Awareness of analytics a necessity for new NHL executives

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In the past week, former players Trevor Linden and Brendan Shanahan have been tapped to lead two of the most valuable franchises in the NHL.

Plenty has been written on these moves, but it’s interesting that the topic of analytics has come up in both cases. Ten years ago, you can pretty much guarantee it wouldn’t have.

On Linden’s hiring in Vancouver, here’s part of what Nick Cotsonika wrote for Yahoo Sports:

Though Linden looked and sounded great at his press conference, he said little of substance. Though he said he believes he’s “ready for this challenge,” he was unconvincing when it came to why. Example: Linden told reporters on the side that he knew little about analytics, noting the trend arose after his playing days.

That doesn’t mean Linden will fail. That doesn’t inspire confidence, either.

On Shanahan’s hiring in Toronto, here’s part of what Michael Grange wrote for Sportsnet:

Why does the richest organization in hockey not have a single staff member devoted to the emerging field of hockey analytics when a bunch of numerate hockey hobbyists were predicting the Leafs’ demise for free, on Twitter, for months?

For that matter, why didn’t the richest organization in hockey invent hockey analytics?

Why don’t they already have 20 of the smartest, geekiest hockey fans in the world locked in a warehouse somewhere with a wall of computer equipment and video archives inventing cutting-edge ways to understand the game?

Hockey has been a relative late-comer to the revolution in sports analytics. Baseball was the trailblazer. It’s a big part of basketball now as well.

The so-called “advanced” hockey statistics — which basically just try to measure the amount of time a team controls the puck — aren’t perfect, but when the top four Fenwick teams are Los Angeles, Chicago, San Jose and Boston, and the bottom three are Edmonton, Toronto, and Buffalo, there’s probably something to them.

Of course, there are anomalies — New Jersey is the fifth-best Fenwick team, while Colorado is the fourth-worst — but that doesn’t mean the statistics are useless. To dismiss them just because everything doesn’t line up perfectly straight is foolish.

In Vancouver, Linden will need to be a fast learner on the topic, possibly with the help of assistant general manager Laurence Gilman, who survived the firing of GM Mike Gillis.

In Toronto, Shanahan may need to not only learn; he may need to help convince the organization that analytics can’t be ignored any longer.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.