The online hockey world reacted to news of the hiring of an assistant GM like it was its own version of the LeBron sweepstakes when the Leafs brought aboard young hockey executive Kyle Dubas yesterday. That’s of little shock given the Maple Leafs had become such a flashpoint in the debate on the role and place of advanced stats/analytics in hockey-ops decisions in the past year and a half — achieving modest success for 110 games despite ghastly underlying possession numbers and then having the floor fall out from under them when their overworked number one goalie got hurt late in the season.
As a young executive cutting his teeth in the NHL — alluding in his press conference to learning on the job as “an assistant who will do as I’m told’ – Dubas’ impact is unlikely to be hugely impactful in the short term but he represents a seachange in the Leafs’ previous stance on the utility of the burgeoning hockey stats movement. Long term, Dubas individual impact on the organization, and this apparent shift in organizational attitude and approach under Brendan Shanahan, stressing openness to new ideas when it comes to data-assisted interpretations of the game and its players, is going to be the next fascinating case study on hockey’s numbers game — especially given Dubas, a pioneer of sorts in this field of study who readily admits the movement is in its infant stages, is going to have financial resources available to him like no one else in the game, equipped to develop a potentially robust and innovative analytics department as he sees fit.
Now, there’s a legitimate question as to whether or not shot attempt plus/minus and variations thereof even really truly qualifies under the term “analytics” or if it’s just “a stat” that should be understood and accounted for. There’s also nothing definitively telling us all the best teams in the NHL have been using these (as in the AS we typically look at now, online) numbers specifically as a part of their day-to-day hockey operations and decision-making processes, nor does an analytics department necessarily guarantee the Maple Leafs suddenly have the answer key for the solution to their decade-long futility. It’s also unlikely a team finding success with the use of analytics would let much be publicly known about their process. The main point is that many fans and pundits have been simply asking for an open-minded approach when it comes to awareness of available information — and maybe better yet, putting to use some this team’s infinite resources to achieve a competitive advantage in this arena. “It’s not be all end all,” Dubas says himself. Total ignorance is also rarely the preferred approach. These things can and will move quickly, and with the exciting potential advent of things like “Sport Vu” player-tracking technology, the Leafs are now in a better position to not get left behind.
It goes without saying that the Maple Leafs did not simply add a numbers guy in Dubas, but also a bright, born-and-bred, up-and-coming hockey man who was scouting games for an OHL organization by 17, representing NHL clients as an agent by 20, and running his own OHL team from a GM’s post by 25. Dubas loves the catch phrase “no grit, no glory” and emphasizes the need for grit and toughness in his lineups. The need for these traits is a reality in this sport, but where the Leafs have sometimes got it wrong — under Burke and Nonis — is in recognizing that these traits do not stand on their own. Responses at the other end of the spectrum to the Maple Leafs’ truculence-pugnacity-belligerence emphasis in recent years have shown skepticism toward any value placement at all on things like grit and toughness. There’s nothing inherently wrong in valuing these attributes in players if viewed as a piece of the puzzle when evaluating the overall skillset of a player. A good handle on the numbers, and an ability to contextualize them by peeling back all the layers adroitly, serves to complement, not replace, a good “eyeball” understanding of what combinations of attributes make up a good “possession player” and a good “possession team” in the modern era. The Leafs unquestionably need a lot of work if they’re to become one of the latter. Get to work, Dubas, Shanny, Spott, Horachek and co.
Wednesday Morning Links:
- Dellow: Dubas hire a key move for Maple Leafs.
“Of course, it’s one thing to have an analytics budget that you intend to spend. It’s quite another to spend it well. For reasons that I’ll discuss, this is harder than people realize. In today’s hiring of Kyle Dubas, the Maple Leafs have removed one of the biggest potential hurdles to becoming an organization that can use data well: They’ve hired a gatekeeper who can screen out a lot of the bad analytics.”
- Johnston: Kyle Dubas hire signals massive shift for Maple Leafs
“While there had been growing whispers in the hockey world that Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin might be removed in a front-office shakeup, no one could have predicted that Toronto would name the 28-year-old Dubas as its next assistant general manager. The managerial restructuring is a tacit acknowledgement that new methods must be used to evaluate talent and build this team.”
- Bourne: Leafs’ hire of Kyle Dubas signals long-overdue culture change
“Dubas will still advocate for hard work and grit and size as most GMs do. There are plenty of quotes where he highlights how the importance of these timeless qualities. But he recognizes the game is more complex than that, and will likely seek other avenues to improve.”
- The Star: Dubas interview, from the archives
“If that’s the terminology you want to use. I was a scout when I was 17 – I was definitely the youngest scout out there at that time – and an agent when I was 20, and then I became the youngest ever certified agent with the NHLPA when I was 22.”
- Michael Stephens: 5 takeaways from the Dubas hire
“Dave Nonis should be looking over his shoulder. Randy Carlyle should be looking over his shoulder. Steve Simmons should be looking in the mirror. Change, both culturally and executively, has come to the Toronto Maple Leafs and it will be felt in many ways.”
