2018 NLL Milestones

A number of player and team milestones can be reached this year. Here’s a list of the most likely:

Teams

Wins & losses

Rochester’s first win of the season will be the franchise’s 200th. Calgary needs three for 150.

Buffalo needs three away wins to give them 100 in franchise history.

Toronto’s next win at the ACC will be their 100th home victory.

The Vancouver Stealth will break into double digits in the “away win” category with their first win on the road. That’s right, after four full seasons in Vancouver the Stealth have only won 9 games on the road. Total.

Goals

Buffalo is 63 goals away from becoming the first NLL team to score 5000 goals. They are already 500 goals ahead of anyone else (Wings) and 700 ahead of any active team (Knighthawks). On the other end of the spectrum, Saskatchewan needs 36 goals to reach 500.

Colorado needs 3 at home to hit 1500, and 42 on the road to hit 1500. This also means that they need 45 total to hit 3000. If they give up 103, they’ll hit 3000 goals allowed.

Team Leaders

Dane Dobbie will take over the all-time Roughnecks lead in points from Jeff Shattler with his 18th of the year. Stephan Leblanc could pass Josh Sanderson for 3rd on the Rock’s points list with 77 points. Dhane Smith needs 22 goals to tie Mike Accursi for 3rd all-time in Bandits goals.

Small sidetrack: I’ve talked about John Tavares and his amazing numbers a million times here, and I’m going to do it again. After only five seasons, Dhane Smith is already third on the Bandits points list, but he’s 542 behind the still-active Mark Steenhuis, who’s 779 behind John Tavares. Steenhuis is second in Bandits goals but needs 371 to catch JT. To illustrate just how far behind that is, only 14 players have ever scored more than 371 goals in their career, and Shawn Evans isn’t one of them. In order to break JT’s record, Steenhuis would have to score as many goals as Shawn Evans ever has – starting now – and he’d still be short by 3.

Other combinations of players who don’t add up to Tavares’s goal total: Dan Dawson & Rhys Duch, Josh Sanderson & Ryan Benesch, and Paul Gait & Tom Marechek.

In case there was any doubt before now (and there wasn’t), Tavares’s records will stand for a long time. OK, back to the milestones for 2018.


Players

Goals

Player… Needs… To reach…
Dan Dawson 31 500
Shawn Evans 32 400
Ryan Benesch 38 400
Callum Crawford 24 300
Jeff Shattler 32 300
Cody Jamieson 1 200
Dhane Smith 15 200
Joe Resetarits 3 100
Curtis Knight 6 100
Brad Self 9 100

Assists

Player… Needs… To reach…
Shawn Evans 57 700
Mark Steenhuis 55 600
Rhys Duch 22 500
Ryan Benesch 25 500
Stephan Leblanc 49 400
Brodie Merrill 15 300
Mark Matthews 18 300
Corey Small 18 300
Rob Hellyer 8 200
Zack Greer 21 200
Robert Church 21 200
Logan Schuss 23 200

Shawn Evans

Points

Player… Needs… To reach…
Dan Dawson 39 1300
Shawn Evans 89 1100
Mark Steenhuis 100 1100
Ryan Benesch 63 900
Rhys Duch 31 900
Callum Crawford 11 800
Jeff Shattler 15 700
Dane Dobbie 34 700
Stephan Leblanc 2 600
Curtis Dickson 50 600
Cody Jamieson 72 600
Kevin Crowley 43 500
Adam Jones 69 500
Dhane Smith 72 500

Loose Balls

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brodie Merrill 15 2200
Mark Steenhuis 30 1500
Jay Thorimbert 72 1400
Shawn Evans 69 1200
Jeff Shattler 91 1200
Ian Hawksbee 35 1100
Jordan MacIntosh 40 1100
Sandy Chapman 12 1000

PIM

Player… Needs… To reach…
Billy Dee Smith 76 700
Mark Steenhuis 8 400

Games

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brodie Merrill 3 200
Shawn Evans 5 200
Billy Dee Smith 8 200
Matt Vinc 14 200
John Lafontaine 2 100
Frank Scigliano 2 100
Johnny Powless 5 100
Adam Jones 9 100

Goalie Minutes

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brandon Miller 199 8000
Aaron Bold 403 7000
Mike Poulin 752 7000
Evan Kirk 648 5000
Nick Rose 664 5000

Goals against

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brandon Miller 27 1600
Aaron Bold 70 1200
Evan Kirk 99 1000

Saves

Player… Needs… To reach…
Matt Vinc 533 7000
Mike Poulin 70 4000
Aaron Bold 223 4000
Evan Kirk 68 3000
Nick Rose 196 3000

Leaders

This section is for players who are close to passing a retired player on the career list in a particular category.

