In the wake of the Wild’s 6-3 meltdown at Dallas on Tuesday, when a 3-0 Minnesota lead late in the second period devolved into a barrage of poor play and bad decisions, the subject of turnovers is both important and complicated.
According to NHL.com, the Wild was credited with 20 giveaways in the game — an extremely high number. In fact, that’s the most giveaways the Wild has had in any game since being charged with 21 on March 24, 2015 against the Islanders (a game they actually won).
Mike Yeo was the coach back then, not Bruce Boudreau. And the fourth-year Wild coach was understandably not pleased with how things unfolded Tuesday.
“We have guys that continually give it away,” Boudreau said after the game, per our Sarah McLellan. “It creates penalties, it goes the other way and consequently, it’s in our net. If we had just kept getting it deep, and checking like we were doing, we would have been fine.”
Here’s the thing, though: the Wild actually doesn’t turn the puck over very much relative to the rest of the league — at least not according to NHL.com’s giveaway stats.
Through 12 games this season, Minnesota has committed the fifth-lowest number of giveaways (104) in the league even after Tuesday’s debacle. And last year, when the Wild plummeted to last in its division and missed the playoffs after making the postseason six consecutive times, Minnesota had by far the fewest giveaways in the league (517). The next-lowest was Colorado at 595, while the leader, Florida, had 1,234.
That sort of disparity, though, might tell us more just as much about the stat and how it’s being tracked as the teams themselves.
Those who follow hockey analytics far more than I do (hat tip in particular to Matthew Coller) suggest that even though there’s a basic understanding of what constitutes a giveaway there’s a pretty wide variance in how giveaways are charted.
And a lot of that shows up in home-and-away data for the Wild.
This year, for instance, the Wild has been credited with 81 giveaways in eight road games (a little over 10 per game) and just 23 in four home games (a little less than six per game). Last season, the Wild had 295 road giveaways and 222 home giveaways, even though Minnesota had a better road record than home record.
And since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Wild has had 15 games in which it has been tagged with 15 or more giveaways. All but one of those came on the road.
That’s not to suggest whomever is tabulating giveaways at Xcel Energy Center is doing it wrong, but that is a lot of evidence to suggest there’s a different standard.
That said, the Wild also has a reputation for playing smart and valuing possession. If you merely doubled Minnesota’s road giveaways last season (295), the Wild still would have finished with the fewest giveaways in the league (590).
How do we reconcile all this information?
Boudreau has a high standard with giveaways, but he’s not wrong that it’s been a problem this season. If we isolate on just road giveaways this season and use that as a season-long pace, the Wild would finish this season with 836 giveaways — way more than last season.
And more than anything, it’s a lesson in making sure data is meaningful before leaning on it too much. Because the eye test sure suggests the Wild — even if the numbers say overall Minnesota has the fifth-lowest giveaway number — is being careless with the puck.