Emailer Questions: Does Coach Q Value Analytics?

My emails are always open at Blackhawksbreakdown@gmail.com

It might take me a couple days or a week to get your question answered, but I promise to answer every question I receive.

An Emailer asks:

How would you describe Coach Quenneville’s approach to analytics? He paired Kempney-Seabrook (pro) – took weeks to make change (con). Line combinations also seem like a blend of following/ignoring.


“Well, we had a decent start. We got a lot of moving parts here as far as some new guys. We had six rookies right off the bat and we’re getting some familiarity with one another was apart of it, but we’re winning some games. Our Goaltending this year has been outstanding. That’s probably the single reason we got off to the start we did. We’re playing, I would say ordinary. We’re starting to progress in our team game. Going into Christmas we came out a little flat in that time. We got three wins since and got back to where we want to be. We’re progressing. I still think, i don’t know how good we are yet. We still have a lot of options as far as our lines go and our opportunity to make different lines. Kaner’s heating up. He had a couple big nights. That line has been our go to line all year in terms of production and scoring goals. Anisimov has had a special year so far, as had Hossa. Those two guys have scored big goals for us. Our defense is better. We’re deeper. We had 8-D. We had to send the one kid Forsling down to the minors to keep him playing. So we’re deep in that area. So we got some balance. I still think there is room to get better. WE HAVEN’T HAD THE PUCK AS MUCH AS WE HAD IN THE PAST.”

That was Coach Quenneville on Hockey Central at Noon this past Monday. I was unsure of how to answer this question before I heard him give this quote.

For one, I don’t have access to the team. I don’t know how much Q uses analytics. I don’t know what type of analytics they use. I don’t know what type of numbers they value as they will have data that isn’t available to the public.

Do they value winning puck battles? Do they value zone exits. Do they value quick ups? Do they value controlled zone entries? There are plenty of stats that are only available to them. Maybe a move looks odd to us, but is actually a smart move. We wouldn’t know, because we don’t have all the information available to us. It’s hard to judge someone when you don’t have all the data they use to make their decisions.

That was my disclaimer that this is all wild assumptions. I don’t read Q’s quotes after games, so I don’t really hear anything he says, unless he’s on a national show like Hockey Central.

Anyway, what he said on the show Monday struck me as analytical thinking. He was asked about the team and that’s somewhat how I would describe it as well.

According to the numbers, goaltending as carried Chicago this season, while their team play has been subpar. In the quote Q says the goaltending has been outstanding and probably the single reason they were off to the hot start. He also says the team is playing ordinary, which sounds like coach speak for subpar.

He acknowledged they rely mostly on the Russian line and they do.

The last sentence is the big one.

“WE HAVEN’T HAD THE PUCK AS MUCH AS WE HAD IN THE PAST.”

Translated: We use to be a really good Corsi team. Our Corsi this season has been bad.

So while Q played Seabrook-TVR way too much, always has a Brandon Bollig, Brandon Mashinter, or Jordan Tootoo in the lineup, and will throw certain players with good numbers in the doghouse, we can’t say its because he’s anti-analytics.

On Seabrook-TVR, I would guess he didn’t trust any other defensemen and was hoping TVR would adapt to playing the off-side and the pairing would improve. Maybe he felt he had no other choice.

With Bollig, Mashinter, and Tootoo, it’s been discussed that this is more of a player want. The players feel safer with a guy like that on the ice and want these type of players playing. This would make sense as it was the players that basically got Tootoo on the team by asking Bowman to sign him. It doesn’t make sense in terms of practicality. The Blackhawks aren’t safer when these “tough” players dress compared to others. We blame Q for this, but maybe he isn’t the one behind it.

And when Q throws a guy like Kempny in the doghouse even though he has a good Corsi, he could have poor numbers in a stat the public doesn’t have access to. Maybe he has poor zone exits that he needed to clean up. Kempny could be struggling in a stat thats not available to the public. We chastise Q for benching Kempny, but it’s possible if we had the same information as him, that we would do the same thing.

In the end, I think Q mostly follows analytical thinking and ideals. He obviously isn’t a stat nerd, but I would guess he looks at the numbers more than the average NHL coach.