In what has already been a summer unlike any other in recent memory for the Colorado Avalanche, the front office has reportedly turned its attention towards the burgeoning world of hockey analytics to further bolster its ranks. Earlier today, BSN Denver confirmed through various sources the organization has hired both Arik Parnass and Zac Urback.
The pair will report directly to Assistant General Manager Chris MacFarland, whose influence in the front office seems to show more with every move the team makes. Both Parnass and Urback are well-known in the analytics community for their various works and the hirings signal an organizational shift away from the Patrick Roy-era. Roy was notoriously critical of analytics and despite the team dabbling in them during his tenure, did not fully embrace them until this summer, which might have helped set the table for the curious manner in which Roy departed.
For those interested in looking up the work Parnass has done to date, refer to this link and this one. The majority of his recent work has been analyzing power plays and the development of his ZEFR (Zone Entry to Formation or dangerous Rush rate) metric. For a team that has struggled on special teams more often than not in the last several years, bringing in someone whose work is tilted in that direction is just good business. Sources have told us his hiring is for a full-time position.
The hiring of Urback is for a consultant position as he continues to finish his education but he has been with the organization since at least this past NHL Draft. If the draft appeared to be a bit different, it should not surprise you that Urback’s largest emphasis of work has been on the “DEV” project, which focuses on identifying busts and steals in the CHL by finding past comparables. While not intended to replace traditional scouting, the tool gives an extremely interesting insight to prospects and how they could project into the future.
While splashy analytics hires have not translated to immediate on-ice success for some franchises, the organization choosing to embrace the increasingly modern approach to the game is an encouraging shift.
We’ve reached out to the organization for comment but they’ve yet to respond. We will continue to update this story as it develops.
*BSN Denver writer Luke Steer contributed to this report