Analytics Vs. Culture: Why Can’t It Be Both?

Most of you know famed Edmonton Oilers vlogger Ryan Robinson but if you don’t know who he is, I suggest you head to his Youtube Channel and get to know him quick before he’s snapped up by a major media outlet.

I don’t know how he does it but he manages to capture my thoughts exactly how they SHOULD be and how I want them to come out. He can be a bit of quirk at times but I dig his brand of humor.

ryan robinson chiarelli

Robinson’s latest vlog has him going off on fans and bloggers of the Oilers regarding how they are STILL arguing about the Taylor Hall trade and analytics versus hockey culture. Check it out below. I’ll give my comments under the clip.

  • FYI: I’m going to be tossing out #fireableoffense all year long

The thing is, after struggling early in the season, when did the A’s start winning? It was after Billy (Beane) came into the dressing room and realized that something needed to change.”

  • How many times do you think that happened in the last 2-3 seasons with the Oilers but the GMs were handcuffed either by the market or by ownership?

“He had been treating these guys like numbers on a spreadsheet and forgetting they’re human beings.”

  • Bingo! I won’t say that there’s a be-all end-all answer to winning in sports or life for that matter but I will say that numbers can take you anywhere YOU want to go. Now whether that’s the right destination or not, therein lies the debate.

“He (Billy Beane) changed the culture of the team”

  • After championing for Giambi for his numbers regardless of the “attitude” or “character flaws” he was warned about by his scouts, Beane realized his mistake (wouldn’t admit to it) and set him on his way.
  • In the movie we see Beane go into the locker room after a loss and catch Giambi and a few other teammates having a bit too much “fun”.
  • In the book, author Michael Lewis offers up a couple of tidbits (p.200-201) that you might be keen to hold close to the vest for future reference when Larrson starts paying dividends for Edmonton,

    “In a silent rage, Billy called around the league to see who would take Jeremy off his hands. He didn’t care what he got in return.”

    “When Billy (Beane) traded Jeremy Giambi, the A’s were 20-25; they’d lost 14 of their previous 17 games. Two months later, they were 60-46. Everyone now said what a genius Billy Beane was to have seen the talent hidden inside John Mabry. Shooting Old Yeller had paid off.”

  • Taylor Hall is no Jeremy Giambi (at least to my knowledge), let’s get that straight but it does speak to the inner workings of a locker room and how one change can set the tone.

“There shouldn’t be an analytics vs. culture debate! You need both to be successful!”

  • This is something that many come to forget, myself included. I tend to fall on the culture side of things and rely on the numbers when need be. But Robinson hit’s the nail on the head here.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a group of highly skilled players if there’s no chemistry and cohesion and everyone pulling in the same direction. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a great group of guys, really tight-knit group, if they all skate on their ankles. You need both, you need a balance.”

  • In Peter Chiarelli’s press conference on July 1st of this summer he said there’d been some “attitudinal change” based on what they’d done. Off the bat that says part of trading Taylor Hall was due to attitude. Part of bringing in Milan Lucic and Adam Larsson was due to attitude.

“It’s not even hockey culture, it’s not even sports culture. It’s job culture. It’s the relationship dynamics in your working environment. It’s how people in an organization interact with one another. 

And the Oilers had a serious problem in this area. 

Contrary to what some people believe, not all fans bring this up to try to “feel better” or “justify” the Taylor Hall trade. I mentioned this being an issue way back in March.”

  • Is this where the numbers fall off a bit? Can we analyze how the dressing room culture through numbers?

Darren Dreger, David Perron, Andrew Ference, Todd McLellan (1,2,3), Eric Belanger have all made remarks about this being an issue as well. 

These statemens are TRUE.

These guys didn’t just wake up one morning and say “Gee, I think I’m gonna fabricate a bunch of stuff about there being a problem in the Oilers dressing room and I’m going to tell the media about it””

  • We can add Oscar Klefbom and Ben Scrivens to that list now as well.
  • On Oilers Now! Mark Spector was asked about his opinion regarding the comments frmo Klefbom and Scrivens and his reply was predictable. He said Klefbom should worry about how he plays versus the best teams in the league and staying healthy, whilst Scrivens’ comments don’t hold much water because 30 NHL teams didn’t want him and now he’s a KHL goalie.
    • Yet the head coach has said as much without saying names but these two former teammates’ comments should be dismissed outright.

“Make no mistake about it, Taylor Hall’s presence on the Edmonton Oilers was negatively impacting the team.”

“I am not referring to Taylor Hall’s character as a person nor am I referring to his skill set as a player. I AM talking about what he had come to represent in the Oilers dressing room. 

