Five things: On trolling and analytics

Ryan Lambert
May 22 2014 08:30AM

5

1. A theory

Everyone is up in arms about something Steve "What ever happened to Alexander Karpovtsev" Simmons wrote on Monday, and justifiably so. It's something so bad and disingenuous — and it won't be linked here — that he should be embarrassed to have attached his name to it. As with most Steve Simmons articles these days, it is obsessed with the idea that there are people who think they know more than he does, and how he has no ability whatsoever to handle the fact that they might be right.

The thing with this is that it's blatant trolling of a group (the hockey analytics community) that is regularly looked down upon by people in positions of power within the hockey media. Now, when I talked about this steaming heap of garbage on Twitter Monday night, I once again put forth my common assertion that I do not troll, and this was generally laughed at as being preposterous.

But the thing is this, and it's an important distinction between what I do and what Simmons does: Trolling is the taking on and advocating for a point of view that one does not necessarily believe, or even amplifying a held belief, to make people angry and generate page-views. That's what I'm accused of all the time. I have never, though, written something I didn't believe without exaggeration — apart from the anti-Canada stuff, but only idiots don't see that stuff as being pretty obviously done for the sake of humor — nor have I thought that something I wrote would get a lot of clicks. Don't read this. I don't care at all. Don't comment. I would actually prefer you didn't. (The proprietors of this site, however, likely do, so sorry about that.)

I believe that the best way to rebuild a team is to blow it to smithereens. I believe Sean Monahan should have spent the year in junior no matter how well he did at the NHL level. I believe Brian Burke is incorrect about where this sport is going and is therefore not the man to lead the Flames into the future. I believe it's wrong for the organization to "sell hope" in a crass attempt to pump ticket sales while potentially impeding future progress toward meaningful competitiveness. I believe in all that and I'll swear on a stack of bibles that I do. You might not agree with me, and it's fine if you don't (as long as you don't mind being wrong, because you are), but that doesn't mean I'm trolling you. It means we have opposing viewpoints. That's life.

Moreover, and more germane to this debate, I believe in the power of hockey analytics to predict the general outcomes in the league, because we have years of evidence that something as simple as raw even-strength Corsi percentage works more often than it does not. To say that it doesn't work, as Simmons regularly does, is to simply ignore evidence and then act like an asshole about it in exchange for money. That's the definition of trolling.

2. A debate worth having

One of the things that was brought up in the immediate wake of the publication of Simmons' trite, smug nonsense is that this "debate" about the efficacy of hockey analytics has grown tiresome. It's true to some extent.

This "debate" is tiresome in the same way the climate change or evolution "debates" are tiresome. There are always going to be people who hold steadfastly onto their beliefs — or continue peddling what they know to be snake oil in exchange for profit — no matter how much evidence you present them. The great new HBO show "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" recently covered this topic in an interesting way, holding a debate between Bill Nye, and a representative 97 percent of climate scientists who say climate change is real, and the representative 3 percent who say it's not, or it's too early to tell.

The numbers scream that Corsi is an excellent (but not perfect) tool to estimate future results at the NHL level, and maybe people are right that it's a debate that goes around in circles and gets everyone nowhere. But that same reality doesn't prevent Bill Nye from going on cable news shows and too-politely shouting down luddite idiots.

That's all the evidence you need that Corsi works. Depending on how you use it and narrow down the range down, it's an accurate predictor of playoff results about 70 percent of the time. Point to the outliers all you want — and those who don't want The Nerds to be right do this constantly — but you're pointing to the smaller number, and only the deeply stupid know that but don't care.

3. A series of falsehoods?

Which brings us to the actual substance of what Steve Simmons wrote. He led off his column with anecdotes about how Mikhail Grabovski was better than Jay McClement in such-and-such a game according to corsi. When he asked a "stats man" (who may or may not have been James Mirtle) why he and another colleague both felt McClement was better, the answer from this nameless man was, "Sample size." This was allegedly the same answer given during Game 1 of the first round last season, when the Leafs were buried by the Bruins, and James van Riemsdyk was supposedly the best Leaf on the ice according to both "the numbers" and "the eye test."

Tyler Dellow looked it up and found that the latter claim (that van Riemsdyk was the best Leaf according to corsi) was a complete falsehood. We can also go ahead and doubt the truthfulness of the quotes in either case, because no strawman stats man would answer "sample size" to childlike questions such as these. It's not an answer that actually applies to the query at all; a better answer would be "Because Grabovski/van Riemsdyk is a better hockey player than McClement/most other people on the Leafs."

Later in the column, Simmons attempted to disprove the usefulness of corsi by saying that if the Kings were so dominant at even strength (and boy, are they ever), then why was there a stretch of 16 games in which they scored just 19 goals? The answer to this question, according to SkinnyPhish, is that there wasn't. The fewest goals the Kings scored over any 16-game span this season was 24. That's still not a lot, but it's better. Let's put it this way: East coast bias or not, the hockey world would have been talking at length about the Kings' offense if they'd scored 19 goals in 16 games.

This also ignores the fact that Corsi doesn't have anything to do with shooting percentage, or that even if they had scored 19 in 16, which again they did not, it didn't really hurt them too badly because they made the playoffs with ease and in fact won 100 damn points this season. It further ignores that the Kings are in the Western Conference Final for the third (THIRD!!!!!!!) straight season, so they must be doing something right.

