I was scrolling through my personal Twitter feed on Saturday morning with my cup of coffee, as is tradition. As is also tradition, I saw a bunch of chaos and people arguing, regarding all sorts of topics. However, one in particular caught my eye.
A person, employed as a radio host by TSN, was ripping on Dom Luszczyszyn of The Hockey News' recent article, where he used his Game Score metric, to rank star power that the various NHL teams possessed.
Of course, we know that all metrics have various flaws to them, but there is a lot right in them and they certainly provide useful information. Dom made note of this in his article.
proof some people don't actually read before spewing garbage: this was literally in the article and my mentions were still a dumpster fire pic.twitter.com/3AkflrmxbZ— dom ☀️ (@domluszczyszyn) July 15, 2017
Of course, that did not stop people from yelling at him on Twitter, because why would it?
In particular, it made some Oilers fans very upset, as they do not stack up very favourably in terms of possessing star power, probably because they traded some of them away, but more on that later.
(As an aside, the Flames look very good here. Go Flames!)
Legion of Oilers followers launched attacks upon poor Dom, an intelligent young guy who is doing some very good work in the analytics community.
Dustin of TSN, weighed in with his 2 cents:
After looking even closer at the list in the link it may be one of the worst hockey Rankings I've ever seen. https://t.co/Y0BupnBHVx— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) July 15, 2017
Immediately showing off his critical thinking and openness to new ideas:
I don't need to know why it says those things, I need to somehow go back in time and never see the list. https://t.co/SqHi8lTO2R— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) July 15, 2017
And just overall, looking impressive for somebody whose profession involves speaking about and knowing about the various sports they cover:
I don't need to think critically about my own opinion— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) July 15, 2017
Which really says all you need to know.
Then, My Day Got Real Interesting
I joined the fray, bemused by this "professional's" openness to new ideas and unwillingness to listen to opinions that are not already his own, questioning his flat out denial that Dougie Hamilton was anywhere in the same realm of Drew "His Turn to Win the Norris" Doughty.
This led to an absolute tire fire of exchanges.
I don't agree with a metric that says Drew Doughty is not as much of a "star" as Hamilton. Totally a caveman https://t.co/DdXZhRfzCI— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) July 15, 2017
I questioned that assertion, as the Game Score metric shows Hamilton to be better, as do other methodologies of comparison, such as HERO Charts.
Hey, look at 24 year old Dougie Hamilton vs 27 year old Drew Doughty. And, Hamilton spent a whole year with Russell/Jokipakka. pic.twitter.com/5vTlGENbgO— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) July 15, 2017
However, Drew Doughty has much stronger brand value and Dougie Hamilton plays for the Flames, so Dustin and his crew were not even willing to entertain a discussion on it.
Ha ha so why isn't Hamilton number one D man on team Canada ??? You're the clown .— Lord Duddha (@Duddhism) July 15, 2017
I must have missed the part where Hamilton won a Norris, nominated for one three times and led the defense of his team to two cups.— Hector The Rector (@NoUseForNames) July 15, 2017
Really? Really? If kings mgmt made a straight across trade doughty for Dougie they'd be laughed out of town. Dougie isn't even Calgary's...— Gord Marchand (@gord_marchand) July 15, 2017
Personally, I would not be pleased at all if the Flames traded a younger defenseman who is probably just as good or better, on a cheaper contract. I truly believe the Flames would not make that trade either.
Eventually, We Got Onto the Mildly Contentious Subject of the Hall for Larsson Trade
And you probably think Hall for Larsson was a good trade.— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) July 15, 2017
Basically the entire analytics community has panned the Hall for Larsson trade as being one of poor asset management. Larsson is a solid top-4 defender, Hall is one of the best wingers in the league. The value is not equivalent, whatsoever.
I have some very good friends who are Oilers fans and they like Larsson, but all disagree with how the trade went down. There are many great Oilers writers out there, who think the Oilers botched the trade.
