In today's NHL climate, any and all opinions on the use of analytics gets attention.
Who likes it? Who doesn't? Whatever is said gets around.
So when Dan Cagen of the MetroWest Daily News shared a quote from Claude Julien on that topic, you best believe I took notice.
Here's what Claude Julien had to say on analytics (I've broken it down to pieces to comment on the specifics):
I think it's good. But at the same time, it's important not to go overboard with it.
Ok, good start. Claude is a fan, but he's still here to Watch The Game because Stats Aren't Everything. I don't think this is tremendously out of line with what any stat enthusiast would expect from a head coach.
We have it, we have people that take those stats.
As a reminder, the Bruins appointed Ryan Nadeau to the newly created position of Director of Hockey Operations/Analytics where he "utilizes statistical and numerical data and tools to supplement scouting efforts and evaluation while continuing to scout college prospects in the United States and other duties in support of the Hockey Operations department."
With some of the more high-profile analytics hirings happening elsewhere, let's not lose sight of the fact that Boston was among those taking part in the "summer of analytics" or whatever they're calling it. But simply hiring someone in this role isn't the end of it...
A lot of it is for coaches and it gives you an idea for individuals, the puck possession time, and an idea for the team.
Professing an interest in analytics is all well and good but more than anything else, it's about how meaningful the data you're tracking is. We don't know what the Bruins are tracking and we likely never will and that's fine. It would appear from this line that some iteration of corsi or fenwick is among the recorded statistics, but one would hope they're looking beyond that.
I think it's an important tool for us. Sometimes you have an opinion, and you look at the stats and it gives you an image of whether you're right or you're not so right, so there's something to be said about it.
Building off what I just said (recording meaningful information) is the fact that data is useless if it is not used. It's not to be relied upon as the sole source for decisions, but it seems counter intuitive to go against it completely.
Here Claude references stats as a means of vetting a thought and that's a perfectly great use for them. But pardon me if I don't exactly buy his belief in stats as confirmation. We've been down this path before (some would say too many times), so I'll just remind you all that the Bruins' fourth line was among the worst in hockey. Either the team's analytics didn't catch that (huge problem) or they did, and Claude overruled them.
The latter is entirely possible (and frankly, more optimistic) and epitomizes the battle ground that will emerge with these hires. There needs to be a balance between what the coach is seeing and what the stats are saying, obviously, but it will be interesting to see if some of the Bruins' worst possession players maintain a regular spot with repeated poor play as they have in the past.
But I think again, everything I've said in the past from the video to these kind of stats, let's not ruin it by overdoing it. I think guys still have to go out there and play. If you have them think too much, you're taking away their speed, you're taking away their creativity. I think sometimes as coaches, the more information you have, the better it is, and as players, the less information you have, the better it is.
Here Claude is bang on.
Anyone who's read me here can see I am a fan of stats. I am a fan of stats for fans, the media and team management to better understand and assess the game.
That being said, I really don't see the point in players bothering with it. People scoff when players remark that wins are the only stats they care about, but why bother with anything else if that's their ultimate goal?
This game is too fast for a player to be counting shot attempts or calculating their points scored per 60 minutes of play, as Claude referenced. Let the coaching staff worry about that.
Where players can benefit from analytics is when coaching identifies interesting areas of data and turns to the video to point out what is being done and what should be done to correct mistakes. Before he was poached by the Edmonton Oilers Tyler Dellow was doing just that. This is a great mix of analytics and good ol' fashioned coaching and the ideal application for NHL teams.
All things considered, Claude's quote doesn't really tell us a whole heck of a lot that we didn't already know. His interest in its tools and limitations seems to be there, but the exact level of use and valuation from the Bruins remains to be seen. Still, it's something to be monitoring.