So that's at least two things Simmons was objectively incorrect —and potentially lied — about, and missed the point about besides. He may also have been wrong or missed the point of what his "stats man" said about the Leafs, but these are personal anecdotes that, fortunately for him, cannot be fact-checked with a web browser open to Hockey-Reference and Extra Skater.

4. So what's to be done?

Again, the problem with this "debate" is that there's nothing to do with it. Both sides are dug in. The people who support analytics aren't going to change their minds and go back to the other side, because they know they're right and have mountains of proof on their side, and can't be swayed back to the side of wrongness. That's really not how intellectual thought progresses.

The people who are skeptical or outright dismissive of analytics will either be won over by the growing evidence (this is what happened to me), or go to their stupid graves swearing they're right while that evidence and the growing numbers of people who accept them as more or less true know better. Self-satisfied bones in a box on their way to being literal fossils, after spending their years being figurative dinosaurs on the subject.

In the meantime, the sport will continue to pass them by, and their predictions will continue to be less accurate, and they'll feel more and more surrounded by Nerds With Calculators And Spreadsheets Who Don't Watch The Games. Because that's just how the games will be watched by everyone.

5. Sorry this had nothing to do with the Flames

When they unveiled the new AHL team the banners behind the guys spelled "CACA." That was funny.

686dfac3780611cb7acad6ce5166c6c1
Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 Walter White
May 22 2014, 08:45AM
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I just wanted to give a quick shout out to all the Abdelkader haters out there.........

WW

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#2 jeremywilhelm
May 22 2014, 08:53AM
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So good.

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#3 mattyc
May 22 2014, 09:22AM
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Walter White wrote:

I just wanted to give a quick shout out to all the Abdelkader haters out there.........

WW

... He just got kicked out of a game for a headshot?

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#4 Walter White
May 22 2014, 09:37AM
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mattyc wrote:

... He just got kicked out of a game for a headshot?

That's my boy!!!!

WW

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#5 Parallex
May 22 2014, 09:46AM
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Simmons is the worst. He'd still be the worst in a alternate reality where advanced stats don't exist.

Old media (op/ed types predominantly) really hate quantitative anaylsis. It's not exclusive to sports media either, recall the Scarbourgh v. Silver dust-up during the last U.S. election.

I think it's laziness, they don't want to put the effort into understanding something and crafting new narratives when they can just deny it and continue regurgitating the same old narratives over and over again.

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#6 gussey
May 22 2014, 09:55AM
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Blah, blah, blah. Next article please.

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#7 mattyc
May 22 2014, 10:32AM
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@Parallex

"Get off my lawn"

I think it's worse than that - it's attention grabbing too.

Props to Lambert for not publishing the link for that article here too. Simmons probably gets thousands more clicks just because people talk about how dumb it is.

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#8 Burnward
May 22 2014, 10:34AM
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@mattyc

Lambert probably gets thousands more clicks just because people talk about how dumb it is.

Fixed.

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#9 the-wolf
May 22 2014, 10:42AM
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The debate is tiresome. As I wrote in an earlier post about a week ago, if these stats didn't work no one would be using them, including the nerds that invented them and are pushing them. But they are using them and so are the NHL clubs themselves.

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#10 piscera.infada
May 22 2014, 11:02AM
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Regarding the "I believe..." part of point 1, this is what I pictured Lambert doing as he was writing it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMTkedIUX8U

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#11 Stubblejumper
May 22 2014, 11:07AM
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I'm bored...article is nothing but idle prattle to self-justify/adulate..as judged by 5 related posts in 3 hours.

Meanwhile in Oiler-land a rumour is floating that MacT is considering trading Oiler's #3 pick to NYI for Griffin Reinhart.

Questions that come to my mind are whether Reinhart is worth it and what impact this would have on Flames strategy, if at all.

Reinhart was selected 4th overall in 2012 but several reports indicate he has not progressed well. Would he be a key piece moving forward for Edmonton, and in what time frame?

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#12 the-wolf
May 22 2014, 11:18AM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

I'm bored...article is nothing but idle prattle to self-justify/adulate..as judged by 5 related posts in 3 hours.

Meanwhile in Oiler-land a rumour is floating that MacT is considering trading Oiler's #3 pick to NYI for Griffin Reinhart.

Questions that come to my mind are whether Reinhart is worth it and what impact this would have on Flames strategy, if at all.

Reinhart was selected 4th overall in 2012 but several reports indicate he has not progressed well. Would he be a key piece moving forward for Edmonton, and in what time frame?

Hockey news! Well done Sir!

Reinhart has stagnated for 2 reasons:

1) brought in too early.

2) plays for NYI.

Moving him to another team would probably do wondes for him. However, I'm not sure that team is Edmonton. Out of the pan and into the fire as it were.

Oilers should be looking at a more experienced defender anyways. What I'm surprised by is the Preds refusal to even consider shopping Weber. Spitballing here: Nurse, #3 overall and Yakupov would help the Preds as much as Weber would help the Oilers I'd think.

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#13 mattyc
May 22 2014, 11:45AM
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@the-wolf

Don't know that I agree about the stagnation because of playing for NYI, but I definitely agree the oilers don't need another prospect. At this point, they should be looking for a D man that is peaking, or close to.

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#14 ?
May 22 2014, 11:47AM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

I'm bored...article is nothing but idle prattle to self-justify/adulate..as judged by 5 related posts in 3 hours.

Meanwhile in Oiler-land a rumour is floating that MacT is considering trading Oiler's #3 pick to NYI for Griffin Reinhart.

Questions that come to my mind are whether Reinhart is worth it and what impact this would have on Flames strategy, if at all.

Reinhart was selected 4th overall in 2012 but several reports indicate he has not progressed well. Would he be a key piece moving forward for Edmonton, and in what time frame?

I would tend to think Reinhart isn't worth the third overall pick. I'd also assume he'd be behind Nurse, Klefbom, and Marincin on the depth chart in terms of prospects who are NHL ready.

Not to mention, the Oilers are (removedly) in love with Draisatl, and they have a good chance of picking him @ 3rd.

If I were a betting man, I'd guess Oilers keep the 3rd pick and take Draisatl, and then deal Sam Gagner for some defence man. Then they'll rush Draisatl to the NHL… Go figure

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#15 Primo
May 22 2014, 11:54AM
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@?

Good transition to a more pertinent topic!

If what you say is true about Draisati and the Oilers then I am ecstatic!

Bring on Sam Bennet!!

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#16 Stubblejumper
May 22 2014, 12:03PM
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From NYI's perspective, they are disappointed Griffin's progress, or lack thereof.

Strategy-wise, they get to a "do-over", and possibly get Ekblad at #3 plus likely a C. If Ekblad is gone then they likely take a C plus LW, with specific names interchangeable.

Essentially NYI gets two Top-5 picks, something rarely seen, allowing them to get one last boost as they look to ascend the standings next year. It also muddies the waters to obscure the disastrous Moulson/Vanek trade, providing a little eye-candy for fans to forget Snow's blunders.

So from a Flames perspective..what would it take to get two Top-5 picks and do a deal with FLA, BUF, NYI to get their pick while still retaining Flames #4 pick? And would the cost be manageable?

I'm usually the first one to advocate for a "Patient" approach for picking and development. However, getting two top 5 picks in one year would provide a quantum boost for the rebuild.

First...what do we have to trade that other teams want, while protecting our key/core rebuild assets.

Paring the protected list down to a bare minimum would preclude any trading of Monahan, Gaudreau, Brodie, and Baertschi (would be selling a high asset at a low current price).

Giordano, Glencross, Hudler are the vets that have good market value who will not be part of the core group within 2 years. A pragmatic approach would see selectively selling them (heresy I know) to maximize their current value while still retaining some for leadership along with Stajan and McGrattan.

So...down to brass tacks.

Giordano (a top 15 D-man in the league, career year, peak age of 30, proven leadership/captaincy)...to FLA, BUF or NYI in return for the #1, #2, or #5 pick this year plus their 2nd round 2015 pick next year.

Is this fair value for the Flames? For the trading partner?

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#17 the-wolf
May 22 2014, 12:22PM
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the-wolf wrote:

Hockey news! Well done Sir!

Reinhart has stagnated for 2 reasons:

1) brought in too early.

2) plays for NYI.

Moving him to another team would probably do wondes for him. However, I'm not sure that team is Edmonton. Out of the pan and into the fire as it were.

Oilers should be looking at a more experienced defender anyways. What I'm surprised by is the Preds refusal to even consider shopping Weber. Spitballing here: Nurse, #3 overall and Yakupov would help the Preds as much as Weber would help the Oilers I'd think.

I'll trash my own poorly thought-out post here. Griffinis not yet with NYI. Brain cramp, my bad. Ignore.

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#18 SoCalFlamesFan
May 22 2014, 12:41PM
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Interesting, I'm thinking we have nothing worth trading, or really available. Hudler is a RW and would weaken that wing depth even more, thought of the vets he is the top of my list to go.

Its also not common to trade a captain, especially one who is playing really well, that leaves GlenX who does not want to leave Calgary.

Personally I think Baerchi could be traded for the right price, a potentially good LW. (I have not given up on him, but eggs need to be broken to make an omelet)

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#19 RexLibris
May 22 2014, 12:58PM
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Regarding the Oilers discussions (they aren't rumours because nobody has cited a source as suggesting these are actually possible, rather they are ideas floated for debate), the most reasonable ones I have read or heard of lately involve the Oilers retaining the 3rd overall pick and trading Sam Gagner for draft picks. Or, trading Gagner and the 3rd overall to Florida for the 1st overall.

Gagner has been linked to a number of possible destinations including Chicago, Los Angeles, Florida, Toronto and the Islanders.

I'm skeptical about the likelihood of the latter suggestion, and obviously not enthusiastic about the possibility of the former. But in either case, I don't believe MacTavish is going to trade the pick outright for a player/prospect.

Nor would I suggest it for the Flames unless the return were a center who could work with Backlund in the top six and further shelter Monahan.

As for moving Baertschi, I would explore those options aggressively.

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#20 RexLibris
May 22 2014, 01:00PM
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the-wolf wrote:

I'll trash my own poorly thought-out post here. Griffinis not yet with NYI. Brain cramp, my bad. Ignore.

I was about to say this seems a little premature. Unless you are attributing something about his play to a sort of Islanders-by-association effect.

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#21 the-wolf
May 22 2014, 01:14PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I was about to say this seems a little premature. Unless you are attributing something about his play to a sort of Islanders-by-association effect.

That only applies to Edmonton :) - ZING!!!

