After each NHL game, the press gathers to poke and prod the coaches on certain occurrences, hoping for an interesting or provocative quote for their outlet. For the most part, the interactions are uneventful – coaches defer more pointed questions, or consult their rotating list of common phrases, like “get the puck deep” or “get pucks to the net”. So what kind of value or insight can we glean from these conversations? Is Mike Babcock’s assessment an accurate reflection of a game’s result, or of a run of games when the team might be hot or struggling? I’ve pulled the YouTube transcripts from the 82 post-game interviews with Mike Babcock from last year, and the ensuing sentiment analysis will determine if he’s a gud pro, or not.
How to Be Like Mike
How do you talk like Mike? By using the word good a lot, which was Babcock’s most frequently used word (common words such as and, the, you, we, etc. were excluded). The list presented below isn’t entirely surprising – Leafs fans are well aware of Mike’s overuse of the adjective, and we also see some tendency to the simplistic coach-talk mentioned in the intro. Turns out repeatedly saying “He was real good tonight” turns up in the transcripts (and can net you $50 million dollars, if you also win a cup).
Making Mike Happy
It isn’t always easy to predict what Babcock’s take will be on a game – sometimes Leafs fans will feel he’s hit the nail on the head, other times he appears overly-critical of players who seemed to have a good game.
So how well does his post-game comments reflect the Win-Loss results of the team? To find this out, we can assign a sentiment value (positive words: +1 /neutral: 0 /negative: -1) to each word in his post-game interviews, and add these up for each game. To control for longer interviews with more words, we’ll divide this sum by the total amount of words in the interview, resulting in a Positivity Percentage for each game. Finally, we’ll compare each Positivity Percentage for a given night to his seasonal average. On average, 6% of Babcock’s words were positive on a given night – if Mike is particularly angry on a given night and only 4% of his words were positive – the Net Positivity Percentage would be -2%.
The nearby chart displays Babcock’s net positivity on a game-to-game basis, along with the game result on top of the bars. Early on in the season, Babcock’s sentiment tracked pretty well with game results – for the first 10 wins he had more positive words in 8 of those games. Babcock was enthused through Game 20, which was the end of the California trip that they swept, after also winning 3 of the previous 4 games. Things took a bit of a turn after poor results against Carolina and Columbus – the following 10 games he was more negative than usual, despite a string of 5 wins.
The rest of the season was pretty up and down, and we can attribute a few reasons for games that might not match:
- Backcock purposely dictates his words – not wanting to get too high with the highs, or too low with the lows.
- The team may have played poorly, but still won (i.e Games 26 & 27 the Leafs won with a 40% Corsi).
- Responses could have been dictated by reporter’s questions – which may have honed in on negative aspects of the game, instead of positive.
- Methodology limitations may attribute words like “kill” in as in “penalty kill” as a negative, though it may not be.
On average though, Babcock is slightly more likely to use positive words when the Leafs win. We observe an average positivity percent of 6.3% when the Leafs win, versus a 5.6% positivity percent for games the Leafs lose.
The games where Mike was most positive last year were against Buffalo and Los Angeles – here is one quote from the Buffalo game to give you an idea of how that number ended up particularly high:
“Well I thought we played real well last night and weren’t rewarded in the end and I thought we played real well here tonight and were rewarded so you know I like that we played hard and did things well and stuck together and played the right way. I thought he was real good I thought we had lots of good players tonight.” – Mike Babcock, 4-2 W Buffalo
Another reason we could see deviations between positivity and results is Babcock’s susceptibility to trends in the season (winning/losing streaks). Perhaps his positivity will carry over into a loss if the Leafs have won the previous couple games. To account for this, we can take a look at the Leaf’s 5 game rolling average in comparison to his positivity, and see how well they track. These metrics are both standardized to allow for comparability:
There are a few blips that we may not expect, but also a lot of stretches where his positivity tracked closely with the 5 game trend. It’s relatively safe to say that Babcock is just as susceptible to the ups and downs of the season as us Leafs fans!
The next step for this type of analysis is to graduate for wins and losses to other metrics that might dictate Babcock’s sentiment. His reactions could be different when the Leafs win by 2 goals instead of 1, or his reactions might be different when the Leafs outshoot their opponent and lose vs. being outplayed and winning. Whatever it is, we hope the Leafs can make Mike happy when the season starts next week.
-Transcripts pulled from YouTube Post-Game Videos
-Results data from HockeyReference.com, all charts are by MackinawStats