While pro football and Major League Baseball have perhaps delved the deepest into Moneyball-like statistical data, the NHL is catching on. There’s been a rash of hirings this season of academicians such as Brian Macdonald ’00, who has brought the world of analytics to the Florida Panthers.
“It’s another lens through which to watch a game or to gather information about a game,” said Macdonald, a former associate professor at West Point, where he taught sports statistics for the purposes of player evaluation and decision-making. An electrical engineering graduate, he holds a doctorate in mathematics from Johns Hopkins.
“There’s no substitution for watching a game, but you can’t watch every minute and every shift. These stats can make you more aware of the aspects of a particular player’s game and of a team’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s an additional tool for the toolbox.”
Macdonald, who played club hockey at Lafayette, gathers most of his statistics from NHL.com and other websites that he prefers to keep a secret.
Once Macdonald detects a trend, such as faceoff matchups or a goalie’s weakness in shootouts, he relays that to Panthers assistant coach Mike Kelly, who then simplifies the stat to the players.