Ice hockey is a stats based sport, and Fife Flyers are making greater use of the data than ever before to improve the team’s performance.
Jim Watson’s A4 sheets of paper give a breakdown on what really happens in a game - as it happens.
On the bench, he’s the man without portfolio - ‘‘I don’t really have a title’’ he said, ‘‘and we’re not keen on ‘stats man!’ - but the figures, diagrams, dots and arrows on his paperwork are fed back in real time to head coach Todd Dutiaume.
A familiar figure within the world of junior development - he ran the SIHA’s coaching education programme - Jim was brought on board to provide a fresh insight into Flyers’ games.
He started out watching from a desk next to the press box, but has now moved to be on the bench where his analysis can be called on at any time.
Jim explained: ‘‘At the start, Todd and Danny wanted feedback.
’’Previously, they got that at the end of the game watching a video of the match or chatting about it, but you can forget things which took place.
‘‘They really wanted real time feedback every period.’’
Jim, a former teacher at Buckhaven High School who now works part time at Fife College’s Priory Campus, started out with briefings during the breaks, but that has now moved up a notch with a place on the bench at the heart of the team.
His half-dozen sheets which covered a table were condensed, and the detail within gave the coaches a glimpse into what was really happening during a game.
From shots to hits to face-offs, goals on target, off target, blocked shots, turnovers, plus-minus ratings, breakaways, and odd man rushes for and against, Jim’s analysis is forensic.
It picks up the minutiae of a game perhaps not seen by fans, or even players and coaches, who are locked into the ebb and flow of the action.
There’s a map of every shot on Fife’s goal as well as those logged by the players.
By looking at where they are coming from, and where the goals are being conceded, the coaching team can feedback into training sessions.
At its heart sits ‘the house’ - so-called because of the shape it covers from goal to face-off circles.
‘‘You keep shots out of the house and a good goalie, like Kevin Regan, will stop them,’’ said Jim.
‘‘You can also cut out the back door goals, which Dundee Stars are very good at. We looked at the map for every game against them and every goal they’d scored and saw a pattern emerging. Now, we have reversed that trend ...’’
Individual stats are also logged, and sometimes show a very different picture to the perception around the rink.
‘‘On Sunday there was a feeling we weren’t doing well at face-offs, but the data showed we were winning them, so it’s a positive thing for the team.
‘‘Tim Hartung and Derek Roehl were also 100 per cent in Saturday’s first period - their face-offs were controlled, meaning we had possession, and from that, we know how our wingers are doing. That’s important information for the coaches to know.
‘‘‘It isn’t like watching a game - I look at it from a different perspective.
‘‘Guys also get to see their shot stats and scoring ratios, and every check is noted - when Tommy Muir makes a hit, he’s across to check that it’s in the book!’’
Jim’s move fromn the standsa to the ben ch ha also drawn him into the very heart of the team and the dressing-room - and the results show it is working.
Todd Dutiaume values the data.
He said: ‘‘At first when Jim came on board we were still finding our feet as an organisation and were probably more worried about the bigger picture - wins and losses - so we started with a broad brush, but he really has find tuned it superbly. it’s amazing how one person can give me so much data on the spot!
‘‘It’s really opened my eyes. Jim’s info has been incorporated into team talks - it builds a fantastic picture of the game for myself and also the guys on the team,’’