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The Men Behind Advanced Stats

from David Staples of The Cult of Hockey,

The biggest and most lasting leap in advanced stats in the National Hockey League was the first one.

It came in 1977, when Roger Neilson, a non-NHLer, a former high school math teacher and career high school and junior hockey coach, took over as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Neilson brought in a whole series of advanced stats techniques, most importantly the use of videotape to come up with individual scoring chance numbers for his team.

That Toronto team is remembered for being led by stars in their hockey prime such as Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Ian Turnbull and Borje Salming. After picking up tough guy winger Dan Maloney near the end of the regular season, the Leafs advanced into the third round of the NHL playoffs.

But it was Neilson’s contribution that has left the most lasting mark on hockey.

Neilson died in 2003 before advanced stats became the rage among NHL fans. He was never interviewed at length about his work on advanced stats, but by the time of his death most NHL teams were using the techniques he had invented and advocated. And while he’s gone, his right hand man, Ron Smith, is around to describe Neilson’s breakthrough and his thinking.

continued

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: roger+neilson, ron+smith

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