Brian Burke: Flames have best analytics guy

The captain is back!! After a season which saw the Flames advance to the second round, Calgary is hoping their captain and a couple new additions will get them back to the playoffs and perhaps an even more successful run.

Brian Burke and the analytics community have differing points of view, to put things politely.

But the president of the Calgary Flames clarified Tuesday on Sportsnet 960 The Fan that he does indeed value computer-tabulated stats. It’s just that he weighs two other factors more heavily when it comes to evaluating his players.

“I’m not a big analytics guy. I think analytics are useful and important, but in our organization they’re the third tool we use to evaluate players,” Burke told Boomer & Rhett during a radio interview conducted at the Flames’ season kickoff golf tournament.

Here, in Burke’s words, are the three tools the Flames use to rate their skaters.

1. Eyeballs
“The number 1 criteria we have is experienced scouts watching them play, and the things you see in a game that don’t show up on computer. A guy makes a mistake, comes off. You see a captain lean over and say something to him. See a coach bark at a guy. Does he slump? What’s his body language? How does he warm up? Is he intense? All the stuff a computer is never going to show you. A computer just registers a blocked shot; it doesn’t show you that this guy dove headfirst to get it.”

LISTEN: Flames president Brian Burke talks analytics, new additions, PTOs

2. Character assessment
“What we can do research-wise to find out about this player as a person. Not that we get it right all the time, but we get it right a lot of the time. And our sports psychologist, Dana Sinclair, is really important.”

3. Analytics
“We think we have the best analytics guy in hockey in Chris Snow, but we don’t brag about it like some teams do, and it’s certainly not our primary focus in assessing player talent. What I would say to these people [those predicting a Flames decline based on statistics] is, I believe in people and I believe in internal progression, I believe in internal improvement. I think our young players can be better than they were last year.

“To use Ken King’s quote, we made a lot of 40-foot putts last year, and we won’t make as many this year maybe. But I don’t think we’re going to be putting from 40 feet as much as we were.”

Bonus Burke
Because we can’t get enough Burkie quotes and he may not agree to another interview with The Fan 960 until Christmas, here are a few more gems from Tuesday’s appearance. You’re welcome.

On why he doesn’t golf: “I already know how to swear.”

On his final golf round: “The summer I turned pro, these guys talked me into going once. I got to the fourth fairway and killed a big snake and called it a day. I thought that would be the highlight. I did, literally. There was a big, three-foot snake going across the fairway and I clubbed it.”

On his first look at 3-on-3 overtime: “It’s probably not an ideal way to settle a hockey game, but it was exciting… I’ll vote for anything that reduces the number of shootouts.”

On shootouts: “It’s much like deciding an NHL game by having quarterbacks throwing footballs through a tire.”

On Bob Hartley’s Jack Adams Trophy coming as a surprise: “I went there thinking he’s going get shutout on that, and I was really happy when he won it.”

On Mark Giordano: “I’ve had some really big-name captains: Niedermayer, Pronger, Messier. And I’d put Giordano up against any of those guys.”

On the Pacific Division playoff race: “I don’t think L.A. will miss… I also think we’ve improved as much as anyone else has, and we had the youngest group in the playoffs in the West, if I’m not mistaken.'”

On the scads of free agents signing PTOs: “You become a cap casualty because you’re too expensive, and some of those guys are going to take major pay cuts if they want to play. And I don’t like that part of it. I don’t like the fact that Curtis Glencross has to go to camp on a tryout. I wish there was a way around it.”

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