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The Hiring of #fancystats

Caption This!

Caption This!

In the summer of 2006, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first ankle surgery shortly after Independence Day. To me, it was a waste of a summer: I couldn’t make much money as a waitress before I’d head back to college, and if you’d ever tried going to the beach on crutches, you’re brave/insane/all of the above. Above that, my room was downstairs at my parents’ place, making me a refugee on the couch for the six weeks it would take my ankle to heal.

My mother is an avid baseball fan and, as such, my new bedroom had access to a package through cable showing every baseball game for the 2006 season. In case you forgot, that’s a TON of baseball. We’re talking 162 games played by every team. I picked up an affinity for the Oakland Athletics, mostly for Rich Harden (I’ve had a thing for foxy Canadians since I was 19, apparently) and Dan Haren (my steady fantasy baseball late round pick, he never let me down). When people think A’s, they think moneyball – and this is where hockey comes in to this long narrative about my boring life nearly ten years ago.

Earlier this week, the seemingly long-struggling Edmonton Oilers hired #fancystats blogger Tyler Dellow to report to coach Dallas Eakins to help them be less struggle-y. Of course, the news broken by none other than Bob McKenzie was a little sketchy…

Thanks Bob

Thanks Bob

…but the team is believed to be the Oilers as the aforementioned Eakins is known to be a fan of advanced statistics and, well, “moneypuck” seems to be right up his alley.

If you pay attention to baseball, you know that the pioneers of moneyball, the Oakland A’s, have a pesky habit of making it to the playoffs despite having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Competing in baseball can be very difficult if you’ve got owners who either don’t have the funds or don’t want to spend the money necessary to compete with the high-earning markets of New York, Boston, Chicago, etc. This all began by studying not-so-advanced statistics – things as simple as on base percentage – and building a team of players who had been great or never quite reached their potential during the homerun-happy steroid era of baseball.

It’s an interesting situation here in hockey, as #fancystats aren’t as bonkers as they were considered in baseball. Maybe it’s because the market is so much smaller for hockey, and therefore people won’t just be entertained by exhibitions such as the home run derby. The most stunning part of this is to think that coaches and upper management actually reads the blog posts written by average 9-to-5 human beings and takes the message to heart (thanks guys!). It makes the hockey community feel that much closer and like a real family.

Now it’s time to see what Dellow can do with this great responsibility, and if his smarts could help turn around a struggling club in Edmonton. Is it hockey season yet??

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2 Responses to “The Hiring of #fancystats”

  1. Dave says:

    Hockey is getting the same treatment that baseball did when their fancy stats first started. “You can’t quantify the game, it’s won on the field, etc.”

    The sooner people realize these stats don’t necessarily explain what happened, but can help us make an educated guess at future results, the sooner we can put these silly arguments behind us.

    • Chris A says:

      I used to have doubts about fancy stats. I always figured hockey players were too dependent on their linemates to be able to distill their performance down into a set of numbers.

      After reading about how these stats are generated and seeing that there is so much emphasis on relative stats that take various linemates and opponents into consideration I started to become a believer.