With the application of analytics continuing to proliferate across the sports landscape, it’s led to an occasionally uneasy relationship between those with a more traditional approach and those who embrace the statistical input.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was recently asked by Boston Sports Journal reporter Conor Ryan about how the team takes the wealth of information provided by the analytics department and utilizes it in an effective way.
“You could take as much out of it as you want,” Cassidy told Ryan. “We can’t go in as coaches in a pregame meeting and tell [the players], ‘Okay New Jersey’s 15th in neutral zone…you know what I mean? You’ll lose the players. But for us, it’s a tool.”
Cassidy continued with his hypothetical example to illustrate specific concepts that the analytics might help with on a given night.
“Okay, they don’t defend the blue line well. I’m not saying [New Jersey] does, I’m just using this an example,” Cassidy explained. “They enter with puck possession a lot, so our neutral zone defense if that’s the case needs to be really rock solid, so we force some dumps, because they’re not used to that, they don’t generate off of forecheck.
“You get stuff like that to help build your game plan,” he added. “That’s what the analytics does for the staff for the most part.”
In addition, Boston uses a 10-game sample size to keep track of higher level trends.
“You can sort of see where your team is over a period of time,” Cassidy noted.
The coaching staff and analytics team communicate to help reach a final product of team analysis.
“We’ll make a few calls a year if there’s a number in there that looks off,” Cassidy said of the data. “How come? First is how’d you calculate that, because there are a lot of different columns in there.”
“And a lot of nerds upstairs inventing new columns too,” Cassidy joked. “And good for them. Gives them something to do, keeps them busy, keeps them upstairs, not downstairs. But some of those columns you end up [saying], ‘Oh, that’s a good one, I like that one.'”
Ultimately, Cassidy said he has a favorable view of the analytics team.
“We have two good guys up there by the way. They’re good nerds.”