Y’know, I thought we were done with this kind of story about the Hawks. It had at least been a while since the Hawks came out to proclaim they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to analytics, even though I’m fairly sure they can’t even spell “analytics.” And then everyone would lap that up while they continue to run their team in almost purposeful spite of what analytics would say. And then we would spend the season screaming until your eyes bled about how what they’re doing makes no sense. Then they would come out and say they’re ahead of the curve on analytics and just trust them, and the whole cycle would start again.
I guess I missed it.
First of all, if you were so “ahead of the curve,” you would boast about how big your analytics department is. That you had a team of people working on this and presenting it to the GM and coach. You would show off your computer room or something. Fuck, look at the Cubs and all the bleating and boasting they did about their “pitching lab,” which still has produced dick when it comes to pitchers but hey, they’re at least showing you they’re working on it.
The best part of this article, a deep focus on the Hawks trying to blow themselves, is that the counterpoint to it is right in the goddamn middle. The Hawks have one guy, ONE, listed under “Hockey Analytics” on their website. Their department that’s so fucking cutting edge has one dude, and like, maybe an intern or two. Al MacIsaac, who’s basically been a fucking plague in this front office for a decade, mentions “young people.” You know what that means, right? Kids they don’t pay who also get lunch and help the marketing people stuff the blimps that drop t-shirts or whatever. This is not a department. It’s a dude in a dark room with some students sentenced to go visit him once a week for credit.
“Everybody is at a certain place right now,” MacIsaac said, “but they don’t know if they’re in front or they’re way behind.”
They sure don’t, Al.
If the Hawks paid any attention to analytics, they wouldn’t have traded for Olli Maatta. They wouldn’t have thrown in Teuvo Teravainen merely to get Bryan Bickell off the books. They wouldn’t have traded for Andrew Ladd. As mentioned in the article, they wouldn’t have given Brent Seabrook a million years on a contract. They wouldn’t have spiked Q with Brandon Manning (well, knowing the dysfunction in this front office, that still might have happened). They wouldn’t have traded Henri Jokiharju. Good god do you know how long this list could go on? I’m not going to do that you with so little summer left.
Still, the Hawks were one of the worst expected goal teams in the league last year, and the year before that, and yet all they’ve tried to do to turn that around is acquire road-graters on the blue line to block more shots. They just traded one of their d-men who can, supposedly, transition the team from defense to offense, which is what they don’t do well at all and the analytics tell you that. Their hopes to turn that around are pinned to Adam Boqvist and basically Adam Boqvist alone. They will try and sell you that Duncan Keith can still do it, even though he has been declining in possession for a while now. And you expect us to believe they actually pay attention this?
Of course, all this is topped by MacIsaac pretty much dismissing player-tracking. Now, he can get away with this, barely, for now because no one is quite sure when player tracking is actually going to be ready. And when it does roll out, it of course will have some kinks.
But if you’re so far ahead of the game, as the Hawks want you to believe without actually doing anything to back it up, why wouldn’t you gobble up all the data you can? Try and get out ahead and figure out where the kinks are first, but more importantly glean what is viable from it before anyone else? Wouldn’t that be your attitude instead of waving your grandpappy hand and dismissing it at gobbledygook, as MacIsaac does here? How can you be that advanced when you’re not even paying attention?
Once again, the best thing the Hawks front office does is telling you how great they are at something, without actually doing it. They’ve been doing Trump’s act longer than he has. “Oh we’re the best at this, you can’t believe how good we are at it and we really are the envy of the league when it comes to this.” And then you don’t actually do that thing.
McDonough is going to be president in like 2024.