Jarome Iginla for Joe Nieuwendyk. Wayne Gretzky for Jimmy Carson and others. Trades like these permanently altered the NHL landscape in the late 20th century, and today, hockey professionals would unanimously agree that one team faired better than the other in both of these trades.
Subban for Weber, Hall for Larsson, and Johansen for Jones. These noteworthy NHL trades have all taken place in the past 18 months. Though immediate results can be cited, the “winners” of these trades are hard to name, as all six of the players listed above are still playing at a high level. Until recently, only time told which teams made out better in personnel exchanges, but the ongoing development of advanced hockey analytics is changing this.
Made famous by Billy Beane and the improbable success of his Oakland Athletics, number-supported personnel decisions are changing the way sports franchises are run. Though only recently introduced to the hockey world, respected voices in hockey have already voice their support for hockey’s newest asset. At an end of season press conference in 2016 Bill Peters, head coach of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and former coach of Team Canada’s Under 18 team said about the use of analytics “It’s all about finding ways to be more successful. I embrace it” (Smith). Though analytics is now respected in the NHL, very few predictive tools have been created.
Hockey analysts such as Emmanuel Perry have created single-value metrics that determine a player’s worth, while others have focused on offensive and defensive efficiency metrics. Though both of these tools can be helpful in assessing the potential outcome of personnel decisions, I believe creating a model to accurately predict team performance given personnel decisions is the next step in hockey analytics. This project is intended to allow fans and hockey professionals alike the ability to assess future team success given front office decisions.
Creating a successful model will have a multitude of uses, including but not limited to helping guide personnel decisions, providing comparative evaluations of individual player contributions, and gambling applications.
Will the Montreal Canadians regret losing PK Subban? Was acquiring Adam Larsson really worth losing Taylor Hall? We may find out sooner than expected which of these teams faired better, and which teams might be haunted by these trades for years to come.