Babcock on analytics: ‘I love the information’

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It might be hasty to call him “Moneyball” Mike Babcock, but the Detroit Red Wings’ head coach is a fan of analytics.

He told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen as much, noting that the Red Wings don’t have an analytics guy on staff yet, but also stating his belief that it’s just a matter of time.

“I love the information,” Babcock said.

The two-time Olympic gold medal-winner, one-time Stanley Cup champion and all-around decorated bench boss believes that teams will have more resources to spend on stats-minded staffers as time goes on.

Those interested in “fancy stats” will probably find themselves nodding at this statement, in particular:

Indeed, it might be a work in progress, as Red Wings GM Ken Holland seemed reluctant to fully embrace “advanced stats” according to what he said to The Hockey News.

“We’ve been talking about it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a big factor in any of our decision making,” Holland said. “Let’s say you’re Pavel Datsyuk’s linemate. You move to another team and not playing with Pavel Datsyuk is going to have an effect on your lack of success. With baseball, it’s more black and white because the pitcher is on the mound and he’s going against the batter. But in hockey, you’ve got four teammates and five opponents who are going to have some impact on what’s going to happen.”

(If you hear some grumbling, it’s likely from those who are going great lengths to account for context or merely people who note that there are other stats out there beyond Corsi and Fenwick-related numbers.)

Of course, it could also be a matter of semantics, as many simply prefer to refer to Corsi or Fenwick events as “shot attempts.”

Either way, it’s probably a step in the right direction for Babcock at least to be intrigued by it all. Red Wings blog Winging It in Motown seems excited by the potential:

Is it happening? Are the gut analyses on their way out? We aren’t too sure, but as a fan of analyzing players using advanced statistical data, I sure hope so. It shows signs of forward-looking enlightenment for a team who is in need of a new approach to player analysis. With advanced statistics, you can see that players like Luke Glendening are badly overplayed (even though it should be obvious by the common eye-test), and players like Riley Sheahan are turning to prodigious possession powerhouses. Is this it? Is it time for the advanced stat revolution in Detroit? Don’t know.. But boy oh boy, do I sure hope so.

Overall, we’ve seen some surprising revelations in teams embracing new ideas lately, maybe most shockingly in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ decision to hire Kyle Dubas as assistant GM.

If nothing else, we can all amuse ourselves imagining Babcock making these faces while pouring over a spreadsheet:

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images
source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images
source: AP
Credit: AP