Oilers Positives and Negatives 2013-2014

oilers_sabres_hockey_30120629-e1391483874353

Source: O.Canada.com

It’s disappointing when something doesn’t meet your expectations. It’s even more disappointing when your expectations weren’t even that high to begin with.

My prediction at the start of the year was that the Oilers would finish between 10th and 12th in the west. RNH was recovering from shoulder surgery. Gagner got hurt in pre-season. And, compared to playoff teams from last year, the Oilers defensive core lacked NHL talent and experience. Add to the fact you had a coaching staff with very little experience and a very young top-six, I just couldn’t see this club making the playoffs as a wild card.

Going through my Oilers posts from this season, I’ve compiled what I think were the positives (believe it or not, there were some) and negatives.

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“Fistic Ice Savvy”: An Example of Irresponsible Sports Journalism

hordichuk2After being sent to the minors by the Edmonton Oilers, Darcy Hordichuk was recently  interviewed by long time hockey writer, Jim Matheson. The article wasn’t anything unique, but one line stood out in particular.

I think the Oilers still need Hordichuk, even in limited minutes because he has fistic ice savvy, but the roster size is very limiting when they’re carrying eight D.

Fact is, Hordichuk is a 32-year old enforcer, with years of experience in the NHL and the minors. But nothing in particular sets him apart from other enforcers. His stint with the Oilers, in my opinion, hasn’t been anything to write about.

Jonathan Willis of Oilersnation provided a play by play description of every event involving Hordichuk in a recent game. Pretty much sums up his usefulness on this team. So it wasn’t surprising to see him get sent to the minors.

Matheson provides a summary of how Hordichuk is doing in the minors, which is fine. But describing him as having “fistic ice savvy” is just bad sports journalism.

For one, it’s a made-up description with a very unclear definition. At no point has Matheson clarified what “fistic ice savvy” entails or who else might have this quality.

Secondly, there’s no way to measure this. I’m not asking for detailed data metrics and methodology. But how do you know you’re fistic and have savvy? Is it when you fight? Where on the ice you fight? Who you fight?

Thirdly, and most importantly, “fistic ice savvy” is a perfect example of the misinformation that surrounds professional hockey. Rather than make a claim, explain its rationale and then provide examples, Matheson uses a vague description of Hordichuk and leaves it as is. Not even an attempt is made to support “fistic ice savvy”.

Matheson is definitely a good hockey writer, but more detailed information should be provided when making claims. More and more of his readers are knowledgable fans, and claiming Hordichuk is anything more than an enforcer is just irresponsible journalism.

Hockey Bloggers with Press Passes

Without a doubt, a tension exists between hockey bloggers and those who work as members of the mainstream media (MSM). The lines that separate the two groups have blurred as both fans and those with official press passes to cover the game interact and participate online. Communication tools and software have become more readily available and easier to use, allowing anyone with a basic understanding of the technology, and an interest in the game, to participate online.

In the past few years, bloggers have made the jump to more mainstream platforms and  we’ve also seen those with press passes, such as fomer Edmonton Journal writer Robin Brownlee, get into blogging. In his latest post for OilersNation, “Deep Thoughts XXIV: Ties that bind”, he had this to say about the current state of hockey coverage: Continue reading

Collaboration and Hockey Analytics

Source: WIkimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Data analytics is a collaborative exercise with the network (both operational and social) being a critical component of any analysis. The right environment has to be in place for people to contribute, develop and share data. To transform the data into information,  context is drawn from the network as individuals apply their backgrounds, experiences and ideas to push the development of a concept. Once the data transforms into information (and later knowledge), the network will distribute the information to those who can use it and develop it further.The importance of collaboration was highlighted at the Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud conference, which presented various topics related to data analytics such as health, productivity and community. One session of personal, and academic interest, was related to professional sports. A description of the session: Continue reading

Between World of Warcraft and Fantasy League

Through different tools and applications, the space between fans and professional athletes has diminished significantly. The conduit between the two parties has been removed as social media replaces traditional media outlets as information distribution platforms. A new relationship exists between fans and professional athletes as the rules of engagement are still being worked out.

Recently, a blogger compiled some statistics to examine the amount of chances a team creates when a certain defencemen are on the ice. Using both traditional hockey stats and advanced statistics, Dellow pointed out how Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney struggled in comparison to his teammates. Dellow then posted his findings on Twiiter, much to the chagrin of Whitney.

