The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/28/14 at 03:06 AM ET
Mike Babcock's "advanced stats"-related conversation with NHL.com's Dan Rosen ruffled quite a few feathers as some assumed that the Red Wings weren't employing "analytics" at all, but Wings assistant GM Ryan Martin sets the record straight via a conversation with the Free Press's George Sipple this morning: no, the Red Wings don't have a dedicated number-cruncher, but the team's not exactly been operating in the dark ages:
The Wings have attempted to be ahead of the curve for a while, poring over advanced data from different providers to glean information.
“We’re using it; it’s one piece of the puzzle,” said assistant general manager Ryan Martin. “It’s meant to supplement what your scouts and your staff see. The same way doing your due diligence on the players’ character and work ethic and what your scouts see with their own eyes. We’re in the information gathering business and advanced stats or analytics are one more piece of the puzzle that will hopefully help you make a better, more informed decision. We look at it and we certainly use it, but I don’t know that there’s a team that would say it is the be all and the end all.”
Martin tells Sipple that the Wings won't necessarily hire a dedicated advanced stats person this summer--they have to hire an assistant coach first--but the team will hire one sooner than later, and in the interim, the Wings are in the same boat as most every other NHL team; they're doing their best to sort through information-providers who may or may not be selling hills of magic beans:
The Wings have met with a handful of service providers in the past few years. Martin said five years ago there was a race by teams to figure out the advanced data before everyone else.
“I think it’s gone from a sprint to a jog because nobody has shown ‘I got the magic recipe,’ ” Martin said. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s more and more people showing they’re on the right track and there’s some value here. We’d be foolish not to try to keep up with that industry trend.”
Maritn also tells Sipple that the team is looking forward to the NHL's implementation of better player-tracking technology (called "SportVU"), but Martin--the team's former capologist and a former player agent--neither discounts the importance of Corsi or Fenwick numbers, nor does he believe that "PDO" and "possession" stats are the be-all-end-all.
Instead, the Wings embrace "conventional" stats, advanced stats, video scouting and player observations as parts of a whole:
“There are many teams that use analytics in some capacity,” Martin said. “I still don’t think it’s at the level that it is in baseball. Baseball is different. When a pitcher is on the mound and the batter is in the box, here comes the pitch. There’s only a certain number of things that can happen. … In hockey, the sport is so much more fluid.
“Everyone wants a simple answer where they plug a bunch of numbers into a spreadsheet and it spits out, well this is the best player. Baseball is way ahead of us in that regard. The statistics are so much different because the game is so different.”
As Babcock told NHL.com's Rosen, the team also places a healthy amount of skepticism in the consistency of stats crews on a rink-by-rink basis:
"The best analytic groups are getting the best information, so you have to make sure the stats you're using are correct," Babcock said. "When a guy tells you how good this player is stat-wise and you and your general manager don't agree with him, well, we better go back and assess it. Just because the analytics like the player and we don't, well, then we don't. We'll make the decision. But if you're wrong, go back and take a look at it so you know why."
So many have pointed out that most every team already employs advanced video scouting software, and that can be massaged to pull up every player's shifts at even strength, on the PP, PK, etc., so teams can already say, "Okay, so and so didn't have a great game, let's pull up his shifts and find out why," but advanced stats provide a metric for going the other way: "Okay, I thought he played all right, but the numbers don't back that up, let's have a look and see what was going on."
Video and advanced stats are highly likely to be intertwined at the NHL level, especially given that team meetings are now anchored by "good video," and luckily for you and me, teams really are "in the information business," so they're not going to have long debates as to whether the eyeball test stands up to Corsi or vice versa--they're just going to figure out how to incorporate all the information available to them into a single package.
If we are to believe what TSN's Bob McKenzie said last week (and Bob tends to know what he's talking about), teams are developing their own stats or using proprietary and generally "classified" software to find new metrics, so they're not worried about debating the usefulness of one method of player or team evaluation over another. They're already using everything available to them and looking for the next edge over their competitors.
In "numbers" talk of a different kind, Danny DeKeyser and the Red Wings will get down to the details of contract extension turkey sooner than later, but in the interim, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose has looked back at DeKeyser's 2013-14 campaign "By the Numbers"...
23: The number of points he produced, including four goals, during his first full season. It was the first time since he was an 18-year-old playing for the Trail Smoke Eaters (BCHL) that he topped the 20-point plateau.
30.1: Led all league rookies in average shifts per game, logging 21:38 minutes of ice time per game during the 2013-14 season. The 24-year-old ranked No. 14 among all NHL skaters in shifts per game.
116: Finished second on the team in blocked shots and third among league rookies behind Tampa Bay’s Radko Gudas (138) and Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba (132).
I mentioned that the Detroit Free Press's Ilitch-vs-Gilbert comparison reminded us all that the charitable impact of Detroit's business moguls has been a mixed bag, but the Detroit News's Susan Whitall noted that the area's sports teams are significantly involved in local charity work. For the Red Wings, Christy Hammond (a former blogger!) does an absolutely stellar job connecting the Wings to the community:
Because the Red Wings have so many new players, the team’s community affairs director, Christy Hammond, said a bumper crop has signed on to become involved in Detroit-area charities recently, but it hasn’t been driven by the city’s economic woes. Team members such as Justin Abdelkader will host an elementary student from their Red Wings for Reading program to attend a game, and many students are city of Detroit residents who have never been to a game. The program outreach is throughout the Metro area.
In the "Things You Find Out Via Email Alerts" vein, it turns out that new Wings/Griffins forward Kevin Porter has a YouTube channel, and it consists of videos of Porter working out at David Bolland's gym in Toronto:
In the alumni category, if you're interested, Fabian Brunnstrom, who currently plays for Leksands IF of the Swedish SHL, conducted an extended interview with Hockeysverige's Ola Winther;
Regarding the whole "Prospects taking part in World Junior summer camps while I'm on vacation" spiel, DRW Prospects on Twitter reminded me that, should you find yourself in Lake Placid, NY between August 2nd and 9th, Dylan Larkin will be taking part in the U.S. World Junior evaluation team, Axel Holmstrom will be playing for the Swedish WJC evaluation team, and Julius Vahatalo will be playing for the Finnish WJC evaluation team;
If you're in Montreal between August 4th and 9th, Zach Nastasiuk and Tyler Bertuzzi will be playing against teams from Russia and the Czech Republic at the Canadian World Junior summer development camp;
By the time I get back to the Lower Peninsula on August 9th, Michigan State University's NHL-playing alumni are usually preparing to take part in their summer camp at Munn Ice Arena;
The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup will pit the best 17-year-old prospects from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic against each other in Breclav and Piestany, Slovakia from August 8th to 16th, too;
On August 23rd, the Joe Kocur Foundation will be holding its annual charity softball game in Highland, MI, and fourteen former Wings (Kocur, McCarty, Maltby, Osgood, Fischer, Legace, Ciccarelli, Redmond, Ogrodnick, Ysebaert, Mio, Lewis, Knuble, Kevin Miller), several other NHL alums, Dave Coulier and Jeff Daniels (among others) will be taking part;
The Wings' players will begin skating in Troy and at the Joe during the last week of August;
And the Wings' fall prospect tournament takes place between September 12th and 16th in Traverse City, with training camp slated to take place on the 19th-to-23rd, so you can expect to see the Paypal button back up not long after I return.
Seven weeks till the prospect tournament, and eight until preseason hockey. The "summer" gets shorter and shorter every year, at least for those of us who are "in the industry."
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.