Player… Needs… To tie… For…
Shawn Evans 15 goals Kasey Beirnes/Tracey Kelusky 13th
23 goals Mike Accursi 12th
Ryan Benesch 21 goals Kasey Beirnes/Tracey Kelusky 13th
29 goals Mike Accursi 12th
Rhys Duch 32 goals Kasey Beirnes/Tracey Kelusky 13th
40 goals Mike Accursi 12th
Dane Dobbie 3 goals Chris Gill 18th
Curtis Dickson 2 goals Kaleb Toth 23rd
5 goals Pat Maddalena 22nd
Dan Dawson 55 assists Colin Doyle 3rd
Shawn Evans 65 assists Shawn Williams 6th
Callum Crawford 6 assists Lewis Ratcliff 12th
13 assists Blaine Manning 11th
Rhys Duch 15 assists Jim Veltman 14th
Ryan Benesch 18 assists Jim Veltman 14th
Dan Dawson 86 points Josh Sanderson 4th
Ryan Benesch 85 points Gavin Prout 11th
Rhys Duch 4 points Blaine Manning 13th
Callum Crawford 34 points Tracey Kelusky 16th
Jeff Shattler 2 points Kasey Beirnes 21st
Matt Vinc 134 goals against Bob Watson 4th
Matt Vinc 4 saves Bob Watson 2nd
Mike Poulin 45 saves Matt Roik 12th
Brodie Merrill 39 LB Jim Veltman 1st
Mark Steenhuis 46 LB Pat McCready 5th
Shawn Evans 22 LB Phil Sanderson 10th
Jeff Shattler 10 LB John Grant 12th

Brodie Merrill will break Jim Veltman’s career loose ball total of 2417 early in the 2018 season. I predicted this back in 2011, though you’ll notice I assumed Merrill would play in all 16 (not 18) of his team’s games every year, and I did not foresee Geoff Snider’s retirement.

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Faceoff dominance revisited

Back in 2013, I wrote an article about faceoff dominance and whether it helps you win games. The conclusion was that it does but only slightly – 56% of teams that won more than half of the faceoffs in a game also won the game. But that article was only using data from the 2012 season so the sample size was small. I now have faceoff data for almost every game from 2010-2017, so let’s revisit this.

Continue reading

Great players without championships

When people talk about athletes and how great they are or were, one statistic that almost always comes up is how many Championships they won. I have always fundamentally disagreed with this as a measure of how good a player is. While this is obviously a great measure of success for a golfer or tennis player, it doesn’t always work so well for team sports. If you’ve played your whole career on crappy teams, like Marcel Dionne, or on great teams that just never won that final game, like Dan Marino, the lack of Championships is not a reflection of your abilities or talent. We are, after all, talking about team sports. Similarly, I don’t know who the worst player on the 2001 Wings or 2009 Roughnecks was, but that player has won more Championships that anyone listed here.

The measure of “Championships won” is perhaps slightly different in the National Lacrosse League, only because of the size of the league. The title goes to one of 32 teams in the NFL and one of 30 teams in the NHL, NBA, and MLB. The NLL only has nine. Given that plus the parity in the league, your odds are a little better if you play in the NLL.

Here are a bunch of players, some retired and some still active, who have played a significant amount of time in the NLL and have seen success but have never hoisted the Champion’s Cup. These are in alphabetical order.

Ryan Benesch (2007-present)

Benesch leads this list in career points, 78 ahead of his Swarm teammate Callum Crawford. Beni spent time with the Rock during their lean years, the Rush before they were good, then the Swarm. He has been one of the top producers on the Bandits for the past three years and got to the Championship game in 2016.

Ryan Benesch

Callum Crawford (2006-present)

Crawford bounced around at the beginning of his career, spending his first four seasons in the league with four different teams before catching on with the Minnesota Swarm in 2010. But if you’re looking for Championships, the Swarm hasn’t yet been the place to be. Crawford was the top scorer on the team for four of his six seasons in Minnesota and then had a career year with the Mammoth in 2016. He is now one of the three holders of the single-season assists record (83) but has never been to the finals.

Chad Culp (2003-present)

Another guy who spent time on the Swarm, the Culprit also played with the Saints, the Sting (the only year they missed the playoffs), and the Mammoth (when they were 0-8 at home and 4-12 overall) before spending six seasons with the Bandits. Culp headed to the Championship game along with Benesch last season. Culp leads this list in games played among non-goaltenders.

Derek Malawsky (1998-2010)

Malawsky is tied with Casey Powell (below) with the most trips to the finals without ever having won. He reached the championship game with the Knighthawks in 2003, the Sting in 2007, and the LumberJax in 2008, and in all three trips he was beaten by a franchise he used to play for. Harsh.