However, there are apparently a lot of people out there who feel very strongly otherwise:
Because of Wins
The only answer to this question is "are the Oilers better with Larsson or with Hall?" End of discussion.— Byron K. (@86fromspace) July 15, 2017
There's these guys names McDavid and Talbot. Jersey didn't have them.— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) July 15, 2017
Yeah cause who cares about winning games...right? Who is with me???— BigBosco (@TheRealBoscoIns) July 15, 2017
The Oilers made their return to the playoffs because Connor McDavid was the best player in the NHL, Oscar Klefbom was healthy all season and Cam Talbot put up elite numbers in the crease. The depth around McDavid was solid, but pieces like Larsson were not the difference between making the playoffs or not.
Apparently, A Lot Of People Know Everything About the Oilers' Dressing Room
Hall was addition by subtraction. Larsson was a bonus.— James Emerson (@jamesemerson37) July 15, 2017
You aren't taking in affect that Hall was the Real cancer in the dressing room and dragging the team down for that who cares about offence.— Chris Max (@CMax83) July 15, 2017
Hall was a cancer in the locker room and franson is a third pairing at best. I'll take a top 4 and a strong culture any day— Ryan Hunter (@MrRyanHunter91) July 15, 2017
Apparently, a lot of people are privy to knowing how things work in the Edmonton dressing room and are well aware of the fact that despite being one of their most productive players and constantly putting out strong efforts, Taylor Hall is a dressing room cancer and the team is blessed to have him away from them.
I am sure this is not just to help the narrative that this was a good trade.
After Pointing Out That Analytically, Cody Franson and Adam Larsson Are Not Radically Different, Things Got Amazing
Somebody asked me what the Oilers were supposed to do, as if trading Hall was the only possible option available in order for them to upgrade their defense. I was getting ready for work, so off the top of my head, I named Cody Franson as somebody who would absolutely have been available and probably stacked up somewhat favourably to Larsson in terms of on ice output.
According to comparisons of their production and shot impacts, Franson looks better than Larsson by a bit.
Of course, it was taken very reasonably, as my boy Ryder said...
Man, the replies to this tweet are insufferable. I feel for you.— Ryder Needham (@RyderN17) July 16, 2017
I made the suggestion that Taylor Hall and Cody Franson combined would have more value than Adam Larsson himself brought to the Oilers. This was taken out of context by a certain radio host and led to a lot of interesting responses from a hoard of Oilers fans who just try so dearly to justify the Hall trade.
I'd take Adam Larson over Cody Franson 11 times out of ten. What is in the water down there in Calgary?— Ryan Hunter (@MrRyanHunter91) July 15, 2017
I believe we need to watch the numbers but this comparison makes me laugh. You just proved analytics are wrong— DiamondLuckyLucy (@gsaapp) July 15, 2017
Numbers don't have bias, they're literally the numbers.— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) July 15, 2017
Apparently, comparing how 2 players have performed, side by side, has proven analytics wrong, because?
Obviously, HERO charts are not a perfect metric, as no metric is. But, if Cody Franson is appearing above Adam Larsson in every category, regardless of whatever side factors HERO charts do not capture, can Adam Larsson really have that much more value than Cody Franson? Goals, assists, shot generation and shot suppression are kind of the most important readily measurable statistics.
How much does it matter if Adam Larsson hits more and skates better than Franson, if Franson is the player consistently yielding stronger results?
If you can acquire a player for next to nothing, that appears to perform at a similar or better level in multiple statistical categories and you get to keep a top line winger instead of trading him, how is that a good trade?
But Nevermind What I Said, Because:
You're taking the word of a calgary fan trying to troll edmonton fans with superficial stats and no analysis as meaningful?— Beaker (@OilBeak) July 16, 2017
Goals, Assists and Shot Share: Superficial Stats.
I was also never trying to troll at any point, I was trying to have a reasonable discussion but that was basically impossible.
Finally, Duncan Keith Got Brought Up For Some Reason?
What a Saturday on twitter. Good night everyone. P.S. Duncan Keith > Dougie Hamilton pic.twitter.com/8OnLyNXh5e— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) July 16, 2017
First of all, how dare he evoke the imagery of Kevin in an attempt to besmirch the name of Douglas Hamilton.
