SBJ/November 12 - 18, 2007/This Weeks News

Consultants tailor new service to give NHL owners an assist

A year ago, former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Mike Smith approached NHL GMs with a consulting service designed to identify talented players at the best price. Now, he’s back with a new offering tailored for owners.

Smith and his partner Richard Coleman, a San Francisco-area statistician, have designed a modeling system that will let the owners compare their team’s performance to their competitors in a variety of areas.

The targeted areas include number of goals scored under high pressure, penalty kill success and discipline. The models can be designed to fit an owner’s goals, whether that is to win, be profitable or reach the playoffs.

“An owner could ask, ‘Is it possible to be a top-tier franchise with a significantly lower player budget under the cap?’” Smith said. “We could give them the characteristics an owner would need, and he could go to his manager and ask if they could do that within their budget.”

The models won’t touch on whether or not an owner should hire two marketing people to increase revenue but, rather, will highlight where a franchise’s on-ice product is in order to give an owner ideas for changes that would improve the club, Smith said.

“If you’re an owner, do you think your GM is totally objective with you?” Smith said. “Do you think a GM whose team is struggling will be objective? I don’t think so. Consulting brings in that objectivity.”

The models will be run four times a year for owners, giving them a sense of where their team stands compared with others over every 20 games. The product costs $60,000 to $100,000 annually, depending on the duration of the contract and whether or not owners buy other consulting services.

Smith and Coleman hope to sign up five owners by the end of the season. They signed up their first owner last week, but declined to provide a name because of a nondisclosure agreement.

The idea for offering owners consulting services came to Smith during the draft this summer. He was in the elevator with a team that had a poor draft record, and the team’s executives said they had done well.

“I said to myself, ‘Maybe you knocked them dead, but your owner has no idea if you knocked them dead,” Smith said.

He and Coleman went to work on creating a system to help owners evaluate their GMs’ decisions. The resulting tool is the third offering for the firm, Coleman Analytics, which also offers coaching and GM consulting data.

Smith said that if the ownership model is well-received in the NHL, the firm will likely offer it to NBA owners as well. Currently, their operations are limited to hockey.

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