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[Article] Scott Walker on Heavy Analytics Approach

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Article on CanucksArmy which was surprisingly objective and well-written. Scott Walker doesn't believe in the pure analytics approach. If we're looking for difference of opinions in Hockey Ops, losing Walker behind the bench is definitely going to hurt us. Hockey is a fast sport, the data metrics will never be perfect. You need a pitbull like Walker motivating the players when things aren't going well. I'm very disappointed that he's not coming back.





Scott Walker’s first interview after leaving the Canucks offers insights into his decision to leave and opposing views on analytics

MAY 25, 2022, 8:45 AM | LACHLAN IRVINE

Scott Walker’s tenure as Bruce Boudreau’s assistant coach for the Vancouver Canucks might not have been long. But in his first radio appearance since quietly parting ways with the team during the offseason, he left a lasting memory.

During an interview on Sportsnet 650’s Canucks Central on Tuesday, Walker discussed his decision to step away, as well as his relationship with Bruce Boudreau and his general disdain for hockey analytics.

Walker’s decision to leave Vancouver wasn’t all that surprising to the people closest to him. With no guarantee of a long-term contract on the table, the long distance from his wife and kids in Guelph, Ontario was the deciding factor in stepping away.

It was an outcome that Walker had cautioned new President of Hockey Ops Jim Rutherford about when he took the helm in December.

“Once Jimmy came in, he said ‘Well, I want to give you this.’ I said ‘Listen to me. Two years is fine, but I’m only guaranteeing you till the end of this year,'” Walker said. “It’s not that I would have been or wouldn’t have been able to come back. But my daughter’s finishing high school and is getting ready to go to university, and my son is 19.”

“I wasn’t willing to commit, and I also obviously wanted to be respectful to them and give them time to find people they need.”

The former Canucks winger was already expecting to join Bruce Boudreau behind the bench if a midseason hire came. So when Boudreau was hired by team owner Francesco Aquilini in mid-December, Walker was the first person he called.

I was at my brother-in-law’s for a birthday party or something near Christmas. And I got the call and [Boudreau] basically said ‘Hey, you gotta get ready. Like we’re getting on a plane right now and we’re gonna pick you up in Toronto,'” Walker said. “There was no talk of a contract, no talk or nothing. So I jumped on the plane, flew out, and started the next day.”

“I worked for three weeks without a contract. We were talking about one, but I wasn’t really concerned about that.”

Walker had previously played under Boudreau for a handful of games with the Washington Capitals in 2009-10 before working with him in a series of roles for Hockey Canada last year. So he knew exactly what type of bench he was signing up for when he joined the Canucks.

“I’ve been around Bruce a lot. His life is wanting to make people feel positive and feel good about themselves,” Walker said. “He has a knack for the X’s and O’s to get the players in the right spots, but he also gives them the freedom to go and play. And you could see obviously the players just thrived in it.”

But while the majority of the 20-minute interview was waxing poetic about Boudreau and the team around him, when the subject of analytics was approached, Walker went in a different direction. Despite having worked in various player development roles for the Canucks from 2015 until 2019, when he left to join the Arizona Coyotes’ front office as a special assistant to then-GM John Chayka, Walker was dismissive about the importance of understanding advanced hockey stats.

I was totally against analytics in hockey. I mean, show me an analytical team that’s won the Stanley Cup,” Walker said. “People would say our analytics weren’t great when we were in Vancouver, but we were winning games.”

“You’re nine games over .500, you end 12 games over .500? That’s the only analytics I care about in life.”

While Walker was quick to reassure that his opinions on the subject aren’t the be-all and end-all, it illustrated a line of thinking that clashes with core values of the new front office assembled by Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin. With upper management and the coaching staff required to be in sync on roster decisions, it wouldn’t be surprising for Walker’s eventual replacement to have the opposite mindset to provide more balance to the bench.

Regardless, Walker provided the Canucks locker room with a breath of fresh air when they needed it most; during a tumultuous season that was quickly slipping away. Even after being struck by an errant puck in mid-January caused months of vertigo issues, Walker returned in March to help pull the Canucks back to within striking distance of the playoffs.

He and Bruce Boudreau righted the ship together. But as the captain searches for a new first mate, Scott Walker will be sailing alone into the Guelph sunset.


EDIT: Mods please move if this thread is not in the right place. Thanks.

Edited by Bissurnette
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22 minutes ago, NUCKER67 said:

I guess JR better be right about this analytics thing.  


Seems ARI has been another team using analytics for years. Look where that got them. Barrett Hayton at #5? :picard:

Analytics has its place, and Walker was wrong to dismiss it like that.  Maybe in game coaching and motivating aren’t governed by analytics, but there are a lot of things in building the team where analytics are very much needed.  

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How did teams draft and develop talent in the 80's and 90's without analytics?  Did they actually go to the games and scout them using the eye test?  


Would analytics allow you to figure out the character of a hockey player and his desire to win a Stanley Cup at all costs?  


Not sure how you can use computers and charts to figure out if someone is going to be a great NHL player.  It's alot easier just to visit and talk to their moms, that will open up alot more information about the player than a WAR chart...

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2 minutes ago, King Heffy said:

The problem seems to be that analytics isn't staying in its place.

That’s a very good point.  Build the club with the “help” of analytics.  But keep it out of the room and from behind the bench.  

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Bruce Boudreau’s right-hand man, assistant coach Scott Walker, has decided to retire.

Boudreau revealed the news on The Bob McCown Podcast, and said that the team is in the process of finding someone to replace him.

Walker missed time this past season after he was hit in the head with a puck and suffered from vertigo because of it. It’s unclear if that contributed to Walker’s decision to retire.

“He’s decided to retire to stay close to his family in Guelph, where he’s still part-owner of the Storm,” Boudreau said. “He’s going to be sorely missed.”

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