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.