Of all people to speak out against advanced stats... Drew Doughty?
That's like Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking out against explosions. Or Psy saying he hates one-hit wonders. Or Jack Edwards lamenting the homerism in today's broadcasters.
Drew, no. Please. You are the unofficial poster child for advanced statistics. You drive possession like few other players in the game. Your Corsi and Fenwick ratings are through the roof, and they've helped you guide your team to two Stanley Cups in three years.
OK, so maybe Jake Muzzin is the actual analytics poster child among players, but it's pretty clear metrics like Corsi measure team performance better than they do individual performance. That's why pretty much the entire Kings roster ranks among the league leaders in possession stats, and it's a big reason why Muzzin is the league's reigning Corsi champion. He was a solid find for GM Dean Lombardi, but Muzzin keeps great company as Doughty's partner.
So if we accept Doughty is the league's true stats darling, it's disconcerting to learn he can't stand the concept. Doughty to L.A. Kings Insider, when asked about Muzzin's Corsi rating:
"Yeah. I think that Corsi thing is a bunch of crap, personally. That’s not to take away from Muzz being the top guy in the league, because you know Muzz is a really good player. He’s improved so much over the last few years. He’s just going to improve even more and become better. Me and Muzz have it in our minds that we’re going to be one of the best D-pairings in the league one day, so we’re going to work towards that."
We know Doughty loves Muzzin as a player – he told me last season he'd like Muzzin as a defense partner for years to come – he clearly doesn't intend to knock Muzzin by knocking advanced stats. There are two possible explanations for Doughty's logic:
(a) He simply doesn't understand the concept, or hasn't tried to.
(b) He understands the concept, but he just doesn't care.
The former is perfectly understandable. He's Drew Doughty, he's excellent at hockey and he's a champion. If it ain't broke in his mind, why read up on how to fix it? The latter makes plenty of sense from any player's perspective, too. Most of them still live in a world where the scoreboard is all that matters. If they post an outstanding Corsi rating but they lose a game 3-0, their coaches still give them an earful. To players like Doughty, advanced stats may still be just a fad, just a distraction from what matters: winning hockey games.
But players like Doughty must be careful not to underestimate the stats. Ironically, the Kings do win games because of their puck possession. There's a direct correlation between their strong influence on the number of pucks flying toward opposing teams' goals and their Stanley Cups. Doughty should care.
We don't yet live in an era when the advanced stats are heralded as the most important measurements of success in hockey. The stats simply aren't accurate enough yet. But we're trending that way. We've seen it in the stat guru hirings across the league. Soon enough, Corsi, Fenwick or yet-unnamed-superstat will carry the same weight as shots on goal. If you win 3-0 but you're outshot 28-3, you better believe your coach flips over the Gatorade table in the dressing room afterward.
So while we can laugh at Doughty dissing the very concept that makes him so good, it'll be interesting to see how players' perception of statistics changes in the next few years.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin