It’s a little known fact that around 50% of people out there are women. It’s astounding, but it’s true. So it stands to reason that 50% of the smartest people out there are also women, and yet, only this month, after 105 years of the National Hockey League’s existence, Alexandra Mandrycky became just the seventh woman to become Assistant General Manager of a franchise.
Not many people like math, but everybody likes winning. And for the Seattle Kraken, finding the edge on established franchises, with existing superstars and strong developmental systems in place, meant embracing analytics in a way that only a few other NHL clubs seem to have done. It’s noteworthy, however, that the list of teams with strong analytical commitment, is also usually a list of Stanley Cup contenders. And that’s where the Kraken aim to be.
From a blog to a job
Mandrycky started small, cranking out and crunching statistics on a blog that almost certainly cost more than it ever paid her, but it seems her ability shone through, and she was hired by the Minnesota Wild in 2015 as an analyst. It’s worth noting that the Wild improved from 38 wins in her first season with the club, up to 49 and 45 wins the following two years. Bruce Boudreau likely got a lot of the credit at the time, but the team plateaued after Mandrycky left for Seattle, with the same coach behind the bench.
From Minny, she took over the fledgling analytical department of the league’s newest club, at the time unnamed, hired years before any coaches ever hit the payroll. Ron Francis and Kraken ownership saw something in Mandrycky back then, and it’s clear that they still do today. The team’s Year One results were perhaps less spectacular than some might have hoped, but the math isn’t limited to wins and losses, and the way the team weaponized its cap space this summer certainly suggests that they have a long term vision in place.
Sky’s the Limit
Mandrycky is officially one of three 1A’s in the Kraken front office (Rick Olczyk and Jason Botterill) in supporting roles to Francis himself. The impressive thing about that is that she has neither the management résumé of someone like Olczyk, who has been in hockey front offices since 2007, not the player’s résumé of Botterill, who won three World Junior Gold medals and three Stanley Cups.
The promotion suggests that Mandrycky’s talents are obvious to her co-workers and boss. It also suggests that Seattle continues its dedication to using analytics to guide its decision making processes and improve its on ice results. Which is honestly the best news any Kraken fan should want to hear after the disappointing 2021-22 finish.
Statistics aren’t a sure thing. In a small sample size, random chance can play too big a role for the numbers to prove themselves every time. But a team that follows the math, and factors it into decisions around personnel, salary, training regimens and even something as seemingly inconsequential as sleep cycles, will end up right more often than they are wrong. It’s clear that this is the path Seattle has chosen, and I’m pretty sure they got it right with their newest AGM.