THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

Earlier today, the New York Islanders made a trade, sending a draft pick away and acquiring the rights to Jaraslav Halak. The Islanders, with some of the worst goaltending in the NHL, lost an entire season because they couldn’t find an adequate stopper. If they sign Halak, and that is not known at this time, New York will have addressed the number one need early in the process. That will allow them to focus on the draft—they will probably keep this year’s selection, and a signed Halak will help make Buffalo’s pick next season a low selection—and other areas of need.

The Edmonton Oilers aren’t the kind of team to make this kind of deal, the Flyers are more into this kind of creativity. However, necessity is the Mother of invention and Edmonton should at least look at making a similar move. Edmonton doesn’t have a second or third round pick this season, but might be able to find a trade partner with a 2015 selection. Here are a few players worth looking at right now.

MARK FAYNE EXTRA SKATER

fayne esTOM GILBERT EXTRA SKATER

TOM GILBERT ES

MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI EXTRA SKATER

mikhail grabovski es

DAVID MOSS EXTRA SKATER

DAVID MOSS ES

DUSTIN PENNER EXTRA SKATER

DUSTIN PENNER ES

It’s worth a depth pick. Surely.

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46 Responses to "THE MOTHER OF INVENTION"

  1. jayzz says:

    Surely you jest, we don’t need other teams trash, we have enough of that on our own. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t pick up Halak. I’m not convinced the goaltending is anywhere near solved here.

  2. Truth says:

    I don’t think Gilbert would have any desire to sign in Edmonton, nor do I think 90% of the fans would see any benefit to the signing if he did. Not saying he is a bad player, but I’d rather take his most recent D-partner. The one who is mostly responsible for his positive numbers. I think the fans would overlook the idea if he was signed shortly after acquiring 2 actual top 4 defensemen and it is known he will be playing a depth role.

    If he is the first signing on July 1 or acquired for an actual asset I sense the pitchforks would be out (no matter if it is warranted).

  3. tcho says:

    LT – agreed that for a team with the challenges we face (climate, location, perpetual losers) you’ve got to go the extra mile to get what you want. That’s a good gamble/use of assets.

  4. Zangetsu says:

    All good players, but I think if you trade a pick you give them too much leverage. Two of them were working pretty damn hard for a contract last summer. It’s not like any of these guy are killers. A 2-3line LW, and some 3-4 dmen. Grabo might be a 2C, but rights to talk to him aren’t worth much. Now if a first liner (D or FWD) were involved, it might be worth it.

  5. Woodguy says:

    I don’t remember this being posted yet:

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/27179980-419/advanced-analytics-are-the-blackhawks-secret-formula-for-success.html#.U2Lga_ldV8F

    Great article in the Chicago Sun Times about the Blackhawk’s use of analytics.

    Great stuff.

    I loved this quote from Hitchcock about Quennville:

    And while Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, like Bowman, is reluctant to tip his hand, Hitchcock raved about how Quenneville has changed with the times.

    “He knows exactly which players do well in what zone, where they should start, where they should finish,” Hitchcock said. “He knows how to build his own lineup. He’s a guy that has really adapted. It’s not just adapting to the players, it’s adapting to the information that’s provided to you through analytics.”

    When you look at CHI’s Vollman chart you know all this to be true.

    I know the Oilers toy with analytics.

    I also know that’s all they do, toying around.

    They want a black box that will spit out who to draft, who to trade, who to sign.

    What they don’t get is that they need to build their own database, log their own data (and data of all other teams, including passing, battles etc) and have that information at the ready to inform these decisions and coaching decisions.

    I hope they figure it out soon because they’re going backwards still….

  6. Backhand says:

    Has this blog discussed Peter Mueller? A former first rounder from PHX in ’06 who has shown flashes of amazing offence. Had an insane rookie year, then a great stretch when he first went to Colorado. Has some size and a decent year in the Swiss-A. I don’t remember the complaints but I assume consistency and play away from the puck were some? Would be an interesting pick up.

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=89967

  7. godot10 says:

    The goalie market is way different than the market for other players. There are limited dancing partners at the dance, and as a goaltender you have to make sure you have a dance partner when the music stops.

    Hiller and MIller are on the market. Halak is probably #3. If you are #3, you are likely to sign with somebody for July 1 if they give you a decent offer.

    It is different for defensemen, which particularly this year, will be in favor of the defensemen because of limited supply.

    Any decent defensmen is going to wait till July 1. It is pointless to trade for negotiating rights.

    Especially when MacT has surrendered so future draft picks already.

  8. Woodguy says:

    San Jose will probably be active on the Dman front.

    Their lack of depth on the left side sunk them when Vlasic went down.

    If Mueller makes the team next year he’s a left shot, but I bet Wilson goes to lock down a good one for 2LD.

    If EDM offers Niskinin 4 years at $5MM at SJS offers something similar, you know where he’d sign.

  9. prairieschooner says:

    It is so easy to go suggesting players who are slightly flawed and would be a gamble to pick up but I honestly think the Oilers do not have that luxury.
    They have a group of young players still learning their trade at the NHL level.
    We need to be able to “cover” for those guys first and foremost, and that is by bringing in dependable NHL players.
    The team is not good enough as it stands and every time we introduce a rookie we are compounding the problem.
    Not looking to dump on anyone for something I do too just making a point

  10. prairieschooner says:

    It is hard to believe that the Oilers can not put together a team that will get them out of the basement

  11. speeds says:

    “It’s worth a depth pick. Surely.”

    I don’t think it’s a slam dunk. If you trade for a player’s rights in EDM’s position, I think it’s unlikely that player gives you any sort of deal on the contract, because the player will assume (rightly?) that since you’ve targeted him, you’re willing to pay him some pretty decent money rather than lose him for nothing on July 1.

    I don’t know which decent players will still be available on July 15th, but history tells me there will be a couple. Unless there’s something pretty specific about the player, I don’t think it makes sense to pay above market value price to buy PC Cola when you can just wait and buy the Safeway or Sobey’s brand

  12. speeds says:

    At the same time, I can see the argument for looking around at a guy like Kennedy in SJ, already under contract for one year. He was a healthy scratch and if you can get him at an inexpensive price, without term on the deal, might be something to look at?

  13. One-Timer says:

    Habs can barely get out of their zone but lead by 2 after 2. This mockery of fancy stats cannot be allowed to continue!

  14. Lowetide says:

    One-Timer:
    Habs can barely get out of their zone but lead by 2 after 2.This mockery of fancy stats cannot be allowed to continue!

    Luck is a bitch. She just be.

  15. One-Timer says:

    Lowetide,

    Fancy stats strike back! The Corsi must be ridiculous.

  16. Lowetide says:

    One-Timer:
    Lowetide,

    Fancy stats strike back!The Corsi must be ridiculous.

    5×5 close is 67% Boston. So, yeah.

  17. One-Timer says:

    It should be 6-2 Boston, but instead it’s overtime. Robbery.

    That split-screen GM cam is hilarious – so reality TV.

  18. One-Timer says:

    CBC just flashed a Corsi graphic!

  19. OilLeak says:

    So did Rene Bourque figure out how to play hockey again? Bourque has 4 goals on 24 shots in only 5 playoff games. Bourque had 9 goals in 63 games in the regular season

  20. Ryan says:

    Woodguy:
    I don’t remember this being posted yet:

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/27179980-419/advanced-analytics-are-the-blackhawks-secret-formula-for-success.html#.U2Lga_ldV8F

    Great article in the Chicago Sun Times about the Blackhawk’s use of analytics.

    Great stuff.

    I loved this quote from Hitchcock about Quennville:

    And while Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, like Bowman, is reluctant to tip his hand, Hitchcock raved about how Quenneville has changed with the times.


    “He knows exactly which players do well in what zone, where they should start, where they should finish,” Hitchcock said. “He knows how to build his own lineup. He’s a guy that has really adapted. It’s not just adapting to the players, it’s adapting to the information that’s provided to you through analytics.”

    When you look at CHI’s Vollman chart you know all this to be true.

    I know the Oilers toy with analytics.

    I also know that’s all they do, toying around.

    They want a black box that will spit out who to draft, who to trade, who to sign.

    What they don’t get is that they need to build their own database, log their own data (and data of all other teams, including passing, battles etc) and have that information at the ready to inform these decisions and coaching decisions.

    I hope they figure it out soon because they’re going backwards still….

    When will the a Oilers swallow their pride and hire a very smart but very arrogant prick like Dellow? I’ll be dammed if Dellow wouldn’t work for free for the Oilers. :)

  21. One-Timer says:

    MTL saved their best hockey for overtime, but there’s no way they should win that. I say Boston takes it in 6.

  22. hunter1909 says:

    One-Timer: I say Boston takes it in 6.

    Guaranteed to go 6. Nice game for the Habs to re-open the festering wound lmao.

  23. One-Timer says:

    Hey the last two posts disappeared. We can’t crack jokes about Dellow?

  24. Gerta Rauss says:

    Backhand:
    Has this blog discussed Peter Mueller? A former first rounder from PHX in ’06 who has shown flashes of amazing offence.Had an insane rookie year, then a great stretch when he first went to Colorado.Has some size and a decent year in the Swiss-A.I don’t remember the complaints but I assume consistency and play away from the puck were some?Would be an interesting pick up.

