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Why possession matters: A visual guide to Fenwick

One of the most interesting things about this shortened season is watching the interaction between fans and the #fancystat crowd who generally look down at these fans with disdain. For all the predictive tools that the #fancystat crowd has at their disposal a shortened season seems to play havoc with these tools.

PDO and Fenwick seem to be a daily discussion point in my twitter feed and the largest target also happens to be one of the largest and most passionate fan bases, Maple Leafs Nation. Their high and unsustainable PDO and an absolutely horrific possession rate seem to be at the center of the tug and war.

The major problem for this season is the sample size and it could present major issues for any team that assesses these partial results from this 48 game sample as a full season.



Above I have charted every team’s fenwick close since 2007-2008. The rings of the graph represent each round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The further the logo is away from the ring represents the distance from a playoff berth. I have also charter the percentage from .400 to .600. The further away from the .400 represents a stronger possession team. The ultimate on this index would be the 2008 Red Wings with a score of 59.39 located on the top portion of the Stanley Cup in the +.550 section. The 2008 Thrashers scrape the bottom of this index with a 41.23 and 28th position during the same season.

You can see the magic number of success is +.500. If you manage to crack this number you have a greater than 75% chance to qualify for the playoffs. If you break the +.550 mark you have a 25% probability of winning the Cup.

The communication problem begins when emotionally charged fans disagree with the predictive model and take the result personally. (I do get a kick out of the fan who will rail against the data and numbers and then immediately use the probability calculation of sportsclubstats to strengthen their argument).

There are outliers, there always will be in sports. Hab fans should know this more than any other fan base with the amount of success they have pulled off with a terrible possession team. The problem I had as a fan was I always knew they were a fraud and was always waiting for the anvil to drop.

When you look at the one outlier who won the Stanley Cup, you also notice that there was a major change that occurred during that season which creates enough noise to skew the result. The 2009 Penguins are the only team to buck the odds as a non +.500 fenwick team, but their .499 was .549 under Dan Bylsma and has been no lower than .531 since.

Playoff teams


Non-Playoff teams


If you are new to fenwick, click on this, find your percentage and plot it on this chart. If it falls on the +.550 side smile and understand that you likely have a Cup contender on your hands. If it falls below -.450 then cross your fingers and hope for a 2010 Canadiens outlier run.

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