Edmonton Oilers hire analytics expert Tyler Dellow

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If you’re like me, Tyler Dellow’s website mc79hockey.com is a must-read. Or, at least, it was a must-read. The site went down last night, and this morning TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that Dellow had been hired by an NHL team.

That NHL team? Apparently the Edmonton Oilers.

McKenzie

Smart

This is an awfully smart move for the Oilers, both in the general and specific sense.

In the general sense, this shows that Edmonton is open to seriously embracing analytics. What I wrote about the New Jersey Devils when they hired Sunny Mehta back in June applies just as fully now to the Oilers:

In a league where teams are constantly looking for a competitive advantage, this is a good gamble by the Devils. The money involved in hiring Mehta is certainly only a drop in the bucket for an organization like New Jersey, and he’ll provide them with something that to date no other NHL team has. Many NHL teams pay lip service to analytics. The Devils have paid money.

There is no downside to adding a full-time employee in this role. The cost is negligible, and the data can be awfully useful.

In the specific sense, the Oilers landed one of the true pioneers in this field, a man who was not only there at the very beginning when it was just half a dozen people trading ideas in a dimly lit corner of the internet, but also one of the very few still doing high-level, original work.

Dellow combined analytics with video in a way that nobody else I know did, and parsed the NHL’s play-by-play data to find things that were going underneath the radar of even sites like BehindtheNet.ca and ExtraSkater.com.

Brilliant and original, Dellow was (particularly with the hiring of Eric Tulsky earlier this summer) the best analytics guy with work in the public domain. He’s a fantastic hire for Edmonton.

Update:

  • utarded

    We know advanced stats changed baseball. Lets try it in hockey, what’s the worst that could happen. The worst team in the league might stay in the basement?

      • utarded

        True. I’m a mechanic, so I love having as many tools as possible at my disposal that can make my job a little easier. That being said, Tyler is a tool ( take that how you want) to assist in mending a clearly broken wheel. But no one asset or tool can fix this mess. At least their trying

      • utarded

        Well, the guy who — to all intents and purposes — invented advanced stats in baseball (Bill James) has now won three in his role as a consultant with the Red Sox.

        • 2004Z06

          Yes because it is not like we have not seen the dog and pony show that is the “A’s contending” before only to blow when it matters – the playoffs by going out in 3 or 4 in round 1.

          • 2004Z06

            Would the Blue Jays trade spots with the A’S?I would have to think so. How about the almighty Yankees?I would have to think so again. I highly doubt the A’S have advanced stats people working for them.

          • 2004Z06

            Well the Marlins won with a very low payroll, and without the heralded “moneyball” during that era and also during Beane’s era the Yankees won 4 world series (you know what matters) so it is pretty stupid to say that the Yankees would want to switch. Once again what have they won ?

  • utarded

    We know advanced stats changed baseball. Lets try it in hockey, what’s the worst that could happen. The worst team in the league might stay in the basement?

  • I guess when you’re the world’s worst hockey franchise, hiring a lawyer with dubious ideas counts as a step in the right direction.
    Oiler fan should worry more about Ws and Ls and less about Corgi Sledgehammers, though it makes a nice drink on a hot day.

  • O.C.

    Those of you who don’t like Tyler for his “attitude”. I am guessing you think he comes across as cocky because he makes a stand.?

    No skirting, he takes a position. Why? Because he researches the heck out of crap to arrive at an informed opinion.

    If someone brings new, contrary opinions, he doesn’t put his ego first. He will look at it, and if it changes his position, he owns it.

    Thing is, he has done so damn much research, it’s not often he is found to say, “I changed my mind”. If it happens, he’s usually the one to find the alternative data that causes a new way to look at something.

    Couldn’t be happier for Tyler. How many of us are paid to do our passion, in the sport we love, for the team we bleed for?

  • PlayDirty

    I hope this helps the Oilers. Stats are fine and ‘splain some things but I’m not into them.

    I love hockey for the emotion of the game… the intensity… the thrill of winning and losing… the speed… the pain.

    Sometimes you go to games and it’s like sitting in a morgue – people seem distracted. Getting too involved in the stats does the same for me.

    • v4ance

      Boiling down the advanced stats to simplest terms, if you outshoot the other team consistently, you’re more likely to outscore the other team and to win more.

      Playing badly or inefficiently generally leads to losing which tends to be more boring.

      The goal of advanced stats is to figure out ways to consistently outshoot the opposing teams or find players who consistently outshoot opponents which lead to more wins.

      I love hockey as a game of skill, flow and emotion but I enjoy winning that much more.

  • Statistical analysis in hockey isn’t for everyone. Some just like to watch the game.

    You don’t need to study engineering to drive over a bridge…

    but the person who designed it better damn well have.

  • 2004Z06

    I need a little education from the analytics guys….A guy in the vein of a Ryan Smyth goes to the net, battles and tips in 20 goals a year off his ass, stick etc. Great goal/points totals, but never possesses the puck so his possession stats suck. Is he a good player or not?

  • Wow I got a lot of strife for my comments. If I can sum up the ‘finer’ points.

    1. I have never read anything from Tyler Dellow, congratulations to him, I hope his data helps the organization.

    2. For the Hockey club, obviously statistical data is good when making player decisions for building a hockey team.

    3. For ME as a fan knowing why player x was bad is not a silver lining after paying to go watch the aforementioned performance.

    4. Apparently for some knowing why player x was bad is the be all end all to being a hockey fan. All the power to you.

    5. My issue with stats again are when people believe the projections are infallible based on the data. And when people don’t realize that statistical data is interpretive, meaning numbers can help prove the opinion you seek to prove by omitting or emphasizing certain data. A practice that happens on these boards and in these blogs all the time.

    6. Because of those issues, the example of Colorado has been a perfect example of the two sides of the argument. Everyone here saying I’m crazy is – in some cases – stating a fact that Colorado will not repeat or by the beard of Zeus improve on last year. But that belief completely negates what makes being a hockey fan (especially an Oiler fan) so much fun: the unpredictability of the game. To finalize my point, did any of the data accurately forecast Colorado’s performance this year? No.

    7. So again: good for Dellow; good for the Oilers; I hope it helps them; hindsight and projection stats don’t ring my bell; good for you if they do especially if your name is Willis because I enjoy the articles he writes using the data; numbers can be manipulated; they will never accurately predict a game like hockey, but may get pretty close on an individual basis.

    • For ME as a fan knowing why player x was bad is not a silver lining after paying to go watch the aforementioned performance.

      You’ve already stated you’d rather believe the nonsensical narratives that get thrown around. Why choose to believe crap?

      Apparently for some knowing why player x was bad is the be all end all to being a hockey fan. All the power to you.

      Nobody has ever said this. Nothing even close.

      My issue with stats again are when people believe the projections are infallible based on the data.

      Nobody has said this either. You don’t get to accuse people of using the numbers towards an agenda when you admit to never even having read them or understand their work.

      Because of those issues, the example of Colorado has been a perfect example of the two sides of the argument.

      You don’t even understand what the argument is. The entire “COL will regress” argument is this:

      1. Colorado did not play as well as their record suggests.

      2. If they do not improve other areas of their game they will not win as many games next year.

      Not a single person ever said they can’t improve. They said that certain numbers were not sustainable, and those numbers will regress meaning that if they don’t make up for it in the rest of their game they will falter.

      Like Eberle – what is a better bet? That Eberle will accomplish something that about 2 other players in history have managed, or that his shooting percentage will come down? Magically the better bet came true, but then suddenly people want to start pinning it on anything else. Does Occam’s razor ring a bell?

      To finalize my point, did any of the data accurately forecast Colorado’s performance this year? No.

      No kidding. That is the entire point of doing the calculations. Colorado had a better year then they should have, thus it will be difficult to repeat.

      You see, people that understand this stuff understand that something called CHANCE exists. Outliers happen. Numbers tell you what are the best bets to make, not what exactly will happen.

      For example – is it better to bet on COL to repeat their performance or to bet that they will not? Nobody can say they will certainly not, but the odds are against it.

      You keep talking about how the numbers can be manipulated but you have never given a single example of how someone is doing so or why they would do it.

      • NagsNags

        You’ve already stated you’d rather believe the nonsensical narratives that get thrown around. Why choose to believe crap?”

        I may not be speaking for Will, but I’ll use an example that I think makes sense here. I’d much rather cheer and marvel in the story that was Fernando Pisani in 2006 than worry about if he’s going to repeat it again the year after.

  • O.C.

    Hockey analytical guys aren’t hockey’s answer to moneyball. They hate that comparison.

    Analytic reviews are a supplemental tool. They help explain where there are no other answers. They see trends. They help focus on what is or is not working. They often lead to more questions.

    Like, “Why does everyone excel (or suck) in this situation, or with (or without) this guy, or after introducing something…”

    Almost always, the analytics do not find the solution. They raise awareness.