The Reason Why I Don’t Like The Use Of The Term “Sheltered” In Hockey

The true definition of the word sheltered is “protected from difficulties or unpleasant realities”. The urban dictionary claims the word means “Someone secluded from the real world”. Sheltered is a word that has a negative connotation to it.In hockey, sheltered is a term given to a player who receives many offensive zone faceoffs. The reason most likely is that coaches tend to “protect” young players by not deploying them in the defensive zone, thus “sheltering” them or protecting them from being involved in defensive zone faceoffs. So, in that sense, yes the term is used correctly.

However, Patrick Kane is a very sheltered player. Is he a bad player? No, he’s elite. Does he need to be protected? No. What he is happens to be one of if not the best offensive players in the game. When a coach has arguably the best offensive player in the game, that player needs to be put in the best position to score. Artem Anisimov was one of the most sheltered players on Chicago last season. Does he need to be “protected” like the definition of sheltered says? No. He plays on a line with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. Anisimov isn’t “sheltered” in the sense that he’s being protected by coach Q. He’s simply on an offensively focused and elite forward line. That line should be taking as many offensive zone faceoffs as possible to best utilize the lines talents.

Now if you understand hockey statistics, then you probably already know all this. You might already simply associate the word sheltered to mean “offensively focused” or a player with high “offensive usage”. The problem I have is when the general public sees the word sheltered associated with a player, and if that person doesn’t fully understand hockey advanced stats, they will most likely see the word “sheltered” as a negative. Now obviously a general NHL fan will know Patrick Kane is a good player. But when using the word sheltered with a lesser known player, that can automatically paint a picture in the persons head that the player is bad. Sheltered is a negative thing a person might think. “If a player is sheltered, he must be bad” is easily a thought the general fan could think when hearing that a player is sheltered.

Players that were sheltered last season include, Filip Forsberg, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Kyle Okposso, Nick Leddy, Mike Hoffman, Erik Karlsson, Shayne Gostibehere, Evgeni Malkin, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Kevin Shattenkirk just to name a few. Being sheltered isn’t always negative thing. Some of the best players are sheltered. It just means the coach puts them in more offensively focused situations. The takeaway is that these players are probably really good at offense.

But those are all obviously good players right? No one is going to mistake those players as bad players. Correct. But it’s the lesser known players. In Chicago’s case, the Erik Gustafsson’s, the Trevor Daley’s and the Marko Dano’s of the world. All were sheltered last season. But in a defensive zone faceoff, obviously I’m using Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson they are elite defensemen. Why would I put Marko Dano in a defensive zone faceoff when I have guys like Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins that don’t provide much offensively that can take those faceoffs.

Again, this isn’t about every single person, but I’ve seen people on Twitter that jump to the conclusion that if a player is sheltered they are bad or that their stats don’t count. If I tell someone that Erik Gustafsson had the highest even strength assist rate (assist rate being the average number of assists a player has every 60 minutes of ice time otherwise known as assists/60) of any defensemen in the league that played at least 500 minutes last season, I’ve received replies like “Yeah, but that doesn’t count because he’s sheltered.” Or “That doesn’t matter because he gets so many offensive zone starts”. Well does Patrick Kane’s 100-point season not count because he was sheltered? Does Artemi Panarin’s Calder Trophy not count because he was sheltered? Andrew Desjardins is the exact opposite of sheltered. Does that mean Andrew Desjardins is a great hockey player? Obviously not.

Now I want to mention again that I’m not saying everyone thinks this way. I’m not saying that even a majority of hockey fans see the word “sheltered” as a negative thing. But I know it exists. I’ve seen it. The average fan who sees the word sheltered next to a bottom-6 forward or a 2nd/3rd pairing defensemen they don’t know much about and thus associates that as a negative thing and a bad player.

The word sheltered is very misleading. If I used the word offensively focused or high offensive usage instead of sheltered, that’s much easy to comprehend and not as easily confusing as the term sheltered. Just like the common term “buried” might confuse the average fan when the term Defensively Focused or High Defensive Usage better describes that player and is easier for the common fan to understand/comprehend than the term buried.

My main focus when it comes to advanced stats is to be as inclusive as possible, make the product as easy to comprehend as possible, and make learning advanced stats a fun process for the general fan. That is my biggest beef with the word sheltered. To the average fan, that term can easily be misleading or confusing.