Oilers Retain Tyler Dellow As Consultant

Matrix

This morning Mark Spector reported that the Oilers have
retained the service of Analytics Consultant Tyler Dellow.

Edmonton is in many ways the spiritual home of the Advanced
Analytics community because so many of the early influencers in the public
domain began in Oiler-centric blogs and Dellow’s MC79Hockey was a power player
in the world of advanced stats blogs. However, the team didn’t have anything
resembling a full-time analytics person on the in-house staff until last season
and it wasn’t in a conventional role.

You’ll recall that Tyler Dellow was hired by Dallas Eakins,
not by Oilers management, to consult with him at the coaching level of the
club. It was made abundantly clear by those who reported on the team that it
was Eakins who hired him, not MacTavish. This relationship was/is very
progressive in hockey circles. I don’t know if any other NHL club had analytics
working so closely with their coaching staff. If they do then we certainly haven’t
been told about it.

There’s no knowing what exactly Dellow was or was not
responsible for during the last year but that didn’t stop anyone from
speculating or just plainly putting the blame on him.

Dellow

Considering the very combative relationship Dellow had
developed with many members of the media before he began consulting for the
team it’s no surprise that the bad blood kept flowing while he was employed by
the club. However, some of Edmonton’s low points last season involved a man
doing secret work who wasn’t allowed to discuss his work or respond to
accusations on social media. Yet, there were “misinterpretations” that lead
people to report that he had been sent home to Toronto never to be used again
after Eakins was let go, one reporter spun Nelson’s words to imply that Dellow
had told the Oilers not to use Yakupov in the shootout, and OilersNation was
turned into a WarZone when “Prickgate” came to light.

We truly don’t know how Tyler Dellow influenced the Oilers
last season but we can assume his focus was on maintaining possession and the
Oilers, during the Eakins portion of the year, possessed the puck better than
they had in years. Lord knows they had a bevy of problems before, during, and
after that time in a multitude of ways, but they kept the possession game at a
respectable level.

From the beginning of the season to December 15th
the Oilers had a 50.9% Corsi For. They ranked 14th in the league
over that span. The year before they had a CF% of 44.3 and were 28th.
That doesn’t carry a whole lot of water with a great number of people, and that’s
fine, but if you were hired to help a team raise possession and the gains were
that drastic and immediate then you did a good job. End of story.

Now the tweet by Mark Spector tells us that the Oilers are
retaining Tyler Dellow but in a much more conventional role (or about as
conventional a role one can be in for a role that hasn’t existed more than 3
years). Dellow is expected to work much more with management than he is with
the coaching staff. This is a role he should be equally or more suited for
anyway.

The cutting edge of hockey analytics might be in what it can
do in real time for a coaching staff, but the main benefits we’ve seen have
been primarily as an evaluative tool. When the Oilers are discussing player X there’s the traditional scouting information that will always play a large role, and there’s the analytical information.

The numbers are available now. There’s nothing stopping
Chiarelli, Howson, or MacTavish from going to War-On-Ice and looking at numbers
on players, but what makes that analytics is when you try to glean some meaning
from the numbers. Dellow proved in the public sphere to be a tireless and creative
mind at doing just that. The Oilers are asking their scouts today to dig deeper
than they’ve ever done before. If they ask the same of Dellow they better be
prepared for 10,000 words on Nikita Nikitin and the follies of a two year, 4.5M
contract.

The Oilers keeping Dellow aboard is a good call. It’s the
right call. If the Oilers wanted an Analytics Consultant of any kind, who is a
better fit than Tyler Dellow? It’s almost more shocking that Management wasn’t
using him before. The reality is that group could have used all the help they
could get.

Of course the added benefit of Tyler Dellow staying on with
the Edmonton Oilers is that we can continue to #BlameDellow when bad things
happen. Losing streak to start the year? #BlameDellow. Nuge separates his
shoulder opening a particularly tight jar of pickles? #BlameDellow. RX2 gets
delayed because of a union strike? #BlameDellow.

I jest, but only a little. He really should loosen up those
pickle jars for Nuge. He’s just a kid.