Not surprised the blog post upset Whitney. Reputation is critical for professional athletes and their market value. But the work of hockey bloggers is becoming more and more engrained in the mainstream information surrounding the game of hockey. Fans are analyzing the game and using various communication tools to create, develop and share information that reaches professional athletes and managers.

Whitney’s tweet was trying to reduce the significance of the blogger by portraying the individual as someone who’s distant from the game. I do agree that bloggers are similar to World of Warcraft and fantasy league fans as they all engage within a participatory culture. All three categories include fans who do more than just consume, but also produce new, creative content.

But it would be in Whitney’s best interest to see fans more than just passive consumers of the game. Rather than mock the blogger, Whitney would be better off either ignoring the critique completely or raise counter-arguments. The last thing he should do is mock fans who participate as contributors to the information surrounding the game.

Blogger Part of Oilers’ Analytics Team

Source: Wikimedia Commons

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal reported Friday that the Edmonton Oilers have employed an analytics team to assess player and team performance. Interesting timing, since a growing number of NHL teams, including the Oilers, have representatives at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this weekend in Boston. The Oilers’ analytics team is made up of “university professors, business analytics specialists and hockey bloggers with analytics expertise” (Staples, 2012). One member of the team is Bruce McCurdy, a contributor for The Copper and Blue blog, as well as the Edmonton Journal’s Cult of Hockeyblog.

It’s great to see the Oilers recognize the contributions a blogger can make to the information and knowledge surrounding professional hockey. Enough research and evidence exists that demonstrates the benefits of blogs. Allowing anyone to participate, providing less restrictions compared to other publications and allowing individuals to collaborate are just a few of the benefits. Unfortunately, the hockey club fails to acquire the full benefits of blogging communities. McCurdy can definitely be that link between the hockey team and the online community, but to really benefit from the collective intelligence of fans more would need to be done. Moving away from the traditional producer-consumer business model to one that welcomes participation and engagement from more fans would increase the chances of uncovering information and knowledge that could benefit the club. This would include the Oilers management being active, trusted participants within the community without trying to control and dominate the development. As it stands, the collective intelligence generated within blogging communities is still uncharted territory.

Yochai Benkler (2011) put it best:

For the commons has finally come into its own. Because in today’s knowledge economy, the most valuable resources – information and knowledge – are themselves a public good, and the best way to develop and maximize this good is through millions of networked people pooling that knowledge and working together to create new products, ideas, and solutions (pg. 153).

Related: Blog post from last year regarding the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference here.

Related: Blog post about a hockey blogger looking to crowdsource data collection for analysis here.

Benkler, Y. (2011). The Penguin and the Leviathan: The Triumph of Co-operation over Self-Interest. New York: Crown Business.

Staples, D. (2012, March 2). Oilers start up analytics group to delve into Moneypuck issues. Edmonton Journal Cult of Hockey. Retrieved March 2, 2012 from http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2012/03/02/oilers-start-up-analytics-group-to-delve-into-moneypuck-issues

The Hockey News: 100 People of Power and Influence (2012)

Source: The Hockey News

Different list, same flaws.

The Hockey News released its annual list of people with power and influence this month. I mentioned last year that the list completely ignores those with online influence and even cited one blogger who broke a major story in 2011. The good news is they included Dellow in their list this year. The bad news is, they ignored everyone else.

Here’s what Jason Kay, the editor of The Hockey News, says about the top 100 people of power and influence:

“We consult handfuls of industry experts to validate, or deny, names we have in mind and to unearth people we may not have considered. And it’s important to us that the list reflects all aspects of our world: from executives to players; from heads of industry to media; from viewers to doers” (P. 4).

First off, there isn’t much to get fired up about since the list lacks any real research. Its based on the top newsmakers of the years, plus the opinions of those within the hockey community. Secondly, Kay (2012) wants to reflect all aspects of our world, but leaves out fans and online activity. The kicker for me is the last part claiming that the list wants to include everyone “from viewers to doers” (P. 4). How about viewers that are doers? Fans that do more than just consume the product but actually do something with what’s available.

I’ll leave it to The Hockey News to come up with their lists. But until they start exploring more than newsmakers and use valid and reliable research methods, it’ll lack any credibility.

Campbell, K. (2012). 100 People of Power and Influence. The Hockey News, 65 (14), p. 16-31.