He was the face of entitlement. 

And this was no fault of his own. He came in at 18 and was handed the keys to the city and anointed the saviour. Rather than being brought along by a strong leadership group, he was allowed to run amok out on the ice, doing as he pleased. And firing the coach on almost a yearly basis relieved Hall of any responsibility for the way he conducted himself.”

  • I couldn’t agree more here. Not holding the kids responsible was a huge mistake. Not bringing in the right veterans and having their back tore the team apart and caused cliques to form.

So now that we have a coaching and management team that is willing to hold players accountable and is willing to bring in the right kind of players, I am fully behind this team being able to make huge gains compared to what they’ve been doing for the past decade.

Walter Foddis is actually planning on publishing a post showing how the Oilers were actually a playoff team in the last 25 games of the season last year. I’ll be interested to read that for sure because I know their real record was 8-16-1. I wonder how much culture talk will be included though?

Let us know how you feel about Ryan Robinson’s vlog in the comments below!

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I'm the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I've been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I'll never leave my Oilers, no matter what! They're with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • Joe

    To be coachable with the ability to mature in team context or not, that is the question. Yes, Taylor Hall did run rampant and lose the puck too much, but was he really spoiled and entitled (and trying to do too much himself) as opposed to ready to learn and develop within McLellan’s team concepts?

    I for one think he did want to be PART of the solution; and Chiarelli blew the trade badly as he did with the Reinhart trade incompetence because (1) Chiarelli’s only real concept is big/heavy/play hard aka Bruin Hockey and (2) Chiarelli made it his goal to get to the playoffs ASAP as opposed to build a team that would dominate for years.

    The saving grace is the luck of getting Puljujarvi, who could turn out better than Hall.

    • Beer League Hero

      Great points Joe!

      I’d counter by saying that it wasn’t just this year where Hall’s been allowed to do what he wishes. In fact, I’d say this past season he was absolutely grounded by McLellan and Chia. As for Chiarelli, It’s too soon to tell about the Hall and Reinhart trades but he knows how to build a winner and it’s big/heavy/play hard. Have the Oilers not been completely ran over by those teams in the last 5 to 6 years? I would agree with you however on his mandate of needing to win ASAP.

      • Joe

        Regarding the Hall trade there’s something that may not have been factored in enough: Hall’s home was chosen as McDavid’s residence.
        Let’s assume that Oiler management and ownership wants McDavid to form the strongest possible affinity for Edmonton and wants to maximize McDavid’s motivation for a career with the Oilers, knowing full well remoteness, travel, weather and years of losing are significant negative factors.
        If there was any doubt about Hall’s being part of the solution, having a positive attitude, and being committed to the team and community, then Hall’s home is not where McDavid takes up residence.

        In light of this I think the Hall trade was a flagrant act of desperation by a desperate GM.

        I think losing out on the likes Kyle Connor and Brandon Carlo last year was similarly bad, just not so apparent as they’re just prospects. If Reinhart had come in and been a top 4 RHD, then fine. But Reinhart didn’t help at all; he lumbers, is slow, and he never won’t be slow.

        Today’s winners are the Pens, Hawks, and Lightening … not the Bruins. Not arguing with getting the added beef of Maroon, Kassian, and Lucic, but adding those guys is independent of losing Hall and two high first round grade prospects.

        • Beer League Hero

          That’s an interesting theory Joe but perhaps it was the other way around. Maybe McDavid was put with Gazdic and Hall to see what was really going on there. That being said, the attitude, commitment, being part of the solution; I don’t doubt that Hall was lacking in that but I do think that he may have alienated himself from the rest of the players in the locker room. From what I’ve seen during TV spots and interviews, just last season is when he started to mature. If that’s the case, I shutter to think what he was like in the dressing room.

          Do I think the Oilers won that deal without considering the Oilers adding Lucic and Puljujarvi? No, Hall for Larsson is not a fair deal on paper. Do I think the team will be better standings-wise now that there’s more balance to the team? I do.

          Keep this thing in mind,

          Pens: Crosby/Malkin/Kessel/Letang/Murray
          Chicago: Toews/Kane/Keith/Crawford
          Tampa: Stamkos/Drouin/Hedman/Bishop

          Each one of these teams have players, some of their own and some not, who were high draft picks. Crosby, Stamkos, and Toews were once in a similar situation to McDavid. But now it’s time for the Oilers to move up.

          Edmonton: McDavid/Eberle/Klefbom/Larsson/Nuge/Talbot/Lucic

          It’s pretty good and only to get better with Draisaitl and Yakupov, Puljujarvi, Benson, and Caggiula.