Dallas Eakins on how an NHL coaching staff can use analytics

Jonathan Willis
August 09 2014 04:47PM

Dallas Eakins 18

We’re in the dog days of summer, and thanks to that even something as relatively small as the hiring of a statistical consultant by Edmonton had been debated to death.

Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins talked to Winnipeg’s TSN 1290 about the move, and he managed both to say some new things and give us some idea about what he’s expecting from new addition Tyler Dellow.

Eakins’ View

Dallas Eakins 7

One of the things Eakins was asked on the Hustler and Lawless show was what he was going to do with the numbers. While the coach declined to get into details he did sketch out his overall approach to analytics:

We’re taking a stab and trying to get ahead of the game, and I think there is value but I’m not going to get into detail on what we’re going to do with this. I will say that the one thing analytics does, is when your opinion and your gut and what you see matches up with the analytics, I think you’ve got the home run: We’re doing the right thing, that player is doing the right thing, we’re teaching this the right way, whatever it is.

There isn’t anything overly new in that quote; when eye and analytics agree it’s pretty easy to make a decision. The tricky part is how one navigates disagreement between the two.

When your gut tells you one thing, and the analytics are for or against it the other way, it starts the conversation. There’s different levels of the conversation, and you can go through it on a number of different levels on the questions you’re going to start asking. But for me it’s another tool to look at, it’s another consideration; it’s another question, certainly another conversation with your staff. It’s something that I think is comparative, it’s something that’s going to help us, and it’s something I believe in, and I’m not going to be quick to say, ‘that’s a bunch of crap, discard it, these guys don’t know what they’re doing’ and leave it. I’d much rather be the other way and go, ‘we’re going to move forward with this, we’ll see if it does help us’ and be considerate and open-minded to learning something new.

That open-mindedness is essential. Analytics are useless if the only time they’re used is to reinforce what somebody already knows. There must be conflict, there must be disagreement, and some of the time the picture painted by the analytics has to be right, even if it goes against the conventional view. If that isn’t the case, they have no value.

Eakins is often portrayed as arrogant in the media, but he makes comments like the one above with surprising frequency. Confidence in one’s own ability doesn’t mean tuning out dissent. If someone is truly confident they aren’t scared of information that might make their practices better; they seek it out and adapt accordingly.

Other Highlights

Roger Neilson

  • Eakins compared the work being done in analytics now to the work his mentor Roger Neilson did with video, noting that many felt it was a passing fad. “I’ve got a lot of time for the analytics,” he said. “I believe it’s something you have to consider; why you would not consider it in your decision process baffles me. Doesn’t mean you’re going to use it every time, but it’s certainly something that you have to look at.”
  • There has been a lot of speculation about how much Dellow and the Oilers talked last season. Eakins explained that Dellow had been invited to present at the team’s in-house coaching clinic prior to the season, and that they touched base a few times over the year but that there wasn’t a lot of dialogue.
  • Eakins was asked about a comment that John Paddock had made with regard to the need for coaches to get out of the office and coach the team rather than burying their heads in video. Eakins agreed, and mentioned something pretty interesting about his own staff: that it had grown and that there was a specific role for each guy. He didn’t say it exactly, but I suspect having a designated stats guy on staff helps take the load off the coach because that stats guy can do the grunt work and report to the boss with his findings. It’s the same idea as having an assistant coach breaking down systems and reporting in – it frees up the head coach for other tasks.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#51 Jeffer
August 11 2014, 01:39AM
Trash it!
13
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers
TigerUnderGlass wrote:
And I get advanced stats

You really don't.

Actually I do...pretty ignorant comment on your part.

Avatar
#52 Mclick
August 11 2014, 07:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

So, here's an interesting thought. Does analytics have to do more with the players or more with coaching decisions? I guess it depends on the stats you are talking about. If you start coaching and making decisions based on the analytics, the those decisions are going to have an impact on the numbers being analysed...hmmm.

Avatar
#53 TigerUnderGlass
August 11 2014, 08:18AM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Cheers
10
cheers
Jeffer wrote:

Actually I do...pretty ignorant comment on your part.

It's plain you don't, and like I said on the other page, I don't think "ignorant" means what you think it means.

Avatar
#54 gcw
August 11 2014, 10:39AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

I don't know how much value their is in communicating in real time - the big value of stats is that they quantify huge amounts of data; over a single game I'd take a trained eye every time.

