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That’s The Analytics I Look At

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As he embarks on an offseason with a wad of cash to try and improve the Oilers, Ken Holland’s latest comments about pro scouting and analytics do not inspire confidence.

2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Michael Bobroff/NHLI via Getty Images

A whopper of a piece was put out by The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman today.

It shouldn’t have been a whopper. It was a mailbag segment. Typically, these are pretty tame. This one in particular, was not.

You remember Daniel Nugent-Bowman, the gentleman that Ken Holland kept confusing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with at the end of year media availability? Right.

Nugent-Bowman let Ken Holland take the mic in response to a question about whether or not the Oilers were behind the eight ball when it came to analytics and pro scouting. His response about how the club evaluates players with analytics was something I really wish I wouldn’t have read.

I’m not going to paste the whole thing, but the following part is especially damming. Original article here. (Get the free trial, read the whole thing, but don’t say i didn’t warn you.)

Emphasis mine.

AN INCREDIBLY UNFORTUNATE THING TO LET ESCAPE FROM YOUR LIPS

Honestly I really wish that Holland would have quipped something that would have avoided any sort of coherent thought in the response. Even if he said “some numbers aren’t important”, or “analytics? never heard of her!”, it probably would have come off better than what we have here. Instead, we’ve got to go to bed and arise each and every morning throughout this man’s time with the Oilers knowing that he said this to an actual reporter.

Where to begin? Break it down.

All you’ve got to do is look at the goal differential at five-on-five for the real legit teams”.

He’s not wrong, at least, not the part after “is”. Looking at goal differential at five-on-five is pretty cool, actually. Like construction of an aircraft, it’s hardly the only thing you’ve got to do, but it’s an important thing to have in your folder. I wonder if Ken Holland knows exactly how bad the Oilers are five-on-five when both McDavid and Draisaitl are off the ice.

That’s the analytics I look at.”

This has got some real good caveman pushback to it, doesn’t it? Save your number mumbo-jumbo! Here, you’re presented with a whole bunch of data that shows a thousand different things. Obviously, some data is more important than other data, so it’s important to have folks nearby who can help parse that for you. (More on that in a second). No thanks, I don’t need anything like quality of competition or even something simple like goals scored per sixty. Never heard of PDO. All you’ve got to do is look at the goal differential at five-on-five for the real legit teams. That’s the analytics I look at.

Everybody in this league looks at analytics.

Yes. Some teams like Colorado and Tampa Bay and Vegas actively do things with them after five on five goal differential (the most important analytic) too. Hey, all those teams are still playing. Must be a coincidence.

“I looked at analytics 25 years ago when I became a general manager”

Where was that at? Wait wait, don’t tell me.

“It was rudimentary analytics, but I’ve always run a team on analytics. It’s more involved analytics now.”

rudimentary: “/ˌro͞odəˈment(ə)rē/

(adjective)

involving or limited to basic principles.

Rudimentary analytics, or as I like to call them: The Russian 5 and Steve Yzerman, so what if Chris Osgood is in net?

“But it’s a part of the process”

Yes, it is a part of the process. It doesn’t replace watching the games, but using whatever tools that can help your club evaluate talent and improve your roster is more important now than it ever has been.

IT’S JUST ONE PARAGRAPH THOUGH

I’d buy a ticket to listen to Holland talk for ten minute straight about pro scouting and analytics. I’ve got so many questions about this. - What work are Justin Mahé and his brother doing (Holland would later go on and say that these are the two people that make up the entire analytics department for the Oilers), and how much of it gets to Ken Holland and / or Dave Tippett? Holland spoke in vague generalities about what he and Tippett receive from the pair. Does Holland incorporate anything more than just 5-on-5 goal differential into his decision making process? If so (other than his gut feeling), what is it?

There are a lot of ways that a GM can make up a hockey club, and Ken Holland is going to do it his way. If we’re to take what he said at the end of year media availability (plus his time in DETROIT), I think he’s going to make signings this offseason where he tosses cap dollars along with term at players based heavily on those rudimentary analytics he spoke about. I’m happy to be wrong, but I’m just not sure that his way is going to be the right way for the Edmonton Oilers going forward, and Connor McDavid isn’t getting any younger.