3 ways NHL teams can get more data driven

Kent Wilson
August 15 2016 12:00PM

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"Inculcating a data-driven culture is...fundamental. What do we mean by data-driven? Most every company in the world today depends on data. But the vast majority of them use data in retrospect, to understand history, not to drive decisions ...

When we say data-driven, we're talking about companies that operationalize data."

- Winning With Data

The NHL isn't the only business experiencing seismic ripples and paradigmatic shifts in the information age. The time of "Big Data" is upon us, driven by mass adoption of powerful communication technologies. There's deep wells of information everywhere for those who care to look, waiting to be plumbed for valuable insights and new efficiencies. 

Of course, access to information is necessary but not sufficient when it comes to operationalizing data in an organization or business. NHL teams have begun to dip their toe in the "advanced stats" pool, but are no doubt encountering challenges in effectively leveraging the various analyst bloggers who have been scooped up in the past year or two. It's one thing to bolt on a "stats consultant" to existing organizational structures and quite another to integrate empirical processes from top to bottom. 

I recently read the book Winning With Data by Tomasz Tunguz and Frank Bien. In it, Tunguz and Bien lay out a roadmap for successfully operationalizing data, as well as the many roadblocks businesses often encounter in trying to become more empirical. 

Here are three key insights I discovered in Winning With Data that could help NHL clubs become truly data driven.

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Remembering the Time the Red Wings Went to Jail

Mike Commito
August 15 2016 07:00AM

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Before the Red Wings squared off against the Chicago Blackhawks in an outdoor game on New Year’s Day in 2009, they went to jail.

On February 2, 1954, Detroit played its first outdoor game in franchise history, at Marquette State Prison, against a squad of inmates who were, fittingly, known as the Pirates. The exhibition game had been in the works since the previous offseason when Marquette’s athletic director Leonard “Oakie” Brumm spoke with general manager Jack Adams about bringing the Red Wings to his penitentiary on the southern shore of Lake Superior. 

According to a story in the Milwaukee Sentinel, Adams had actually help get Marquette’s hockey team off the ground in the early 1950s, when he donated uniforms and equipment. Initially, the so-called Pirates were only able to skate around and kick the puck with their feet, but were eventually given sticks, perhaps to prepare for their exhibition game against the Red Wings.

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NHL EQUIVALENCIES TIP OFF FALL, PREDICT WINTER (BLUE VERSION)

Lowetide
August 14 2016 01:49PM

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Joey Laleggia is still in his entry-level deal, but at age 24 his time is now. The offensive defender needs to show well during training camp and in the 2016-17 season in order to make a solid impression. With Brad Hunt off the team in Bakersfield, can Laleggia spike offensively and get noticed?

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If Quebec Played at the World Cup of Hockey

Mike Commito
August 14 2016 10:00AM


Quebec

*Note: None of this happened. Mike fell asleep in the sun and dreamt the whole thing up.

After years of threatening separation and narrowly decided referendums, Quebec has finally done the unthinkable and seceded from Canada. The formation of the sovereign nation of Quebec will undoubtedly shake up the national economy, abruptly alter our demography, and forever change our cultural landscape.

The reverberations of this seismic shift will be felt far and wide and even the hockey world will not be insulated from its impact. With the World Cup of Hockey less than a month away, Quebec has already filed and won an emergency injunction with the National Hockey League that will allow it to field a team in the tournament. Wasting no time, Équipe Quebec unveiled its twenty-three man roster earlier this week as it prepares to make up for lost time in the lead up to September.

No less than two days removed from the secession, it’s clear that Quebec has already set the wheels in motion to start charting its own course in the hockey world. How this will impact the game over the long-term is unclear, but for now, we can take a closer look at Quebec’s World Cup team and how it can expect to fare in the tournament.  

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On Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, and Alex Chiasson

Ari Yanover
August 14 2016 08:00AM

College free agents are exciting. Some of it is due to the fact that any new prospect choosing to go to your team is always pretty cool; a lot of it is that there's pretty much nothing going on in the hockey world in the middle of August, so a new free agency period opening is always going to draw interest.

This year's big fish is Jimmy Vesey. He was drafted by the Nashville Predators, but rather than sign with them, he elected to draw things out until free agency.

Kevin Hayes was in the same boat two seasons ago. While there was some talk of him coming to Calgary - his two Boston College linemates were already drafted by the Flames - he ultimately elected to play in New York, where he has thus far put up just over half a point per game with 81 points through 158 games. Pretty good for a free agent pickup, but hardly anyone's saviour.

What boat will Vesey fall in?

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