For the second time in three years, the NLL has changed statistics providers. As a guy who loves stats, most of the time I spend on nll.com is looking over stats. The column I’m going to be writing for ILIndoor.com will be entirely about stats. I run a lacrosse pool with my friends, and so I’ve written software to download and manipulate the stats. I keep having to change my code to handle changes to the URLs, the formats, which stats are actually included, and so on. Now I need to rewrite them all again to handle the new stuff. But rewriting that stuff is just a one-time inconvenience for me, and at most a handful of other people around the country doing something similar. Once that’s done, are we better off with the new stats provider and pages? Let’s investigate.
You don’t need to know anything about stats to read this article, but it will be quite long and detailed. You have my express written permission to skip it if you don’t care about the stats pages at NLL.com. But if you do skip it, you have to read the next article I post twice. Deal?
This may not be a completely accurate comparison since the old pages are no longer available, so I can’t compare side-by-side. I have to go by what I remember. I’ll also include a list of bugs I’ve found at the bottom.
When you click on “Stats” in the menu at the top, you get a page listing the individual leaders in a number of categories. This is likely what most visitors to the page are looking for, so this makes sense. For each stat, the top player is shown with a little picture, and then the next 4 or 5 in that category. It’s not immediately obvious, but if you want the entire list of a stat rather than just the top 5, you can click on the stat name. This takes you to a page with a list of players and a bunch of stats, and you can sort by any of them. This is fabulous, as it was one thing missing before. You can even sort by a player’s jersey number, though incorrectly.
There is also no legend. I know that PPG is power play goals, FO is face-offs taken, and FOW is face-offs won, but it took me a second to figure out that TO and FT were turnovers and forced turnovers. But if you have face-offs taken and face-offs won, do you really need a separate column for face-offs lost? I suppose you might if you want to sort by that column. The last column is for MVP. I have no idea what that is. My first thought was “are they really allowing you to sort by the number of game MVP awards a player has been given?” I didn’t think “game MVP” was even something the NLL awarded, other than the Championship Game. Whatever it is, it shows up in both the player list and the goalie list, and nobody in the Toronto-Calgary season opener was credited with one. Except that if you go to the game stats, Dane Dobbie got one, so maybe it is game MVP. Seems like a dumb stat to keep track of considering how subjective it is.
There’s a page showing team scoring by quarter, which will be very interesting to watch over the season. Despite the fact that neither Colorado nor Minnesota have played yet, they have non-zero values in some columns. Colorado has scored 3 times in the first quarter, once in the second, three times in the third, and none overall.
The power play page (which is just called “Team”) is weird – it lists “Team”, “PP”, and “PP%”. That’s it. Even PPG isn’t there, and no SHG or PK%.
You can click on a team name and it will take you to that team’s page, which is more than just stats. It includes the team’s W-L record; the team leaders in goals, assists, points, shots, and GAA; quick summary of their latest game; the entire roster (the fact that this includes the practice squad, injured reserve, physically unable to perform, protected, and hold-outs is awesome); some recent stories about that team; and upcoming games.
The game schedule page is very nice, with a mini-calendar sort of thing across the top (including the words “WIN” or “LOSS” for past games). The box score list shows the final score, period-by-period score, date/time/location, and a link to the detailed boxscore. There’s also a game list page that shows the same stuff minus the boxscore but in a very small font. I don’t know why you’d ever use that page over the boxscore page.
There’s a page for each game as well, though it’s pretty information-free for upcoming games. All times seem to be in EST but are not displayed with time zone indicators. For example, it says that next weekend’s Washington/Calgary game is at “10:30PM”, even though “7:30PM PST” would make more sense.
The first word that comes to mind for the individual game page is slick. It’s all Web 2.0-y and slider-y and smooth scrolling-y and stuff like that. There’s a display of the floor with dots where each of the goals were scored from, and you can click on the goals to get who scored it and when. You can do the same for loose balls, shots, shots off target, and faceoffs. I’m not sure how useful it is, but it’s very slick. There’s a play-by-play page, which lists all the “events” (goals, face-offs, loose balls, turnovers, shots, etc.) in the order in which they happened. Finally there’s a Game Stats page with two tabs: Team stats, which lists a bunch of stats and the totals for each team plus a visual indicator of how the teams compare for that particular stat, and Player Stats which lists all the individual stats for each player on each team. All of the PIM (Penalty Minutes) values include a “.0” at the end, though I’ve never heard of penalties being given involving fractions of minutes. (“That illegal cross-check was worse than a minor penalty, but wasn’t bad enough to be a full 5 minute major, so the player will serve a 3.5 minute intermediate penalty.”)
Stuff that’s missing
There needs to be a full menu of all the different stats pages available. If I click on stats, I get a list of the individual leaders. But how do I get from there to the list of all players on one team and their stats? Turns out you go go the Teams menu at the top, not the Stats menu, but this isn’t obvious. Once there, you have to scroll down past stuff like the aggregate number of goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, etc. to get to the player list. The aggregate team stuff is useful, but it’s more likely that the reader wants to see the list of players, so it should be at the top.
If you click on a player’s name, you get a page with his current stats as well as a menu of previous seasons, with game-by-game level stats. This is nice, but should not be the default. Having one single list with one row per season is absolutely essential. Without it, comparing different seasons is much harder and spotting anomalies is essentially impossible.
Very high on my nice-to-have list, but probably priority zero on the NLL’s list: an XML interface to the entire statistics database. Close second: an XML interface to this year’s player stats. Man, would that make my life easier.
To the NLL.com developer who is reading this: I am using Chrome on Windows.
- When sorting the list of players by jersey number, it’s doing an alphanumeric sort rather than numeric. 3 should not come between 27 and 30.
- As I said above, listing the player stats shows Dane Dobbie with a 0 in the “MVP” column, but in the game stats for the TOR/CAL game, he has 1.
- On the player stats page, there are two separate lists. They don’t necessarily show the same players, and they’re not sorted by the same thing. When I click on the link to go to page 2, the upper list changes to page 2 but I’m shown the bottom list and have to scroll up to get back to the top.
- Same page – when I’m on page 2, the link for “Previous” is on top of the link for page 1.
- Team standings page – Edmonton, Philly, and Rochester are 0-0-0 while everyone else is just 0-0.
- If you’re not using the latest version of your browser, you’re probably out of luck. Then again, that’s true for many web sites these days anyway. I tried to write a quick blog post on my sister’s computer last week, which is running IE7 (she can’t upgrade because of work restrictions). This ended being totally impossible.
For me personally, I’m mostly happy with the new site, though there are some missing items and in general it seems to take an extra click or two to get to where you want to be. For your average non-stathead fan who just wants to see who’s leading the league, it’s great. With the old site, you had nll.com and stats.nll.com, and sometimes it was obvious that the page you were looking at was a shell from one site around an ajax page from another site. The new one is much more uniform.
From an aesthetic point of view, the new site looks great. The fancy game page stuff is slick and fairly fast, though I found that page loads were taking quite a while. There are lots of images; almost everywhere you see a team you see a logo, and there are lots of player pictures as well. I suppose it’s possible that these were causing the slow page loads, but they should have been cached pretty quickly so that seems unlikely.
Kudos to the NLL on the new site. Now, if I could please have my XML interface, that’d be great. KTHXBYE.