Putting Moneyball on Ice?, pp. 206-213

Daniel S. Mason
William M. Foster

This paper discusses the application of Moneyball management to the hockey industry. Following a review of Moneyball and sabermetrics in other sports, attempts to apply similar practices in hockey are reviewed. Moneyball in the National Hockey League is then examined, where adoption is limited by several factors: 1) the statistics available and their usefulness in evaluating player contributions to team performance; 2) the nature of the cooperation of players to produce outputs; and 3) the willingness of league insiders to embrace Moneyball. The statistical issue may be partially addressed by the introduction of new tracking technologies that can obtain new data, while teams may be more willing to explore Moneyball as teams who do so are successful. The development of new statistical measures are now helping to break apart the contributions that each player makes to team wins; however, the acceptance of these new measures will be limited by the speed by which teams adopt the new metrics. Finally, the recent imposition of a salary cap for NHL players will increase the value of using Moneyball analyses in hockey, as general managers and other team administrators are faced with a much smaller margin of error vis-à-vis evaluating and valuing player performance in hockey.