Hockey Prospectus is one of the leading publications of NHL advanced stats.
Recently, Plank and I were given a copy of Hockey Prospectus to peruse, abuse, and revuse. Review.
When I downloaded the book, I immediately flipped to the Sharks section. Initially, that's what I believed what would be useful to me, as a Sharks fan and someone who covers the team.
I was very surprised by the detail that the authors took for San Jose, spending time pouring over every stat possible for the team. Did you know that the Sharks have the worst playoff save percentage of any team (with a minimum of four series appearances) in recent NHL history? They do: through 13 playoff series, San Jose has posted a league worst .906 save percentage. Although Niemi wasn't great this past offseason, this stat from Hockey Prospectus quickly sheds some light on why Doug Wilson was willing to let Evgeni Nabokov walk and let Niemi take the reigns.
The book, aside from giving a team overview for each NHL squad, gives a player by player overview with projected games played and expected point output. These are calculated using a number of metrics pioneered by the authors, and a quick read through of the book's foreword will get you up to speed quickly. Before you know it, you'll be chatting with your mom about VUKOTA while she wonders where she went wrong.
The projections are more of a tool than a guarantee, and I found myself disagreeing with a good many of them. Andrew Desjardins is going to play more than 36 games in the NHL this year. Antti Niemi, in my opinion, won't see his save percentage dip from .920 to .909 with a better defense in front of him. Joe Pavelski, who is going to benefit from a full season next to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, is unlikely to see his point totals drop from 66 to 63. And Ian White, who is still listed in the Sharks section (all players are listed on the teams they spent their last season with), is almost a lock to see a points increase as one of Detroit's main weapons on the power play.
VUKOTA though, as it's explained in the book, uses player comparisons for it's formulation, is not necessarily a projection but instead a historical correlation. It doesn't take Pavelski's new line mates into account, or Ian White's new team. What it does provide, though, is a good stepping stone for player analysis and individual value.
After spending a great deal of time in the Sharks section, I moved on to other teams I follow, or just enjoy to watch; I scrolled the Devils, Blue Jackets and Predators sections happily. Every article was well written, and the player snapshots were helpful.
Lastly, I referred to the book quite a bit during my fantasy hockey draft last night. Here's hoping that pays off.
All in all, I have to say that this book is a must for people who follow hockey, want to learn more about the advanced stats movement in the NHL, or who just enjoy solid writing. While I would have had trouble recommending the book if I solely used it to read about the Sharks and then put it down, it caught my attention and I'll be referring to it all season.
You can agree or disagree with the application of advanced stats in hockey, but even NHL general managers are hopping aboard the information train, it seems. While all the predictions may not be stone cold locks, that's why the game is played, and this book provided at least an alternative lens to see hockey through. It's a fun look, I promise.