ROYAL RUMBLE: Anholt vs. Berehowsky
Today we look at some of the statistical differences between coach Anholt and coach Berehowsky. Although neither will be behind the bench this coming season, looking at the numbers provides us with some perspective on what happened, and how it might effect the coming year. It also tells us just how much there is to fix, in order that we might set some realistic expectations for next year.
Which coached fared better? The answers may be surprising…
Let me begin with how the numbers were accumulated and the methodology behind the data pool. Since (to the best of my knowledge) no one else has taken an in-depth statistical look at the Canes’ two coaches from last season, we were forced to find these numbers the hard way. The WHL doesn’t have a great statistical resource center. It would be fantastic if someone could let us know about a better source, but in this case, we found the numbers the old fashioned way. The Canes domain crew of one (pictured above… mustache included), printed off every official game report of the 2014-2015 Hurricanes season. Many black coffees, toilet breaks, and awful Mayor Magrath Starbucks internet connections later, we arrived at some conclusions.
Since Berehowsky only coached 29 games last season, 29 was the biggest possible sample size we are able to draw from. I wanted to ensure that we were comparing D.B. and P.A. under the closest possible parameters. That is also why I chose to only include the 29 games Anholt coached immediately after Berehowsky’s dismissal. So all of the stats you will see below, were compiled over the Hurricanes first 58 games. Half under Drake, half under Peter.
For those concerned, the remaining games that were not included in the comparison wouldn’t have made things any better/worse for Anholt. Things continued on relatively the same. If you really really want those number and there is mass public rage and outcry, I may consider creating more graphics to display the final games…(but probably not).
I know some of you are reading this and are already poking holes and finding problems with this comparison. Let me do the problem identification for you.
- – Berehowsky had a much longer time with the players and therefore had an advantage over Anholt. The counter is that the players may have grown deaf ears to D.B. and actually been playing worse as a result. If true, you could argue that Anholt actually had an advantage over D.B. in that he would have the player’s ears, if for no other reason than he was new and refreshing. Teams that get new coaches mid-year (excluding this years TML), almost always rebound with better results for a stretch of games.
- – Anholt was GM and coach, while D.B had to operate under Robson. It could be argued that Anholt had an unfair advantage over Berehowsky in that he was able to trade away players he didn’t like/work well with. He was also able to play whomever he wanted free of pressure from a GM looking to monitor ice-time.
The other issue some may bring up is that this is ultimately irrelevant based on neither D.B or P.A coming back to coach next season. I disagree. Without a doubt it matters. Having a statistical understanding of how bad/good the team was under each coach is crucial if we want to measure the team moving forward. It also allows us to statistically approve of, or disagree with, what official channels (Hurricanes hockey op’s, BOD, team media (Twitter and radio), etc) may say about the direction of the team. If the stats suggest things are looking better for the futre, we cannot refute the official channels making similar claims. If the stats say otherwise? That is where things get interesting…
YOU GET A GRAPHIC, AND YOU GET A GRAPHIC, AND Y….!
As you can see, the three main stats referenced were winning percentage, shots, goals, and differentials. I had hoped to compare goaltending and special teams but that was just going to be too much work. If the blog grows and people enjoy this sort of content, I will dedicate more time to adding increasingly advanced stats. (please repost, share, tweet, facebook, post-office, pin, instagram, google plus, pony express… <3 ) Despite only using three main stat categories, there is much to read into. Lets begin.
Right away it’s clear that Anholt was much more effective at facilitating offence. His Canes’ scored 35 more goals than Berehowsky’s over the same sample size. Take note because as we go further it becomes a very important part of why Anholt had a better winning percentage (seems obvious, I know). So what was it that caused the team to start producing so much more offence under Anholt? Likely it was the methodology with which he approached systems play. He allowed the forwards more slack with their defensive game and was able to tweak the lines to find effective combinations. I think Anholt realized his team was never going to be a defensive stalwart, so he looked to beat teams with speed from his wingers and a good fast break-out. The rational is as simple as playing to your strengths.
