Several years ago I went to a Capitals game at the MCI Center in Washington DC, I don't remember exactly when, but pre-Jagr for sure, maybe 1998. A surprisingly knowledgable crowd, at least around where I was sitting, and a beautiful building in a shopping centre kinda way.
Anyhow the guy next to me was a hardcore Caps fan and a decent guy, he told a story about Adam Oates' unwillingness to take shots. Oates was still a very useful NHLer then, but as we all know he was a 'pass first' guy to a fault. According to the Caps fan; Ron Wilson had made a video of all Oates' goals, edited in with a bunch of nearly identical plays where Adam had made the pass instead, trying to convince him to take more shots. The stats at hockeydb.com tell us that this didn't work, but I love that type of stuff, so I've always sort of followed what Wilson was up too since then.
He was a hardass with the media too, long before that. And not just to be a jerk, but pointing out why a question was stupid in a constructive way (though I doubt that guys like Spector, Jones, etc will ever print a kind word about the guy because of it :D ). And I like that too, back in the day I would die a little bit each time Dave King would agree with idiocy from a reporter, even if it meant directly contradicting something he had said himself moments earlier, but I digress.
Anyhow, Ron Wilson is into some madass heavy analytical shit. Dude has realtime stats recorded during games and sent to him on the bench, over and above the stuff that the NHL records real time. Obviously the analysis it is only part of what he does as a coach, but it is clearly some pretty evolved stuff. And he's in cohorts with Doug Wilson and Joe Will, who started in the drafting side of the Sharks business I think (forget Pierre McGuire and his obsession with Parise ... Will and the Wilsons traded up to take Bernier one spot ahead of Parise, right now I'd say that's a better subject for the draft junkies at HF to be dissecting).
You all know how to Google, but here are a couple of good tidbits to get you started if you're into this sort of thing.
An article from the Washington Post with a funny little quote, this is about two years old.
Baseball these days, relies heavily on statistical analysis to mine previously unrecognized talent. The philosophy was made famous last year by the Michael Lewis bestseller "Moneyball." Wilson said he found Lewis's book "interesting, because I've been doing something similar for 10 years in hockey."
This business article interviewing Joe Will provides some fascinating insight as well. A shame that the writer didn't know more about hockey, because he got Joe Will talking and really could have gotten some relevant information out of him if he knew what to ask.
Best are the TV or radio interviews though, the curious stuff that he says rarely seems to get transfered to print.
Of course there is always a danger of outsmarting yourself as well. And one could argue that Wilson is one of the guys pushing it too far. You could also argue that a smart guy doesn't give away his edges by telling every other effer how he's doing it. The good thing about him though, is that he loves to talk, you can piece together what he's up to if you listen to him speak enough, at least somewhat.
I could ramble on this subject until absolutely nobody was reading any more, but I won't, I promise. :-) Just a couple of points.
I noticed in the Bernier interview between periods that this young player acknowledged that Thornton usually plays against the other team's top defensemen and best forwards. That his line's job was to score and they'd been doing that, something to that effect. That may seem minor, or even obvious to the type of person that reads this blog, but that's damn unusual for an NHLer to have any clue as to the 'hows' and 'whys'. A guy like Bowman would never even think of letting players in on that shit, clearly Wilson does.
I've got a good read on a lot of things they are up to, common sense really. And clearly a lot of this analysis is derivative of the time-on-ice data, from different leagues. This is the source material for the shift charts. But some things I don't get, the focus on 2nd period data, and on shifts length and pattern. Hell in an brief interview with Doug Wilson on CBC in either game 1 or 2 he brings up shift lengths as one of the keys in the series too, WTF?, I mean there are a million other things to talk about. And what happened the shift before the shift that something else happened ... I mean anyone who has kicked at Ruff's 'shots directed at net' metric and has a feel for the way the lines rolled can see some obvious patterns, but I have no idea how a guy would even begin to quantify that.
Interesting guy, this Ron Wilson.