The New Jersey Devils have hired Tyler Dellow, one of the pioneers in hockey analytics, as their vice president of analytics and the head of their new hockey analytics department.
"Since day one, [owners] Josh Harris and David Blitzer have supported us by investing in the staff and resources it takes to build a team, the right way," Devils general manager Ray Shero said. "We have used those resources to recruit talented people who can increase our organization's expertise in every aspect of the game. Bringing Tyler on board is just another example of our commitment to progressively building in a manner that can help the franchise achieve sustained success."
Dellow made headlines when he was hired by the Edmonton Oilers in 2014, part of a wave of bloggers and advanced stats advocates who were snatched up by NHL teams eager to create a Moneyball for hockey. In Dellow's case, his hiring has come after years as a blogger writing critical pieces about the team. Most recently, Dellow was a columnist for The Athletic.
While other teams courted him, Dellow said the Devils were ultimately his choice because of Harris and Blitzer's commitment to analytics with the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, whom they also own.
"It's a super-high-end department," Dellow told ESPN on Monday. "They've put a lot of resources into it and really let it influence what they're doing."
Dellow said he was impressed with the influence that Alex Rucker, the 76ers' executive vice president of basketball operations, and Sergi Oliva, their director of basketball analytics and innovation, had on the team's decision making and expects to play a similar role with the Devils.
"I've talked a bunch with Ray and his staff before I came in here," he said. "They're interested in it. Everybody wants to win. To accomplish that, people are going to be interested in what you want to say."
"I ran into Taylor. I was nice to cross paths with him again," Dellow told ESPN on Monday.
Any discussion of that trade with the Devils star, who is currently out with an injury?
"When I worked in Edmonton, the stuff I was involved in wasn't stuff I talked about," Dellow said.
What he will talk about was how working with the Oilers' front office influenced how he'll approach his job with the Devils.
"One of the things I took from the last experience was how much better you can get at doing this stuff when you have access to people that have spent a lifetime doing it the traditional way," he said. "It will change how you think about things, and it'll make you challenge some of the dogmatic stuff. If you look at baseball, the best organizations are the ones that are a blend of old and new. In Edmonton, I was lucky to get a lot of that, and I'm sure that'll be here, too."
Dellow's hiring comes at an interesting time for analytics in the NHL. Next season, the league expects to have player- and puck-tracking technology working in every building, providing teams with a deluge of data on everything from skating speed to puck possession.
"I think that's really exciting," Dellow said. "It lets you go beyond saying, 'Well, this is happening,' and starting to really understand why. To me, it's an exciting time to get into this because of the new data. It'll give you the chance to make more robust arguments."
Some still believe that analytics is all hype, and that analytics departments are more about good public relations than actual impact.
Dellow doesn't dabble in the conflict between traditionalists and the "computer boys" any longer.
"I kind of think that's over," he said. "I think that's been over for five years. People might still make some jokes, but I think that's done. If you're on either side of it and not trying to understand why either side thinks there's still a divide, I think you're wasting your time."