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Drop The Gloves: Eye Test Can’t Be The Ultimate Decider

Welcome to another version of’ favorite battle ground, “Drop The Gloves.” Where two writers on the site disagree with each other, state their points, and let you decide who’s right.

Last time we argued over the activity, or inactivity, of the Las Vegas organization in the first few weeks. Now, it’s time to Drop The Gloves on analytics. The original article by Dana titled “McPhee/McCrimmon Scheming At The Ivan Hlinka” is being challenged by Jason. Please vote in the poll at the bottom to choose your side.


There’s no guaranteed success when drafting a player. Missing on a draft selection sets a club way back in its progression. The time and money spent on prospects makes it imperative to get it right. That’s why GM George McPhee and Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon are getting a head start at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.

But when I think of the Las Vegas franchise, I picture a team that needs to be creative. Being forced a roster of NHL pros doesn’t always work out. Having an outside chance of the number one pick in the amateur draft is another dilemma. McPhee may have to play “Moneypuck” to find other ways to gather talent. That’s why Dana was right about highlighting the Czech tournament. However, I respectfully disagree with my colleague on the scouting strategy Las Vegas should adopt.

Having the access to Misha Donskov’s metric system could be a game changer. Granted, Dana is correct, Corsi can’t tell you if a small player gets knocked off the puck easily, but puck possession might. Dana’s 100% right that you can never replace scouting live hockey games, but decisions aren’t made at the rink anymore. A scout is at the game, it gets recorded, information is journaled and sent back to hockey headquarters. It’s up to the organization if they want to use advanced statistics to analyze targeted prospects.

Scouting has changed, just listen to the scouts.

The computers, the size of the staff, the investment that some teams wisely put into it and the lack of investments some teams don’t put into it. –David Conte, NHL Professional Scout

Conte, who is rumors to be coming to Vegas, suggests a balanced system that’s a mix of Dana’s eye test and Donskov’s database.

A lot of factors have changed over the last 20 years, but clearly, technology has changed the profession… Video is much more accessible on players, teams and tournaments and that’s just the beginning. Not only can scouts see a player they have interest in more often, but they have options should they not be able to see a player ‘live.’  The more information the better for decision-making, so if there’s value in the use of fancy stats, and in my opinion there absolutely is, then teams should absolutely be using them for their own benefit. I think all teams can confirm viewings, although in my experience, stats and viewings are so close, if not complimentary. It’s looking for anomalies and items that could give cause for concern that provides the greatest benefit. For instance, viewings and traditional stats may indicate a particular dimension of a player, while the advanced or fancy stats trigger some alarm bells that teams can use to further make better decisions. —Gus Katsaros, NHL Professional Scout

If McPhee drafts on gut feeling and educated eyes only I’m worried. Donskov was hired for a reason, and hopefully his skills are used to their full capacity. I’m not saying completely erase the old school style of scouting, but balance may work best in Las Vegas. McPhee may miss on picks, but using advanced statistics can limit expensive mistakes. Something that’s incredibly valuable in today’s NHL.

Dana said, “our organization will be be built McPhee’s gut” and “nothing replaces a gut feeling,” well I’m here to say, it’s not 1962 anymore, so I hope that’s not the case. I hope they use analytics, video, and anything else they can find to help in evaluating players. Because if this team is built off the gut of one man, we’re in for a long and arduous existence.


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  1. pfh64

    I’m a believer in the eye test, but I’m old. Under today’s conditions, the “Moneyball” approach is needed, but not at the expense of eyes. They both are needed. No computer science is going to tell you if a guy is clutch. No technology is going to tell you if a guy is afraid.

    At the same time, everyone’s looking for an edge, and that can be “analytic”. If it was all about the eye test, how come Edmonton isn’t making the playoffs, let alone winning Cups? I mean besides bad management and bad coaching, and not spending any of those picks on defense or goaltending.

    • Jason

      Good points Ph… I’m really a believer in using what is available. Some teams really dig deep and do their homework with advanced stats. Some teams don’t. I’d like Vegas to be on the cutting edge of statistics, and analytics. Like I said in the piece, they’ll make mistakes, but using advanced stats could help them from making a costly mistake.

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