Secondly, our discussion earlier was on Doughty, not Keith, but that was a few hours ago, so who could ever remember, I guess.
Anyway, who is to say who is better between Keith and Hamilton. Keith is a tremendous player, but is age 34 and starting to slip a little. Meanwhile, Hamilton is 24 and just hitting his prime. Either way, it is discussion worthy, not a cut and dry verdict.
So after pressing again for an actual explanation of why it is so obvious that one player is better than another, if both counting stats and analytics cannot be used in the verdict, this is the brilliant answer finally given.
Duncan Keith has two Norris, a Conn Smythe and 3 Cups, Hamilton has nothing, Keith is a bigger "star". Done.— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) July 16, 2017
2 Norris Trophies.
A Conn Smythe.
Even some Olympic Medals!
You know, not like he played on a team loaded with tremendous talent. Also, Norris and Conn Smythe awards are selected by media members, who are not necessarily the greatest judges of who are best (see, Drew "His Turn to Win the Norris" Doughty).
He also never won any of those things until he was 26, so that also kind of destroys that form of ridiculous comparison.
Keith's peak was better than Hamilton has ever been to this point in his career. Does not mean Keith is better than Hamilton today and we do not know how good Hamilton will get.
Yes 3 Cups, 2 Norris, 1 Conn Smythe are my reasons Keith is better than Hamilton. I'm not joking, now get some sleep https://t.co/DKrQvaniUl— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) July 16, 2017
I won't even get into the tremendous array of responses the good people of Oilers Twitter had after this.
Reflections on it All
- Analytics are not everything. But they cannot be ignored either. They have predictive value and help us fight against biases we have that skew our perceptions of the actual reality. For instance, Dustin thinks Adam Larsson is a star because he finished 7th in the NHL in hits last year, but how much value are there in those hits if Cody Franson is still outperforming that player?
- I got called a fanboy a lot for supporting Douglas Hamilton's ability. Yes, I do support the Flames, but also by watching all of their games, I see how good of a player he is? Besides the numbers showing he is elite, watching the games shows he is elite. Not really sure why I should not think a very good player is very good.
- Plus, for anyone who has read my pieces before, I am very willing to be critical of the Flames when they make decisions that seem poor in my opinion. I had pieces questioning the abilities of Troy Brouwer, Michael Stone, Curtis Lazar, Deryk Engelland, Matt Bartkowski. I even wrote a piece about how awful Sean Monahan was playing earlier in the season and I have a Sean Monahan jersey, I love Monny. But, just fanboying!
- People like to say something along the lines of "watch the games". I'm sure people that choose to get into analytics do it just for fun, with no interest in watching hockey at all? It could not possibly be that very diehard fans of hockey are looking at deeper ways to understand the game beyond religiously watching games.
- I watched almost every Calgary Flames game this season, a lot of Winnipeg Jets games and a lot of Edmonton Oilers games. Among many others. I watched the games, I look at the numbers. Things almost always match up if you are not trying to watch from a biased perspective.
- Personally, I love learning and will be a life long learner. I always was interested in school, I read about all sorts of things, I graduated from University at age 22, travelled the world for months and am going to Graduate School in September. Humans have brains for a reason, why not continue to improve upon them on a regular basis? When something does not align with my preexisting beliefs, instead of shutting it out immediately, I try and comprehend it and look deeper into it. What is the value in flat out denying something, when humans are fallible and make judgement errors all of the time.
- That is what I find so frustrated about Mr. Nielson, along with a vast array of mainstream media, he is not the only one. Their actual profession is talking about sports and communicating information to the viewers, readers or listeners. Should you not be constantly trying to have an open mind to new ideas, so that you can better understand the subject you have chosen to revolve your career around? By being willfully ignorant and dismissive, you are letting down your listeners and yourself.
But, I just write thoughts for a website so what do I know.
I just know I am excited for the new season to come around.
We've had fun with the good people of oilers Twitter. Let's just remember. Flames got Hamilton for basically same price they got Reinhart.— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) July 15, 2017