Hockey analytics blogger Tyler Dellow hired by Edmonton Oilers
An NHL team has hired prominent hockey stats blogger Tyler Dellow to work with analytics according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. The team is believed to be the Oilers.
The advanced statistics movement in hockey seems to be reaching a crescendo this summer. More teams are openly talking about their use of more advanced data, while others have gone the route of publicly advertising the addition of analytics positions.
Perhaps the news Bob McKenzie of TSN broke Tuesday morning showed that things are getting really serious. According to McKenzie, hockey blogger Tyler Dellow has been hired by an NHL team to help with analytics. Dellow’s popular blog, mc79hockey.com, is no longer active as of last night, but in it was a wealth of analysis that dove into everything from Corsi to Fenwick to breaking down team’s face off plays.
Later in the day, the Edmonton Oilers, the team the hockey blogger has been a longtime fan of and often the target of his most pointed criticisms, announced they had hired Dellow to consult with hockey operations.
Dellow, who has also worked as a lawyer, previously came to notoriety in the hockey world for uncovering a series of controversial emails between NHL vice president Colin Campbell and then director of officiating Stephen Walkom. The emails exposed Campbell’s impartiality was in question as he was the league disciplinarian at that time. Campbell stepped down from his position as disciplinarian in 2011, but he still works in the NHL’s main office.
The advanced stats community will likely see this as a huge victory in moving the conversation forward about analytics' place in the game. Dellow was one of its more controversial public ambassadors with his occasionally abrasive presence on Twitter, where he has more than 14,000 followers. He could often be found verbally sparring with those in the media who were pushing back on the validity of the work being done in analytics.
But the content Dellow created often showed the benefits of the newer metrics to evaluate players and showed a keen eye that married visual evaluation with the numbers. His blog provided new ways to look at the game and players.
In fact, if the mc79hockey site is down for good, that’s a loss of hundreds of posts of interesting and innovative information to the general public, which is a shame. But if a team is going to bring him on, it would make sense for them to buy that information as well and keep it under wraps for a competitive advantage.
Since it is the Oilers that have hired Dellow, that must have been some interview as the no-holds-barred writer rarely (if ever) held back on speaking his mind about the team and the moves they had made or strategies they employed. That said, perhaps employing a more critical eye to the process could be just what the moribund organization needs.
Things are really moving forward in this age of advanced statistics and it seems like more and more NHL teams are jumping on board.
Looking at all the recent moves made and admissions from general managers that they’re getting more involved in this field is mirroring the advancements already made by other sports to better understand their players and games.
The New Jersey Devils also recently hired a former hockey blogger. Sunny Mehta is now running their analytics department for the club after a winding career that also included time as a professional poker player. He used to write for the revolutionary and now defunct hockey stats blog vhockey.com, widely considered one of the most important stats-based blogs about the sport.
Also, popular blogger and analyst Eric Tulsky has been hired by an unnamed NHL team to cover analytics after some of his landmark work on tracking zone entries and exits.
Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill recently spoke about a computer program his team uses to track their own data and combine that with what the coaches see on their own video review. Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman spoke publicly that the team uses proprietary advanced analytics in their evaluations. The Toronto Maple Leafs went with an outside-the-box thinker and stats aficionado in Kyle Dubas to be assistant general manager. The Boston Bruins promoted Ryan Nadeau to the position of director of hockey operations and analytics.
It would actually probably be easier to list teams that aren’t getting involved in this at this point.
No one is saying that the stats are the end-all, be-all, but they are an increasingly important piece of the puzzle in understanding the game and making sure whatever the eyes see they’re actually seeing. As Nill recently put it, every team is looking to get a few percentage points better and this type of information can help.
It’s a remarkable time for the sport and it may only get more and more interesting as the information continues to be sorted through and technological advances take analysis to even greater heights.
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