Oilers’ Nelson’s analytics quote fires up Twitter

Nail Yakupov. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

We’ve seen it a million times: Somebody tweets a quote and the Internet proceeds to lose its collective mind.

We often mock writers who whine about players not wanting to speak to the media, but it’s hard to deny that people eat those quotes up. For example, I see Phil Kessel called a writer an idiot and now every time Kessel speaks I listen a little bit more closely.

Part of what made that now-famous Kessel encounter great was that there’s video of it. You get to see the lead-up. You see Kessel’s reaction to the initial question. You see his reaction to getting interrupted mid-sentence. You see him get more and more flustered until… boom – idiot quote.

It’s a great video and a simple tweet of the idiot quote by itself doesn’t really do it justice.

Which brings us to this past weekend…

The Edmonton Oilers go to a shootout with the Florida Panthers, Nail Yakupov scores the shootout-winner and the Oilers grab an extremely rare win on the road. Good times all around, right? What sort of conflict could possibly come from that.


Hey! That’s a fair tweet, my reporter friend! Why was Saturday night Nail Yakupov’s first ever shootout attempt? I mean the guy’s a skilled player, first overall pick, he’s played in 157 NHL games already. What’s the holdup?

Wait, what?!?

Darn straight it’s insanity! Based on this I have no choice but to think analytics are stupid! Rabble rabble rabble!

Wow! There you have it, folks. A quote straight from the horse’s mouth after the two tweets before it? Wow, does that ever look bad on Edmonton Oilers analytics consultant Tyler Dellow. It’s kind of amazing that Oilers head coach Todd Nelson would just throw Dellow under the bus though, isn’t it?

Well yeah. That’s because the quote was spun and taken totally out of context.

This is the video of Todd Nelson’s post game presser. I encourage you to actually watch the thing:

This is the transcript if you want to re-visit what you just watched or if you’re somewhere you can’t play the video right now (a.k.a. totally screwing around at work, but I won’t tell):

Reporter: A couple of guys delivered for you again. Yak hadn’t been getting a lot of goals or a lot of shootouts and he scores the big one and then Fasth delivers when you needed him most, too.

Nelson: You know what, Viktor had a great game. It was nice to see him with… both his starts (he) played extremely well. He did a great job in the shootout. Yak… he’s been working on shootouts quite a bit in practice and it was a hunch and he made a great play in the shootout. It was a good win for our hockey team. For us to come from behind in the third period is just a great win.

Reporter: Did you know that Nail had not attempted one before in his career?

Nelson: Yeah I did actually and so I had nothing to lose. It was one of those things where, like I said, he was feeling it. He’s worked on a couple of different things in practice so it was a situation where I said, ‘Why not?’

Reporter: ‘Cause you took some heat your first game when you went eight deep in the shootout and you didn’t pick him and you said ‘Well he hadn’t played in the third period,’ he was cold, and you didn’t want to use him.

Nelson: Well there were zero analytics that supported Yak in the shootout so we’re going-

Reporter: So he’s gone? That analytics guy’s gone?

Nelson: No.

Reporter: Oh, Ok.

Nelson: It was one of those things where we were looking at the analytics for certain guys in the shootouts but Yak just never went, so right now he’s looking pretty good.

Now, does that exchange right there, the one that you just watched and/or read, reflect the tweets from Rob Tychkowski above? Does this not seem like it was taken totally a bit out of context?

And this is where quotes on Twitter can be so problematic. You can directly quote somebody with complete accuracy and still mislead people with regard to what the person you’re quoting actually meant.

Todd Nelson says, with a smirk, “there were zero analytics that supported Yak in the shootout.”

Yeah. That’s because Yakupov had never taken an NHL shootout attempt before. The analytics literally aren’t there. That was the whole point of Nelson’s joke. Somehow that gets twisted into “Todd Nelson reveals that Oilers analytics guy has been the one advising against using Yakupov in shootouts,” which simply isn’t true.

Unless there was some conversation with Nelson that just wasn’t mentioned, he’s bending Nelson’s words a bit here.

I’ll give Tychkowski the benefit of the doubt that he just misunderstood what Nelson said. That happens. I don’t know the guy so I’m not going to say he’s some moustache-twisting 1920’s cartoon villain about to tie a damsel in distress to the train tracks.

It doesn’t have to be sinister.

Some people tweeted me with the suggestion that Tyler Dellow’s notoriously prickly style on Twitter before he was hired by the Oilers, particularly with the media, is what attracted such negative attention. Fair enough. I can certainly see why some people wouldn’t be his biggest fan. That shouldn’t result in something like this where it sounds an awful lot like he’s being blamed for something he had no part in.

If you read a quote on Twitter you should always take it with a grain of salt. It’s 2015 and audio or video of the quote you just read is almost always available. If there is – watch it! Listen to it! You might have read something that got you all mad for nothing and who does that benefit?

Somebody, but it ain’t you.

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