The release of the Moneyball movie adaptation today is occasion for us armchair stat-wonks to take yet another hard look in the mirror. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not in the same league as a Gabe Desjardins, creator of the advanced metrics site Behind the Net, or even Tyler Dellow, whose hardnosed and dogged inquisition on mc7hockey earned him much attention this offseason for uncovering Colin Campbell’s perceived improprieties as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian. I, like many casual sports fans, restrict my analyses to video game simulations and continued insistence that the hockey managers of my favorite team (The Ottawa Fat Cats, obviously) make use of these advanced metrics by hiring some analysts.
So the purpose of this article is two-fold. Fold the first: to implore someone smarter than I to validate the following assumptions about the Ottawa Senators:
- That Bryan Murray firmly belongs in the anachronistic category of the old school, and as such relies heavily on intuition, assessing character, and a notion of credibility established by a nebulous code of conduct. (At least it’s nebulous to me, an arts and humanities major and not, you know, an athlete.)
- That the organization is slowly moving towards the kind of vertical integration enjoyed by Detroit by aligning their drafting, development and play operations to enforce a single style, which may or may not be puck possession, rather than “grittiness” or “toughness,” which is why they would allow half a Calder Cup winning team to walk. You don’t want to win the AHL title, you want to have a farm that will develop a Stanley Cup winning team.
- That their spending on free agents has been atrociously wasteful. This probably doesn’t need much work.
The second fold is to point out some of the excellent writing happening right now in hockey journalism. Moneyball was a bit of a call to arms for hockey writers to identify their own “on base percentage” (I guess puck possession is pretty close, and Desjardin’s own quality-of-competition metric is a pretty good start). But what’s amazed me is the diversity of sports writing out there: romantic narrative historians and robotic bean counters are constantly jawing for some semblance of balance, and we, the readers, are the ultimate beneficiaries. There tends to be a lot of pessimism about the state of sports journalism, but I, for one, have never seen the quality so high.
So here are some links I’ve been reading lately:
- Tyler Dellow’s epic statistical takedown of a Grantland writer’s article about enforcers
- Dirk Hoag’s excellent application of Moneyball principles to Nashville Predators hockey
- The GM of the Houston Rockets talks about the influence and hype of Moneyball for Grantland