Number cruncher courts Canucks
While Mike Gillis hired Laurence Gilman to be a number cruncher, who is primarily focused on player contracts and the intricacies of the salary cap, Iain Macintyre examines a different type of number crunching that Gillis is targeting.
"The idea of analytics is so unorthodox and intimidating for the staid old hockey world, Mike Smith says there are general managers who will never "dip their toe in the water." But don't be surprised if new Vancouver Canuck boss Mike Gillis dives into the deep end."
"Analytics -- the sophisticated analysis of data -- revolutionized baseball when its most famous proponent, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, relied on statistics over gut instincts to build a perennial contender."
"Smith and partner Richard Coleman, who holds a Ph.D in psychology and lectures at Harvard, have been quietly operating a consulting firm for three years to provide NHL clients with a new level of statistical analysis that could change hockey the way Beane's "Moneyball" did baseball."
"'You're creating a new level of intelligence,' Smith told The Vancouver Sun this week. 'We've come up with methodology to create a new statistical base. I really think what we have is good and the teams [that are clients] are doing really well with it.'
But what does this new way of thinking really provide to a hockey club trying to win games and eventually the Stanley Cup?
Macintyre writes, "The idea is this information helps evaluate each player's real worth in relation to all others, an imperative determination under the NHL's salary-cap system."
"'We can help evaluate the dollars better,' Smith said. 'We break the game down differently. We can track how you play with me and how you play without me. Do you make me better or worse? You can understand who plays good when the game is on the line.'"
"'When the game gets harder, you want your good players to rise. But there are a lot of highly paid players whose performance goes down -- a lot of significant players who are really poor when the game is on the line. There are pretty good ones, too.'"
"Vancouver Canucks president and chief executive officer Chris Zimmerman spent several years working for Nike, where he managed the company's U.S. golf operations before becoming president and CEO of Nike Bauer Hockey. He chatted recently with The Sun's Brad Ziemer about his golf experiences, which include teeing it up with Tiger Woods.
Q: How well did you get to know Tiger Woods during your time with Nike's golf division?
A: I worked with Tiger quite a bit. I actually worked with him even before that. I was director of advertising before I moved over to the golf business, so I was at Pumpkin Ridge when Tiger won his third U.S. Amateur in 1996 and he signed the following week with Nike.
Q: And you got to play some golf with him. What was that experience like?
A: I had a few different opportunities to play with him, mainly with clients. I can say he has helped me out on the range a few times. I never played a full 18 holes with Tiger, but what we would do is we'd use him to play several holes with a client and then he'd move on to another group. I also spent a fair bit of time with him when he first started testing products for us, including when he switched to the Nike golf ball, which was the first big moment for Nike Golf.
Q: What's it like standing on the tee knowing Tiger is there watching you?
A: I have such low expectations for my golf that it really doesn't matter if it's Tiger or anyone else watching me.
Q: What kind of a player are you?
A: I am sort of a mid-teen handicap. If I am playing a lot, I can get it down to the 82-83 range, and when I'm not playing I am the high-80s to 93."
Gillis: Canucks still not 'close'
Mike Gillis has said that the Canucks are still not close to being a Cup contender but that doesn't mean he doesn't think that they can be.
"'Right now, when you look at the teams in the playoffs I don't see the team from last season being competitive with those teams,' Gillis told Taylor & Pratt, a local sports talk radio program. 'We have far too much reliance on Roberto (Luongo) to carry the team, and over time it wears thin.'"
"The Canucks finished with 88 points last season, missing out on the playoffs for the second time in three years. The lack of scoring was responsible for the 11th place finish, with the 213 goals bettering only St. Louis and Columbus in the conference. Daniel Sedin
led all scorers with 29 goals in 82 games."
"I see a team that is more balanced, more scoring, and giving ourselves an opportunity to play tougher hockey,' Gillis said of his plans to fix the offensive woes. "I don't see a team moving on to the Stanley Cup finals that does not have those ingredients.'"
Sportsnet notes an area of focus concerning the team's leading scorers.
"Gillis must also address the future of the Sedin twins in Vancouver. Drafted together in the first round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the Sedins have just one year left on their current contract. While Gillis understands the scoring presence of the duo, he refuses to label them -- or any player -- as top liners."
"'They have a unique style of play, and they are averaging about 150 points per season between them,' Gillis said. "That is pretty difficult to replace."
"'If they can do that in the top six forward group and have complimentary forwards with them, I think you have something special. But again, you can't have all the pressure on those guys.'"