- TSN1050: Dubas interview; Sportsnet 590: Dubas Interview
Dubas joins Bryan Hayes to discuss his appointment as Leafs AGM. Here’s Dubas and Shanahan’s press conference from yesterday.
- Other News: Leafs sign David Booth to 1-year, $1.1 million contract
“Booth is an ardent forechecker and strong board player, but has struggled to stay healthy while doing what makes him most successful — and given his rap sheet of injuries the past three years, that is likely the biggest question mark here, because there’s little doubt he has the talent to provide good value in terms of secondary production for the $1.1 million.”
- CapGeek: Maple Leafs updated cap chart with the David Booth signing
$6.6 million in cap space with 16 forwards on the roster; Gardiner and Reimer left to sign.
thats actually a pretty damn skilled forward group.
@Savo43 Will do damage in the East.
Anyone seen this?
MONTREAL - Former NHL player Patrick Cote was sentenced to 30 months in prison earlier this week after pleading guilty to two counts of armed robbery.
Cote pleaded guilty on June 4 in a suburban Montreal courthouse and is prohibited from possessing a firearm for the rest of his life.
The 39-year-old native of LaSalle, Que., was stranded at the side of the road in Candiac after police discovered he was driving a vehicle that was reported stolen in Ontario.
He was then taken to the police station to be interviewed by the investigators. During his interrogation, Cote admitted to being involved in two bank robberies in the area a few days earlier.
The first robbery occurred on May 23 at a CIBC branch in Brossard.
"The individual, wearing a beige three-quarter length coat, appeared in the bank and handed a note to one of the clerks," said Constable Mark David, a spokesman for the Longueuil police. "On paper, it was written that he was armed and wanted the contents of the drawer."
The former NHL tough guy reportedly fled with a little over $2,000.
A few days later, Cote struck again, this time in a branch of the Laurentian Bank, located in Saint-Constant.
Cote was selected in the second round, 37th overall, by the Dallas Stars at the 1995 NHL draft.
In 105 career games with the Stars, Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers, Cote scored one goal and added two assists while compiling 377 penalty minutes.
He will blame concussions for all his woes and get 10M form the NHL.
Just saw this quote from Tom Lehrer's wikipedia and it reminded me of MLHS
"Always predict the worst and you'll be hailed as a prophet"
Granberg will only win ONE norris trophy
so they say...
Continuing the comparison to the Kings, I think we stack up pretty well with their current roster a couple years down the road - minus that big hole on the top line:
J.V.R. - ______ - Kessel
Brown - Kopitar - Gaborik
_____ - Kadri - Nylander
Toffoli - Carter - Pearson
Lupul - Holland -Clarkson
Williams - Stoll - King
Komarov - Gauthier - ______
Clifford - Richards - Lewis
Rielly - Phaneuf
Muzzin - Doughty
Gardiner - Robidas
Regehr - Voynov
Finn - Polak
Martinez - Greene
There are a lot of individual match-ups that make a lot of sense here. But lacking that player for the top line is going to kill us.
Are there any two players that would realistically be available that could slot into those first two blanks, and make those lines a match? I'm thinking that Kessel tops Gaborik, and J.V.R. tops Brown, so your center may not have to be as good as Kopitar, but he still needs to be pretty good. Then you have Kadri and Nylander which I believe is probably better than Toffoli/Pearson, so you need someone to round that line out who is probably not quite as good as Carter - if that makes sense.
@Cameron19 I think the biggest problem is that unless we draft really well, the only way we fix that #1 centre issue is if we trade away a major asset or two. Who would you take out of the line up in order to plug that hole? Does it open another big hole elsewhere?
The only possible option I see is trading a rielly, gardiner, or phaneuf + bozak to make it happen.
@Cameron19 ROR and Kane come to mind...but the cost to acquire both would be pretty high...not sure we have to parts to make it work.
I liked your idea of Tatar the other day....Louie Erikson could be had I think
@Bon Scott was a Leaf fan @Cameron19 My opinion of Quick is that he is just ungodly good in the playoffs and rarely looks like that during the regular season. That makes it hard to say. During the season I thought Bernier looked better, but Quick was just dominant after the Sharks were up 3-0 in the first series. Have to see Bernier in the playoffs first, but statistically, Bernier is looking like a potential top 5 goalie.
Only center out there I would target would be from San Jose, Palvenski. I can see him being moved sooner than later
@Jmessih Just using us to make sure he gets max money.
@Jmessih @Cameron19 @JMAC17 I don't know about that. Stamkos is better at one thing than those guys, but I think Duchene and Seguin in particular are a little more dynamic. Stamkos is so reliant on his line-mates getting him the puck, and his defensive game is about on par with Kessel's, maybe a touch behind. Like I said earlier tonight, there's a reason they've started to explore moving him to the wing.
And all that aside. You can have 3 guys making 5M for what Stamkos is going to cost you.
@conis @Jmessih Thanks man
@Jmessih You wouldn't happen to have any spare invites would you?
@Jmessih how do you get invited ?assuming it comes unlocked? and keep us updated on the phone friend !