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#22 Scary Gary
May 22 2014, 01:44PM
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http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2014/5/21/5736546/hockey-analytics-arent-rocket-science-except-to-steve-simmons-ps-the-toronto-sun-is-hot-garbage

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#23 Skuehler
May 22 2014, 02:16PM
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So I know that I don't know jack about analytics. But what I don't understand is that beyond accepting and using it as one of the tools for assessment and decision making, how does it offer an advantage? You say all teams are using it. So yah you don't want to get left behind, but doing what everyone else is doing doesn't give you a competitive advantage. Advanced stats were an advantage when most teams didn't use them. So unless a particular team can translate the data better or dig deeper and obtain ultra-advanced stats it's not going to make a difference. Didn't AS come out of necessity where poor teams in baseball couldn't compete with the budgets of the bigger teams? I would argue that if anything, advanced stats for finding value (as opposed to skill) is not a top priority for the Flames right now. They have space and the means to pursue skill. Value is the least of their worries right now if the mandate is to compete. In a league with so much parity in access to assets, budgets, knowledge, scouting, skill level, it seems the only way to get an advantage is to focus on intangibles like work ethic, commitment, discipline, etc. you basically have the same assets and opportunities as everyone else so you basically have out work the opposition. I think a forward thinking team would have to be one or two steps ahead and working on new ways of developing advantages.

Look at how hockey has changed since 2004. The flames were successful against more skilled teams playing the trap by playing fast dump and chase aggressive forechecking hockey. Then possession teams were the way to go. But once everyone is playing possession hockey, what system will crack that and be the next successful advantage. And through all these different styles of hockey - fire wagon, trap, dump and chase, possession, on and on - what are the common denominators that all successful players have?

And another thing...at what point does the minutiae get tiresome? Will we have stats and debates on the advantages of 1.45 second toe drag vs. a 1.65 second toe drag? So glad Johnny Hockey is coming so we can excitedly watch amazing talent for what it is

People have enjoyed watching great hockey long before advanced stats were avail to fans. I agree they have a place in management but let's not blow it out of proportion.

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#24 BurningSensation
May 22 2014, 02:23PM
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Wow - so I read all the way through and didn't want to punch myself in the face for doing so!

Loved the article (in part because I HATE Simmons), but there was one little section that set me off....

"I believe that the best way to rebuild a team is to blow it to smithereens."

Yeah, this is just nonsense. Of all the teams that have 'blown it to smithereens', in the last two decades, the number who are actually succesful doing so is vanishingly small. Meanwhile, Detroit, Boston and the Rangers seem to do fine without ever tearing it down to the studs.

"I believe Sean Monahan should have spent the year in junior no matter how well he did at the NHL level."

Got it. We should judge Monahan and the Flames not for how well he actually performed under the citcumstances given him, but for how well their plan for him conformed to your expectations.

"I believe Brian Burke is incorrect about where this sport is going and is therefore not the man to lead it into the future."

Given how wrong he has been so far about how to build a team, and then again in how best to handle Monahan, I will suggest that whatever Lambert thinks Burke's direction is, is also likely to be as wrongheaded.

"I believe it's wrong for the organization team to "sell hope" in a crass attempt to pump ticket sales while potentially impeding future progress toward meaningful competitiveness."

Got it. So during the 'blow it to smithereens' portion of Lambert's rebuild it is wrong for the organization to sell any kind of 'hope'. Given they already can't sell things like 'a winning team', apparently a rebuilding team is supposed to simply expect people to come to the rink because of cheerleaders or beer. As a way to run a sports franchise or business, this is simply insane.

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#25 BurningSensation
May 22 2014, 02:41PM
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Skuehler wrote:

So I know that I don't know jack about analytics. But what I don't understand is that beyond accepting and using it as one of the tools for assessment and decision making, how does it offer an advantage? You say all teams are using it. So yah you don't want to get left behind, but doing what everyone else is doing doesn't give you a competitive advantage. Advanced stats were an advantage when most teams didn't use them. So unless a particular team can translate the data better or dig deeper and obtain ultra-advanced stats it's not going to make a difference. Didn't AS come out of necessity where poor teams in baseball couldn't compete with the budgets of the bigger teams? I would argue that if anything, advanced stats for finding value (as opposed to skill) is not a top priority for the Flames right now. They have space and the means to pursue skill. Value is the least of their worries right now if the mandate is to compete. In a league with so much parity in access to assets, budgets, knowledge, scouting, skill level, it seems the only way to get an advantage is to focus on intangibles like work ethic, commitment, discipline, etc. you basically have the same assets and opportunities as everyone else so you basically have out work the opposition. I think a forward thinking team would have to be one or two steps ahead and working on new ways of developing advantages.

Look at how hockey has changed since 2004. The flames were successful against more skilled teams playing the trap by playing fast dump and chase aggressive forechecking hockey. Then possession teams were the way to go. But once everyone is playing possession hockey, what system will crack that and be the next successful advantage. And through all these different styles of hockey - fire wagon, trap, dump and chase, possession, on and on - what are the common denominators that all successful players have?

And another thing...at what point does the minutiae get tiresome? Will we have stats and debates on the advantages of 1.45 second toe drag vs. a 1.65 second toe drag? So glad Johnny Hockey is coming so we can excitedly watch amazing talent for what it is

People have enjoyed watching great hockey long before advanced stats were avail to fans. I agree they have a place in management but let's not blow it out of proportion.

You make some solid points, but they may not all be on target.

The original impetus for 'advanced stats' in hockey comes out of hockey itself. It was the goalie coach for the Sabers (Jim Corsi) who came up with 'Corsi' as a way of tracking possession. He didn't do it because he read 'Moneyball', he did it because he thought the information he was collecting and interpreting would give him and his team an edge.

Not all advanced stats are about assessing 'value', though that was explicitly the case with Moneyball because Oakland simply couldn't spend like other teams they needed a way to find value at low cost (and to a lesser extent this is also true with advanced stats in basketball like 'Wins produced').

As much as stats like Corsi, etc. are useful at looking at what is happening, they aren't as useful at determining 'what management or players should be doing next'. Taylor Hall made the point that while he was interested in Corsi, it wasn't something that helped his performance on the ice. A GM who trades for a player on Detroit's 3rd line (say Abdelkader) may be doing so in part because the GM really likes Abdelkader's Corsi, but they may also be misunderstanding why Abdelkader's Corsi is what it is - for the last two decades everybody who played with Lidstrom saw an elevated Corsi - a bump that often disappeared once they left Detroit (see Hudler, Jirir). As with all stats, context is important.

As for the future of hockey stats, it won't be long before SportsVu high def cameras are capturing and dissecting every millisecond of ice-time a player gets, showing where they are on the ice (and how out of position they are), length of time it takes to make a pass, how fast they are skating, etc. There won't be anything about the game that isn't reduced to quantifiable numbers. In the NBA these cameras are already present in about half the league, and the results so far are encouraging.

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#26 wot96
May 22 2014, 02:42PM
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@BurningSensation

Nicely put.

Stripping it down and rebuilding from scratch is what you do if you have a ton of money (check) and the parts to rebuild with are easily available (whoops, not check). That's right. Flames owners may be prepared to spend to the cap, but who are they going to throw money at? This year's free agent frenzy is a going to be a bit like sorting through Tim Horton's day olds - not a frenzy.

But wait, maybe if Feaster had listened to Lambert like he should have, the rebuild would have started last year. Okay, sure, it wouldn't have been Feaster because ownership would have listed to Lambert and never hired Feaster, or fired him sooner, or whatever. But leaving that aside, had the rebuild started last year, we could have overpaid for Clarkson. Which is like doubling down on D. Jones.

I don't know for sure, as I'm not Brian Burke, but I'm guessing that running a real live hockey team isn't like picking players for a hockey pool. You are stuck with a situation that you have to work with and you go from there.

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#27 Walter White
May 22 2014, 03:53PM
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The most enlightening and valuable piece of this article was point #5.....

WW

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#28 Skuehler
May 22 2014, 04:30PM
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@BurningSensation

Thx for the feedback

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#29 Ed Wailin'
May 22 2014, 05:50PM
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"You might not agree with me, and it's fine if you don't (as long as you don't mind being wrong, because you are), but that doesn't mean I'm trolling you."

Maybe not, but you're not making any new friends, or getting cut any slack with that kind of attitude either.

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#30 BurningSensation
May 22 2014, 08:49PM
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Skuehler wrote:

Thx for the feedback

My pleasure

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#31 BurningSensation
May 22 2014, 08:56PM
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wot96 wrote:

Nicely put.

Stripping it down and rebuilding from scratch is what you do if you have a ton of money (check) and the parts to rebuild with are easily available (whoops, not check). That's right. Flames owners may be prepared to spend to the cap, but who are they going to throw money at? This year's free agent frenzy is a going to be a bit like sorting through Tim Horton's day olds - not a frenzy.

But wait, maybe if Feaster had listened to Lambert like he should have, the rebuild would have started last year. Okay, sure, it wouldn't have been Feaster because ownership would have listed to Lambert and never hired Feaster, or fired him sooner, or whatever. But leaving that aside, had the rebuild started last year, we could have overpaid for Clarkson. Which is like doubling down on D. Jones.

I don't know for sure, as I'm not Brian Burke, but I'm guessing that running a real live hockey team isn't like picking players for a hockey pool. You are stuck with a situation that you have to work with and you go from there.

I think the Flames can complete the rebuild by adding the following;

- A #1C; Erik Staal, Jason Spezza, Ryan Kesler (though he's really a #2), or even Joe Thornton (who is older than I would be comfortable with)

- A 1 RW; Erik Staal - again, re-signing Cammalleri

- A 2nd pairing D-man (Phaneuf, Niskanen))

None of which outside of Niskanen are available on the FA market. I don't think we have to worry too much about Burke going nutso for FA's, as there are precious few players out there that fit our immediate needs.

A couple of big ole trades though? Definitely could happen.

Secondly, I'd say that Feaster both launched and nearly completed the 'rebuild'. He dealt away all the core players (Regehr, JBo, Iggy), and he (and Weisbrod) rebuilt the farm system so that we now have talent coming down the pipeline.

None of which Lambert seems to understand as he puts the start of the rebuild on Iggy's departure, when that was in fact, really the end of the second stage (the first being fix the talent pipeline, and the second being cleaning out the old core).

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#32 BurningSensation
May 22 2014, 09:00PM
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Also, a shameless plug, I have my first column up at 'PuckRant';

http://www.puckrant.com/Calgary_Flames/There_will_be_no_McSaviour_for_the_Flames

Please drop by and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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#33 Skuehler
May 22 2014, 09:39PM
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North Americans and especially Americans are absolutely obsessed with measuring, quantifying and comparing/competing. That's what managers get paid to do, but I don't believe it adds to enjoyment of a thing. Maybe the opposite. Clearl some enjoy the technical aspects of the game but others enjoy the athleticism, the team spirit, the skill, etc.

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#34 jeremywilhelm
May 22 2014, 11:14PM
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Don't get everyone's obsession with Griffin Reinhart. The kid is a 5/6 Dman at best.

