Eakins: 'Why you would not consider [analytics] baffles me'

Aug 8, 11:19 AM

The Edmonton Oilers announced the addition of lawyer, blogger, Sportsnet.ca contributor and advanced statistician Tyler Dellow to its front office staff on Tuesday, and head coach Dallas Eakins joined TSN1290 on Thursday to discuss the hiring.

Eakins began by referencing his mentor, the late Roger Nielson, who pioneered the use of video technology in breaking down team systems and analyzing player performance, citing the case for the rise of analytics as a new wave in terms of how the game is being assessed:

Roger taught me early on how to keep your own stats for your own team and not rely on others. We've done that internally with our team with these advanced stats, the analytics, whatever you want to call them. I kind of look at when Roger started the video. I think a lot of people thought Roger was crazy and this is just going to be a fad and it's going to go away. But everybody's doing it, and now some teams are maybe doing it too much.

I've got a lot of time for the analytics, I believe it's something you have to consider. Why you would not consider it in your decision process baffles me. It doesn't mean you're going to use it every time, but it's something you have to look at when you're making final decisions, whether it's on systems, on players or however you're going to use it.

He continued by explaining how his relationship with Dellow began and why he thought it was important to make the move sooner than later.

Tyler and I have a very short history. It's one that, when I was coaching in the American Hockey League, I was interested in analytics and I was reading his website. It's where I started my education on the verbage and what these guys were looking at.

 
We brought Tyler in to our in-house coaching clinic last year before the season started. He put up a presentation, it was excellent. That night, we all went out to dinner, I ended up sitting next to him at dinner. He was engaging, he was passionate and I kept in touch with him, not a lot during the season but maybe three or four times, checking in and talking hockey a little bit.

As the summer went on and we revamped our staff, I really thought this was probably the last piece and to try to really get ahead of the game and not be scrambling here a year or two down the road trying to find a really good analytics guy. I thought it was time for us to have one right away.

Understandably, Eakins would not go into detail in terms of what Dellow will bring to the table, but, in a general sense, he noted the importance of matching up what your gut is telling you and what the analytics say in terms of the decision-making process. 

He called it "another tool to look at" and another important element to bring to the conversation.

Based on the team's inability to make the jump into the playoffs after a string of high draft picks, it's no wonder the Oilers are prepared to take any avenue possible towards a greater measure of success.

Related: Hockey's statistical revolution is in full swing, and it's time to take the next step by Justin Bourne

Aug 13, 10:03 AM

Oilers' Eakins on Dellow: 'How can he not be highly critical of our team? We're in 28th place'

Aug 13, 10:03 AM

Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins continues to defend the hiring of hockey operations consultant Tyler Dellow.

Eakins, who first discussed the move on Edmonton radio last week, spoke to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail in an article published Wednesday.

The head coach said he appreciates Dellow's strong opinions and considers them valuable:

I think the criticism of Tyler has been his ability to challenge people forcefully in a conversation and defend what he believes in. But I’ve got no problem with that. I like that he’s got a goddamn opinion. That’s what you need when you’re in these meetings.

Eakins isn't bothered by Dellow's criticism of the team over the years. The head coach says it's often warranted:

I heard through the grapevine [during the year] he was being highly critical of our team. 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.

The Oilers announced the hiring of the analytics advocate last Tuesday. The move came two weeks after the Toronto Maple Leafs shook up their front office and hired statistics proponent Kyle Dubas as assistant general manager.

Eakins sees the way the tide is turning. 

"I just thought it was time to get on with it," the head coach said. "I really believe that, over the next year or two, you’re going to see 30 teams with somebody doing analytics."

He also admits he doesn't know everything:

A coach’s job is not to sit there and say, ‘I already know it all. I don’t need anybody else’s opinion.’ I want to hear everybody’s opinion. Then it’s my job to make that final decision. I’ll listen to [new assistant coaches] Craig Ramsay and Keith Acton and Rocky Thompson and Craig MacTavish. And we’re going to listen to Tyler Dellow, too. He’s going to have a voice in our room on certain matters.

Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Jerome Miron

Aug 5, 5:07 PM

Oilers hire advanced stats blogger Tyler Dellow to consult with hockey operations

Aug 5, 5:07 PM

Lawyer, blogger, Sportsnet.ca contributor, and researcher Tyler Dellow - known primarily for his data-heavy work at mc79hockey.com - was hired by the Edmonton Oilers front office on Tuesday. 

One of the oldest and most established voices in the hockey analytics on-line community, Dellow is probably best known for his work piecing together a series of awkward e-mails, the contents of which suggested that former NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell was compromised by the conflict of interest of having his son in the league as an active player. 

In recent years, Dellow has been at the forefront of combining video analysis with underlying data in an attempt to better understand what types of tactics allow teams to outshoot and outscore their opponents. He's also sliced up basic shot metric data in new ways, and has long been operating with the use of "open play" and other situational data far beyond what you'll find available at sites like behindthenet.ca, extraskater.com, and stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

Dellow is the latest in a string of analytically informed hires by NHL clubs this summer. In addition to Dellow, SB Nation blogger Eric Tulsky was hired by an undisclosed club, former professional poker player Sonny Mehta was hired by the New Jersey Devils, and advanced statistics proponent and former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds general manager Kyle Dubas was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs

The battle is over, it would seem. The nerds have won. 

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Sergei Belski