Brodie Merrill (2006-present)

Brother Patrick has two rings with the Rock, and he’s been to the dance twice, with the LumberJax in 2008 and the Rock in 2015. Probably nobody on this list has accomplished as much in his lacrosse career as Brodie Merrill has. Actually, very few lacrosse players on any list have accomplished as much as Brodie Merrill has, except in terms of NLL Championships.

Brandon MillerBrandon Miller (2001-present)

Miller has also been to the finals twice, once early in his career and once late. He was with the Albany Attack in 2002 (his second season) when they lost to the Rock, but didn’t actually play in the game. Then after thirteen seasons with stops in San Jose, Chicago, and Philadelphia, Miller finally returned to the Championship series with the Rock in 2015 only to lose to the Rush. Miller leads this list in games played although as a goalie, he gets credit for a game played even if he’s the backup and never touches the floor. It’s difficult to know how often that’s happened.

Sean Pollock (2004-2015)

Yet another player who spent a lot of time (seven years) with the Swarm, Pollock also spent 3½ seasons with the Mammoth and finished his career with the Roughnecks, where he went to the division finals against the Rush in 2015.

Mike Poulin (2007-present)

Poulin learned from two of the best, backing up Bob Watson in Toronto and Anthony Cosmo in Boston before heading to Calgary and grabbing the #1 spot for himself. The Roughnecks went to the finals in 2014 but lost a heartbreaker by a single goal in the first-ever Championship tiebreaker game. Poulin is now the starter for the Georgia Swarm and is hoping to break the Swarm’s Championship-free streak.

Update: Poulin won the Cup with the Georgia Swarm in 2017.

Casey Powell (1999-2014)

Powell was close to winning the Championship with the Knighthawks three times. In his rookie year, 1999, Rochester went to the finals against the Rock but Toronto won their first-ever Championship. The next season, Kaleb Toth scored the most famous Championship goal in NLL history as the Rock defeated the Knighthawks again. Powell then played for the Anaheim Storm, New York and Orlando Titans, and Boston Blazers, reaching the Championship game again with the New York Titans in 2009. Then after taking 2012 off, Powell returned to the Knighthawks in 2013. Rochester won their second of three straight Championships that year but Powell had been traded to the Mammoth mid-season.

Geoff Snider (2007-2015)

Snider played four seasons with the Philadelphia Wings, where his only sniff of the playoffs was a single game in 2008. He did his part though, winning 28 of the 30 face-offs in that game. He had better playoff luck in his five seasons with the Roughnecks, where he played in ten playoffs games. But the 2014 loss to the Knighthawks was the only Championship appearance in Snider’s dominant but all-too-brief career. My realization that Snider never won a Championship was the inspiration for this list.

Ryan Ward (2004-2014)

Given the rest of this list, you’ll never guess where Ward played much of his career. Why yes, Philadelphia and Minnesota are correct! Ward played a season and a half in Philly before being traded to the Swarm, where he played another 4½ seasons. He joined the Rush in 2010 and went to the finals in 2012 but lost to the Knighthawks.

2017 NLL Milestones

A number of player and team milestones can be reached this year. Here’s a list of the most likely:

Teams

Wins & losses

Calgary needs 11 wins for 150, while Rochester needs 8 for 200.

Buffalo needs six away wins to give them 100 in franchise history.

Toronto needs five home wins to give them 100.

Goals

Buffalo is 36 away from 2500 goals at home.

Rochester needs 14 goals on the road to give them 2000, and needs to allow 55 on the road to have allowed 2000.


Players

Goals

Player… Needs… To reach…
John Grant 34 700
Kasey Beirnes 31 400
Dane Dobbie 4 300
Cody Jamieson 1 200
Zack Greer 1 200
Adam Jones 6 200
Jordan Hall 15 200
Robert Church 7 100
Tyler Digby 8 100
Logan Schuss 13 100
Cory Conway 14 100

John Grant needs 34 goals to reach 700 in his career, a figure only ever attained by one other player. And after those 34, he’d need another 115 to reach the lofty heights of Mr. John Tavares.

John Grant

Interesting that Greer and Jones, who were traded for each other this past off-season, can both reach 200 career goals. Greer only needs one while Jones needs six, but both could do it in game 1.

Another interesting fact: James Earl Jones played Admiral Greer in The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger.

