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Guest Blog: Bringing Analytics to Smashville

Editor’s Note: Andrew Hirsh has launched Saber-Toothed Metrics – a truly unique blog in a land of very good Predators blogs – and we asked him to introduce it to our reader base as a way of helping understand all of these “fancy stats” that you see get thrown around and why they matter.

More than a decade ago, a small corner of the Internet was carved out to discuss hockey in a fresh, innovative way. This community, shaped by passionate hobbyists, laid the groundwork for a movement akin to the one Bill James orchestrated in the 1970’s.

In 2008, Tim Barnes realized shot attempts can serve as a proxy for puck possession. Barry Trotz’s Capitals hired him last week.

Eric Tulsky, who discovered the true importance of controlled zone entries, has worked for multiple NHL teams—including the Predators.

Tyler Dellow ruthlessly criticizing the Oilers on his website, often citing advanced stats to prove their ineptitude. Edmonton brought him on board in August.

Sunny Mehta, also a former Oilers blogger, was snatched up by the Devils in June.

The Maple Leafs, famous for their poor shot differential over the last two seasons, hired numbers-savvy Kyle Dubas as their assistant GM. Dubas has since formed an impressive analytics department in Toronto, one that’s comprised of former bloggers.

The list goes on and on.

Of course, not everyone has embraced this movement. Lots of digital ink has been spilt over the fight between advanced stats proponents and traditionalists. Those who swear by the eye test might tell you Corsi is a bunch of crap; others will swear by Corsi’s power.

But if the stubborn traditionalists are right, why has almost every NHL club embraced analytics? Why has almost every contender over the six years been a stats darling? Why has Corsi and Fenwick and PDO been so much better at predicting future outcomes than the “experts”?

The answers to these questions should be obvious. As was the case in baseball, basketball, soccer and football, the numbers won. The war is over.

Fans have certainly noticed this shift. What was once a small corner is now a vast space where droves of readers visit every day. Even mainstream outlets such as Yahoo, TSN and Sporting News have adjusted accordingly.

However, few have been able to relate this subject to Nashville, which brings me to the crux of the matter.

I, a writer with too much free time, have launched a Predators blog focusing on analytics. My goal is to use that platform to help local fans learn about the new concepts that are transforming hockey.

For those who don’t know me, I’ve been writing about hockey since 2007. From 2009-13 I covered the Hurricanes; last fall I covered the Preds during my brief stint in Tennessee.

My career took me out of Nashville, but I still want to discuss the game on a regular basis. Thus, the blog was born.

I’ve published a few posts already, which you can read at I wouldn’t expect detailed articles after every game, but you’ll find 2-4 stories per week that (mostly) focus on the big picture.

And if you’d like, you can follow me on Twitter @PredsAnalytics. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua