Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Don't worry; Hockey bloggers will not ruin your NHL

Earlier today, Bob McKenzie announced that Tyler Dellow was hired into an NHL team's management.

It's been a pretty good summer for the Hockey Analytics Blogosphere:

* Sunny Mehta hired by New Jersey to head of analytics department
* Eric Tulsky hired by some unknown team for part time work
* Tyler Dellow hired by Edmonton as part of management
* Kyle Dubas hired by Toronto as Assistant GM (not a blogger but proponent of analytics and bloggers)

These are pretty big advances in (the poorly named) "fancy stats" bid for public acceptance.

Here's the thing though...
What they will not be doing is revolutionizing the NHL.

Hockey will still be played on ice by passionate players. You will still have your puck battles. You will still have your moments of glory and defeat. You will still have the game you love.

Advancements occur consistently all the time. This is just another one. Shot metrics are merely a tool in player evaluations.

The reason why they are extolled so much is two fold:
1) They are highly effective
2) They are undervalued

The second one is a key caveat. If there is a tool that is undervalued by your competitors, exploiting that tool gives you a competitive edge. If you can find better players for less money than your opponent or at a later draft pick, this will help you improve your team. Simple.

That is what "moneyball" or "moneypuck" is really all about. Not about stats specifically, but comparative advantage.

Shot metrics and other stats are merely a means in helping evaluate and discover good players. And here is the kicker, management teams have always been trying to find good players and tracking data.

The only thing this new wave of analytics changes is quantifying how much particular numbers and attributes are more meaningful than others. All this means is that the quantifiable relationship with winning is now more important.

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