Assists

Player… Needs… To reach…
John Grant 25 800
Dan Dawson 34 800
Shawn Evans 23 600
Callum Crawford 49 500
Garrett Billings 7 400
Jeff Shattler 33 400
Stephan Leblanc 2 300
Kasey Beirnes 7 300
Chad Culp 9 300
Daryl Veltman 12 300
Kevin Ross 5 200
Dhane Smith 8 200
Kevin Buchanan 13 200
Cliff Smith 1 100
Bill Greer 1 100

Points

Player… Needs… To reach…
Dan Dawson 83 1300
Mark Steenhuis 66 1000
Shawn Evans 92 1000
Ryan Benesch 31 800
Rhys Duch 66 800
Callum Crawford 9 700
Dane Dobbie 23 600
Garrett Billings 31 600
Chad Culp 30 500
Curtis Dickson 56 500
Brodie Merrill 2 400
Adam Jones 36 400
Corey Small 36 400

Note that Evans hasn’t scored less than 105 points in a season since 2012.

For me, it’s hard to think of Ryan Benesch as being all that high on the career points milestone list, since I still think of him as a young kid. Well, maybe not that young, he’s been around for a while. OK, more than a while. Turns out the 31-year-old Benesch is entering his eleventh NLL season. Only 15 players have scored more career points than Beni, and he’ll likely pass four of them in 2017.

In the “not bloody likely” category, Derek Keenan needs six points to reach 100 for his career. He’s actually needed those six points for a number of years now.

Loose Balls

Player… Needs… To reach…
Scott Self 6 1100
Ian Hawksbee 50 1000
Sandy Chapman 2 900
Kasey Beirnes 16 900
Dan Dawson 40 900

PIM

Player… Needs… To reach…
Billy Dee Smith 13 600
Patrick Merrill 36 600
Brodie Merrill 13 400

Games

Player… Needs… To reach…
Curtis Hodgson 3 200
Chad Culp 7 200
Patrick Merrill 8 200
Bill Greer 10 200
Dean Hill 2 100
Garrett Billings 3 100
Corey Small 3 100
Ryan Dilks 3 100
Jarrett Davis 5 100
Andrew Watt 5 100
Pete McFetridge 5 100

Goalie Minutes

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brandon Miller 263 8000
Aaron Bold 337 6000

Goals against

Player… Needs… To reach…
Brandon Miller 36 1600
Aaron Bold 44 1000

Saves

Player… Needs… To reach…
Matt Vinc 25 5900
125 6000
Tyler Richards 13 3500

Leaders

This section is for players who are close to passing a retired player on the career list in a particular category. First overall in goals, assists, and points is likely safe for another year.

Player… Needs… To tie… For…
John Grant 149 goals John Tavares 1st
Mark Steenhuis 9 goals Jeff Ratcliff 8th
13 goals Shawn Williams 7th
18 goals Josh Sanderson 6th
Kasey Beirnes 14 goals Tracey Kelusky 13th
22 goals Mike Accursi 12th
30 goals Tom Marechek 11th
Shawn Evans 4 goals Ted Dowling 16th
7 goals Chris Gill 15th
Shawn Evans 44 assists Gavin Prout 7th
Callum Crawford 42 assists Jim Veltman 13th
John Grant 308 points John Tavares 1st
Mark Steenhuis 25 points Jeff Ratcliff 8th
Ryan Benesch 4 points Tom Marechek 15th
54 points Tracey Kelusky 14th
58 points Mike Accursi 13th
64 points Blaine Manning 12th
Anthony Cosmo 71 goals against Dallas Eliuk 1st
Billy Dee Smith 40 PIM Kyle Laverty 1st
Patrick Merrill 18 PIM Geoff Snider 3rd
Shawn Evans 15 PIM Pat McCready 5th
Brodie Merrill 51 LB John Tavares 2nd
210 LB Jim Veltman 1st
Mark Steenhuis 50 LB Steve Toll 6th

It’s possible the targets for Mr. Grant are a little optimistic for 2017.

2016 NLL milestones

A number of teams and players are edging close to various milestones in the 2016 season. Most of them are arbitrary – is 500 career goals significantly different from 499? No, but we humans seem to like nice round numbers. Others are less arbitrary, for example a player passing another player on the all-time scoring list.

Here is a list of the milestones that could be reached during the upcoming season. All of these represent regular season numbers only.

Teams

Wins & losses

Buffalo needs 7 wins to reach 200, while Rochester needs 15.

Colorado’s next loss will be their 100th, while Calgary needs 3.

Toronto needs to win all 9 home games this year to hit 100 wins at home.

Four different teams could hit 50 home losses: Calgary needs 1, Rochester 2, Colorado 6, and Toronto 7.

 

Goals

Buffalo needs 40 goals to get to 4500, and Rochester needs 131 to reach 4000. Calgary and Toronto can both reach 3000 goals; Calgary needs 68 while Toronto needs 42. Colorado is only 4 goals against away from 2500.

 

Players

Goals

Mark Steenhuis (you’ll be reading that name a lot in this article) needs 4 goals to reach the 400 mark.

