Advanced stat nerds unite and rejoice, it seems the NHL is finally catching up to the hockey analytics/advanced stat trend sweeping the hockey blogosphere. Yesterday, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced the hiring of 28 year-old and hockey stat nerd Kyle Dubas as assistant GM. Yes, that is correct one of the biggest and most recognizable hockey franchises appears to have taken the first step into introduce advanced stats into the game of hockey.
If you prefer to just watch hockey for the game or joy and have no idea what corsi, fenwick or usage stats mean, then don’t worry. Kyle Dubas will figure all that out for you as he attempts to turn the Toronto Maple Leafs into a winning team using those advanced stats. But in all seriousness this hiring is a major sign of the times in the sport and hockey world as it hints that hockey, the last of the four major sports to not use advanced stats, is finally catching up.
However, if you’re against analytics and advanced stats, it might be time to change your mind. Obviously there is nothing like watching a player in person with your eyes to see how and what they do while under pressure, but the stats can take you beyond that to what you can’t always see. With the Leafs hiring a stats-minded assistant GM, it seems the hockey world is almost ready to adapt its style of evaluating players.
Prior to Dubas being hired by the Leafs he held down the GM job with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the past three years. He was the youngest GM in the OHL, an organization he started with at the tender age of 14. He is thought of to be a moneyball type of guy replacing the ball with puck who likes to look deeper than the surface. Plain and simple, Kyle Dubas is a mastermind and a brilliant hire for the Leafs.
With his time as Greyhounds GM he took a team that failed to make the playoffs in his first year to tops in the OHL West Division and a record of 44-17-2-5 last season. Not bad for such a young hockey mind who also doubles as an agent in the NHLPA.
He is one of hockey’s best and brightest upcoming minds and it’s fantastic to see an NHL team snatch him up taking the next step forward in the way they evaluate their team.
Dubas is very into numbers and advanced stats which will almost force the Leafs and GM Dave Nonis to start looking deeper and seeing the game differently. This hiring also sends a message to current Leafs brass and scouting, that the old school way of hockey isn’t going to cut it anymore and change is coming. With Dubas at the helm, they are now on board of the innovation which has helped the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks become cup winning teams.
Does the hire of Dubas instantly improve the Leafs? No. They’re not going to win a Stanley Cup next season, it’s going to take a few seasons for Dubas to learn the NHL executive ropes and evaluate the team. But going forward, hiring Kyle Dubas as assistant GM is a fantastic move and big leap forward for the old school franchise.