When one of the best defensive coaches in the league starts talking about a subject, people should listen. Today, Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett revealed that he’s not a huge fan of using “hits” as an accurate measure of his team’s work ethic. As usual, he has a pretty good point.
obsessive fantasy hockey people, and analysts alike have a tendency to look at the number under the hits column as a quick guide to a team’s energy level. If a team is hitting a lot in a given game, then they’re bringing the requisite amount of energy. Seems pretty simple right?
As Lee Corso would say, “not so fast my friend.”
Here’s what Tippett had to say to beat writer Jim Gintonio: “When you have too many hits in the game, a lot of times people think, ‘Oh you’re running around doing things,’ but that means you don’t have the puck enough.” He went on to explain that a high number of hits does not necessarily mean that his team is having strong, physical game.
Instead, he looks at the one-on-one battles. If the Coyotes are playing with a good physical edge, they’ll win the physical battles. In turn, they’ll have the puck—and they won’t be racking up hits because they’ll have the puck more often than not. It’s an outlook that makes a lot of sense coming from a guy that knows what he’s talking about.
A quick look at some stats and standings show that the Coyotes are pretty much in the middle of the back in team hits and in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference standings. Want proof that hits do not determine how well (or how much effort) a team is playing? The Winnipeg Jets are leading the league in hits and they’re one of the worst teams in the East. On the other hand, the Dallas Stars are second in the league in hits and they’re on top of the Western Conference standings. Stat nerds would call this, “an extremely weak correlation.”
Moral of the story: a team can play with energy, grit, and still be successful without racking up the hits. It’s something to keep in mind the next time you’re watching a game and one team looks like they’re running all over the place. So says Grand Master Tippett.