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After eight straight missed playoffs, Oilers hire ‘biggest critic’

Aug 14, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Dallas Eakins of the Edmonton Oilers during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on December 31, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Oilers 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tyler Dellow can be abrasive. He can be caustic. He can, frankly, be kind of a jerk. (Don’t worry, he’s been called worse.) Which is why there will be no shortage of people, many of them in the media, who hope he falls flat on his face in his new role with the Edmonton Oilers.

Dellow — described by the Globe and Mail as “a Toronto-based lawyer turned amateur statistician who had become the organization’s biggest critic over its eight consecutive playoff-less seasons” — has joined the Oilers to be their go-to guy in the burgeoning field of analytics.

You might already know Dellow from his Twitter handle, @mc79hockey, or from his since-shuttered blog, each of which he used to lambaste those in the Oilers organization, as well as those who covered the team.

“I heard through the grapevine [during the year] he was being highly critical of our team,” Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins told the Globe this week.

“That didn’t bother me. I’m like, ‘How can he not be highly critical of our team? We’re in 28th place.’ So of course he was.”

One popular joke is that the Oilers only hired Dellow to shut him up. Consider two of his latest tweets:

And yes, he often projects a rather high opinion of himself. However, that doesn’t mean his analysis is inaccurate, or that he can’t help the Oilers.

It’s worth noting that two of Edmonton’s newest players, Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne, had excellent possession numbers with the Rangers and Devils, respectively. (See: here and here). Did Dellow have a hand in those signings? It’s possible. (Just as it’s possible Kyle Dubas in Toronto had a hand in the Maple Leafs signing David Booth and Daniel Winnik.)


Back in May, it was reported that the NHL was planning to “test new technology to track players in action and produce a vast new array of information,” and that a new system could be in place for 2015-16.

Well, once that flood of data starts, teams are going to need people who can identify what’s relevant and what’s just noise. The Oilers see Dellow as that kind of person.

“He’s sharp,” said Eakins. “He’s more than the one-trick Corsi wonder. He understands everything fully. We think there’s going to be a great opportunity to look at our team in a number of different ways that Tyler can help us.”

Even if he’s kind of a jerk sometimes.

  1. timmons94 - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    i like it…as a Pens fan, the only other team i watch on annual basis is the Oilers…good young talent, amazing fans and great announcers…Kevin Quinn is the best IMO

  2. hockey412 - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Interesting move. I see the point behind it all, and hell they’ve tried everything else…but still…seems to me, if you take an unhappy organization and bring in someone who inherently makes people unhappy just by existing, things get worse, not better.

    • russ99a - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      The only people that Dellow makes unhappy is the mainstream media who are getting paid to pronounce the filtered message from on high.

      So yes this is a victory for the Oilers being smart enough to see things aren’t working and the necessity to make this move and the fans who have one of our own on the inside.

  3. gbart22 - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Most bloggers and writers project a rather high opinion of themselves. It’s nothing new

  4. esracerx46 - Aug 14, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Puck possession is great. But it only goes so far. You’ve got to put the puck in the net too. Otherwise its still 0-0. My fear is analytics goes too far and turns hockey into baseball. A long drawn out low scoring affair.

    • guitarhunterdude - Aug 14, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      …First off, hockey is already a long, drawn-out, low-scoring affair. Average scoring has been at or below that of the dead puck era for several years. I don’t think analytics has ruined baseball either; but that’s mainly because baseball has always kinda sucked.

      I don’t think analytics will slow the game down; they just seem to show that shot differential is the main factor in winning games. How that good shot differential is produced doesn’t really matter. It can be through a trap (New Jersey), suffocating, physical two-way play (Blues, Kings), speedy, high-flying offense (Sharks, Flyers, Blackhawks), it doesn’t matter.

      Basically, teams will continue to play in a way that fits the skillsets of their players, and I don’t think analytics will change things one way or the other.

  5. ray2013 - Aug 14, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    I think analytics has a place, but statistics of any kind still require additional interpretation to properly understand. I’ve seen instances where analytics, without connection to knowledge of tactics and strategy, can lead to mistakes. If the site was still up,

    • rmccleary97 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:30 AM

      This. I was discussing how advanced stats needed interpretation and couldn’t be taken blindly earlier, and someone online chimed in with the usual stuff about Corsi/Fenwick/PDO being predictive and useful. So, I pointed to a couple things:

      1. The 2008-09 and 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers, and
      2. The 2008-09 and 2009-10 Anaheim Ducks.

      The Flyers had (if you ran the data instead of saving yourself some time and looking at raw SOG – or, you can pull it up at Hockey Reference by player) generally terrible advanced stats in 2008-09, but still went 44-27-11. They add Chris Pronger on defense, SOG differential goes from -227 to +243, and … they only go 41-35-6. “Oh. but shooting percentages were down for the Flyers.” Well, yes – but clearly all that domination in controlling shots didn’t do them any favors, which is what we’re constantly told about Corsi and Fenwick – “it drives possession, and that means more wins in the standings.”

      Meanwhile, the Ducks went from having generally solid advanced stats in ’08-09 to generally poor stats in ’09-10, along with SOG differential going from -18 to -267 – almost exclusively on more shots allowed, with a “decline” in the standings from 42-33-7 (91 points) to 39-33-10 (89 points). Again, the major difference in the rosters was that Pronger wasn’t there in ’09-10 – and yet, the change in performance was negligible.

      Obviously, there’s not data to compare who Pronger was playing with on both teams to more positively discern his impact – but when the major difference in rosters between a pair of teams is one guy, and stats markedly improve on the team he goes to while they markedly decline on the other, … well, I have issues with strictly looking at some of the data like some people want to do, and it calls into question the general “usefulness” of those stats if one isn’t willing to take the time to try and interpret what’s going on.

      • ray2013 - Aug 15, 2014 at 4:43 AM

        You articulated my point far more intelligently than I did. I was only going to refer to one exchange Dellow had with Elliott Friedman; where Dellow slammed Elliott for his on-air analysis using advanced stats in the playoffs a few years back. Elliott actually took the time to personally respond, and backed up his analysis with actual quotes from Chara on how their change in strategy and tactics significantly impacted the series. It was not a great day for analytics.

  6. eanxdivr - Aug 16, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    I really hoped that the Rangers would have been able to resign Pulliot…

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