In the second installation of FlamesNation’s new "Fan Ask" feature, I took to twitter yesterday and asked people to forward me some questions to mull over. I replied to some glibly yesterday, but here are the more in-depth responses.
Topics include what I would add to the Flames front office, whether the team should tank for McDavid and who I would choose to coach Calgary this upcoming season…
Q. How did you start at Flamesnation and what kind of writing background did you have? (if any)
I actually didn’t start FlamesNation. The wbesite was created by the principles behind OilersNation afer they began to build an audience up there. At the time I was freelancing for a few sites and writing on my own blig "fiveholefanatics". The same summer I was approached by FN, I was also recruited by SBNation to head their Flames site, which I named, staffed, etc. Eventually I moved over because FN offered a more interesting opportunity – and money.
My writing background was mostly academic. I was an AP student in English in HS and finished my college degree in psychology and a minor in English. I didn’t have any formal training in terms of sports writing or journalism though. I learned on the fly and from superior writers who began popping up around the blogosphere when I started.
Q. If you were to bring in some non-player resources to help the Flames over the course of the rebuild, who would it be and what would they be doing?
Naturally I skew to the quantitative side of things, mostly since that’s my own focus when writing and because there still appears to be glaring market inefficiencies in the NHL. As such, I would probably hire a hockey familiar code monkey (‘comp science’) guy who could build data scraping and data visualization applications.
I would also spend some money on one or two highly capable stats guys, like Eric T of Broadstreet Hockey or Gabriel Desjardins of behind the net. I would get the comp science and stats guys to work closely together and then marry them with the PUCKS system/Chris Snow’s video analysis so that scouting and data analysis could inform and augment each other.
Q. What reporter/blogger/hack gives you the most frustration in terms of their complete disregard to advanced stats.
That’s hard to say, because so many of them dismiss new stats out of hand. If I had to choose someone in Calgary, it used to be FAN960’s Andrew Walker because he almost never bothered to honestly engage or understand the ideas in question. He also tended to implicitly lean on the "jocks vs nerds" canard that tends to spuriously invalidate the insights quantitative analysis can bring.
Q. If you could ask the Flames to focus on one statistic for player evaluation, which would it be?
There really isn’t one stat anyone can rely on, but if you mean what is "one more" stat I wish the Flames would focus on in addition to the usual suspects, I’d say PDO or the sum of even strength SH% and SV%. More to the point, I would like them to understand (if they don’t) the tendency of players percentages to regress towards the league mean and primarily to dismiss the oscillations of percentages in small samples.
This realization would help a lot of teams, including the Flames, avoid unnecessary mistakes.
Q. Do you think there is any evidence the Flames are doing an adequate job of using advanced statistics to analyze their team and players?
My default is to say "no". They certainly weren’t under Darryl Sutter. Maybe things are changing now with new management, but I haven’t seen any obvious vein of stats-informed moved from Feaster either. The re-signings of guys like Babchuk and Morrison flew in the face of most advanced metrics while the club’s continued ambivalence towards Mikael Backlund suggests they aren’t really looking at corsi or PDO.
QA. At what point should the flames move glenny and giord to get some high picks or prospects back? Load up for Mcdavid draft? QB. Do you think that it is wise for the Flames to tank a full year before the McDavid draft?
I put both of those questions together because they are more or less the same.
I’d say McDavid is probably the sort of talent who could almost singlehandedly turn a franchise around, so if the Flames are still terrible come next off-season, they should maybe, probably consider not improving the club too much in hopes of getting him in 2015.
That said, there is definitely some risk in gutting the club to chase McDavid. Under the new draft rules, even the last placed team in the league only has a 25% chance of picking first overall. So there’s at least a 75% chance of dynamiting the roster and then missing the chance to pick him anyways.
Of course, a lot also depends on how Giordano and Glencross perform in the next season or two and if they want to remain in Calgary. Neither of them is signed beyond 2016, so if they start to falter a bit or if the organization senses one or both won’t return once their contract is over, then it would make sense to move them.
Q. Thoughts/expectations/projections on Mark Cundari for this season and beyond?
I liked what I saw from Cundari in his cup of coffee last year, so I expect him to press for a depth position on the blueline. Past that, it’s impossible to know since we have so little information on him in an NHL setting. If he makes the team and plays a few games, we can start to guage what kind of ceiling he has.
Q. Do you think the #flames rebuild takes as long as the #oilers?
I certainly hope not. The Oilers rebuild was begun and aborted more than once and unnecessarily extended by perhaps the most inept GM in the league (before he was recently fired) in Tambo. If the rebuild limps on in perpetuity like that despite the club’s financial resources, everyone in the front office should be liquidated, including Ken King.
So let’s say "no". Calgary’s a long way from being a contender, but a good goalie, some development from Backlund/Brodie and a few homeruns in the draft could get them closer to competing well inside of the 5+ year window.
Q. Is Hartley known to be a good coach for developing players/prospects like Monahan, Knight, Baertschi et al…. Who would you pick to be the Flames coach this year?
I honestly don’t think the coaching matters too much this year, beyond having a guy who isn’t totally incompetent and/or aggressively hostile to prospects. I also am not familiar enough with the various NHL coaches to know who is better or worse with kids. Meaning "not randy Carlyle" would be my choice.
Q. What’s one positive thing about the Flames organization?
How about a few things? The Flames as an organization tend to do a lot of good in the community. From a hockey perspective, although there have been a lot of less than flattering rumors about the management and ownership over the last few years, there’s no question the guys in charge are willing to spend money to try to ice a winner.
On the ice, TJ Brodie, Mikael Backlund, Sven Baertschi and (eventually) Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are exciting talents.
Recently around the Nation Network
The player who might have been this summer’s most controversial free agent seems to have finally found a new home. According to multiple reports, Mikhail Grabovski has agreed to a new contract with the Washington Capitals. From Leafs Nation:
I would suspect… that Grabovski took a while to sign because he was looking for the right situation, and he wouldn’t be happy playing in a third line role again. Grabovski will probably have a chance to prove himself offensively, a tall task for a 30-year-old that is probably through with his scoring prime.
Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my Jonathan Willis’ recent stuff: