Great piece in Harvard Business Review about FC Barcelona, who recently won soccer’s prestigious treble, and the way in which they attract players. In hockey, teams talk about “instilling a culture” or “fostering a winning culture” a lot, but it’s not usually specific beyond that. The Bruins, with their smashmouth play over the past decade are probably the closest recent example of a team searching for a specific kind of player and intimidating opposing teams with a specific identity, and obviously the Broad Street Bullies are an older illustration of this. Barcelona is successful because it is rich, but also because it has always been a team built on skill above all else, so skillful players want to play there, good players want to play there, and because of the success of La Masia, the team’s academy, kids want to play there as well. Coaches and players come and go, but the fans know what to expect, and they feel that something is special to them. It brings the best out in the team, and ultimately leads to success.
It is something that, depending on where I was in a rebuilding cycle, I might look to establish if I were an NHL team executive.
There’s an important difference between always taking the middle ground in an argument and recognizing nuance where many find none. Analytics are a case in which it is important to remember, whether it’s with corsi, or PDO, or fighting, or any other issue, that because of the imperfection of our metrics, our understanding of psychological factors at play, and our understanding of just what goes on behind closed doors, that what the numbers tell you isn’t always entirely accurate. This nuance is something that I’ve tried to emphasize with this blog over the past few months, and will continue to push. There isn’t a middle ground just because somebody says there should be…there’s a middle ground because of the number of factors in play that simply haven’t been taken into account by any model we have at our disposal right now.
More arguments over the role of character in team sports have been waged than Simpsons episodes watched this past week. Well, maybe not. But every day it seems, a main stream media member churns out a piece on the value that a fourth liner brings to an organization, one supposedly well beyond their pay grade and ice time. Inevitably, bloggers and analysts shoot back about the lack of correlation between toughness and victory, or the impossibility of measuring something like leadership in the grand scheme of the game.