Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis appeared on the Team 1040’s "Scotty and Company" morning show on Friday and was asked a whole host of questions. In the fiften minute interview the Canucks President and General Manager addressed David Booth’s injury status, Ryan Kesler’s injury status, the likelihood of a NIcklas Jensen call up, trade deadline priorities, and most interesting from our perspective: analytics.
Scott Rintoul, pivoting off of James Mirtle’s fascinating piece on the Pittsburgh Penguins, Moneyball and the James Neal acquisition which ran in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, asked Mike Gillis this question: "When it does come to player movement, how much do analytics factor into your personnel decisions?" Gillis’ response: (transcription my own)
"They’re a factor but they’re not the ultimate factor.
I think James Neal has also benefitted from playing with extremely good players in Pittsburgh. When you’re playing with Evgeni Malkin your opportunities to score and your opportunities to produce are going to be a little bit stronger than if you’re playing with some other guys.
So I think analytics play a role in helping you make decisions, but there’s lots of factors that go into making a decision like that."
Read on past the jump for more.
First of all, Mike Gillis openly stated in that response that the Canucks use analytics in an effort to improve their decision making in player acquisition. That may not seem too earth shattering since we’ve long suspected this to be the case. After all Mike Gillis is comfortable talking Moneyball, and has acquired a whole host of players who perform well by the "advanced metrics" – or at least did before their swashbuckling style of play crashed with Alain Vigneault’s preferences (*cough* Keith Ballard).
Still, to my knowledge, this is the first time that Mike Gillis has publicly admitted that the Canucks take analytical data into account when making personnel decisions. Perhaps now folks who, y’know, cover the team for a living might take a minute to try and familiarize themselves with some of the concepts that the club they cover admits to using as a way of improving their player acquisition efforts.
The second interesting thing about Mike Gillis’ quote this morning, and this is again something we already knew because Cam Barker is on the roster, is his insistence that analytics are "not the ultimate factor" in personnel decisions. My first reaction is "well obviously, the salary cap is," but I’ll try not be too sardonic here. What’s interesting is that Gillis follows up on that statement with a bunch of qualifiers about James Neal’s production in Pittsburgh, and how he’s playing with Evgeni Malkin and such.
Seems to me that in a round about way Mike Gillis is implying that while analytics can give you a good snap-shot of how a player is performing, context and opportunity matter an awful lot in hockey too. That logic suggests to me that Mike Gillis would consider acquiring a player with weak fancy-stats, if he thought that player was being misused or could thrive in a different role on his team.
All of which makes sense to me, even if it sounds like a justification for acquiring Tyler Bozak and deploying him as a defensive forward.