fancy stats

Colorado Avalanche ’15-16 Outlook

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The Colorado Avalanche can be a tough nut to crack.

If you bounce around “Hockey Twitter” at all, the team very much stands as a guinea pig in the “stats vs. tradition” debate (or whatever you’d like to call it). That debate often gets a little weird and then overshadows the team itself.

When you look at the Avalanche, it’s an odd mix of old and new.

You have old ideas and old faces in management with Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic running the ship. They seemingly lean toward signing old veterans from Jarome Iginla to Francois Beauchemin.

The fresh faces make this squad awfully interesting, however. Gabriel Landeskog is still one of the NHL’s youngest captains at 22. With all the pressure on Nathan MacKinnon to make the next step, one might forget that he’s just 19. Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie remain in the meat of their primes at 24.

What if all four of those promising young players make significant strides that often come at such ages, particularly MacKinnon, who may just be scratching the surface of his skill set as people move onto to the next big thing in Connor McDavid? Could the Avalanche see earlier-than-expected results from still-blooming prospects like Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko?

Ryan O’Reilly is a tough player to let go – and he’s also just 24 – but when you look at that group, it’s quite a bit easier to stomach, isn’t it?

Yes, that defense looks pretty shaky beyond a handful of solid players such as Barrie and Erik Johnson, meaning the Avalanche will again lean heavily on Semyon Varlamov.

Still, with the abundance of talent at the forward position in particular, even the most ardent number-crunchers would shudder to dismiss the Avalanche outright.

Fancy that: Pens hire War on Ice’s Sam Ventura

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Perhaps there will be a sequel to 2014’s fancy stats summer?

It would be hard to top that this time around, but hardcore number-crunching hockey fans will likely take note anyway, as the Pittsburgh Penguins scooped up Sam Ventura, co-creator of War on IceThe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Ventura was hired as a “consultant responsible for analytics.”

The team seems especially excited to add a local, especially one like the 27-year-old, who recently earned a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

“To have someone who grew up here in Pittsburgh, literally in our backyard, to have the skill set and knowledge base that Sam has, he seemed like the perfect fit,” Jason Karmanos told the Tribune-Review. “Once I met him and started talking to him, I knew that he was the perfect fit for our group here.”

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford seems to give advanced stats some serious respect extending back to his days running the Carolina Hurricanes (even if some situations worked out better than others in that regard).

Karmanos said that Ventura’s addition will “augment” the analytics arm in Pittsburgh, indicating that the team may do more in that area in the future.

Ventura’s hiring reminds one of the Toronto Maple Leafs snatching Extra Skater’s Darryl Metcalf last summer, although it sounds like there’s a chance War on Ice may function for some time. That said, Ventura’s venture shows that the “fancy stats” community can recover from big losses; perhaps Ventura may help the Penguins avoid more letdowns on the ice?