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Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 Paperback – September 15, 2010
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Excellent multi-page articles on topics such as Shot Quality, League Equivalencies, and my favorite "An Argument For A Balanced Schedule" are more than mere filler; they're thought-provoking pieces that flesh out an already info-dense book.
I didn't get the standard preview feeling out of this book that I normally get when I get other annuals. Whether comparing Jonathan Cheechoo to past 50 goal scorers like Bobby Carpenter and Gary Leeman, or the now-famously-controversial listing of Kiril Kabanov as the 8th most promising prospect, what other hockey guide is going to let me know opponents scored on only 4.7% of shots when Tanner Glass was on the ice, or who was 15th in the league in hitting the post (Mitch Raymond) and that Mike Green led all defensemen in even strength points per 60 minutes?
And there's bits of odd humor scattered throughout. For example, why would the info on David Clarkson have multiple references to Rush? I have no idea, but it was so out of left field I couldn't help but laugh. Or even the "!" whenever Darroll Powe! is mentioned - it seems so obvious, so why is it making me smile?
I've kinda gone fanboy on this, I know. But what can I say? They hooked me! Fantasy fans will definitely get a kick out it. And the hardcore July-and-August-hating hockey fan, the one who haunts the newsstands and magazine racks in September waiting for the various NHL previews, will not regret spending twenty bucks in cap room for an all-star book like this one.
It's the first book I've ever bought as a computer file. I wasn't sure how big or good it would be, and a $10 savings is always welcome. When I downloaded it and locked through it, and I noticed a chapter called "A Brief History of Statistical Analysis in Hockey." I turned to it quickly.
There, I was rather surprised to see my own name mentioned. I had worked with an editor of Baseball Prospectus about 11 years ago about the possibility of coming out with a hockey book along those lines. I struck out, in part because I couldn't find a team of writers to help.
It's nice to be remembered. And it's nice to see they kept at it, until a book was created. "Hockey Prospectus 2010-11" is that book. I'm much less of a hockey follower than I was back then, so it's a little more difficult to judge its merits. But, the people in this book are on the right track. There's more data available now than there was 11 years ago (ice time, hits, etc.), and it helps. Each player in the league, then, receives a paragraph, and each team receives a few pages.
Like the Baseball Prospectus, there are plenty of numbers. Some are easily followed, some will need some more time to digest. But most of the fantasy projections seem more or less on target. I used to do that sort of thing, and the predictions fit into what I found to be a rational range -- which is all you can expect.
The team comments are less satisfying. Many of the teams simply get a review of last season. How did the offense do? Defense? Goaltending? Special teams? And what's the outlook. The comments often mirror what is in the player comments' section. There are exceptions. The Tampa Bay team section has a nice breakdown on what the Lightning has done in the offseason. It's a very positive piece of writing, but definitely in the right direction. On the other hand, the Maple Leafs' section was a little too "one note" when it came to Toronto's love of tough guys, at least in terms of writing. Iain Fyffe at least had some fun with that one, though, and the book could use a little more of that.
There are a few essays at the back, like the baseball counterpart. I liked the one about the non-release of injury information; this "upper body" stuff has become something of a joke. I'm sure the prospect list will pan out down the road too.
"Hockey Prospectus" has a couple of other issues. It's written as if this wasn't the first book, referring rather to articles on the Web site. ("We got criticized when we wrote last year that...") I think a better approach would have been to start fresh, as if it were a much larger audience. Plus, there are references to leaders in certain unique categories used in the book. It would have been nice to see the complete list of all-time leaders; it might help to see if the figures were generally on target and/or had surprises.
All in all, I'm happy to see "Hockey Prospectus" reach the light of print. It's come out yearly since then, and statistical analysis in hockey has grown by a great deal in recent years. Let's hope the series grows as well.