Red Wings Giveaways & Takeaways: Scorer Bias Abounds at the Joe

A quick primer on a known problem that's showing up again in the box scores

If you've been watching Wings games like I have this season, you're no doubt aware that the Red Wings don't have the puck as much as we would like and when they do have the puck, they tend not to keep it for as long as we'd like them to. This isn't really an objective consideration, but on its face, if the team is doing well, the stats should say that the Red Wings take the puck away from their opponents more and that they give it away less.

Also if you've been watching Red Wings games like I have, you've seen Gregg Krupa on Twitter absolutely hammering the Wings on giveaway stats :


Focusing on Nyquist as if implying Gus had a problem in this game.

2nd intermission tweet for comparison

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Now I'm not here to call out Gregg Krupa. He's honestly one of the more entertaining and informative of the Wings press. He's also not wrong on the concept that turnovers for the Red Wings are a big issue. Krupa is working off the stats he's given.

The problem here is how good the stats themselves are. Did you catch that thing with the 2nd intermission number versus end of game? It was 8-2 Wings after 40 minutes during a close game where it was tied 1-1 and then 10-2 at the end of the game after the Wings spent a healthy portion of the third period getting severely pressured by a Tampa team who was desperately trying to tie the game.

You mean to tell me the Wings gave the puck away four times in the first, four times in the second, and only twice in the third? Or that there were only three takeaways in the entire game? Pull the other leg before you give me a limp, please.

Nothing New

Scorer bias has been a known phenomenon around hockey for a very long time. The bottom line is that it takes a person to count events and there are a number of events that have somewhat vague definitions. Not even shots on goal are immune from oddities, so imagine how much more difficult it is to get 30 scorekeepers to agree on whether or not a change of possession warrants a giveaway or takeaway.

Here's how the Red Wings' giveaway and takeaway numbers have compared to their competition so far. The Wings have played 12 games where they've won six and lost six. They've also had six on the road and six at home. They've won 3 and lost 3 both at home and on the road. The sample is still too small, but at least the small sample is decently balanced.

Date Opponent Result Home DET Giveaways Home OPP Giveaways Road DET Giveaways Road OPP Giveaways
Oct 9th TOR W 8 1
Oct 10th* @CAR W 5 4
Oct 13th TBL W 6 4
Oct 16th CAR L 8 1
Oct 17th* @MTL L 18 6
Oct 21st @EDM L 6 12
Oct 23rd @CGY OTL 2 5
Oct 24th* @VAN OTW 5 10
Oct 27th CAR L 12 1
Oct 30th OTT L 6 2
Oct 31st* @OTT W 13 12
Nov 3rd TBL W 10 2
TOTAL 6-5-1 50 11 49 49

*denotes second half of a back-to-back

Well that's pretty stark. Seems that both the Joe Louis Arena scorekeeper and the scorekeeper from the six other arenas where they've played tend to agree that the Wings will give the puck away about 8-ish times per game. If you're trying to correct for context here, you can say that objectively they probably did give the puck away more on the second half of a back-to-back, so if anything, the road scorers might be taking it a bit easier on Detroit (and, by extension, the home scorer is being a bit harder on them).

It's also a bit odd that 31 of their 49 road giveaways happened in Montreal (bad loss) and Ottawa (big win).

But in six games at the Joe, the opponents have only committed 11 total turnovers? Even worse is that four of those turnovers happened in the only game all season where Detroit was at home against an opponent that had played the previous night I don't think the Wings have been that bad at home or that their opponents have been that good where the mistake rate for the Wings with the puck is nearly five times higher.

How about takeaways then?

Date Opponent Result Home DET Takeaways Home OPP Takeaways Road DET Takeaways Road OPP Takeaways
Oct 9th TOR W 4 0
Oct 10th* CAR W 7 12
Oct 13th TBL W 9 4
Oct 16th CAR L 5 4
Oct 17th* MTL L 1 7
Oct 21st EDM L 3 8
Oct 23rd CGY OTL 4 5
Oct 24th* VAN OTW 5 7
Oct 27th CAR L 5 4
Oct 30th OTT L 5 2
Oct 31st* OTT W 4 11
Nov 3rd TBL W 2 1
TOTAL 30 15 24 50

This seems to make a lot more consistent sense. Basically the home team has been twice as likely to be credited with taking the puck away than the road team. Fewer overall takeaways are counted in Wings games, but we still have the issue where four out of six Detroit road games have come with Detroit having played the previous night, so perhaps they've been easier to take the puck from and have a tougher time taking the puck away from their opponents.

This isn't to say the takeaway numbers are good numbers, just that at least they're a bit more consistent.

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Overall, giveaways and takeaways are not hip, popular "fancy" stats. The problem with scorer bias in counting these has been so widespread around the NHL that the people driving the numbers-based analysis of hockey have ignored them and the NHL has kind of buried them away in slightly more difficult-to-reach places in their new stats engine. The eye test tells us that the Wings give the puck away too much and that's backed up with more traditional possession analytics (after all, if you give the puck away too much, your possession stats should suffer, no?)

Every arena has quirks. It seems that one of the Joe Louis Arena's quirks is that the Red Wings are way more mistake-prone than their opponents when handling the puck.