Four players could reach 300 career goals: Ryan Benesch needs 10, Shawn Evans needs 20, Dane Dobbie needs 30, and Rhys Duch needs 35.

Two players are sure to reach 200 goals and two more are possible. Curtis Dickson needs 2 to reach 200, while Stephen Leblanc needs 5. Cody Jamieson needs 36 and Garrett Billings needs 37.

A bunch of players are within striking distance of 100 goals: Kevin Buchanan and Jordan MacIntosh are both 7 away, Johnny Powless is 10, Cory Conway is 14, Stephen Keogh is 15, and Dhane Smith is 17.

Steenhuis could have 400 goals, 500 assists, and 1300 loose balls by season's end

Assists

Mark Steenhuis (there’s that name again) needs 36 assists to become only the 12th player in NLL history to reach the 500 plateau.

Four players could reach 400: Ryan Benesch needs 13, Callum Crawford 32, Rhys Duch 42, and Garrett Billings needs 54.

Another four could reach 300: Kasey Beirnes is 21 away, Chad Culp 31, and Cody Jamieson and Darryl Veltman both need 37.

Defender Bill Greer only needs one assist to hit 100 for his career, while Cliff Smith and Sandy Chapman are 6 away from the century mark.

 

Points

Only one player has ever reached 1400 career points in the NLL (one guess who that is), and he’s also the only member of the 1500 club, the 1600 club, and the 1700 club. But three different players could hit 1400 this year: John Grant needs 34 points, Colin Doyle needs 61, and Josh Sanderson needs 85.

Dan Dawson needs 78 points to reach 1200 while Mark Steenhuis (!) is 39 away from 900.

Shawn Evans needs 11 to hit 800 points, Ryan Benesch needs 23 to get to 700, Callum Crawford needs 24 for 600, and Stephen Leblanc needs 45 to get to 500.

 

Loose balls

At one point a few years ago, Jim Veltman’s career total of 2224 loosies seemed completely unbreakable. But this season, two players could easily join Veltman and John Tavares (2065) as the only members of the 2000 club, and one more good season from either of them could break the unbreakable record. Geoff Snider needs 143 loose balls to reach 2000 while Brodie Merrill needs 166. Snider has only finished with fewer than 143 once in his career, though that was last year. However, seeing as he’s currently without a team, Snider’s chances are hard to predict. Merrill didn’t reach 166 LBs in three of his last four seasons, but he blew that number away in his first six.

Mark Steenhuis need 65 to reach 1300.

Three players could hit 1100: John Grant needs 32, Josh Sanderson 34, and Scott Self 65.

Shawn Evans is 75 away from an even 1000, and Jeff Shattler needs 78 to reach that mark.

Colin Doyle is only 2 away from 900.

 

Penalty minutes

Kyle Laverty hasn’t played in the NLL in three years and has been the career penalty minutes leader with 627 for at least that long. But not only could that lead vanish this year, Laverty could be in fourth place by the end of the season. Geoff Snider needs 18 minutes to reach the 600 minute mark, and 45 to reach Laverty’s record. Patrick Merrill needs 42 for 600, and 69 to take over the lead, while Billy Dee Smith is only 10 back of Merrill. These four players will still form the top four at the end of the season, but the ordering is anybody’s guess.

 

Games

At 257 games played, Josh Sanderson is currently tied with Shawn Williams for second on the all-time list, an amazing forty nine behind John Tavares’ 306. Colin Doyle is only a game behind Josh and Willy.

Two players could hit 200 games played, and both are on the Toronto Rock: Patrick Merrill needs 12 while Billy Greer needs 14.

Three other players will likely hit 100 this season: Stephen Leblanc and Brett Mydske will get there in their season debuts, while Scott Carnegie needs 6. Nick Rose is on that list as well, needing 10 games to reach 100, but that’s a little misleading since as a goalie, he seems to get credit for a game played even when he never leaves the bench.

 

Leaders

On the career points list, Mark Steenhuis (haven’t talked about him for a while) is 64 points away from 9th place overall, pushing Gavin Prout down to 10th. Steenhuis could even push himself into 8th place, needing 98 points to pass Lewis Ratcliff.

Shawn Evans could also move up a few spots, needing 34 points to pass his new Black Wolves coach Tracey Kelusky for 13th place, 4 more to pass Mike Accursi, and 6 more after that to pass Blaine Manning.

Bandits star Ryan Benesch is currently in 21st place overall, but with a 100-point season he could vault into 14th. Benny is only a point away from Ryan Ward, 2 away from Derek Malawsky, and 8 away from Pat Maddalena.

 

Goalie minutes

Anthony Cosmo is on his way to a record-setting season. Coz should pass the 10000 minute mark early in the season, since he’s only 113 minutes away.  He needs 392 minutes to pass Pat O’Toole and 553 to pass Bob Watson for first place on the all-time list.

