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Capitals hire Tim Barnes, a.k.a. ‘Vic Ferrari,’ as analytics consultant

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The Washington Capitals have hired Tim Barnes as an analytics consultant, bringing aboard one of the stat community’s early pioneers and most legendary innovators, the team announced Saturday.

Barnes ran the now-offline website, which compiled data for advanced statistics such as Corsi and Fenwick – both puck possession metrics – zone development and shifts. He also wrote under the pseudonym “Vic Ferrari” — a reference to the alternate personality of Latka, Andy Kaufman’s character on the sitcom “Taxi” — on a blog called Irreverent Oilers Fans.

“We are pleased to have hired Tim Barnes as our analytics consultant,” general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. “Tim is very experienced and well regarded in that field and will be a valuable asset to our organization.”

Though the Capitals, particularly assistant general manager Don Fishman, have explored analytics for some time, this hire enters them into the more public analytics arms race, characterized this summer by the widespread hires of statistical writers and gurus. In an interview earlier this month, MacLellan said the Capitals had “a couple candidates we’re looking at now to help us in that area.”

“I think you look at analytics as the math side to it, the science side,” MacLellan said. “And there’s a feel to it. You have to balance both those sides out. Verify what you see or begin a great discussion of ‘I see this and the numbers say this.’ Then you go back and evaluate again.”

A summer profile from Elliotte Friedman unmasked Barnes, described in the piece by ESPN’s Corey Pronman as “being the key innovator for things such as using Corsi, value of quality of competition, effect of zone starts, shooting-percentage regression, how valuable team-level Corsi is and how close it relates to team-level scoring-chance differential.”

According to Friedman, Barnes is 47 years old, “an engineer who moved into finance…from Alberta, went to university in Calgary and lived in England, Toronto and Edmonton before settling in his current Chicago.”

The entire profile is worth a read, if only for the mystery of uncovering Barnes’ true identity. In the NHL’s keep-up-or-get-left-behind information age, the Capitals hopped onboard.

“It’s been a part of our process, what we’re looking at,” MacLellan said recently. “I think we’re evolving as the information’s evolved. We use the data. We’re looking to expand the use of the data and we’re looking at how we can get more accurate data. We’re evolving as that whole data, analytics part is evolving too. We’re trying to make good decisions and figure out the best way to handle this moving forward.”