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Industry Standards and Analytics: Any analysis can be analytics

There is no standard in the industry even as bloggers have tried to create one.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets have an analytics department and yet they do not seem to make many decisions that would be backed up by analytics. Why is that? There can be multiple reasons for what people who independently work with analytics find and what a NHL team finds and how they apply that knowledge.

The first reason is simply because not all analytics are interpreted equally. Quite simply analytics is the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics. Anyone can take some numbers, analyze them, and call them analytics. For example, in Elliotte Friedman’s excellent 31 Thoughts, he talked about how he thinks teams are starting to evaluate goalies by using high-danger save percentage. However, he does not know what teams use to define high-danger and if it is even standardized across the league. Unless there are industry standards that teams universally adopt, there will be teams that get suckered into bad data or simply do not see the need for said data.

Secondly, the role of an analytics department is simply to add another voice to the room. While some teams swear by their analytics departments others use them as another voice in the room who simply offer a different opinion. There is no wrong approach to using an analytics department, but that is only true if a team does listen to the department some of the time.

So do the Jets have an influential analytics department? Probably not and the evidence comes from their roster. They insist on having a top six and a bottom six instead of a top nine and bottom three. There is enough evidence with the simplest statistics like Corsi and Fenwick to be comfortable in saying that teams do better when having more skilled players playing. Logic would also be on their side. However, the Jets feel like they need grit on their roster and that is what the bottom six reflects.

Essentially it is impossible to know which NHL teams listen to their analytics departments or not because it is impossible to know what type of data those departments produce and how that data is applied. Unless there is complete knowledge of this information, no conclusions can be drawn about how a team uses their analytics department if they have one. The Jets could easily be making decisions based on what their team deems good, even if other sources show different data.

There is no knowing if the Winnipeg Jets use their analytics department or not. However, we do know that they have one and that they make some interesting decisions anyways. Hopefully the Jets start to use analytics to maximize their roster efficiency because they have a lot of solid pieces not being used effectively.