I don't know. Some of the stuff Michael Parkatti is doing over at Boys on the Bus could be used semi-real time. If after the end or a period or two you see certain line match ups that are failing by the numbers, you can use that to change match ups or change tactics.

In the heat of the moment with 10 other things to think about, your eye might fool you whereas the numbers can draw attention to things you missed, or are better or worse than you think they are by observation.

If you look at his numbers, you see line match ups that were failing badly despite other lines playing well against that line, yet the coaches kept going. That tells me that reviewing those kind of numbers between periods could be useful for coaches.

Avatar
#55 Jeffer
August 11 2014, 11:30AM
Trash it!
6
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
TigerUnderGlass wrote:

It's plain you don't, and like I said on the other page, I don't think "ignorant" means what you think it means.

Of course...how could anyone actually understand advanced stats and still not value them like you do. Only someone that doesn't understand could have a different opinion than you. You're proving your ignorance the more you speak. Don't act like you know me or have any idea what I know or don't know. You're think everyone that doesn't agree with you is ignorant.

Avatar
#56 Czar
August 11 2014, 12:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

JW, Great job on the lowdown today! You seemed way more comfortable today and you didn't butcher Yak's name. Add to the fact that you were in the toughest time slot on radio, right after Dennis King, well done!

Avatar
#57 BobbyCanuck
August 11 2014, 03:54PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Czar

I would love to read that, another thing that I would find very useful is an article about how the junior and the junior junior team fit into what the big team is trying to accomplish.

With info pertaining to how long a player can stay in each league, how many NHL games allowed before waivers, age restricitons,etc.

A comparison of salaries, coaching techniques, training regements, off season 'work on this' to make yourself better, mentoring offered, help with school work (does that even matter)? What do they do to transition players out of the 'I'mma goin to the big show' I don't need to finish high school, learn how to read, or whatever

All with lovely block diagrams that show the relationaship.

Avatar
#58 TigerUnderGlass
August 11 2014, 05:23PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
Jeffer wrote:

Of course...how could anyone actually understand advanced stats and still not value them like you do. Only someone that doesn't understand could have a different opinion than you. You're proving your ignorance the more you speak. Don't act like you know me or have any idea what I know or don't know. You're think everyone that doesn't agree with you is ignorant.

I don't care if you value them. I have made no such assumption, so leave the poor straw man alone. Your comments have made it obvious you don't understand. This is why I believe you don't understand them.

The fact that you say you "don't believe" in a record of things that happened during hockey games is hilarious.

Avatar
#59 Jeffer
August 11 2014, 05:44PM
Trash it!
3
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I don't care if you value them. I have made no such assumption, so leave the poor straw man alone. Your comments have made it obvious you don't understand. This is why I believe you don't understand them.

The fact that you say you "don't believe" in a record of things that happened during hockey games is hilarious.

I didn't say I don't believe in them...I said I don't believe in their value. I said if the team has proper scouting they are not beneficial. Get your facts straight.

Avatar
#60 TigerUnderGlass
August 11 2014, 06:04PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
6
cheers

@Jeffer

I don't need to keep an open mind about it because I don't believe in it.

You said these exact words and many similar comments over the last few days, like:

I don't believe in advanced stats

Just because I don't believe in advanced stats...

...and so on. Now suddenly it's:

I didn't say I don't believe in them

Perhaps I am not the confused party here.

Avatar
#61 Jeffer
August 11 2014, 06:40PM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
TigerUnderGlass wrote:
I don't need to keep an open mind about it because I don't believe in it.

You said these exact words and many similar comments over the last few days, like:

I don't believe in advanced stats

Just because I don't believe in advanced stats...

...and so on. Now suddenly it's:

I didn't say I don't believe in them

Perhaps I am not the confused party here.

It's easy to take things out of context to prove your point...same as finding stats to back up a point.

In any case, anyone reading my comments with half a brain would know that I am obviously not disputing that the stats exist...but that I don't believe in their value. If you aren't smart enough to put that together then I really don't have more time to waste trying to educate you.

Avatar
#62 TigerUnderGlass
August 11 2014, 08:07PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
6
cheers
Jeffer wrote:

It's easy to take things out of context to prove your point...same as finding stats to back up a point.

In any case, anyone reading my comments with half a brain would know that I am obviously not disputing that the stats exist...but that I don't believe in their value. If you aren't smart enough to put that together then I really don't have more time to waste trying to educate you.

Pardon me for taking you at your word.

Comments are closed for this article.