The Hershey Bears put a bow on a pretty darn good season with a 6-4 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their season finale on April 15. The victory gave Hershey an impressive 44-19-5-4 (97 points) record for the 2022-23 season.
Nelson met with the media following the Bears season finale, where he shared a little insight into the Bears overall systemic philosophy, and provided insight on how the team measures the team’s performance (or lack thereof).
“Anytime you can be opportunistic, which our team has not been all year. When you look at analytics and they say our expected goals for, it’s a lot higher than our actual goals for, so I was happy that we executed some plays on two-on-ones.”
Todd Nelson getting real with the analytics. xGF > GF #ALLCAPS #HBH pic.twitter.com/Kg37A0iFxo
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) April 16, 2023
That’s an attention grabber for any analytics nerd, particularly when it emanates from a league that doesn’t share next-generation stats with the public. But back to the Bears.
For the rest of the world, simply put, Nelson was saying the Bears generated a lot more scoring chances than they converted over the course of the season, which can be looked at as a positive or a negative, depending on your perspective. While the Bears “finishing” stats are not ideal (converting on chances), the expected goals for being greater than actual goals for is a good sign in the big picture sense, as long as the Bears are winning games.
Nelson continued on the team’s overarching philosophy, noting that maintaining control of the puck was job one.
“As a coaching staff, we encourage our guys to hang onto pucks. Basically the philosophy is if we have the puck they can’t score. We cant get too fancy with it, but if we hang onto pucks it makes it very difficult for them. If we have extended zone time, they get worn down and that’s when goals happen.”
Winning the possession battle is a common general goal for any hockey team, but playing keep away is an interesting concept. It can also be argued that the philosophy differed from the Capitals general systemic approach in Washington this past season.
Nelson said that the Bears closely track overall possession time in games, like most teams do these days. However, he also added that the Bears possession metrics are good enough to compare with top teams in the NHL.
“I think for the season we are like six to seven minutes of possession time on average, which is excellent. It would put us in the top five in the National Hockey League.”
The sudden insight and discussion of advanced metrics on Nelson’s end is greatly appreciated in the analytics community. The timing of the insight is very interesting, if not thought-provoking.
The team has been idle since April 15, having earned a bye in the first round. Nelson and the Bears roughly simulated a first round series, giving the team a couple of days off at the end of the regular season, then returning to work for scrimmages and a high-intensity practice on Thursday.
Playoff Series Preview: Hershey Bears Vs. Charlotte Checkers
The Bears departed for North Carolina on Wednesday in advance of their semifinal round match-up with the Charlotte Checkers, which kicks off Friday night at Bojangles Coliseum in the Queen City.
By Jon Sorensen
Very interesting. Some of it could certainly be taken as audition material. Although I would let the world know about those stats I’d I was coach, regardless.
Todd in the campaign trail.
Hearing Nelson and Anaheim rumors.
Interesting indeed. Can you email link/source? email@example.com
If your “current GM” had any brains….(insert cricket sound here!),Nelson would be Caps new coach! But not being butt kisser to get his shot you’ll lose him to somebody else!
It’s certainly not that easy. There will surely be an exhaustive interview process with many candidates. We’ll see if he comes out on the other end. But he does check a lot of the boxes in terms of having coached veterans in AHL and NHL, has won championships. Plus he seems to be playing a different system focused on possession and he knows the AHL’ers. So lots to like for sure.