Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Travis Green quote on Nikolay Goldobin gives a peek into how he uses analytics as a coach

Nikolay Goldobin is a treat to watch when he has the puck. The 22-year-old winger has fantastic puck control, even in traffic, controlling the puck like a marionette on a string.
Nikolay Goldobin battles for position

Nikolay Goldobin is a treat to watch when he has the puck. The 22-year-old winger has fantastic puck control, even in traffic, controlling the puck like a marionette on a string.

There’s just one problem: during a hockey game, most players spend very little time with the puck on their stick.

That’s a lesson Canucks head coach Travis Green reinforced on Friday with Goldobin during a long talk he had with the young forward. He filled the media in during his pre-game press conference.

“He's good with the puck when he has it," said Green. "He's gotta find ways to be good away from it. I met with Goldy today for 15-20 minutes. ‘How long do you have the puck?’ I asked him. He said 2 minutes. Called our analytics guys, he had it for 29 seconds last game.”

Some might see this as Green being negative and browbeating Goldobin for not having the puck enough, but that’s not at all how I read this interaction. The truth is, no player has the puck on their stick for much longer than that.

Kim McCullough of Total Female Hockey suggests that even the best players don’t personally possess the puck for very long: “In a typical 60 minute NHL game, a superstar player, one who gets a lot of minutes and is a consistent contributor on the offensive side of the puck, only has the puck on their stick for 45 seconds total.”

Instead, this appears to be Green using the time-of-possession analytic as a teaching tool.

“I’m a guy that looks at the analytics, but I don’t strictly coach off it,” said Green earlier in the week, and it’s something he’s said several times before. Green very clearly does not let analytics dictate his lineup or his decision-making during a game, but this suggests that he does turn to analytics when he can use it to reinforce a lesson.

Goldobin played 9:31 on Wednesday against the Rangers. If he only had the puck for 29 seconds, he spent 95% of his time on the ice without the puck. That makes the time he spends away from the puck vitally important, perhaps the most important part of the game.

That’s a vital lesson for Goldobin to learn, as his play away from the puck at the NHL level has been his biggest issue.

That shows up in the analytics. Among those who have played at least 10 games with the Canucks this season, Goldobin allows the highest rate of shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, shots on goal, and goals at 5-on-5. The Canucks have been out-scored 19-9 with Goldobin on the ice at 5-on-5. That’s partly due to a low save percentage from Canucks’ goaltenders when he’s out there, but not entirely.

There are some positive signs: Goldobin’s analytics look a lot better when he’s been on the ice with Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, with a very good 59.42% corsi with Horvat. Unfortunately, those are the only forwards he’s spent any time with that have a positive corsi with him.

Canucks fans can hope that Green’s wake-up call will help him place more importance on the 95% of his ice time that he spends without the puck, leading to an improvement in his overall game.