Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Quick Hits: Crowdsourcing An NHL Team

Note: I often have things I want to say that I usually just tweet, but aren't really conducive to a medium that limits thoughts to a series of 140-character fragments. I figure I have this old blog so why the hell not use it. "Quick Hits" will just be my various thoughts and musings that aren't really Canucks-related, but I figure I should write about anyways. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to call me an asshole over on Twitter if you disagree: @Thats_Offside.

I've said this before, and I'm quite confident that it's still true: I really think that there is enough appropriate talent and brainpower floating around in the public that if we were to get together and form a front office, I really think that we could run a legitimately above-average to good NHL franchise. I say this for a couple of reasons: first of all, I'm confident in the quality of work that's done on the internet and I'm confident in the abilities of the people that do it, and second of all, I don't think that there's really a mystical innate understanding of the game of hockey that "hockey guys" are blessed with.

I'll tweeted about this first thing earlier:
The validity of our current best available measures of hockey have been criticized in large part to the fact that they aren't things developed by either reputable academics or, more importantly, "hockey people." You've all heard the tired "basement bloggers" thrown around, I'm sure. What's largely discounted is that stuff developed in the eye of the public is subject to ridiculously intense peer review. Every day, people who believe in fancystats are forced to read commentary from people critical of their insights, defend their arguments, and consistently refine their viewpoints as more and more other smart people challenge the current paradigm.

What's resulted is a way of thinking about and analyzing hockey that is as accurate as anything out there, and much more significantly, works and is successful. The very best coaches in the NHL, guys who have very recently won Jack Adams trophies and Stanley Cups, seem to believe in the very same things that Corsi and Fenwick tell us is true. Hell, I wrote an article for Shnarped Hockey on Monday that shows this. Whether or not the NHL has quietly been at the forefront of this great learning, the fact still remains that "basement bloggers" have found the very same "magic formula" (even though there is no magic formula) to building a successful hockey team as successful hockey teams have.

This brings me to my second point: I don't really think that being a "hockey guy" equates to a unique understanding of the game that the general public can never hope to achieve. I'm a believer in "deep practice,' meaning that anyone can become good at a specific skill, given enough time and effort. Give the people I interact with on Twitter enough games to watch and specific stuff to watch for, and I don't think that most would do worse than an average NHL scout.

This is even more applicable to the "leading voices" of the online analytics community. They're smart people. Eric Tulsky has a Ph.D. from UC-Berkeley and a B.A. in chemistry and physics from Harvard. Tyler Dellow has a J.D., a B.A. in poli sci, and a B.Comm. There are many others on hockey Twitter that are really bright, well-educated people too, so it's not as if the "basement bloggers" stereotype is applicable or even appropriate. Given that these people have a track record of being able to think critically and solve problems, I don't believe for a second that not a single one of these guys is incapable of seeing the same thing as some guy who has a high school diploma but is a "hockey lifer" can.

Of course, there's a ton more that an NHL front office has to handle than just player acquisition, but I still don't believe it's as if no one that's a part of hockey Twitter that can't be found to handle each role. The hockey fans whose work I read and who I interact with are a diverse and intelligent bunch, and I'm confident that a good number of them would be an asset to any front office, even if they were just to be a part of an organizational think tank and challenge what established hockey minds think.

If all else fails, we'll just appoint Kyle Dubas as our head. He still counts as hockey Twitter, right?

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