Everyone now agrees that analytics are useful to improve our understanding of the game of hockey, but how they are implemented by coaches does vary.
Speaking at our 2020 Virtual Hockey Summit, San Jose Sharks assistant coach Dan Darrow explained how he incorporates analytics for his pre-scouting work.
Now in his sixth season as the Sharks’ video coach, Darrow moved to San Jose following four years as the director of hockey operations with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
“We use analytics a lot, but trying not to be overbearing with them is our philosophy here in San Jose. We don’t want it to be the only thing we look at and we don’t want it to be just video. We want to use it as a tool to help us,” said Darrow, who does 5-on-5 pre-scouts by creating a package and a game plan for each opponent.
“We don’t want it to be too centric about what the other team’s doing, we want to worry a lot about us.”
While analytics are used as a tool during the regular season, they become increasingly useful during the playoffs Darrow says, when you get more time to focus on one opponent for a two-week span.
“During playoff time, we do more of a deep dive, and that’s where we really use the analytics.”
While he has clearly incorporated advanced stats into his work with the Sharks, Darrow also warns of the danger of analytics.
“You can tell any story you want with analytics. That’s the great thing and that’s the danger of it. As a coach, you can use it to tell your story, but somebody else can use it just the other way,” he said.
“When I use analytics, especially in our pre-scouts and to show players, you want to find the truth. You don’t want to show analytics to your players or a group, and then have them question what you’re talking about. You want it to be truthful, you want it to be backed by fact, and you want to know why those numbers are that way. You need to ask why.”