3 ways NHL teams can get more data driven

Kent Wilson
August 15 2016 12:00PM

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"Inculcating a data-driven culture is...fundamental. What do we mean by data-driven? Most every company in the world today depends on data. But the vast majority of them use data in retrospect, to understand history, not to drive decisions ...

When we say data-driven, we're talking about companies that operationalize data."

- Winning With Data

The NHL isn't the only business experiencing seismic ripples and paradigmatic shifts in the information age. The time of "Big Data" is upon us, driven by mass adoption of powerful communication technologies. There's deep wells of information everywhere for those who care to look, waiting to be plumbed for valuable insights and new efficiencies. 

Of course, access to information is necessary but not sufficient when it comes to operationalizing data in an organization or business. NHL teams have begun to dip their toe in the "advanced stats" pool, but are no doubt encountering challenges in effectively leveraging the various analyst bloggers who have been scooped up in the past year or two. It's one thing to bolt on a "stats consultant" to existing organizational structures and quite another to integrate empirical processes from top to bottom. 

I recently read the book Winning With Data by Tomasz Tunguz and Frank Bien. In it, Tunguz and Bien lay out a roadmap for successfully operationalizing data, as well as the many roadblocks businesses often encounter in trying to become more empirical. 

Here are three key insights I discovered in Winning With Data that could help NHL clubs become truly data driven.

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FlamesNation Prospect Profile #15: Matthew Phillips

Kent Wilson
August 15 2016 08:00AM

FN15

Some of the league's best little players have made their way through the Flames organization over the years. Theoren Fleury, Martin St. Louis and now Johnny Gaudreau have all donned the flaming C and all of them were acquired late in the draft (ninth round and fourth round picks for Fleury and Gaudreau) or for nothing at all (St. Louis signed as a free agent). 

So there's a notable tradition of giving the little guy a chance in Calgary. That may be why the team was drawn to the diminutive Matthew Phillips in the sixth round this past June. The 5'6", 140 lb. native Calgarian rivals Gaudreau as the smallest player ever drafted by the organization, but he also has a similar array of high end offensive skills. 

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On Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, and Alex Chiasson

Ari Yanover
August 14 2016 08:00AM

College free agents are exciting. Some of it is due to the fact that any new prospect choosing to go to your team is always pretty cool; a lot of it is that there's pretty much nothing going on in the hockey world in the middle of August, so a new free agency period opening is always going to draw interest.

This year's big fish is Jimmy Vesey. He was drafted by the Nashville Predators, but rather than sign with them, he elected to draw things out until free agency.

Kevin Hayes was in the same boat two seasons ago. While there was some talk of him coming to Calgary - his two Boston College linemates were already drafted by the Flames - he ultimately elected to play in New York, where he has thus far put up just over half a point per game with 81 points through 158 games. Pretty good for a free agent pickup, but hardly anyone's saviour.

What boat will Vesey fall in?

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Could Jimmy Vesey be a good fit with the Flames?

Ryan Pike
August 13 2016 12:00PM

The hockey world is abuzz - as much as it can be in mid-August - over college star Jimmy Vesey hitting free agency on Monday after four seasons with Harvard. The 23-year-old Boston-area product capped off his amateur career by winning the coveted Hobey Baker Award, and teams are shuffling around hoping to get him to sign with them.

Vesey's likely to get a two-year deal for the rookie maximum of $925,000, but the big question(s) are what kind of bonuses teams will try to entice him with and what role he'll be promised. While reports are that the front-runners for Vesey's services reportedly include Boston, the NY Rangers, New Jersey, Toronto and Chicago, I wouldn't necessarily rule out the Flames' chances to land him completely.

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Talkin' Las Vegas with Glen Gulutzan

Mike Commito
August 13 2016 08:00AM

This past June, Glen Gulutzan was appointed as the head coach of the Calgary Flames. If all goes well this season, he will presumably be behind the bench next year when the Las Vegas expansion team joins the Western Conference. But unlike most of the other coaches in the National Hockey League, the arrival of the Sin City franchise will not be uncharted territory for Gulutzan. 

Before he became the head coach of the Dallas Stars in 2011, Gulutzan had spent six seasons in the ECHL as the general manager and head coach of the Las Vegas Wranglers. During his time in Nevada, his all-time coaching record was 254-124-0-55 and his club qualified for the postseason five times, which included a run to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2008. We recently had the chance to catch up with Glen to talk to him about his time in Las Vegas and get his insights on life in the desert and how he managed his players in a city with plenty of temptations. 

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