The result was that Anholt’s team gave up more goals than his predecessor. Nine more goals to be specific. Normally this would probably mean something, but considering how much better the offence became under Anholt, the results seemed to justify the increase in goals against. When all is said and done, the goal differential between the two coaches speaks loud and clear. In combination with Anholt’s winning percentage, it would be easy to stop here and conclude that Anholt’s team was far superior to Berehowsky’s. Under Anholt the team did better in the only statistical category that actually matters – wins. With that said, is Anholt’s winning percentage over those 29 games something that can be sustained or built upon for the future?
Lets look deeper…
SHOT, SHOT, SHOT SHOT SHOT SHOT ERRRRYBODDDYYYY
Berehowsky’s team recorded more shots on net. 54 shots to be exact. It isn’t a massive number, but it shouldn’t be ignored considering Anholt’s team also gave up 77 more shots on goal. Combined, Berehowsky’s goal differential was 136 shots better than Anholt’s. The graph below is a more clear representation of a game by game look at the shot differential between both coaches. Remember, 0 represents a tied score-clock by the end of the game. -5 means they were out shot by five, and so on and so forth…
Not only were Berehowsky’s overall shot numbers better, but game by game, his team was more consistent. Consistently bad, but consistent none the less. Also note that Anholt’s team never once, in 29 games, out-shot an opponent where as Berehowsky’s team had small stretches of games where they won the shot battle.
BRINGING IT HOME
So what now? Anholt won far more games than Berehowsky. Things must be pointing up in Cane-land? I can’t deny Anholt had a better record, and that there were many different circumstantial and external factors that played into the statistics of each coach. Those are cold hard truths.
What I will argue is that the ‘success’ Anholt had with the team is in no way sustainable based on the shot metrics. To bank on the improvement the team made between Anholt and Berehowsky carrying forward into next year is irresponsible at best, and naive at worst. You simply cannot get out-shot by massive margins every single night and expect to sustain winning. I don’t care how many Stuart Skinners you have – it just isn’t possible. I won’t go so far as to say that Anholt got ‘lucky’ with his winning percentage (I don’t believe in luck), but if he had as large a sample size as Berehowsky (over a season or two), I am confident his percentage would have dropped over later 29 game sample sizes – probably significantly. Anholt benefited from some monster performances by his goaltenders, and an uncharacteristically high shooting percentage from his skaters.
For reasons unknown (to me at least), the team could not seem to find the back of the next for Berehowsky. There are a few possible explanations.
- Pure dumb streaky luck. (not a good explanation)
- Better line combos from Anholt (possible but tough to prove without further research)
- Style of play. Anholt’s team played North-South hockey, relying heavily on quick break-out passes and counter attacking as demonstrated by his inferior shot differential (I will refer to it as ‘rope a dope hockey’). Berehowsky’s team tried to dump and chase, establish a cycle, and generate shots. They were never successful with this strategy and though they generated more shots than under Anholt, the quality of scoring opportunities was generally lower. Teams were able to keep the Canes’ cycle to the perimeter where they could generate shots, but few good scoring chances. (most likely answer)
I don’t believe that any of the stats above doom the Hurricanes to failure next season. Jr. hockey is erratic at best, and players grow and develop on irregular trajectories. The Hurricanes could absolutely come out and light the conference on fire next year. The impact of a new coach is impossible to predict and I believe the talent exists in the organization for the team to dramatically improve next year. I wish no ill-will on the team. Remember that I am a hockey fan first, and ultimately a Lethbridge native that wants to see some winning. It is good for the players, the community, and the league as a whole. I would love nothing more than to see this team do well.
With that said, I am not willing to sacrifice my honesty, integrity or intellect to persuade myself or others that the future is bright. There is an immense amount of improvement needed to make this team respectable again. The numbers don’t lie.
I would love to hear from you on this. Are my conclusions unfair? Is this comparison useful? Has it changed your perception of the final half of the season? Blue and black, or white and gold? So many questions….
Honorary wanna-be. Twitter master for @canesdomain. Reader and blog follower. I work in digital design and write when I have something to say. Was a bench warmer for two time U of L hockey intramural champions, the Cal Cluttermucks. Have a degree I will (probably) never use.