I was having a conversation about this topic the other day with my friend Brian Doucet. I was doing my best to iterate what I think is an undefined measurement of success in sport. It is a measurement that I call “Adaptability”…what Daniel Coyle calls the Learning Quotient.
What I was trying to explain to Brian was what was the difference between a player like Brendan Gallagher, and an equally skilled rookie making his debut in the NHL who ends up in the minors? Obviously Gallagher has prodigious skill and was a top sniper in the WHL…but what is the difference between Gallagher and another highly skilled rookie who gets opportunities in the pros, but never seizes them, and then slowly gets dropped down to lower and lower levels of pros. Physically, Gallagher isn’t impressive. Skill-wise, he’s on par with many other pros.
Basically, what I seek to understand is what allows a player to move up and compete/dominate at increasingly difficult levels?
This question has probably mystified many teams, players, parents, coaches? We all know the stories of a very skilled player who made the step to a certain level (let’s say from Major Midget to Junior A)…then just never made it beyond that level. I’m sure many NHL GM’s have been perplexed as to why their high draft pick who dominated at the Junior level can’t cut it in the show.
After READING Moneyball, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around measures of performance in hockey that could be predictive of future performance. I do not think that height, weight, goals, assists and fitness assessment results can do a good job predicting a player’s career. I also don’t think that a coach, GM or scout’s intuition is a conclusive enough for pro teams to be making large investments in players.
I do think that there are things we can measure that can do a better job of predicting a player’s success at a certain level. To me, that measure is called “Adaptability”, or the ability to adapt to the increased pace and skill of the game at the higher level. I believe that Coyle’s Learning Quotient is a good start, so I recommend reading his article.