While we all know hockey is played on ice and not the statistics sheet, sometimes being able to validate or invalidate a player vs player comparison is important. Sometimes it just allows you to shut someone up who just doesn’t know better. For players on the fringe, or almost any player who gets drawn into arbitration advanced stats are going to be key. Also, one can’t forget the use for fantasy players and leagues which whatever certain pundits and casual fans may think do help keep more focus on the sport.
Unassisted goals. While we all know hockey is the ultimate team sport, having this stat to help break down the important individual efforts that can sometimes turn a game or playoff series is important.
Points off turnover. This would be a measure of the points (goals and assists, and possibly broken down into both player and team categories) scored within 30 seconds of forced turnover/strip of the puck.
Zone starts. Where players start their shifts says a lot about what their team expects of them.
Quality of shots. Much is made of the number of shots teams give up, and there is the “scoring opportunities” number thrown around, but that’s largely a meaningless number since no one knows how it’s measured. Ideally, shots would be broken down into three areas 1: Below and between the faceoff dots and about five or six feet outside the crease 2: Within six feet of the crease and forward of the goal line. 3: All shots from other places.
Diversions. This would be a measure of how often a skater forces an opponent to redirect away from the net when they possess the puck. It could be a lift of the stick, poking the puck away or a check that takes them off a line that allows a shot on net.
Aside from the fantasy and monetary reasons, statistics are useful for player development, and growing the game. Football seems to spawn a new statistic about every six weeks, baseball has more of them than there are seats at Yankee Stadium and neither sport is lacking for fans, discussion of statistics or the ability to produce and retain players from a young age up to the professional level. We often here players efforts compared in one zone or aspect, but aside from the points aspect there are few if any cross positional measuring sticks. If you watch Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk or Ryan Kesler play you can say “they are better defensively than…” and insert any number of names from Phil Kessel to Marion Gaborik or Alex Kovalev, but right now there is no simple metric for helping a player who defensively resembles one of the latter group improve to a level closer to the former.
One of the more interesting things the national broadcasts have gotten away from in the past two or three seasons is helping new fans get immersed in the game. We used to see explanations of various rules during broadcasts. At some point that ended. With ratings climbing in recent years, and the national deal moving to NBC and Versus which will soon be NBC Sports, it might be time to resurrect the explanations, and implement a few statistics to support why players like Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi, Andrew Ference or similar defensemen can be so valuable to a team and often get paid as much or more than players who score more than they do. Similarly it would make awards like the Norris or Selke more meaningful when you can have a reasonably reliable measure of “better” for non-scoring plays.