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The Official Site of the Calgary Flames

Looking through a different lens

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
ST. PAUL, MN -- When one thinks about ranking professional athletes, the first thing that often comes to mind is statistics.

While Calgary Flames Director of Scouting Tod Button agrees those numbers are crucial when it comes to designating players on a ranking list, there's another set of numbers he and the rest of the scouting staff are extremely interested in.

Complicated mathematical formulas.

For the first time in Flames draft history, the team is employing a third party to evaluate what their scouts have found over the past year of researching player after player.

"What we found in the past was that there comes a point where you can't separate the players," Button told "Instead of trying to do it randomly,  we've always tried to figure out if there's a mathematical formula or if there was some kind of analytics we could use."

Decision Lens, an analytics company that counts NASA and the US Army as clients, takes statistical data and qualitative judgments and identifies where a player should objectively be ranked among his peers.

After the Flames discovered the company last season, they decided they needed to include the Decision Lens process in their final prospect rankings.

Decision Lens' Gavin Byrnes has been sitting in on all of the scouts draft meetings and adding his input on how the club should be ranking players.

The best part of the process, according to Button, is the scouts don't have to adjust their style in order for the software to work.

Button has rapidly become an avid supporter of the program and it looks like it will utilized in coming drafts.

"There's no biases involved. It's a true evaluation. So when we go back and we're stuck on these four players in say the skating category, (we say) can you help us separate them? And Gavin does."

At the end of the day, Decision Lens also aids the scouts in feeling fully secure with the list they've compiled together and Button feels that is absolutely key as the team heads into what may be one of the most crucial drafts in recent history.

"One thing you want to make sure of is that everybody believes in a player. You don't want guys being on the fence or being in the middle of the road. If a guy doesn't want a player or doesn't like a player, you've got to know that. You have to push, prod and pat on the back and sometimes make sure the guys want this list because it's important to get guys in the right order."

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