The 100 year analytics war continues in Florida

House Analytics Valois and House Old School Plantagenet seem destined to battle forever, in their war to control the NHL.

Today’s latest battle? The firing of a Florida Panther’s coach.

Yes, the Florida Panthers have oddly enough become the scene of a great fight between those who love their intangibles vs those who love their numbers.

I feel like I swing back and forth with agreeing with both sides on certain things. I tend to lean slightly more towards the numbered side of things, mostly because with the old school approach you get dismissed in arguments with “have you even played the game, bro” and :

I mean, as a writer, I¬†should love this approach, writing yourself towards a conclusion that just seems to fit. You see a situation unfold in front of you, you don’t quite know why it’s happening, but hey, bad leaders have screwed things up before, right? And that group of guys seem soft spoken, right? Shouldn’t leaders be Mark Messier Alpha Males? Grabbing people by the scruff of the neck, chopping off their own arm so they can beat the opponent to death with it, and then shotgunning a beer after the game? That’s a real leader.

Yep, “soft leadership” it is!

Don’t get me wrong, I think players who have played at the NHL level can add insight we regular Joes don’t have. I also think there are some intangibles we can’t rate through a pure number based system. The analytics response is “we account for that in our models” but I personally don’t think the models can account for everything yet. Even if you look at today’s advanced stats, they have evolved a lot from where they were even five years ago, so things are always changing. Human nature is a hard thing to figure out, which is always a wrench in the engine of many a statistical model.

And both sides get their victories in the war. Sometimes a player advanced stats won’t stop talking about as being this hidden gem for years, ends up a bust. Sometimes a guy who is tough and “good in the room” plays for a couple of seasons before his career halts and he ends up as an analyst on TSN.

Sometimes a team wins a Stanley Cup and it’s randomly decided by Don Cherry that Shawn Thornton turned things around.

Maybe in a perfect world, both sides work hand in hand to see if they can combine their approaches to become the ultimate team.

But today is not that time. And now we watch as the Florida Panthers fire a coach, and outrage hits the media twitter world.

Now, to be fair, the Panthers situation is an interesting one. From most accounts it looks like the owner wants his guys to be running the show, and they are still in the midst of re-arranging the old regime. Gallant? He was from the old regime. And it’s been stated by some that the way he coached the team wasn’t in line with the new regimes thought process.

It’s also not crazy to suggest that an owner can have a negative impact on a franchise. That has been the soup of the day in Vancouver for years now. Unorganized teams exist. They can also be run very poorly. So yes, you could see the Panthers firing Gallant and simply shrug your shoulders and toss it on the dumpster fire you think the Panthers team is becoming.

It could also be just what Bob McKenzie states, though, a philosophical divide between management and coaching. And maybe this was always the inevitable conclusion of an old school coach not getting on board with a new approach. In a perfect world the new regime would have come in, made all their changes on day one, and started anew. But that is rarely how the NHL works. Look at Brian Burke when he took over the Canucks. Even he gave Keenan a token “old college try” before firing him.

And in the end, it almost doesn’t even matter which side is right. The way I look at this, is it’s a great experiment. If you’re one of those old school guys, a guy so angry they fired one of your buddies who always gave you a great quote, or a guy who gets so angry when “computer nerds” influence a decision, why not just sit back and watch?

Seriously, this is one of the greatest experiments of the Analytics War we’ve had yet. Why not applaud the Panthers going all in on numbers. Hell, cheer them on, lend them your calculators, and watch them burn if you’re so sure they’re clueless. See what happens.

For most people, this promises to be an exciting time for people wanting to see if different approaches can work in the NHL.

Showing a high level of vitriol over this move comes across as “Old man mad at the kids playing on his lawn” more than anything else. Disagree with it? Sure. Calling out the “geeks and their numbers?”

In the words of a great man…

ilya

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