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=89967

    I think the issue with Mueller is/was concussions. FLA took a chance on him after he left COL, but I seem to recall he was hurt quite badly during his time in COL

    He looks great on paper, checks all the boxes including playing C, maybe the pro scouts know something we don’t know.

  25. Gerta Rauss says:

    I was always a proponent of trading for the rights of players prior to UFA citing the same reasons ie: Edmonton needs to work every advantage it can to acquire players.

    I’m not so sure it’s as effective now. With the new CBA there is a shopping period where teams and players can talk a few days prior to UFA . I think this lessens the urgency to trade for a players rights imo

  26. Hammers says:

    Sorry Lt but I don’t see the Oilers doing this let alone some of the players mentioned ( Gilly & Penner ) . Mc T isn’t there yet as he needs to use everything he has to the fullest degree & not on a gamble . I’m one of those hoping for a 3rd rd pick being used to get an established “D” or at least a 3rd or 4th line winger plus a lower pick . I could care less if it’s done tomorrow or draft day . We can’t keep looking at newbies as we will loose the old ones ( ala Hall & Ebs ) . Basically move forward or another shit show .

  27. VOR says:

    Ryan,

    Actually the last thing you want is your analysis conducted by very arrogant people. It is important that they develop models that allow coaches and GMs to make better decisions. Notice please, coaches and GMs are making the decisions. One of the themes at each of the last two Sloan Sports Analytics conferences has been the risk of black box statistical models. That is the model has to be such that the coaches and GMs can understand it, ground true it, and trust it.

    You don’t coach, nor do you serve as a GM in the NHL if you don’t have a fair amount of ego and arrogance at some level. Assume for a moment you hired an advanced stats guy who used numbers to form their own opinions and argued vocally for those opinions. The first time the real world didn’t act like the stats – which in hockey is a lot of the time – the GM and or coach would have the advanced stats guys head on a platter and enjoy crunching on the bones in front of next advanced stats expert.

    I’d suspect what is happening in Chicago started as an exploration of various new ways of looking at the game and is moving through cycles of implementation, analysis, and iteration. That is each concept is tested for its effectiveness and slowly a proprietary model is constructed. No theory is advanced as the one true way. It is more like learning to play go than learning to play x and os.

    Notice based on the article even with years invested the numbers generated still aren’t being shared with the players according to the article. Teams are never clear and upfront about these things because if you did have something that worked then you want to hold on to your competitive advantage and if what you are doing turns out to be crap and it was all just luck then you will look like idiots.

    Given all of which, I will state my point clearly, at the professional level advanced statistical work is about data mining, model building, hypothesis testing (for which you need the cooperation of the GM and coach). This is a very collaborative process. It is no job for somebody who thinks they are better at the GMs job than the current GM.

    I concur that you need somebody who is very smart. On the other hand you failed to mention how important creativity is in this role. This person has to find better ways to use the data you do have or new ways to look at the game if your team is going to develop unique proprietary advantages. Your advanced stats person also needs to know how to work in groups and how to communicate complex ideas in simple ways without sounding like they are talking down or think they are the smartest guy in the room.

    I don’t know enough about Mr. Dellow to have an opinion about whether he is or isn’t arrogant, never mind very arrogant, but if he is in fact blessed with a little too much certainty and can’t keep his mouth shut about it then he won’t last long enough or gain the trust he needs to do the job.

  28. Lowetide says:

    Why do people always say “Sorry, LT” when they post contrary opinions? I welcome them! It’s always a mystery to me as to why people say that. Now, back to scheduled programming. :-)

  29. G Money says:

    Lowetide:
    Why do people always say “Sorry, LT” when they post contrary opinions? I welcome them! It’s always a mystery to me as to why people say that. Now, back to scheduled programming.

    Ooops, sorry about that LT.

  30. G Money says:

    Ryan: When will the a Oilers swallow their pride and hire a very smart but very arrogant prick like Dellow? I’ll be dammed if Dellow wouldn’t work for free for the Oilers.

    Doesn’t Parkatti work at least part of the time for the Oilers?

    One-Timer:
    MTL saved their best hockey for overtime, but there’s no way they should win that.I say Boston takes it in 6.

    You know what Boston needs? Some Ference. That’s what they need.

  31. Lowetide says:

    G Money: Ooops, sorry about that LT.

