- Edmonton's new fourth line isn't really a fourth line (Oilers Nation). From what Craig MacTavish has said, expect Boyd Gordon to play pretty much the same minutes he did as the Oilers' third-line centre last year.
- Trading Nick Leddy could be the Blackhawks' best way out of their current cap woes (Bleacher Report). It's a move that makes sense on many levels.
- Oilers add two bellicose blueliners to an already deep prospect pool (Edmonton Journal). C.J. Ludwig and Graeme Craig have joined the organization on AHL deals, while goalie Ty Rimmer is back, too. What does the future hold for these fringe prospects?
- 2014-15 Goals Projection: Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell (Oilers Nation). How do Edmonton's new wingers compare to the best in the West? Pretty well, actually.
- The Florida Panthers no longer have cheerleaders; the Edmonton Oilers still do (Edmonton Journal). A market with minimal hockey history and a long-time love of cheerleaders will no longer have the latter at its games. Meanwhile, the Oilers are keeping the two together. It's weird.
I wrote a piece this morning on Toronto's hiring of Kyle Dubas as assistant general manager, but filtering through Twitter this morning there was a specific reaction that I wanted to respond to, a response which would have been out of place in a more general article.
Many significant voices on Twitter are downplaying Dubas' analytics side, for various reasons.
For example, there is Steve Simmons. Simmons is notoriously skeptical of the value of analytics in hockey, so to see him downplay the use of stats by a major new hire isn't a surprise:
And there are also people like ESPN's Corey Pronman - who makes no secret of his respect for analytics - who downplayed Dubas' stats contribution by placing it in a larger context:
Both Simmons and Pronman, coming at this story from very different angles, tweeted similar comments. And both are right, in a way, but both are glossing over the larger story for whatever reason.
The two key problems with writing that Dubas brings more than stats are as follow:
The first duh: Literally nobody argues that teams should be run from a spreadsheet and a spreadsheet alone. The strongest advocates of analytics know the limitations of the data we currently have are significant (here, let me help: "The data we currently have is limited in important ways!"). That's why stats guys in general tend to spend lots of time watching games and manually tracking things - scoring chances, zone entries, zone exits, puck touches, whatever. Because it's impossible to get all the information one needs from numbers alone (and what fun would that be, anyway?).
Dubas is more than a nerd with a calculator. But that shouldn't be surprising since our pocket-protector wearing four eyes has always been a mythic thing, a strawman created by people like Simmons as a way of disparaging dangerous unconventional ideas, a way of masking their own inability to deal with a changing sports world. I've yet to meet our imaginary analytics-only guy and I've spent better than the last five years in these circles.
The second duh, more for Simmons than Pronman: Were Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin not keen hockey eyes? Did the Maple Leafs have a pressing need to fire those guys - apparently with three years left on their respective contracts - and hire Dubas because he's better at watching the game than those two very experienced hockey men? Of course not.
There are lots of good reasons to hire Dubas - his success at the junior level, his impressive credentials at a very young age, all those non-stats things that Pronman and Simmons note - but what separates him from Poulin and Loiselle is that he is progressive, that he is willing to look at new ideas. Toronto has been the NHL's foremost example of total rejection of analytics; the Dubas hiring marks a seismic shift in approach for a previously moribund organization.
That's what differentiates this hiring. All across the NHL, hockey teams are staffed with good hockey men with impressive credentials, great work ethic and keen eyes. What differentiates Dubas from them is his youth and his willingness to move beyond hockey's orthodoxy and embrace whatever will give him a competitive advantage - in this case, the analytics that the Leafs have so robustly impugned for so many years.
The story here is not that Toronto hired a hockey man; that's a prerequisite. It's that they hired an analytics guy.
Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente is talking about sports again. As one might expect based on her track record, it's a disaster. If you're inclined to skepticism, the title of the column is "Watching men watching sports," which should be a giveaway.
The full 13 paragraph monstrosity is here. However, if you're curious about how bad the content really is but don't want to reward her trolling with a pageview, I've summed it up in 13 lines: