradamus figure.

But my October prediction is close enough that I’ll enjoy a quick Homer dance (while the wall catches fire behind me).

Let’s look briefly at the numbers and the methodology I used at the start of season. We’ll evaluate where my work was legitimately dead-on, and where I just got lucky.

Not surprisingly, my educated guess began with some guess-work. At the outset, I tried to project how much ice-time each Canucks skater would receive at both even-strength and on the power-play. To do that, I used average ice-time based on the roles players played on the team over the past two seasons.

Here’s what I got wrong: I didn’t foresee Ryan Kesler or Mason Raymond returning from injury as soon as they did, I expected Tanev to play the entire season in Vancouver, and I didn’t realize that Alain Vigneault would radicalize the deployment of his fourth line to the extent that he did. Vigneault also leaned more heavily on his top-three defenseman (Edler, Bieksa, Hamhuis) than he had in the two seasons prior.

In terms of what I got right, there isn’t much, though I nailed Henrik Sedin’s even-strength ice-time and got most of the first power-play unit ice-time dead on (though, I’d pencilled Mikael Samuelsson in to play 250+ power-play minutes for the Canucks this season).

I then went through three seasons worth of goals and came up with an “expected goals per sixty minutes” for each skater, based on that large sample. The numbers worked really well for calculating the even-strength scoring rates of the top-four defenders, and for most of the forwards. Several of the team’s depth forwards (Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre) outperformed their recent career scoring rates, while the team’s offensive “stars” (Kesler, Alex Burrows and both Sedins) uniformly saw their G/60 rates fall off.

For what it’s worth, considering the unique way he was deployed this season and the chatter over his regression as a player, Malhotra’s goals per sixty rate this season wasn’t substantially different from his recent career rate.

Generally my model’s individual results were way off, though it did predict 28 goals for Alex Burrows. Henrik Sedin underperformed my projection the most, with only 13 goals (model projected 22), while Chris Higgins was the standout overperformer, exceeding my projection with 18 (model predicted 9).

My overall team predictions were much more successful: I had the Canucks scoring 57 power-play goals (they have 55), 178 even-strength goals (they’ve scored 176), 7 short-handed goals (the Canucks have 7) and 5 shootout winners (they’ve scored 8). That my friends, is some serious Rainman schtick.

How much credit can I really take for being “right” when I had the likes of Sturm and Samuelsson potting 37 combined? While there was doubtless a lot of luck involved here, numbers are powerful and if you combine them with some luck and some common sense, you can do astonishing things. For Gillis and Gilman, trusting the math has helped them to construct a perennial contender.

In my more humble case, numbers have merely helped me see the future.

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8 comments

  1. Zach Morris
    April 6, 2012

    if that video is as accurate as your prognostication, you’re on fire.

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    Rating: +11 (from 11 votes)
  2. Ginger
    April 6, 2012

    This is impressive, you obviously know what you’re doing. Maybe you’d like to help me pick 20 skaters for my playoff pool? It would be so simple, it counts goals and assists only. C’monnnnnn….

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    Rating: +11 (from 11 votes)
    • Hips
      April 6, 2012

      C’mon Drance. I know you’re not supposed to use your powers for evil, but….

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      Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  3. sarah
    April 6, 2012

    Let’s blame Drance for the lack of scoring!

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    Rating: +14 (from 14 votes)
  4. Nee
    April 6, 2012

    Wizard!

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    • stathead
      April 7, 2012

      In the old days, they would have drowned you in the village duck pond for this, then played hockey on you when the pond froze in winter. Actually kind of a fitting tribute.

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      Rating: +7 (from 7 votes)
  5. biznow
    April 6, 2012

    give me your tears gypsy!

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  6. Cathylu
    April 8, 2012

    Normally reading your posts kinda makes my head hurt (and I was good in math at school). But I certainly appreciate your knowledge and thanks for the education all season. Keep up the good work.

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