Using an outside analytics firm, the Blues quantify which lines play together successfully and which ones don't. Coach Ken Hitchcock can tell which matchups work against specific teams just by using data that are quickly collected and handed out between periods. "Last year I played three players that together I thought had good chemistry," Hitchcock says. "When I looked back at their shifts, the data showed me otherwise." This offseason the Blues made a significant move in goal, parting ways with former Vezina winner Ryan Miller and his big contract-allowing them to sign center Paul Stasny-and re-signing Brian Elliott, who has shared time in net with Miller and Jaroslav Halak. Advanced stats showed that Elliott's save percentage was considerably higher when he played deep in the net. So Elliott cut down the number of times he aggressively came out of the net. Elliott has also excelled in "home plate" save percentage (4) in part because he doesn't overchallenge. His next challenge is leading the franchise to its first Cup. "It's his turn now," Hitchcock says.
K IN HOME PLATE SAVE %
When old-school Toronto coach Randy Carlyle chatted with 28-year-old assistant GM Kyle Dubas over the summer-a move that officially marked the adoption of analytics in the center of the hockey universe- there was no debate over systems. "Everyone wanted it to be like Moneyball or Trouble With the Curve, but it was not like that at all," says Dubas, who quickly notes that president Brendan Shanahan and
GM Dave Nonis still call the shots. But the extension of the deals for goalie James Reimer and defenseman
Jake Gardiner, two players favored by the advanced stats faithful, suggest that Dubas' voice is being heard. "Once you can present analytics in
a way that's easily comprehended," he says, "it starts to have an impact."
Even before the Oilers hired former advanced stats blogger Tyler Dellow, one of the most vocal critics of the previous regime, on Aug. 5, the influence of analytics was apparent in the free agent additions of winger Benoit Pouliot and defenseman Mark Fayne, strong possession players. Although Edmonton's growth will come as young stars such as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov mature, adopting analytics is a sign that Dellow's voice will have some sway. "We don't always agree with the analytics department, but it gets you asking questions," Oilers GM Craig MacTavish says. "What they've offered up has made sense. If you neglect it, you do it at your own peril."