Mediocre skater who's offensive game is weak even on a powerhouse team. If his career ends up better than Wotherspoon I will be completely surprised.

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#35 Baalzamon
May 22 2014, 11:16PM
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@BurningSensation

That depends on what you mean by completing the rebuild. If you mean that those acquisitions will make them a marginal playoff squad for one, MAYBE two years, then sure.

Here's the thing: ALL of those players will require assets to acquire (except Niskanen, who won't sign with Calgary anyway). The Flames MIGHT have the assets to get ONE of them (let's say Staal). Let's also say that the acquisition convinces Cammalleri to stay and, heck, Niskanen to sign.

Are two players enough to take Calgary from 4th last to the playoffs? Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were not enough to do so for the Wild, not until Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, and Charlie Coyle reached the bigs as significant contributors. And they're still not a very good team, frankly.

I've got to be honest with you, BS. I don't like this idea. It's too soon to go whale hunting. I'd fully support re-signing Cammalleri and pursuing Niskanen in free agency, but what will an Eric Staal or Jason Spezza cost? Baertschi + Reinhart + 2015 1st rounder?

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#36 Baalzamon
May 22 2014, 11:17PM
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jeremywilhelm wrote:

Don't get everyone's obsession with Griffin Reinhart. The kid is a 5/6 Dman at best.

Mediocre skater who's offensive game is weak even on a powerhouse team. If his career ends up better than Wotherspoon I will be completely surprised.

Neither do I. People can say what they want about the Flames reaching for Jankowski (and they do) but to me, Reinhart at 4th was easily the worst pick of the 2012 1st round.

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#37 slapshot444
May 23 2014, 12:09AM
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ok, are we done here? Can we talk hockey now? The Habs are deep into a cup run and you are putting me to sleep with, well, anything BUT hockey.

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#38 jeremywilhelm
May 23 2014, 04:01AM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Neither do I. People can say what they want about the Flames reaching for Jankowski (and they do) but to me, Reinhart at 4th was easily the worst pick of the 2012 1st round.

Agreed, in his draft season I watched him play about 20 times. Every time I was like "This is a top 10 rated draft player"?

His skating was terrible and his positioning was bad.

The only thing he had going for him was his size.

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#39 coachedpotatoe
May 23 2014, 06:29AM
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Another article on advanced stats that gets hi-jacked by other issues; it should be obvious by now that there are number of articles that don't matter to most of FN. Fans and others are divided on advance stats and will likely be for quite a while, Simmons or the writers here on FN are not going to change their minds because of either. Articles on stats, on someones holiday, or some playoff pool do not seem to generate a lot of traffic.(like watching paint dry) Why not get on with more articles on the current prospect maybe two a week or write some articles about the draft prospects ie focus on 26-36 and whom from that list the Flames might draft at 34 and the again at 54 etc.

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#40 BurningSensation
May 23 2014, 08:11AM
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Baalzamon wrote:

That depends on what you mean by completing the rebuild. If you mean that those acquisitions will make them a marginal playoff squad for one, MAYBE two years, then sure.

Here's the thing: ALL of those players will require assets to acquire (except Niskanen, who won't sign with Calgary anyway). The Flames MIGHT have the assets to get ONE of them (let's say Staal). Let's also say that the acquisition convinces Cammalleri to stay and, heck, Niskanen to sign.

Are two players enough to take Calgary from 4th last to the playoffs? Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were not enough to do so for the Wild, not until Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, and Charlie Coyle reached the bigs as significant contributors. And they're still not a very good team, frankly.

I've got to be honest with you, BS. I don't like this idea. It's too soon to go whale hunting. I'd fully support re-signing Cammalleri and pursuing Niskanen in free agency, but what will an Eric Staal or Jason Spezza cost? Baertschi + Reinhart + 2015 1st rounder?

Yeah I see my suggestion for completing the rebuild now has a perfect score of 'everybody hates it' vs 'nobody likes it'.

Now I know how Lambert feels, without all the head injury clouding my judgement stuff.

So here is the thing, without adding a vet #1 C the Flames should improve enough next season (assuming Ramo isn't a dumpster fire) that they miss the playoffs, but not by a lot. At a minimum the Flames would still need two more years before they are competitive for a playoff spot - and that timeline depends a lot on how soon Monahan or Draisatl/Bennett develop into being a #1 pivot.

If we look at Matt Duchene (a top 3 pick) its taken him the better part of 5 years to become a front line player, and a similar timeline projection for Calgary puts our playoff contention at something like 4-5 years.

I have to tell you but there is no way, no way at all, that Burke is going to wait five years to make the playoffs.

You make some good points, the Flames would be a playoff team, but they clearly wouldn't be a powerhouse (unless Ramo really is the second coming of Pekka Rinne). As well, we woulld need to factor in what the cost of aquiring those vets (Staal, Phaneuf, etc.) would actually be.

But there are ery good reasons to act now (assuming the cost is right);

- GMs overvalue picks the closer we get to the draft. The best time to trade picks for a player is now. (smart GMs do the reverse at the trade deadline, flipping players for picks)

- For the first time in as long as I can remember, there are not 1, not 2, but potentially 3 #1Cs on the market (Spezza, Staal, Thornton). This means that bidding wars for any one of them are less likely.

- Calgary has a surfeit of picks, owning 5 in the first 3 rounds.

- There is virtually no chance that our pick in 2015 will be 1st or 2nd overall. So if we did move the 2015 1st we wouldn't be looking at Ottawa or Carolina selecting Connor McDavid with it.