    No biggie, it’s just a turn of phrase. Old people surprise! :-)

  32. dangilitis says:

    http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=450991

    Ha, “inferior teams” – the Oilers elevated their game, and were certainly not the inferior team when they rattled off 4 straight wins of their own. But LA is a fierce rival, and Edmonton circa 2006 is an inferior team. Seems like biased story-telling.

    The truth is that the Sharks do not get timely goal-tending and they can’t catch a fucking break. And no team gets far in the playoffs without secondary scoring, as smart teams focus their efforts on taking out Thornton, Marleau, Couture, Pavelski.

  33. LostBoy says:

    I personally think that trading for the negotiating rights for pending UFAs should be banned. Maybe every such transaction has been saintly, but the potential for sketchiness is so ridiculous that you have to kind of suspend disbelief. (Like, how many times has it ever lead to the player NOT signing with the team who acquired the rights?)

    That said, if it benefited the Oilers I’d happily do it, as long as this sort of thing is allowed. But there’s not a single player on the above list I’d even consider dropping a late round pick on for this purpose. Well, okay, maybe Pens. I’d take Pens as 3L any reasonable way it could be made to happen.

    David Moss would have been a great idea three years ago. He’ll turn 33 in December. Almost no bottom six players this age deliver what you hope you’ll get, as you watch them in their 30-31-32 seasons. Hendricks won’t. Winnick is a way better target, a three year contract away from where those guys are right now. I’d overpay a bit for him. Hell, Pens and Winnick and we’d be a good way toward a third line you could do something with.

  34. VOR says:

    Ryan,

    Also, a common misconception here is that all mathematical modelling in professional sports starts with the general and becomes specific. It is right there in the name – sports analytics. Some of the most innovative work is being done as synthesis not analysis.

    A recent example is what is now being discussed surrounding how to use your NHL scouts. For years this work was analytic – developing valuations for each pick in each round of the playoffs is an excellent example. Then in the last five years NHL teams have started, as have professional mathematicians, looking at an overall ranking for junior hockey players. That lead to the brilliant realization (and sorry I can’t remember the name of the researcher) that you want to spend your scouting time not trying to figure out which guy you should 3rd third overall but which guy you should pick 199th overall. There is no more to know about the top picks. they have been scouted to death. On the other hand with better knowledge of the lower ranked prospects than the other teams you might find the odd gem everyone else misses and on the back of such players many a Stanley Cup championship has been won.

    Now mind that as soon as every team starts doing it you will lose your advantage. In addition perfect scouting is an impossibility, the development of 18 year olds into grown men is not a straight line and with goaltenders it is so absurdly difficult that statisticians believe the best strategy would be to not bother scouting goaltenders at all. It is not possible to create a perfect metric. That is what the math actually says.

    Given that, then how do you gain a lasting advantage over your competitors at the draft table. Models are being tested now that look at historic trends but the thing is the moving average of the data sets which these analyses are being performed on are constantly changing. What works as a strategy today may well not work tomorrow. This is not because of your competitors catching on but because of conditional changes – diet, more skilled coaches working with ever younger kids, equipment changes, social and economic factors, etc.

    This is why teams at the leading edge of sports strategy are looking more and more to the work of researchers like Daniel Kahneman and others like him that study how decisions are made. This an attempt to extract advantage not from more numbers but from using what you do know in better more constructive ways. Unlike teh current advanced stats in the NHL some of the newer work on decision making is easy to explain and can be used by players to improve their performance. What teams are doing is building mathematical models of various approaches to improving human performance using existing stats not as a way to find new ways but as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of those ways.

    A simple example to close. Gregg Popovich knew the research showed that players that shot better tended to be more efficient shooters. That sounds remarkably tautological but isn’t. You might be a great shooter – say Jerry West – and for years set up in all the wrong places and take all the wrong shots at all the wrong times and still be capable of draining it from the top of your own key with a few seconds to go in the half. However, it usually doesn’t work that way. Most shooters seem like they are better than average because they make smarter decisions about when and where to shoot from or so Popovich thought.

    Popovich also believed that the three from the corners is actually, at this point in time, the most efficient shot in basketball. The Houston Rockets advanced stats guys spent a great deal of time on the problem and managed to prove Popovich was right about the three from the corner – best bang for your buck of any location for a shot. There is still some doubt about how important smart shooting decisions are – though since the 60s the bigger scorers have set up just off center behind the 3 point arc at the top of their opponents key or just out of the paint and one stride from the baseline – two of the three best spots to shoot from.