Matt Vinc needs 627 minutes to reach 8000. Mike Poulin needs 265 to get to 5000, and Aaron Bold needs 379 to reach 5000.

Cosmo's on the brink of almost every all-time goalie record

Goals against

Cosmo may not want to be at the top of this list, but with a career this long, it’s not unlikely. His 29th goal against this season will be his 1800th. Allowing 169 will push him past Bob Watson and 183 will pass Pat O’Toole. Since Cosmo gave up 191 in each of the last two seasons, this is certainly reachable. The all-time lead is likely safe for one more season, as Cosmo would have to give up 210 to pass Dallas Eliuk.

Brandon Miller needs 22 to reach 1500, and Matt Vinc is 38 away from the same mark.

 

Saves

Again, Cosmo is poised to set the all-time record. He needs 73 saves to pass Eliuk, 180 to pass O’Toole, and 187 to pass Watson for the overall lead in saves.

Matt Vinc is 1001 behind Cosmo, which means that barring injuries, Vinc will become the all-time leader if his career continues two years after Cosmo retires.

 

Other

John Grant will be 41 when the season starts and is now the oldest player in the NLL. Josh Sanderson, Colin Doyle, and Anthony Cosmo (in that order) are next at 38.

Grant is also now the active points leader at 1366 with Colin Doyle 27 behind him and Josh Sanderson 24 behind Doyle.

Behind the scenes at @NLLFactOfTheDay, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I described the sources of information I use for the @NLLFactOfTheDay twitter account. In this (much shorter) article, I discuss how I use all that information to create the facts that I publish.


Putting it all together

Now that I have all of this information, I start combing through for the actual facts. When Teddy Jenner interviewed me on the Off the Crossebar radio show, he referred to me as some kind of stats guru, and others have said similar things. While I greatly appreciate these compliments, let me set the record straight – I’m no savant. I don’t just know all of this stuff. I don’t have millions of stats memorized and running through my head for instant retrieval. At the risk of sounding immodest, I do have a pretty good memory for trivia and such, and I do have a Bachelor of Math degree (though in computer science, not statistics) so I understand the stats, but what I am good at is hunting for anomalies.

If I see a column of numbers that looks like “1, 2, 2, 1, 3, 0, 8, 1, 2”, I want to find out about that 8 and see what it means and if it’s interesting or not. I’ll sort one list by different values (eg. list of teams sorted by PP goals per game and then sorted by SH goals per game) and see if a team stays in the same position, or moves from top to bottom or vice versa. Maybe the league-leading team is in last place in some statistic, or the last-place team is leading in something. I look over the season records for repeated names. Maybe a player set two season records in the same season, or one person holds 8 of the top 10 records in some stat.

I look at the dates that significant events happened to see if there are any coincidences there. I look at the best seasons in different stats (eg. most goals in a season in the league – Athan Iannucci, 71) and for individual teams (eg. most penalty minutes in a season for the Roughnecks – Geoff Snider, 74). I look at career stats for the league (eg. most career goals in the league – John Tavares, 778) or a particular team (eg. most career assists on the Knighthawks – Shawn Williams, 491). I look at team stats (eg. most goals scored in home games – Philadelphia, 2151) and franchise records (eg. fewest goals scored by the Roughnecks in a game – 6, twice). I look at game, team, season, and league attendance records, both total and average.

Occasionally I think about a particular obscure statistic and look deeper into that. Recently, it was how often teams played two overtime games in a single weekend. I did some digging and came up with a few facts about that.

Once I’ve got a few facts I want to publish, I use a web app called HootSuite to schedule them. It allows me to write up the tweet, pick which account to use (mine or @NLLFactOfTheDay), and pick a date/time for the tweet to be sent out. I originally started tweeting at 11:00am, but then for some reason I have since forgotten, changed to 3:00pm.


Now that I’ve written it all down, it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not – now that I have the infrastructure in place. Whenever I come across an interesting stat, I fire up HootSuite and add it to the list of scheduled tweets – that takes a minute or two, tops. Once or twice a week, I make a point of spending 15-20 minutes adding new ones, so I usually have about a week’s worth done ahead of time. If I went off the grid right now, you’d still be seeing a tweet every day at 3pm for another 8 or 9 days. If something interesting comes up in the meantime, I can reschedule upcoming tweets to add in a more timely one. The hardest parts now are (a) try not to repeat any facts I’ve published before, and (b) to squash all the information down into 140 characters.