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#41 Burnward
May 23 2014, 08:21AM
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@BurningSensation

I hear ya. This team will be nowhere bad enough to draft 1 or 2.

We have a real defense corps, solid goaltending and a team on the rise. If we finish closer to the bottom than the playoffs I'll be shocked.

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#42 piscera.infada
May 23 2014, 08:31AM
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Burnward wrote:

I hear ya. This team will be nowhere bad enough to draft 1 or 2.

We have a real defense corps, solid goaltending and a team on the rise. If we finish closer to the bottom than the playoffs I'll be shocked.

I agree with both of you, but that's not to say I go throwing my 2015 first-round pick around. If I'm trading that pick, it's in a package for a young-but-proven player. The pick still has way too much value (in terms of how likely it is to be a top-5 to 7 pick, as well as how it's likely viewed around the league) to spend on a player that yes, would make us better next year, but will likely be inconsequential 3 to 5 years down the road. All indications are that the 2015 draft will be pretty good, you still have (albeit small) lottery odds, things could still go horribly wrong, and the pick can be used when we have a better understanding of where it will fall. I also don't think trading the highest pick in franchise history (ie. this year's pick) is wise - from either an optics or skill standpoint.

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#43 the-wolf
May 23 2014, 09:04AM
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BurningSensation wrote:

Yeah I see my suggestion for completing the rebuild now has a perfect score of 'everybody hates it' vs 'nobody likes it'.

Now I know how Lambert feels, without all the head injury clouding my judgement stuff.

So here is the thing, without adding a vet #1 C the Flames should improve enough next season (assuming Ramo isn't a dumpster fire) that they miss the playoffs, but not by a lot. At a minimum the Flames would still need two more years before they are competitive for a playoff spot - and that timeline depends a lot on how soon Monahan or Draisatl/Bennett develop into being a #1 pivot.

If we look at Matt Duchene (a top 3 pick) its taken him the better part of 5 years to become a front line player, and a similar timeline projection for Calgary puts our playoff contention at something like 4-5 years.

I have to tell you but there is no way, no way at all, that Burke is going to wait five years to make the playoffs.

You make some good points, the Flames would be a playoff team, but they clearly wouldn't be a powerhouse (unless Ramo really is the second coming of Pekka Rinne). As well, we woulld need to factor in what the cost of aquiring those vets (Staal, Phaneuf, etc.) would actually be.

But there are ery good reasons to act now (assuming the cost is right);

- GMs overvalue picks the closer we get to the draft. The best time to trade picks for a player is now. (smart GMs do the reverse at the trade deadline, flipping players for picks)

- For the first time in as long as I can remember, there are not 1, not 2, but potentially 3 #1Cs on the market (Spezza, Staal, Thornton). This means that bidding wars for any one of them are less likely.

- Calgary has a surfeit of picks, owning 5 in the first 3 rounds.

- There is virtually no chance that our pick in 2015 will be 1st or 2nd overall. So if we did move the 2015 1st we wouldn't be looking at Ottawa or Carolina selecting Connor McDavid with it.

I disagree on on making any big moves for next season. Not only would any one of those centers cost a lot to acquire, but IMO the Flames' best strategy for next season is to simply sit tight in order to better evaluate exactly what they have in the system.

For example, how good, exactly are Granlund and Reinhart going to be? 3C? 2C? Both seem capable of a point per game in the AHL playoffs, which is great, but it's very hard to say right now exactly what they'll be. Next year will be a great indicator as to whether or not those guys have plateaued or if they've taken yet another step in development. Ditto Baerstchi, can he take that next step?

Another example are guys like Ferland and Seiloff. If one or both stay healthy and get right back on the development track, that makes a huge difference in the team's long range strategies. If both suddenly look to be lost prospects then that changes things as well.

While I agree with you that this line of thinking seems to run contrary to statements Burke has made, if you listen to the recent interviews with Treliving and Conroy, it seems to mesh with what they're saying.

Besides, I don't see Spezza or Thornton alone making the Flames appreciably better. Nor do I see them making an impact much beyond next season and the season after. I feel the same about Glencorss Hudle and Cammi. To me, it is not enough to justify what it would cost to get acquire them. Too many assets to give up for not a high enough improvement in the standings for not a long enough period of time.

Save the "bold moves" for 2016 is what I say.

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#44 Burnward
May 23 2014, 09:16AM
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@piscera.infada

I agree with you regarding the pick for next year.

I don't think we'll be bad enough to draft there on our merits, but we'll be out of the playoffs...and that's a chip a guy needs to keep.

Unless Pittsburgh wants to deal us Malkin or something craze, then keep it.

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#45 SeanCharles
May 23 2014, 09:40AM
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I'm not against analytics or anything but declaring analytics as 100% right and if you don't buy into it your a dinosaur who will be left in the dust is a bit extreme...

Analytics isnt the be all end all...

Would you rather have a guy who puts up 100pts but is not so great possession wise or a guy like Backlund who can put up about half of that but drives the bus?

The topic is more complex than this...

I agree it is an extremely useful tool but it isnt a exact science either...

I would rather have a Van Reimsdyk on my team over a McClement any day.

I love Backlund and I can see his skills at driving possession and I love it but at the end of the day not everyone who drives possession is as useful, in other areas, as he is..

You need to be able to do more than just drive possession to be a good hockey player and I think that is what is missed by alot of analytics supportors.

