If one were to go into the Tampa Bay Lightning press box on game night, they would see a guy near the end of the top press row immersed up to his eyeballs in spreadsheets and numbers all over his computer screen.
One look at his name tag would tell you that he is Mike Gallimore, co-founder of the advanced stats site Bolts Statistics. Along with his partner Kyle Alexander, Gallimore spends most of his nights watching hockey but also tallying each shot and event happening in the game while other writers work on their nightly recap.
“Bolt Statistics is meant to serve as a repository for Lightning-related data and provide a type of coverage not regularly seen elsewhere,” Gallimore said.
He is absolutely right as the coverage they provide isn’t regularly seen in hockey media. Most “mainstream” hockey media shy away from these stats as it doesn’t help them get their deadline piece in quicker or they don’t see the use as they just trust the “eyeball test.”
As for Gallimore and Alexander, they are able to take time out and cover the games through the analytics they use. However, their method of coverage still brings up a heated debate, which like most debates takes to social media.
“Considering where the battle lines have been drawn, there’s an absurd quality to all of the hemming and hawing, especially since hockey’s just the latest sport to undergo this process.” Gallimore said with a chuckle.
So what brought him in on spending his nights analyzing Corsi and Fenwick and tallying each shot count even though there seems to be hemming and hawing about how these are useless stats?
According to Gallimore, after the Tampa Bay Rays, known for their use of saber metrics, turned heads for their World Series appearance, his interest was sparked and he began learning these “advanced stats.”
A good question is, “what does a site such as Bolt Statistics bring to a hockey fan base?” The answer is simple really. It is just another way of educating fans that want to learn more about their favorite team and understand the process behind what Gallimore likes to joke isn’t really that “advanced” because it’s simple math.
Like Gallimore said, it gives another bit of media coverage of the Bolts that is outside the normal deadline recap or feature piece but he also feels that it can change the business of the NHL, too.
“I would be surprised if some of the metrics championed by the hockey analytics community haven’t already surfaced in negotiations. I mean, let’s take zone entries.”
“For example, if you’re an agent and you’ve got an inkling that a client of yours has a knack for navigating the neutral zone with the puck and carrying it into the opponent’s end, why wouldn’t you want to have an idea of how often he does this and how much offense he directly helps generate for his club? I’m not saying I think it’s necessarily commonplace but I think the time is soon coming where they will be.”
Gallimore also feels that not only could agents use these advance stats in negotiations, but the teams could as well, meaning that teams will use this to their advantage too, in contract negotiations. If a player struggles with his shooting percentage and expects to be paid “Steven Stamkos money” well he may have another thing coming.
As for the Lightning, Gallimore, like most of us, isn’t privy to their processes, but he feels that they are trending into one of the more progressive teams on this issue. The organization has a statistical analyst on staff in Michael Peterson and they send representatives to MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics conference, giving the impression that this does matter to the Bolts’ brass.
What it all boils down to is that although advance stats are still in their infancy in terms of hockey, sites like Bolt Statistics are starting to crop up and give voice that these numbers and formulas matter. The data used can show trends as to why a team is failing or succeeding so well but at the end of the day, fans, players and organizations alike still need to trust their eyeballs as well as look at the data because of the context it brings in situations.
“I think those that try to evaluate teams and players should consult available data just as much as they should trust their own eyes. We all still watch the games and form impressions from them, some of which turn out to be insightful, right? I do think there’s some power in observation, particularly when we’re talking traditional scouting, which can yield extra information and context.“