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How the Pittsburgh Penguins are using an in-game coaching app for a competitive edge

Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Picture an NHL coach. Windbreaker with a team logo at the morning skate, business attire at the game. Frantically scribbling notes on a card or whiteboard, less concerned with a player's "underlying numbers" than with "grit and jam." Eschewing analytics for "their gut" during key decisions.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan fits some of these stereotypes -- especially the jacket with a logo at practice -- but the two-time Stanley Cup winner is also fascinated by advanced stats and analytics.

Well, to a point.

"I'm not going to lie: I'm a skeptic. I ask a million questions of our internal analytics department. I know I'm a thorn in their side," Sullivan told ESPN recently.

The amount of information available to coaching staffs has grown exponentially, thanks to advancements in scouting, data mining and analysis. The trick, Sullivan said, is figuring out which sources are accurate and which statistics are most relevant to a coaching staff's decision-making process.

"The analytics world is tracking so much information at all times. I always liken it to a squirrel gathering nuts," Sullivan said. "If we're going to track information, we need to learn something from it, so we can react to it. If we're just tracking information for the sake of tracking information, then let's not waste our time. So I'd like to cut the fat off the meat, so to speak. Let's figure out what's relevant."

Helping the Penguins and other NHL teams trim the fat, as it were: The SAP-NHL Coaching Insights app.