Sabres’ Nolan, Avalanche don’t believe in analytics

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Advanced statistics have entered the mainstream this summer with teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs switching from skeptics to adopters through their hiring of key people within the growing movement, but that doesn’t mean that analytics are accepted by every team.

Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan, for example, still shrugs off the usefulness of fancy stats.

“You can never overestimate the human aspect of the game,” Nolan said, per the Buffalo News. “The information I use is with my eyes and my soul and my heart. If I see someone who is competing and I know he’s competing, that’s good enough for me. I don’t need a machine telling me how hard he worked. … My No. 1 analytic is you score one more goal than the opposition, you win.”

He’d fit in well with Avalanche GM Joe Sakic.

“At the end of the day, it’s who wins the game,” Sakic told the Denver Post. “I know with our group, watching them all the time, they were never out of it. They never quit. And in almost all the third periods, when the game was on the line, we had the puck the majority of the time.”

The Avalanche were a team that wildly overperformed last season based on their Fenwick and Corsi numbers. Sakic conceded that they need to control the play more this season, “but I don’t think we really needed the analytics to tell us; we saw it ourselves.”

In other words, Sakic, like Nolan, is in the school of analysis through visuals rather than attempting to commit what you see to numbers in the hopes gaining further context or insight. Which is a good thing for Avalanche coach Patrick Roy because by his own admission he’s “not a math guy” and is happy to stay that way.

A brief counterargument is that analytics are a tool to enhance traditional scouting rather than an either/or proposition and can help provide a big picture view. However, these statements illustrate that their usefulness is still very much in question in some prominent corners of the NHL.