TORONTO -- Will the age of enhanced statistics one day change the way NHL Central Scouting goes about its business in evaluating the top players eligible for the NHL Draft?
There's no denying the fact enhanced stats have taken the NHL and its fans by storm. In February, the League announced a partnership with enterprise software company SAP to provide many new statistics via NHL.com. If this stats revolution changes the way people now analyze the game, what could it do for NHL scouts?
"If you add ingredients to help you evaluate someone, you have to use those ingredients," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "But you can't go overboard; we've been baking a cake our whole life and now, if you put icing on the cake, it's better. But if it's all icing it's not a good cake, so I think if you take it too far it might not work.
"The eyeball test still has to be there, you still have to apply what analytics do. It could help you decide between one guy or the other, and I believe it is good for the game."
Chris Edwards, who does a majority of his scouting in the Ontario Hockey League, isn't completely sold on the enhanced stats revolution.
"The good players are the guys with the puck all the time," he said. "Many of the junior leagues don't have access to full advanced statistics, so you're not getting all that. I think people get wrapped up in these stats. The fact is the good players always have the puck, all the time.
"EJ McGuire (former Central Scouting director) told me long ago that stats should be used the same way that a drunk uses a lamppost; for support and not illumination."
Troy Dumville, who did much of his scouting in the offensively-charged Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, believes enhanced stats could be an aide for those top evaluators. CHLStats.com is one site that has several tabs for enhanced statistics from within the Canadian Hockey League.
"For the most part you're evaluating the skills and that doesn't change much with the statistics," Dumville said. "Look at some of players we're evaluating. Some are getting limited ice time as a sixth or seventh defenseman and other guys are playing first defense pair on their teams. It depends where they're at in the rebuilding process and what the opportunities are. For us, we have to look through that stuff anyway and make sure we're looking at the skill levels and the potential."
Gregory feels advanced statistics that provide puck possession time may prove to be very complementary in providing detailed reports to NHL teams.
"I think what analytics do is allow us to understand why our gut feeling is what it is," Gregory said. "The whole thing about a puck-possessing defenseman, for instance. How does that translate into one stat when you have one guy that you like and is turning the puck over more than a guy that you might not like as much? Well, the reason might be because the guy you like has the puck five times as much.
"So when put into proper perspective, analytics can explain that for you a little bit. The bottom line is that more data and more information will help make good decisions, especially if you interpret the data right."