Silver Nuggets: Mike Hoffman and Observational Selection Bias

Thanks to training camp, there's been an abundance of Senators news recently. It's welcomed after a summer that was very much status-quo for the organization, with no major signings and one "big" trade as the source of all the roster change. Then came these comments from Bryan Murray at the Sens FanFest last weekend, via Bruce Garrioch:

Murray repeated his desire to find a top six forward -- either in camp or through a trade. He said he spoke with UFAs and also tried to make a trade in the off-season but wasn't successful. "Hopefully someone here can take that spot or part way through the year, if we have to, go looking hard and make a big deal to get that type of player," said Murray

Nichols has a really good response in his news and notes column, specifically discussing what it means for Mike Hoffman -- the only "top-six" forward that was jerked around the lineup after Dave Cameron took over:

The coaching staff and management created a culture of fear wherein they dreaded the costly mistake and disregarded all of the positive things Hoffman could do on the ice. By bumping Hoffman to the fourth line, they helped mitigate the problem by limiting his minutes and playing him against inferior competition and the organization did not care that it came at the cost of neutering the offensive potential of what had been a productive second line.

Getting away from Hoffman for a moment, I can understand why the organization should be looking for an upgrade.

As a perennial playoff bubble team that has only won one playoff series in the last eight seasons, management should really be looking to upgrade every position that they can, so it's hard to get too upset when you hear that management is looking to improve their team. That's what the hockey ops staff is paid to do.

If the opportunity existed to add a top six forward who could bump a MacArthur or a Hoffman to a third line role, there's no question that it would be a pretty exciting deal. But realistically, what upgrades in the top six are available and what kind of team is willing to make this kind of move now?

I strongly encourage you to read the rest of Nichols excellent analysis, but I did want to briefly go more into detail on the organization's (and most NHL teams) tendency to fall into something that psychologists call 'observational selection bias'.

Say that we buy a pair of Nike's. Things are great: the shoe is light, it's versatile, it looks slick. Then we're walking downtown and we inexplicably start to see the same shoe virtually everywhere. In reality, it's not that the frequency of this shoe increased, but for whatever reason, we've ingrained the thought that "everyone has this shoe now" in our mind and, in turn, we start to notice it more often. This is like Mike Hoffman and his supposed defensive troubles. Hoffman was the great new toy and had a bunch of cool features, but for some reason people began to notice and 'select' his defensive mistakes, and now that's all people seem to notice. Observational selection bias is also a cognitive bias that makes us feel like "this couldn't possibly be a coincidence!!!!" even though it is (or very well could be). I feel like that's happened with Hoffman.

Defensively, between Oct. 1 and Feb. 15, Hoffman's shot attempt against rate per sixty minutes of ice time was 54.9, and increased slightly to 56.31 from Feb. 15 to April. 12. That's a difference of 1.4 shot ATTEMPTS every few games, which is hardly what I'd call a "risk" or "liability" defensively on the ice if it was fine earlier in the season, especially relative to his peers on Ottawa (see CA60 column).

In terms of scoring chances against per sixty, those numbers are 24.54 (Oct-Feb) and 24.85 (Feb-Apr), which is an even tinier number. What changed? His goals for percentage numbers went from 64.41% to 50%, his on-ice shooting percentage went from 12.46% to 7.18%, and his on-ice save percentage went from 0.934 to 0.919, all despite similar shot attempt for and against numbers. There was no major drop-off in the things that Hoffman himself had control of, but when the goals for stopped coming as frequently (i.e. you started noticing less *good* things about your shoes) and the goals against started coming more frequently (i.e. other people have your same shoes!), you start to think "hmmmmm something must be up here," which lends yourself to the type of clouded thinking that concludes "Mike Hoffman isn't a top-six forward."

Now, that's NOT to say that the organization is wrong for being cautious and saying "wait a minute, let's just see if he can do this again," especially when they've been burned by on-ice percentages before during the re-signings of Milan Michalek and Colin Greening. However, if this type of thinking ends up with the organization shedding assets for a minor upgrade on a position due to the fact that Hoffman somehow starts off slow - i.e. the goals don't go in for him despite good shot attempt generation as always - then it could really impact the future of the organization: not just for Hoffman, but for the roster spots of Nick Paul, Matt Puempel, Shane Prince, and Tobias Lindberg.

[all statistics from War on Ice]


Sens links

  • The Senators beat the Buffalo Sabres in their third (?) preseason game by a score of 5-2. Pretty good showing from a depleted squad, with notable performances by the Prince - McCormick - Dzingel line. Chirp has his thoughts on the first three preseason games. [Silver Seven, SensChirp vs. Toronto, SensChirp vs. Buffalo, Ottawa CItizen vs. Toronto, Ottawa Citizen vs. Buffalo]
  • As of 9:25am this morning, the Sens have only trimmed their training camp roster by three players -- all involving returning players to their respective junior clubs. I'd expect some more to come pretty soon. The Senators also divided their group into "A" and "B" teams, with Prince, Puempel, Wideman, and Kostka in the "A" group, and O'Dell + Claesson with the "B" group. [Senators, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
  • News emerged yesterday evening the Mikael Wikstrand flew back to Sweden, and the reports were confirmed by the Ottawa media this morning. This is such a weird situation, and due to the fact that his NHL contract supersedes his SHL one, the Senators can choose to suspend Wikstrand. [6th Sens, Ottawa Citizen]
  • Want an in-depth update on a bunch (and trust me, there's a bunch) of newsworthy tidbits for the Sens this week? Check out Nichols + Peter's news + notes columns. They feature thoughts on top-six forwards, Jared Cowen, Robin Lehner, and a plethora of Sens prospects. [6th Sens, Eye on the Sens]
  • Speaking of Jared Cowen, Rob chimes in with a funny piece on the "most important season of his NHL career" narrative. [Bonk's Mullet]
  • Want a state of the union for things in Sens land? I have three columns for you! The first is a transcript of GM Bryan Murray's interview with the Godfather himself, Bob McKenzie, that Callum put together. The second is a loaded article from Nichols with 19 talking points for the upcoming season. The final is from Andrew, who's column is thought-provoking and hilarious. [Silver Seven, 6th Sens, WTYKY]
  • Andrew also put together an important piece that acts as a state of the union on the NHL itself. A really good mix of league storylines, where the Sens fit in, and discussion of social issues here. [WTYKY]
  • Mike has the second instalment of a series which I'm really enjoying: his new Sens comic, Sens Friends. [Bonk's Mullet]
  • The staff have started to make our regular season predictions! Take a gander, and chime in with yours in the comment section! [Silver Seven predictions on - Goaltending, Prince/Puempel, Stone, Scoring Leader]
  • Trevor has a really fun column as a re-introduction to NHL hockey. [Silver Seven]
  • Part of that re-introduction is the familiar face of Daniel Alfredsson. Click through for the headline that's hot as fire, stay for the piece that follows. [Bonk's Mullet]
  • We're all about the optimism right now at Silver Seven. Callum argues that this season may be Erik Karlsson's best yet. I'm salivating at the thought. [Silver Seven]
  • We mentioned the Ohio State tandem of Dzingel and McCormick earlier in the Nuggets. The Citizen has a feature on them. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Ross asked what our expectations are for Bobby Ryan. I'd be happy with 20+ goals and 50+ points. [Silver Seven]

Other Links

  • A ton of updates regarding the Patrick Kane investigation. First, an important reminder of just how prevalent domestic violence and sexual assault is in North America, from Jen LC. Next, a piece written by a bunch of fabulous authors on how the NHL should treat the Kane case. Lastly, an analysis as of this morning of where the Kane case stands. I've been following at @JulieDiCaro for updates regarding the Kane case, and the amount of work she's put in as a reporter is amazing. A quick glance at her timeline should show you the amount of BS she has to put up with on a daily basis, and hopefully gives you a sense of why these discussions are necessary. I can't even begin to imagine how people (mainly women) directly affected by this are feeling. A reader of Ducks SBN blog Anaheim Calling tried to put her feelings into words on the NHL's action (+ inaction) on this year's cases regarding domestic violence and sexual assault [Jen LC, SBNation, Daily Public, Anaheim Calling]
  • Speaking of how different the treatment is for men + women in a SPORT context, check out this article from Yahoo! on how the Captain of Iran's National Women's team had to miss the Asian Cup because her husband didn't sign a form. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts column will always be linked here, even if they don't have any Sens tidbits this week. [Sportsnet]
  • I (among many others) started to talk about the term 'score effects' a lot in analysis pieces last season. Travis Yost goes through what they are and why they're important for providing context. [TSN]
  • Jack Han has been writing some great pieces the past couple of months. Here he is on integrating hockey analytics practice and philosophies into coaching sessions. [Hockey Graphs]
  • A lot of statistics work in sport have come from baseball. Here's an interesting interview with two of the mavens in this regard, Billy Beane and Bill James. [WSJ]
  • An article on an incredible minor league hockey story. Beautiful storytelling. [NYTimes]
  • Now to combine statistics with storytelling, here's a great piece on the evolution of Cristiano Ronaldo. [Grantland]
  • We've heard a lot about many veteran forwards in the NHL -- Brad Boyes, Curtis Glencross, etc. -- having to accept PTOs this season since they weren't offered their desired contracts in the offseason. The same may be happening for goaltenders soon as a bunch of rookies may be pushing some big names out of starting jobs. [InGoalMag]
  • BOBBY RYAN IS GOING TO PHILADELPHIA..... just kidding. [Youtube]

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