It could well be the most controversial personnel move made by an NHL team this off-season. And what’s remarkable is that it wasn’t the addition of a new coach, general manager or even a player. Instead, it was the Edmonton Oilers reaching into their own fan base last week and hiring Tyler Dellow, a Toronto-based lawyer turned amateur statistician who had become the organization’s biggest critic over its eight consecutive playoff-less seasons. After a unique courtship that involved the team flying him out for a demonstration of what he could do with data a year ago, the Oilers were finally pushed to commit last week when other NHL teams came to Dellow with job offers. Even though he was hotly pursued in what’s been dubbed hockey’s “summer of analytics,” the hiring was then heavily criticized, primarily by members of the Edmonton media whom Dellow had ripped for years on both social media and his website, mc79hockey.com. Smart, caustic and sometimes over the top, Dellow had made some enemies. Few, however, were in the Oilers front office. “I heard through the grapevine [during the year] he was being highly critical of our team,” Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said on Tuesday. “That didn’t bother me. I’m like, ‘How can he not be highly critical of our team? We’re in 28th place.’ So of course he was.” “I think the criticism of Tyler has been his ability to challenge people forcefully in a conversation and defend what he believes in,” Eakins added. “But I’ve got no problem with that. I like that he’s got a goddamn opinion. That’s what you need when you’re in these meetings.” In any other summer, a lower-level hockey operations hire – even one as curious as Dellow – would have been more under the radar. But the Oilers were following a trend that has more organizations trying to add number-crunchers.
Oilers hiring move deepens league’s interest in analytics
The Globe and Mail | Aug 13