It’s not every day that an NHL coach subtweets you in real life. I’ve been told that I live rent-free in a lot of people’s heads, but I figured these guys had thicker skin.
No, I wasn’t mentioned specifically. He didn’t @ me. Like I said, it’s a real-life subtweet. And yet…well, you decide who this nameless embodiment of outsider stats nerd who dislikes Russell (as a player) could be. Here is what McLellan said per NHL.com writer Tim Campbell:
Kris Russell is a character individual and that’s why our team cares so much about him. Whoever’s criticizing this individual probably has never played a competitive sport in their life and if they have and they’ve been perfect and that event never occurred to them, then they should be in the Hall of Fame somewhere. Mistakes happen. There was no intent for him to shoot it in our net. That’s one video clip we don’t even review. What are we going to look at?
But what he means to our team … and I know all the analytic nerds out there find ways to run him into the ground but he means a lot to our team. Every single one of those players, regardless of the goal the other night he put into his own net will tell you that any day in any place. I’m pretty sure a lot of guys in that locker room down the hallway would tell you the same thing. So analytics that, if you want.
Alright, maybe it’s not me…maybe?
Here’s the thing. This shot at the mean stats nerds who haven’t played before is coming off the heels of almost no negative Russell articles whatsoever. Where is the pile on happening that caused McLellan to protect his player? I haven’t seen it. I haven’t written it. No one else here did either. As for the game itself, most people were talking about it being Russell’s best offensive game as an Oiler. He even had one of the highest shot attempt percentages on the team that night. His analytics were good.
One thing I appreciate McLellan clarifying was that Russell didn’t mean to shoot it into his net. Glad that got cleared up.
I have some issues with things that McLellan brings up, but let’s be real about what’s going on here. He’s picking the stats nerds here because they (we) are total outsiders in the Edmonton sports media. You want a few sympathetic articles written and the criticism to stay at bay for another week? Talk about how those unfair rat geeks are taking a run at a heart and soul defender from Alberta who rides bulls and blocks shots.
Free pass granted.
Todd McLellan might not have ever won a Cup as a head coach, but he’s certainly no idiot. He knows the guys he’s speaking with will follow along to his pied piper tune. The second the game was over Edmonton’s sports reporters were chomping at the bit to not just defend a guy who scored 5-hole on his own net for the game winner but to take swipes at the analytics guys in the process.
Check out these opening sentences from Mark Spector directly after the game:
Kris Russell gets lost in today’s National Hockey League, a throw-back, 1980’s, blood ‘n’ guts defenceman who dies on the table for the numbers surgeons in 2017.
The analytics folks? They can’t stand the poor guy, whose intangible attributes are unquantifiable, and certainly no match for the Fancy Stats his game spits out.
I would challenge any Oiler fan who’s been around long enough to tell me that he would have written the same two lines if Tom Gilbert had panicked in a puck battle and blasted a shot through his goalie with a minute on the clock.
Todd McLellan is in need of wins, and since he’s not getting them on the ice, he’s set his sight on the analytics community. This is little more than a cheap distraction. McLellan and co have Connor McDavid — on the last year of his ELC — and are in lottery position. The power play is non-existent. The penalty kill is historically bad at home and could be costing the team more than Peter Chiarelli’s trade history.
But let’s get back to the embattled blueliner. Here are a couple basic facts about Kris Russell that McLellan will be familar with:
-Kris Russell’s ice time has dropped roughly 3:30 per game this season.
-Kris Russell is 5th in average time on ice among Oiler defenders despite the fact that Sekera still hasn’t returned.
Whatever else I (or anyone else in the analytics community) thinks, the Head Coach of the Oilers trusts Russell less than four other defenders according to his usage. If Todd McLellan has a problem with that then he should speak to the Head Coach of the Oilers about it.
If McLellan wants to hear criticism of the goal, which he apparently refuses to even review, then I’m happy to give it. It was a panicked play by the defender and if he had executed Edmonton still wouldn’t have been clear of danger. Or maybe he thinks only former players should be able to criticize hockey plays? Imagine dozens of articles about Team Toughness wrought with quotes about Tough players playing Tough. Thrilling!
I’m sorry if the Russell own goal triggered Todd McLellan into some sort of episode where he was lashing out the analytics community or at articles I’ve written months ago. I’m just skeptical. Is this a coach teetering on the edge of unemployment? Maybe he’s distracting us by choosing spreadsheet loving targets, and jangled the keys around until someone paid attention.
We’re a quarter of the way into the season and the coach who can’t correct his team and meet even the most cynical of expectations. According to recent reports questioning if McLellan could be on the hot seat before Christmas. Maybe he wants to rally his troops around Russell with an ‘us vs them’ thing and I get that. If this actually brings the team together then it might be the most positive impact he’s had.