Hello all, I’m happy to announce that after over a year of work, I have completed the All Three Zones Project. If you’re not sure what that is, I’ll give you a quick overview. My name is Corey Sznajder and I used to run a Carolina Hurricanes blog called Shutdown Line. One of my favorite things to do while running that site was provide in-depth analysis on the team and look at the game from as many angles as possible. This led to me tracking scoring chances for the Hurricanes games and after reading some posts from other blogs such as Broad Street Hockey & Copper and Blue, I started tracking zone entries and zone exits.
I did this for about two seasons and during the 2012-13 playoffs, I decided to track every game and posted the results on my blog. These posts received some great feedback and it wasn’t long after that I decided to take on the task of tracking zone entries & exits for every game in the 2013-14 season. It got off to a slow start due to me having other commitments and I wasn’t able to do it full-time until around late January-early February. After being private about it for a couple months, I started to share some of my results online and it generated a lot more interest than I anticipated and quite a few people mentioned that I should consider starting an online fundraiser so I could make the data public and available for anyone in an online database. As a result, the All Three Zones Project was born.
My original plan was to sell this dataset after I finished tracking all of the games, but with so many people offering to pay beforehand, I gave them the option to donate to a GoFundMe page early and that received an overwhelming amount of support. It still blows my mind that 392 people contributed to this project and I’m so grateful to anyone who donated money or spread the word about it. This is something I’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time working on, so it was really encouraging to see so many people donate or even care about the project in general.
I spent all of last summer working on the project and things started to blow up when TSN and a couple other media outlets covered it and the interest in the project grew. This led to me picking up a consulting job for an NHL club and they allowed me to continue the project while working for them. While this was an amazing opportunity, it delayed me finishing the project for a bit and it took me basically all of this summer to complete.
Now, the project is finally done and I put the final results up for sale here for $15. Those who donated to the GoFundMe page have already received a link to the dataset, so if you donated and did NOT receive the link, please let me know. If you never donated and don’t want to buy the dataset, feel free to e-mail me and I would be more than happy to send it to you. If you have never heard of this project before today, I’ll explain some of it to you.
What is the All Three Zones Project?
I went over the basics of this earlier. It’s a large hockey data collection project where I tracked zone entries and zone exits from every NHL game in the 2013-14 season.
What are zone entries and why are they important?
Zone entries show how often each team and player entered the offensive zone and how often they did it with or without possession of the puck. Studying this is important because we already know how much of an impact out-shooting your opponent and winning the territorial battle is in hockey, but determining which factors drive this is still up for debate. Through the work of Eric Tulsky, Geoffrey Detweiler and Bob Spencer, we were able to determine that zone entries and being able to enter the offensive zone with possession of the puck is a major factor in out-shooting your opponent during five-on-five play. Their work showed that entries done by possession lead to twice as many shots as compared to dumping the puck in, so teams who were able to carry the puck in more than their opponents were more likely to win the shot/territorial battle than ones who do not. They found this through tracking zone entries for the Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild during the 2011-12 season and Tulsky presented the findings at the 2013 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Most importantly, they determined that being able to enter the offensive zone with control of the puck is a repeatable skill and therefore, worth tracking in future seasons.
This was a pretty ground-breaking discovery and I, along with a few other bloggers, jumped on-board when Tulsky asked for people to track zone entries for their favorite teams. Having a historical dataset for every team or at least one year’s worth of data would provide so much insight into a team’s system and what makes them successful or unsuccessful. The downside is that acquiring all of this data takes a lot of man hours and tracking a game can take multiple viewings, so it’s very time consuming and not a commitment everyone can make. However, because I felt having the data would be invaluable, I decided to take on this burden and track data from every single game in the 2013-14 season. Yes, this means I watched all 1,230 games.
What about zone exits?
Zone entries are the more important part of this, but I also tracked zone exits for this project and included them in the dataset. This is another thing I tracked while blogging on Shutdown Line and it’s something I was always interested in because being able to exit your zone cleanly is considered a big part of hockey. Tracking which players excel and struggle at this area of the game would, in theory, provide a lot of value so I went ahead and added this as part of the project, as well. The downside is that the data hasn’t been tested yet, but it’s an intriguing dataset and I’m interested to see what conclusions people can draw from it.
What can I do with the data?
The dataset includes zone entry & zone exit stats for every team, every player and every game in the 2013-14 season, so there’s a lot of things you can do if you dive into it. Really, the most value I’ve gotten from tracking these stats was that it gave me a closer look and a better picture of the games I watched & covered during my blogging days. I used zone entries to identify and dissect certain problems facing the Hurricanes and other bloggers have done the same with their respective teams. I gave out a sneak peek of the dataset to those who donated a little over a year ago and it led to some very interesting posts on blogs that I read frequently, such as this post on Winging It In Motown which looked at which Detroit Red Wings players excelled the most at zone entries. Defending Big D also looked at this for the Dallas Stars forwards and so did Flames Nation for the Calgary Flames players. Other blogs like Pension Plan Puppets, Pensburgh, In Lou We Trust and Canucks Army have also looked at this for their respective teams. Some blogs have even went as far as to use this data to build on their own studies, provide an in-depth look at team’s systems, analyze some of the league’s star players and continue studying the importance of neutral zone play as a whole.
This is just scratching the surface with what you can do with the data because the full set hasn’t been ready/available until just now, so I’m excited to see what discoveries come from this.
I will be continuing my NHL consulting job next season, so I won’t be able to provide data or analysis for 2014-15 or next season. However, I want to track previous seasons and provide a larger public dataset but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to complete that. Until then, I hope you all enjoy picking apart this dataset. Tracking all of the games was a very grueling process, but having a full-season worth of data should be very rewarding and I look forward to seeing what people can do with it.
Link to Purchase All Three Zones