    Working together Popovich and the staff of the Houston Rockets started working on how to set up to take more shots from the corner with out drawing extra defensive coverage which would wipe out the advantage. This started with explaining to the players what the math was showing but telling them not to force the issue – which might also destroy the efficiency. More of the teams offence was designed to go through the corners giving more players access to the three pointer from there. This is still a work in progress but it gives you an idea how math is being used in conjunction with what is known about strategic decision making to help players improve their performance. Notice it all starts with an intuition based on more than 1400 games as a head coach and is not driven by the advanced stats team.

  35. Clay says:

    Lowetide:
    Why do people always say “Sorry, LT” when they post contrary opinions? I welcome them! It’s always a mystery to me as to why people say that. Now, back to scheduled programming.

    It’s because we enjoy the hell outta what you write so much that we feel guilty about having a contrary opinion.

    That, and because it’s a Canadian thing.

  36. gcw_rocks says:

    Other than Penner, I completely agree with that list. Swap Penner for Hainsey and I think you are there.

    The Oilers have two fourth round picks this year. They should not be afraid to spend them if they can get any of these players negotiating rights.

    Then, fill the prospect gap with some of the remaining college free agents.

    Since its out there that Grabo and Kulimen could be a “pair”, and Washington does seem to be willing to move free agents, I would take a shot at the double, promising Grabo to sign Kulimen if Grabo re-signs in Edmonton.

    Blow the other 4th rounder on whichever one of Fayne, Gilbert, or Hainsey if Jersey, Florida, or Carolina will deal.

    Could fill three NHL roster holes with 2 fourth round draft picks. What’s not to like about that?

  37. gcw_rocks says:

    Woodguy,

    What they don’t get is that they need to build their own database, log their own data (and data of all other teams, including passing, battles etc) and have that information at the ready to inform these decisions and coaching decisions.

    ^
    100 times this! Isn’t that one of the reasons teams now have analytics departments? To help parse through all the data, and provide insights to the coach who doesn’t have time, nor likely the skills, to do it himself? If the Oilers “analytics guys” aren’t tracking stuff like this and feeding it back to the coach, shame on MacT and the analytics guys for not giving Eakins the support a modern coach requires. If they are and Eakins isn’t using it then Eakins is a bad coach.

  38. theres oil in virginia says:

    Clay: It’s because we enjoy the hell outta what you write

    Lowetide,

    I’ll add a “respect the hell outta what you write” and the fact that you’re willing to “put yourself out there” with your thoughts and opinions on the Oilers (and life-stuff). I also have that respect for others who post here that start the conversations with some idea they’ve cooked up. Thanks!

  39. gcw_rocks says:

    From the sun times article. “NBC reported that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock gets advanced stats sent to his phone during games.”

    This is as likely why the Oilers get crushed as their size. Teams are starting to create and leverage data in ways it just doesn’t seem like the Oilers are.

    Sigh.

  40. russ99 says:

    It’s one thing to hire analytics guys, and its another to actually use them.

    And from what we hear in the press, MacT does seem to listen to the analytics group and it shows at least in how he fixed the goaltending self-destruction.

    Hopefully that filters down to assist coaching decisions in the near future.

  41. Hammers says:

    Lowetide:
    Why do people always say “Sorry, LT” when they post contrary opinions? I welcome them! It’s always a mystery to me as to why people say that. Now, back to scheduled programming.

    Showing respect for your opinion . People agree with you 90% of the time and that’s a high batting average .

  42. Surly says:

    This will test MacT’s love of the potential Nurse/Ekblad pairing he mused about around the time of the WJCs

    Damien Cox ‏@DamoSpin 3h
    Florida GM Dale Tallon told PTS he is actively shopping the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NHL draft. Not just accepting offers – shopping it.

  43. hunter1909 says:

    I thought loser teams were supposed to keep their freaking draft picks, but MacT + know better.

  44. art vandelay says:

    When will the a Oilers swallow their pride and hire a very smart but very arrogant prick like Dellow? I’ll be dammed if Dellow wouldn’t work for free for the Oilers.

    If the Oilers need a smug charlatan drawing conclusions based on dubious data, they should visit the corner of Jasper and 101. Maybe that old JW couple are still standing there.

    And if the Oilers need somebody to churn meaningless words through a blender, any Grade 12 graduate will do.

  45. art vandelay says:

    gcw_rocks,

    Remind me which Blue is likely to win the Conn Smythe trophy this year, after the Corgis lead them to the Cup. Oh wait…real life called and hockey is still decided on GF>GA, not shots or sledgehammers or zone starts.

  46. Lowetide says:

    art vandelay:
    gcw_rocks,

    Remind me which Blue is likely to win the Conn Smythe trophy this year, after the Corgis lead them to the Cup. Oh wait…real life called and hockey is still decided on GF>GA, not shots or sledgehammers or zone starts.

    Hi ART!

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