• Agents Adding Value

    by  • May 30, 2010 • Uncategorized • 9 Comments

    This is a pretty cool story:

    Winter, with help from mathematical advisers, has determined exactly how many points a contending team needs from its top-six forward group and top-four defencemen, and the save percentage required from a goalie to become a 100-point team.

    For example, if all thresholds are met from the defence and goalies, a team that gets at least 143 goals from its top six forwards will record 100 points. According to Winter, that number has stayed true every year since the lockout. He has calculations like that for every position.

    “I will make arguments to teams that they need a little more up front, that they need X, Y or Z and the models prove it out,” he said. “It’s a model we’ve developed using a little bit of Moneyball in hockey.”

    When it came time to narrow down Hossa’s possible destinations, there were only four teams that matched the criteria.

    Personally, if I ran a hockey team and Ritch Winter told me he’d developed a model that showed I just needed a little bit more of X, Y or Z and that he happened to represent X, Y or Z, I’d be pretty skeptical. At the same time, this is the sort of modelling that teams should be doing because, done properly, it lets them break down their team and understand where they’re deficient. This lets them target their spending a bit better, avoiding moves that cost a lot and add little value because of where the team’s strengths already lie.

    It’s an interesting value addition as an agent for a client though. Salaries in the NHL are, increasingly, easy enough to negotiate. It’s hard for me to understand what value agents add that a player couldn’t get by just hiring a lawyer on an hourly basis. If Winter really does have a model – and I’m a bit doubtful of some of the other stuff in the story – well, it’s a good reason to pick him over a different agent.

    I’m curious what the teams were – I’d guess Pittsburgh, Washington, San Jose and Chicago, assuming that Detroit was out for financial reasons. I don’t know that you really need a model for that but still interesting.

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    9 Responses to Agents Adding Value

    1. lowetide
      May 30, 2010 at

      I’m curious if this agent has aspirations to become a General Manager.

    2. R O
      May 30, 2010 at

      I wouldn’t be in the business of predicting goal production that precisely if I were Rich Winter, or working with pro hockey in any capacity.

    3. Straliamoite
      May 30, 2010 at

      As long as someone in “the biz” is trying to quantify, it’s a beginning. Beyond self-interest, I’d be wary of a system whereby players were presented to me as being “moneyball” on the basis of points as the key indicator.

      However, should he be willing to truly take on the moneyball premise – efficiency, and delivering undervalued metrics – with a view to selling me wins as opposed to points, then that agents clients would be one of my first stops on July 1.

      Hypothetically, I call Winter to talk about an Iginla, and Winter says to me “your $6M offer is below the market – but instead of getting in that one, why not spend $3 on X, and 2.5 on Y, which takes you to being a playoff team?”.

      On one hand I’m still going to be dubious – but proof in the pudding, if Winter sells me a player on a specific metric, I’ll track that player against that metric – it’s really the metric I’m buying, and if it works, Winter’s going to win big.

    4. May 31, 2010 at

      I’m curious if this agent has aspirations to become a General Manager.

      Of course. And we can all guess the team. He pretends he manages them sometimes, so it’s not that difficult.

      This doesn’t fly with the story of how “close” Hossa was to signing here. So either the Oilers, the media, or Winters is bullshitting. I’d guess all three, myself.

    5. Vic Ferrari
      May 31, 2010 at

      What Lowetide and Andy said.

      Also, I wonder if Ritch Winter is aware of how he translates on television and radio? To me he comes across as a comic book villain.

      Short of wearing an eyepatch and having the occasional cackling fit, I don’t know how it would be possible for him to seem more evil.

    6. Jordan
      May 31, 2010 at

      …he comes across as a comic book villain.

      Considering how much hate there was for the Oilers and still is for all the success the team had in the 80s, I think it would be only fitting for the GM of the Oilers to come off as an evil menace to the Hockey World.

      That being said, given the choie of having my GM come off as a supervillan or an inept bungler, I’ll take the bungler – at least he’s underestimated, and probably underpaid.

    7. OilW30
      May 31, 2010 at

      Doesn’t seem like you really need a model to put Hossa in Chicago.

    8. Passive Voice
      June 1, 2010 at

      Maybe I’m just being a bummer, but “if all thresholds are met from the defence and goalies, a team that gets at least 143 goals from its top six forwards will record 100 points” sounds quite a bit to me like “good teams are the teams that are good”.

    9. Hawerchuk
      June 2, 2010 at

      I’m curious what the teams were – I’d guess Pittsburgh, Washington, San Jose and Chicago, assuming that Detroit was out for financial reasons.

      Tyler – a couple of people asked me about this story this week and I mentioned those five teams. But it just occurred to me that if the analysis is as unsophisticated as it potential seems, then Boston was in the mix too.

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