So that’s pretty much it – that’s how the magic happens. I say that facetiously, because there’s no magic here. I’m just a stats geek that enjoys sharing the facts that I find with others that might also be interested. For the cynics among you, I’m not doing this for the money – I haven’t made a dime off of this little project. In fact, I’m not sure how I could monetize it even if I wanted to. It’s just fun to come up with these things, fun to get replies from people asking questions about them, and fun to see that others enjoyed them enough to retweet them. If you follow, thanks, and I hope you enjoy reading these facts as much as I enjoy finding them.

Behind the scenes at @NLLFactOfTheDay, Pt. 1

I started writing the Money Ballers column on IL Indoor in January 2012. While writing the articles that year (or while writing other stat-related articles for this blog), I frequently came across interesting statistics about the previous weekend’s games, and tweeted them with the hash tag #NLLStatOfTheDay (or something similar). I found that a number of people responded to them, whether to ask about them, or mention a similar one, or just to RT them. I figured if I worked a little harder, I could probably come up with one of these every day and if I could find a way to schedule them automatically, this would be a cool thing. So I created @NLLFactOfTheDay (originally @NLLStatOfTheDay but I changed it so I could post things that weren’t stats) in April, 2012.

Since then I have tweeted more than 200 facts, and collected well over 600 followers. This is far more than I have on my own twitter account (recently passed 400! Woo!), which I created three years earlier. I originally did this for NLL fans/stats geeks like me, but there are a lot of NLL players and executives following now, and most tweets are RT’ed at least once. It even got me interviewed on Teddy Jenner’s Off The Crossebar radio show (mine is the Feb 24, 2013 one). It’s safe to say this has become a fair bit more popular than I imagined.

I thought some people might be interested to see where the facts come from. So today we’re going behind the scenes and I’ll let you in on some of the secrets. Note that much of this qualifies as “Behind the scenes at the Money Ballers” as well. This article started to get kind of long, so I’ve broken it up into two. The first part describes where the information comes from, the second describes how I mine the information for the actual facts and post them.


I basically have four sources of information that I use for these facts: three databases and a web site. The contents of the three databases come from from three different sources. The web site is Wikipedia, and many of the lacrosse articles are those that I’ve written or contributed to myself over the years. I’ll start with an overview of the databases (a little bit technical) and then describe where I got the information stored in them.

The Technical Stuff

I have been a software developer for more than twenty years. I’ve been working at Sybase (now part of SAP) for over fifteen years, as part of the SQL Anywhere database server development team. So of course when I needed to create a database, SQL Anywhere was the obvious choice – and not only because I’m very familiar with it. SQL Anywhere has a built-in HTTP server (which I helped patent), which means that I can write procedures in SQL that directly access the data, and then easily create web pages that display the data in any way I want. When I started the Money Ballers, I decided that the best way to compile the points (i.e. easiest, fastest, and most accurate) would be to write a program to download the information from the NLL and then crunch the numbers. I wrote a python script to download the game sheet and parse it, then insert the resulting information into the database.

Extreme Game Detail

Here’s what I get from each game sheet:

  • Date/time of game
  • Home team, away team
  • Final score, winning team, losing team
  • Attendance
  • For each goal: who scored it, who assisted, what quarter, what time, whether it was power play, shorthanded, empty net, or penalty shot
  • For each penalty: who got it, what quarter, what time, what class of penalty (major, minor, misconduct, match, etc.), and what type (holding, high-sticking, fighting, etc.). This includes bench penalties
  • For each player: number of goals, assists, points, power play goals, shorthanded goals, loose balls, face offs won, face offs attempted
  • For each goalie: number of goals against, saves, minutes, shots on goal

All of this information is pushed into a database, and then I can view one of the many web pages that summarize it. With this information about each game, I can calculate pretty much anything: league standings, league or team scoring leaders, yearly records like most goals/assists/loose balls/etc. in one game, number of power play or shorthanded goals per team, attendance records, and of course the Money Ballers numbers.

There are a few things that the game sheet does not include. For example, penalty shots that are not successful, time spent on the floor, goaltender win/loss (or who started the game), forced turnovers, stuff like that. Another notable thing that I do not have is power play efficiency. I know when PP goals are scored, but I have not put in the work to determine how many power play opportunities there were. There’s more to it than just “a team is on the PP for two minutes after every opposing minor penalty”, since we can have coincident penalties for each team, penalties that overlap, penalties that end early because of goals scored, that sort of thing. I believe I have all the information to calculate it, I just haven’t done it.

Some game sheets are available from 2011 and previous seasons, but they are missing enough information that I don’t use them, so I only have this level of detail for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

An example

Here’s the “Game summary” section of the page for Philadelphia’s 10-8 win over Rochester on Feb 23, 2013. It lists each goal in order, separated by quarter. The pages are fairly plain; I’ve made no attempt to make them pretty. I don’t care what they look like as long as they’re functional. Note also that none of these pages are available on the internet – they are only on my computer. Click on the image to see a full-size version that might be easier to read.

Click to embiggen

The goals shaded in dark green are go-ahead goals, light green are tying goals, and red is the game-winner. The “special” column lists those three events as well as power play, shorthanded, empty net or penalty shot. You can see the current score, how far up the winning team is, how many goals in a row the team has scored, how long it’s been since the last goal, and how long it’s been since the last goal by the same team. The last four columns can be calculated given the rest of the information (if the score is 7-5, I know the difference is 2; I don’t really need the program to calculate it for me), but having it there makes patterns and extremes much easier to spot.

In this case, you can see the patterns in the goals – Rochester scored 4, then Philly scored 4, then Rochester scored 2, and so on. You can see that Rochester went almost 19 minutes between their 4th and 5th goal. You can see that Rochester didn’t score in the third and Philly didn’t score in the first, though I do have another chart that lists the number of goals in each quarter.

The idea here isn’t just to give me all the numbers, it’s to give me the numbers in such a way that I can see patterns or outliers. If I look at a game report like this and there are lots of dark and light green rows, then I know it was a close game. If there’s a green line at the top and a red line at the bottom, then one team led throughout the game. If the Special column is filled with PP and SH, then there were a lot of penalties.


All The Games

About a year ago, a reader of this blog sent me an email saying that he had a spreadsheet containing every game ever played in the NLL. He asked if I wanted it, and of course I said yes. I immediately put that into another database, and started creating web pages for that as well. With that, I can reconstruct the final standings of any season, show the entire win-loss history of any team, the head-to-head matchups of any two teams, all kinds of attendance figures, game score records, goal differentials, and even things like a team’s record on a particular day of the week.


All The Players

Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the NLL did some work on their web site. For a while, when you clicked on a player, there was a link to “Career stats” but rather than a page listing the stats for that player, the link gave you an Excel spreadsheet with the yearly stats for every player that has ever played in the NLL. I downloaded this spreadsheet and put that in a database as well. Not only can I search for any player and get their overall stats for any season (regular season and playoffs), but I can list all the players with their career stats, or list all the players who’ve ever played for a certain team, or display the final scoring stats for any season (Gary Gait led with 48 points in 1995), list the best seasons in any category, or combine seasons (eg. who scored the most from 1990-1999? Don’t fall over, but it was Gary Gait again, with 536).

I have since found that some of the stats are incorrect and some from the very early years of the league are missing. For example, there are no numbers from the 1987-1989 seasons, and apparently only five players were in the league in 1990. In the 2008 playoffs, did Cory Bomberry really take 360 face-offs in 3 games and only win 8 of them?

I looked at the top 20 single-season loose ball records and saw that Devin Dalep had 193 in 2002 and Erik Miller had 186 in 2003. I happen to know that those guys were goalies, but I notice that no other goalies are listed. In particular, there’s no Watson, no Eliuk, no Dietrich, no O’Toole, no Vinc. None of these elite goalies have had great loose-ball seasons since 2003? Strange. So I looked up their numbers. The same year Dalep had 193, Watson had 10. O’Toole and Eliuk had 11. Steve Dietrich had 0. I have a feeling Dalep’s numbers may not be correct.


Wikipedia

A lot of people have a bad impression of Wikipedia. Since anyone can make changes to it, it’s got to be full of misinformation and crap, right? Well yes, there are a lot of pages that have rather non-encyclopedic content, and there are always pages with incorrect data, but for the most part I find things to be quite accurate. There are lots of people who edit Wikipedia as a hobby, and if any page they are interested in gets edited, they will know about it very quickly and correct any errors or vandalism within minutes. I used to edit Wikipedia quite a bit, and have created many pages on lacrosse players and teams. There is a page on every NLL team that has ever existed, as well as each NLL season since 1987 (and some pages for individual team’s seasons), each NLL award, the Hall of Fame, expansion; entry; and dispersal drafts, and so on. I created most of them.

There used to be a web site called The Outsider’s Guide to the NLL which had tons of press releases, game summaries, stats, and so on from games back in the ’90s and early 2000’s. That site simply vanished one day without a trace, a huge loss to the lacrosse world. But before that happened, I got a fair bit of information from it for the Wikipedia pages, so at least some of the information wasn’t lost. Some of the player pages are unfortunately outdated since I no longer have time to maintain them, but there are others that are doing a great job of keeping things as up-to-date as they can.

Even without the Outsider’s Guide, there’s still a fair bit of information in those pages, so some of the non-stat-related facts come from there.


So now I have a ton of information including lots of historical data as well as incredibly detailed stats on every game in the past two seasons. Tomorrow, I’ll describe what I do with all this information.