Oilers Hackathon: Season Wrap

With the Oilers season coming to an end, I thought I would take a look back at my Hackathon predictions. For questions 1, 2 and 3, I will wait for the Oilers to post the results on their website. They indicated they were going to do so, but have not as yet.

Related, someone from the Oilers contacted me in March about being interviewed for this piece on the contest. I never did get that follow up call which was too bad. One, I would have liked to brag to friends and get ripped on Twitter by strangers. Two, the only individual they interviewed was an academic who already has a proprietary player rating system. It would have been interesting to read about some of the amateurs who entered, be it me or someone else.

The fourth question was really a choose your own adventure. I opted to focus on special teams and made four predictions.

1. For the 2012-2013 season, 12 of the top 16 teams in the wPP%d metric will make the playoffs.

2. The Detroit Red Wings will finish out of the top 16 in wPP%d and will miss the playoffs.

3. The New York Islanders will finish in the top 16 in wPP%d and will make the playoffs.

4. The Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs if they are around league average in PP shooting percentage (no more than 1% higher) and in the top 16 in wPP%d.

I think I wrote before that I wish I had simply used PP%d instead of weighting it with power play opportunities. I took a pretty simply concept and made it more complex for very little benefit.

Anyhoo, below is the data for the 2013 season. The ‘+’ in the yellow column denotes top 16 in wPP%d and made playoffs. ‘&&’ = made playoffs but not top 16 wPP%d. ‘-‘ = top 16 wPP%d but missed playoffs. ‘#’ = missed playoffs and not top 16 wPP%d.

2013 season

My predictions:

  1. 13 of the top 16 made the playoffs. Boom, it is 1-0.
  1. Detroit finished 13th in wPP%d and made the playoffs with a win on the season’s last day. A swing and a miss on this one.
  1. The Islanders finished 12th and made the playoffs. I am a genius.
  1. The Oilers were again a good special teams club, ranking 10th in wPP%d. I have not quite figured out the math, but per behindthenet.ca, the Oilers had the second worst PP shooing percentage at 5 on 4. That most certainly has them below league average. Swing and a miss, strike two.

So I ended up two for four with Detroit within smelling distance of being correct. The Oilers prediction was way off, in large part due to the team’s really poor results at 5 on 5.

That last sentence is really important to what I was hoping to find out with my entry. The idea was that we could totally ignore a team’s 5 on 5 play and infer team success solely from their special team’s play. Good special teams result in good teams.

Historically 12 of the top 16 special team performers make the playoffs and 13 of 16 did this past season. Each season there are examples of teams that make the playoffs despite poor special teams and teams that miss despite good special teams.

The Oilers clearly fall into that latter category. Generally, I view the 12 of 16 as the effect, not the cause. Good teams have good special teams. Good special teams does not necessarily mean good team.

I also wondered if special team performance was predictive to future years. Would a team with good special teams move into the playoffs? Would a team whose special teams decline be at risk for missing the playoffs the following year? I did not think this would be the case and nothing from the past season changes my mind. I went one for two in my predictions, but my post also identified San Jose and Colorado as teams whose fortunes might change. San Jose had the best special teams in the league while Colorado were near the basement. While they were not part of my submission, you could argue I went one for four. Special team performance is not predictive in terms of signaling a change in the standings the following year.

That about wraps up my thoughts on the Oilers Hackathon contest. If for some incredible reason I am one of the prize winners, perhaps a final post to try to understand why.


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