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.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.