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Analytics Or Old School? George McPhee Weighs In

Vegas' GM shares his thoughts on one of the most hot-button debates in hockey

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -Albert Einstein

In the ever-evolving landscape of pro hockey, this famous Einstein quote is pertinent when referring to the methods that teams use to evaluate players.

And yes, we're talking about analytics.

Analytics, hockey's only four-letter word with 10 characters, is one of the most hot-button issues in the game today.

Some believe in it, and that by using math, statistical analysis and ingenuity, one can find value in hockey players that've been devalued by traditional evaluation methods.

This is just like in the movie Moneyball, where Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill's characters struggled to win support when bringing this approach to the 2002 Oakland Athletics.

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In the second decade of the 21st century, hockey analytics personnel have been met with similar pushback. Especially considering the old school approach, which places a premium on traits such as heart, grit and toughness, is incredibly difficult to measure.

Generally speaking, skills that are valued by analytics are speed, decisions with the puck and amount of shots generated.

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As various executives have staked a position - or avoided taking a position altogether - in this debate, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee weighed in on his stance during a recent phone call with season ticket holders.

In short, he is firmly pro analytics.

"We're big believers in it," McPhee said. "It's remarkable some of the things that data can clarify for you. We will try to strike that balance of opinion and analytics. The best expression that I've heard about analytics is that it's another club in your golf bag. And I think that's pretty accurate.

 

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"We're going to use all of our resources to evaluate players and evaluate teams. I've really personally enjoyed going through the analytics.

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"We have our providers and our analysts. There are times as a (general) manager where you're just not sure on a certain player or a certain move. Or what a team's doing. You can go and work with the data and it tells you a story. That allows you to ask more questions. If you're asking better questions, you're getting better answers.

"We're wide open to it. And are big believers in it. And will use it often."

 

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