NHL Analytic Teams’ State of the Union

Pure-mathematics-formulæ-blackboard

Fandom means a lot of different things to different people. But one thing unites us all: we hope our favorite team will win, and spend a great deal of time thinking how they can.

For those of us who dig a little deeper on the “how” side and use analytics, we hope that our work will eventually make its way to a front office. In some ways, it already has: numerous “hockey bloggers” hirings have been made recently.

But how many and for which teams?

With some research, I’ve culled a working document on all analytics hires for NHL teams and how they may be using analytics. The following descriptions comes from a variety of sources including Craig Custance’s Great Analytics Rankings [Paywall], fellow bloggers from across the internet, media reports, word of mouth and anonymous insiders.

It should be noted that just because a team has made an “analytics hiring”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they value their input or use the analysis provided properly. In fact, hires can be made simply for PR reasons, and some teams may even give analytics tasks as secondary duties to staff members who do not posses any formal background in the subject. Teams may also have hired private firms providing proprietary data, which in reality may not provide any tangible, verifiable value than what is free and readily available online.

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2014-2015 Season Preview: The Metro Division

Image from Michael Miller via Wikimedia Commons

Last year, in preseason, the Metro Division, was considered by far the strongest division in the East and the likely bet to take both Wild Cards.  The whole division, minus the Pens, promptly started the season by getting hammered, only recovering later in the season to grab one of the two wild cards.

This year again, the top 5 of the division looks strong enough to take two wild cards.  The bottom 3, particularly the bottom 2, are very weak, but the top 5 is strong and near evenly matched such that they could wind up in any order.  But, given the requirement to project the division, these are how I believe the division should finish up, from worst to first:

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Should the Winnipeg Jets Hold On to Paul Maurice?

Photo by “Krazytea” via Wikimedia Commons

Mark Chipman, Kevin Cheveldayoff, & Co. took a huge step yesterday, firing their first choice in the new Winnipeg Jets coaching history, Claude Noel. Noel has the unfortunate (no, scratch that, earned) legacy of mediocre results, questionable lineup decisions, and the uncanny ability to look like nothing’s going on while standing in a tire fire. Whatever the case, the Jets decided to turn away from the new-coach idea towards a very-seasoned veteran in Paul Maurice. With 1,137 NHL games of coaching experience, and one trip to the Cup Finals (with Carolna in 2002), Maurice is definitely a smart choice if a team’s trying to find itself and build up from the relocation identity.

It’s also significant that Maurice has already endured the relocation process. First breaking into the league at the helm of the Hartford Whalers, he helped that team build up from a series of dismal years and a move from Hartford to North Carolina. Though he’d be fired before he could enjoy the ultimate prize of those efforts (the ‘Canes would win the Cup the year after he left), there is little doubt he has the experience for those that prize that sort of thing.

But that leaves a few hanging questions: is he a good coach? Can he make this a better team? Is there any way we can find answers to those questions?

We can, and we will.

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