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There was a bit of dislike for Tyler: Eakins interview with TSN Hockey Analytics

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Former Oilers coach Dallas Eakins was interviewed by Andy MacNamara on TSN’s Hockey Analytics show, where he talked about San Jose coach Todd McLellan's golden power play, Nail Yakupov's struggle, and media hostility toward advanced stats analytics hire Tyler Dellow.

Former coach Dallas Eakins projects ParZona-like calculations onto the ice with associate coach Keith Acton.
Former coach Dallas Eakins projects ParZona-like calculations onto the ice with associate coach Keith Acton.
Chris LaFrance-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the Oilers’ acquisitions, the most controversial seems to be a guy who doesn’t even step on the ice - math badboy and analytics "prick" Tyler Dellow.

Former Oilers coach Dallas Eakins opened up about Tyler Dellow, among other things, in an interview with Andy MacNamara on TSN’s Hockey Analytics radio show, which went online Saturday, January 31.

You can listen to the interview here: http://iphone.tsn.ca/tsnpodcasts/TSNAnalytics-Episode16-Extended.mp3. Eakins starts at 26:00.

The Oilers twittersphere blew up with the revelation that a journalist sent an email to the Oilers PR department asking if they were going to address the "hiring of this prick," in reference to Dellow. Twitter was awash with speculation over who the brusque, touchy journalist might be.

Below are highlights from the interview.

On the divide over analytics…

"Here’s the thing with analytics, with media and with fans I don’t understand. There’s such a divide. You’re either for analytics or you’re against them. Analytics to me are no more than stats. If you’re for goals and assists and points, then why wouldn’t you be looking at these other stats too. I was a big fan of Tyler’s and I pushed hard for the hire. I like going in-depth and checking everything off. If you’re going to stand back and say "It takes 95 points to make the playoffs," can’t you say that "Hey if you get a Corsi of 50 per cent, 70 per cent of those teams make the playoffs? Or if you get a team Corsi of 52.5 per cent, hey, 90 per cent of those teams makes the playoffs. The problem with just looking at going "Hey get 95 points and you’re in, it’s hard to go back and measure "What do you need?" When you get into the team Corsi, and this is where things worked really well with Tyler, is you’re actually able to go in and check off every part of your system work. Compare it to other teams that are tops in certain categories, see what they’re doing, see if you need to adjust it. Where is your personnel at? What are the challenges? It just adds another layer of putting together a system and a team."

On the hiring of Tyler Dellow…

"Bringing in Tyler was an interesting process on a number of fronts. … And you know it was interesting, because we announced the hiring, immediately we had an email from a journalist to our PR department asking the question, "Is anyone from the organization going to talk about the hiring of this prick?" Right away I was caught of guard, going, I thought, ‘Woah.’ Like, what’s going on here? There was a bit of a dislike for Tyler. I think it’s probably from his, maybe from his website or his twitter account. The thing I liked about Tyler is he fit in great with our staff. I think he’s gotten a real - his eyes opened up big time on how teams work. I think him being able to work with [assistant coach] Craig Ramsay and [associate coach] Keith Acton has made him even better. But like Tyler Dellow for me is one of these guys that is a great asset to a staff. And he was a big part of our team moving forward in a spot where we were suffering. I think last year we were at like 44% Corsi, which is just terrible as a team. And we were able to push that to right around 51 by the time I was fired. And that number of 51, over the long term, will eventually pay some dividends."

On how they used analytics to solve a problem, the power play, and San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan…

"You can quickly look and go OK, this how we should do it. For me it was always ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ Why should we do it this way? What are other teams doing? One quick look at it would be the power play. ‘Well your power play percentage isn’t very good.’ Well I wanted to build something there that would last long term. So looking at the powerplay what we did is we went and we looked at teams that had success over long periods of time. The one team on the power play who has done an excellent job is Todd McLellan. He has done an amazing job with that team since 2008 with the power play. For me he set the gold standard for what a power play is. What his power play does is it generates just under 120 shot attempts per 60 minutes. Like, that’s incredible over that time. There’s only, I think there’s only six other teams that have managed 100 plus shot attempts per 60 minutes in that same six year window. What’s interesting, once you start going in the numbers is, those six teams that managed that? They were all number one, two, four, five and six and seven in Goals-For per 60 minutes. What that allows you to do when you get those numbers, now you can go back and go, "OK, what are they doing? Who is their personnel? What hands are they? What set-up are they running? How fast are they getting the puck to the net off of a face off? What kind of traffic is in front of the net?" … When I took over there, through last year, I think we were just under 80 shot attempts, which is very bad, per 60 minutes on the power play. By the time I was let go this year we had it up to 95. So we were starting to get there. But again these are long-term approaches, where the market and the pressure there was more short-term focused, and they wanted wins now."

On how other teams use advanced stats analytics…

"There’s a lot of things I don’t understand. There’s a lot of teams that won’t tell you who they’re using. They’re very secretive. For me, there’s teams that have their analytics guys holed up somewhere and there’s very little communication directly with the coach. I just made Tyler a part of our staff. He worked right everyday with us, and we learned lots from him, and he got a lot from us. For me it’s the only way to do it. I like face-to-face conversations, not getting a piece of paper with a bunch of numbers on it. In the end I can’t answer the question. I know what a couple teams are doing. But a lot of teams are fairly quiet on what they’re doing. I’ve been asked questions like how did you push this number from 44 to 51? And I’m reluctant to give it because I believe that we’ve put together a formula on how to go about doing that. Which is interesting, I almost chuckle, I believe we have a certain good thing going for the future, for wathever team I end up with next. But I was just fired. It’s an interesting dynamic."

On Nail Yakupov...

"I’ll say this about Nail. He is resilient. He’s extremely hard working and he wants to be successful. He’s invested in trying to get better. The problem the young man has is he was the number one pick overall. And that carries so much weight. It turns you into a lightning rod right away. Because you’re the first overall pick, the perception is you’re going to just light it up and be unbelieveable right from game one to the end of your career. He’s an inexperienced player. He had a good, he had some good stats when it comes to goals and assists in that shortened season. He had an extremely high shooting percentage. When it came to my deployment of him, there were people that were highly critical of it: ‘He’s not playing enough.’ Well he’s playing the same minutes that he did in the shortened season. ‘He’s not in the power play enough.’ His minutes on the power play were basically the same too. ‘He’s not in the right spot.’ He’s basically in the same spot on the power play. What this is, what you’re seeing, is a young player go through struggles. And a lot of young players go through them. And a lot of those players go unnoticed with their struggles because they’re not the number one pick overall. And I’m firmly confident that Nail is going turn into a very influential player in the future. You have to remember his age. And there’s other challenges there too. Nail’s trying to find his way. I think sometimes he’s being coached sometimes at the rink, at home, and elsewhere too, which muddies the water. But I have full confidence with Nail’s skill set, but most importantly with his enthusiasm to getting better, that he’ll be able to turn into a very influential player."