July 29 2013 04:03PM
Kudos to Alec Brownscombe for yet another interview with a Toronto Maple Leafs higher-up. This time? Dave Poulin, VP of Hockey Ops.
The money quote is Poulin's response to this query from Brownscombe about Tyler Bozak's scoring ability:
AB: What makes Tyler Bozak a better match for Phil? Bozak finished 41st in scoring among centers. What does he bring to the first line center role that isn’t visible in his numbers?
DP: Rather than even focus on the actual numbers of Tyler Bozak, I’d look at the numbers of Phil Kessel while he’s playing with Tyler Bozak. I believe it’s only three or four players who have scored more goals than him in the last five years in the league. You’ll have to dig that one up to see if that is in fact what the stat is. He’s produced at a high rate, but there’s been so much focus on that [number one center] position. When Tyler, and maybe he continues to grow into a more offensive role, when Tyler came into that position he had a pretty good chemistry with Phil Kessel and whoever has been on the left side has done fairly well themselves. And maybe you don’t look at it so much as your first line centre. If you said, hypothetically, that your first line is going to be JvR – Bozak – Kessel and your second line is going to be Lupul – Kadri – Clarkson, there’s not as much pressure on the first line center spot. I think there’s been an unfair criticism of Tyler Bozak in a role that he’s been put into and has continued to get better at.
Pretty unbelievable that nobody in the Leafs' front office thought to look at any outside information. It's worth noting Phil Birnbaum's point again, that analytics are usually best for avoiding bad decisions. Tyler Dellow recently tweeted out an idea that teams don't even need a statistical analyst to do every move, just somebody who can pull up a bunch of numbers for any move as a sort of devil's advocate to groupthink.
It is good to know Poulin also doesn't happen to have the stat handy, or know whether Kessel is 3rd or 4th on the list that we would determine as being a fairly important indicator of Kessel's success. More likely, Kessel scored a lot of goals with Bozak because he's a very good offensive player and happened to play with Bozak often. Correlation does not imply causation.
Kessel scored at a much higher rate away from Bozak than with Bozak. That tells you something, and it's not like 'goals per 60 minutes' is an advanced statistic any more than 'division' is an advanced mathematical concept.