Drooling over players like Galiardi because his corsi ratings are impressive is just the same as anyone else drooling over an offence only player who has holes in his defensive game..

All I'm saying is it is a useful piece of information to have but it isnt gospel. A player who can drive possession and score a ton of points is a hockey fans dream but not every player falls into this category. Just because a player drives possession doesnt mean he doesnt have to do other things well.

Balance is the key.

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#46 MitchinToronto
May 23 2014, 01:52PM
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@SeanCharles

The thing is, not one analytics guy out there swears that they are 100% right. The beauty of sports is the randomness and unpredictability. Advanced statistics give us a very solid set of data to make intelligent observations about a player or team and their future performance. Nobody has called it an exact science or anything close to what you're implying.

As for your question, if a player puts up a 100 points and is somehow a terrible possession player, chances are he has some truly amazing line-mates and it would need some context. If you're recording a 100 points season, chances are your a pretty decent possession player to help you record alllllll those points.

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#47 FlameInAtl
May 23 2014, 02:00PM
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Climate change and evolution debates tiresome?

No, what is tiresome is listening to children of the digital age and world expound on subjects of which they know nothing to an audience that is as clueless as they are. So-called "experts" in whatever field one is talking about always label their opponents or those with different viewpoints as tiresome, or clinging, or deniers or, etc..

What is tiresome is having New Age junk science perpetually touted as fact and settled science. . .as if all that was needed was the blessing of the media hacks who went to the same nonsense schools as the politicians and the hack "scientists."

The young today march in lockstep with the jack-booted thugs of the past. Diversity is fine as long as you are speaking of skin color or who one sleeps with.

Diversity of thought? Not so much welcome.

The young today are a fascist and intolerant bunch of unhappy, boring and oh-so-sanctimonious lightweights and blowhards.

And there will come a day when lightweights and blowhards will not substitute for real men and the manly virtues of character and action.

But, continue to pat yourselves on the back and tell everyone and each other how wonderful you all are.

Some of us will pray for you.

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#48 Baalzamon
May 23 2014, 02:19PM
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FlameInAtl wrote:

Climate change and evolution debates tiresome?

No, what is tiresome is listening to children of the digital age and world expound on subjects of which they know nothing to an audience that is as clueless as they are. So-called "experts" in whatever field one is talking about always label their opponents or those with different viewpoints as tiresome, or clinging, or deniers or, etc..

What is tiresome is having New Age junk science perpetually touted as fact and settled science. . .as if all that was needed was the blessing of the media hacks who went to the same nonsense schools as the politicians and the hack "scientists."

The young today march in lockstep with the jack-booted thugs of the past. Diversity is fine as long as you are speaking of skin color or who one sleeps with.

Diversity of thought? Not so much welcome.

The young today are a fascist and intolerant bunch of unhappy, boring and oh-so-sanctimonious lightweights and blowhards.

And there will come a day when lightweights and blowhards will not substitute for real men and the manly virtues of character and action.

But, continue to pat yourselves on the back and tell everyone and each other how wonderful you all are.

Some of us will pray for you.

Anyone else find it ironic how many times this post featured words like "sanctimonious" and "blowhard"? Or is it just me?

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#49 SeanCharles
May 23 2014, 02:26PM
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@MitchinToronto

The tone of the article left me feeling like perhaps the author felt like he was 100% right! But that might not be fair to direct at all analytics proponents.. :)

I agree with you about the 100pt player and was only outlining unlikely extremes to illustrate a point.

I buy into possession ratings being an important statistic, I just don't let that alone determine my opinion of a player and his worth.

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#50 Stubblejumper
May 23 2014, 03:05PM
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the-wolf wrote:

I disagree on on making any big moves for next season. Not only would any one of those centers cost a lot to acquire, but IMO the Flames' best strategy for next season is to simply sit tight in order to better evaluate exactly what they have in the system.

For example, how good, exactly are Granlund and Reinhart going to be? 3C? 2C? Both seem capable of a point per game in the AHL playoffs, which is great, but it's very hard to say right now exactly what they'll be. Next year will be a great indicator as to whether or not those guys have plateaued or if they've taken yet another step in development. Ditto Baerstchi, can he take that next step?

Another example are guys like Ferland and Seiloff. If one or both stay healthy and get right back on the development track, that makes a huge difference in the team's long range strategies. If both suddenly look to be lost prospects then that changes things as well.

While I agree with you that this line of thinking seems to run contrary to statements Burke has made, if you listen to the recent interviews with Treliving and Conroy, it seems to mesh with what they're saying.

Besides, I don't see Spezza or Thornton alone making the Flames appreciably better. Nor do I see them making an impact much beyond next season and the season after. I feel the same about Glencorss Hudle and Cammi. To me, it is not enough to justify what it would cost to get acquire them. Too many assets to give up for not a high enough improvement in the standings for not a long enough period of time.

Save the "bold moves" for 2016 is what I say.

Agree wholeheartedly....save the "bold moves" for 2015-6! Focus on Patient Development for 2014-5.

The only exception for 2014-5 I could see is where trades are made using current roster or possibly current prospects, is to trade for additional draft picks or a core high-end player under the age of 24 and NOT to trade for any player over the age of 24, including Spezza, Staal, Thornton etc...this just smacks of the Sutter years again!!

While these veteran players may provide a short-term boost, the longer-term implications of trading prospects/picks for them are all negative.

And while making the playoffs as quickly as we can is a laudable goal, strategically it's short-sighted and puts us further behind from achieving the end goal of contending for the Cup!

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