One of the most memorable compliments, Alexandra Mandriki, who specializes in Kraken Analytics, paid her boss was telling him he was “more eccentric” than he realized.
Fortunately for Mandrycky, 31, this unique approach to a career path has worked so well, said the “nerd” — Kraken general manager Ron Francis — who promoted her to assistant GM, the first woman in the NHL to hold that title while specializing in a professional way. Essential in analytics.
The relationship between the team’s first two hockey tackles, as Mandriki actually preceded Francis by a few weeks in July 2019, has long had a close start with embarking on a promotional tour in Seattle for their first month on the job.
And to hear Francis say it, not even a little nerd-friendly contact changed his mind about getting Mandrycky to ditch her director of hockey strategy and title research to join the inner circle to help him out at the GM alongside Ricky Olczyk and Jason Botterill.
“I would take that as a compliment, thank you,” Francis said, adding that he was proud to be open to incorporating analytics into the team’s approach. “I think any tools you can use to help you become better, it would be foolish not to use them.
“We try to be the best and use all the people we have with experience to make us better. Whether it’s scouts in the field or people looking for data or a computer base. I think everyone can help.”
Speaking of Scouts, it was Mandrycky’s ability to seamlessly integrate analytics with their traditional work that ultimately secured her promotion. The team’s amateur scout manager, Robert Kron, who has praised what is seen as Kraken’s first two largely successful drafts, will report directly to her.
“When I think about what I think made us successful, what I consider success is that no one is trying to get us out of the room,” Mandriki said. “We are all respected in this organization, and that’s the way I think it should be.”
Mandrycky became the seventh assistant GM in NHL history and the sixth to be hired since January. Angela Gorgon became the first woman to serve as an assistant to GM with Anaheim in 1996-1997, but it took a quarter of a century for the next century, as Emily Castongway was hired in January by the Vancouver Canucks.
Professional Kraken scout Kami Granato was hired by the Canucks as an assistant GM a month later, followed this summer with promoted Meghan Hunter from Chicago, Kate Madigan from New Jersey and hockey icon Hayley Wickenheiser from Toronto.
Mandrycky’s ability to work well with Kraken scouts did not happen by accident.
She joined Kraken after four years Work as a data analyst With the Minnesota Wild Analytics team. The Wild was at the time going through organizational turmoil, and the analytics team didn’t deliver; Having been hired by former General Manager Chuck Fletcher only to constantly face a new regime headed by Paul Fenton.
Wilde ended up shooting Fenton after just 14 months as GM and just weeks after Mandrake left the team. And while tensions at the front desk analytics were a small part of the reason for leaving Fenton, Mandrycky has spent the past three years with her new team working on the human relations portion of her job.
“In Alex’s case, you didn’t go in and throw the hammer down and say, ‘This is how it should be,'” Francis said.
“In a lot of our discussions we don’t just talk about analytics. We talk about players. We talk about things that we look for in players. And if there’s a difference of opinion – the numbers say that on player X, but scouts say that on player X – it’s also about Back to research and development [R&D] team to take another look.”
“We ask Scouts to understand the analytics. But we also need the R&D team to understand Scouting. So he comes back and sees the games and watches the video and sees that’s what we’re talking about. And her willingness to do that has certainly helped fill that gap.” So putting in that time and effort earns her her respect. You don’t just come and ask for it. You have to earn it. That’s what I did.”
Mandrake knows she needs this support to succeed. She first got involved in hockey through her husband, a native of Buffalo and an avid Sabers fan, although she has never played the game.
Instead, after graduating with an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, she delved into the statistical aspects of hockey to maintain her analytical and programming skills. And since then, she’s shown Kraken hockey fans that she can help them win.
“No one kicks me out of the room when I get in,” Mandriki said. “Everyone respects me and every member of the R&D team, be it the coaches, or in the recruitment with the scouts. Just being involved, I think, shows the impact our group is having.”