One of the top stories in hockey this summer is the increasing public movement among NHL teams to upgrade their investment in analytics. Several teams have made public hires to new departments like the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers recently. One of the most attention-grabbing hires was made by the Edmonton Oilers, however.
The club announced that longtime hockey blogger Tyler Dellow was joining the hockey operations department to consult with the team. Often the biggest critic of both the team and the mainstream media that covers the Oilers, Dellow's has been met with mixed reviews.
Reports surfaced that the hire was somewhat lobbied for by head coach Dallas Eakins, who has taken a keen interest in the advanced stats movement. In a recent interview with the Globe & Mail, Eakins touched on hiring Dellow and why he thinks the former blogger will help the team.
"I heard through the grapevine [during the year] he was being highly critical of our team," Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said on Tuesday.
"That didn't bother me. I'm like, 'How can he not be highly critical of our team? We're in 28th place.' So of course he was."
"I think the criticism of Tyler has been his ability to challenge people forcefully in a conversation and defend what he believes in," Eakins added. "But I've got no problem with that. I like that he's got a [expletive] opinion. That's what you need when you're in these meetings."
"I just thought it was time to get on with it [bringing in Dellow]. I really believe that, over the next year or two, you're going to see 30 teams with somebody doing analytics."
Eakins may be right. More teams have gone public with their use of analytics and though the most recent hires have been by teams outside of the playoffs, others like the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars have been more vocal about the role advanced stats play in their hockey operations departments.
This remains a hot-button topic among fans and media. Change is hard, but change is coming as it relates to how those within the league view and value advanced statistics.
Things are moving forward at a seemingly quicker pace. With the level of secrecy in the NHL, there may be a lot more teams on board with this than are public right now. And as Eakins notes, if there aren't teams on board with this yet, they probably will be soon.
The results may not be immediate and may never be totally obvious, but fans should value the fact that teams are looking for new ways to improve. It certainly can't hurt a team like the Oilers to try and find new ways of doing things, because whatever they've been doing obviously hasn't been working.