There's a very interesting article this morning over at the Vancouver Sun, discussing the analytical work of former NHL GM Mike Smith, and how Mike Gillis, who just took over as Canucks GM, might make use of advanced hockey statistics in his new role. Here's a quote from Smith that pretty much says it all:
"Everybody will be doing some version of this in four, five or six years. Most owners are doing business analytics in their own businesses. It's here to stay."
In a salary cap-driven NHL, payroll dollars are a constrained resource, so it only makes sense to apply whatever tools you can to ensure the maximum return on that investment. Particularly for a team like Nashville, which doesn't have the luxury of living at the high end of the salary cap range, this is even more true.
One of the great frustrations I run into doing some of this work is that I have to spend too much time reassembling information into data; extracting play-by-play files, merging that with other tables, etc. If it was only possible to get my hands on the real, raw data that the NHL records, the possibilities could be incredible; envision performance metrics for a given player, with on-the-fly comparisons for how those change depending on linemate or opponent. I've got a lengthy To Do list of topics that could be very useful to a Hockey Operations staff, but building the data with which to start is a huge obstacle.
So here's an open message to David Poile and the Predators Hockey Operations staff; I'm in the middle of a job search right now (but for how long?), and am available if you're interested in a short-term consulting gig to help kick the tires on a few things. I can already suggest a strategy to improve your odds in the shootout (which might have helped this year), but there are many, many areas that are ripe for harvesting. It's only a matter of time before this becomes common NHL practice; the only question is, who's going to get there first?