Daniel Wagner

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Hockey Abstract cover

The most well-known book about advanced statistics in baseball is Moneyball, which is odd, as it isn’t, strictly-speaking, about advanced statistics. Instead, Moneyball is a book about economics and finding market inefficiencies. It just so happens that in baseball, those market inefficiencies are generally found through the use of statistical analysis. In many ways, that analysis has its roots in the work of Bill James and his annual Baseball Abstract that was published from 1977 to 1988.

As advanced statistics in hockey grow in prominence, there appears to be a market inefficiency of sorts: there is no equivalent to the Baseball Abstract for hockey. While plenty of material has been published online developing statistics like Corsi and Fenwick and tracking things like zone exits and entries, no one has published a book covering these statistical developments in a way accessible to those unfamiliar with the work done online.

Rob Vollman has attempted to to fill the gap with his new book, Hockey Abstract, available in PDF format or in print from Amazon. While it falls short in some areas, it’s a fantastic resource for those new to advanced statistics in hockey and an engaging and enlightening read for those already familiar with them.

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(Cris Bouroncle, Getty Images)

(Cris Bouroncle, Getty Images)

While the NHL and IIHF reached an agreement to allow NHL players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the future of NHL participation in the Olympics remains in doubt. While frustrating for fans, it’s understandable why NHL owners would be concerned about their players participating in the Olympics. After all, it’s their money invested and they get minimal to no return on that investment, though you could certainly argue that growing the game via the Olympics should lead to financial gains in the future.

Another concern is that players could potentially suffer an injury during games that have no bearing on NHL success, while others might be concerned more about the wear and tear of playing the extra games that could lead to future injuries and hurt a team’s chances of competing for a Stanley Cup.

Related to this concern is how the Olympic break will affect the athletes participating once they return to the lineup. Will there be a letdown after the high of representing their country? Will fatigue set in with the extra games played? Will players play through an injury for an important Olympic game and return to their NHL team hobbled?

I was curious if there actually is any evidence that participating in the Olympics could have a negative impact on a player’s performance after the Games. I decided to look at goaltenders first, since they tend to supposedly benefit the most from the rhythm of routine that might be disrupted by the Olympics. I looked at the 2009-2010 season to see if there was an impact on the save percentages of the goaltenders who participated in the 2010 Olympics. I was definitely surprised at the result.

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(Jonathan Kozub, Getty Images)

(Jonathan Kozub, Getty Images)

On Monday, the Winnipeg Jets re-signed restricted free agent defenceman Zach Bogosian to a 7-year deal, continuing an interesting trend this off-season. Bogosian is the fifth RFA defenceman to sign a long-term deal over the last couple months and it’s also the richest of the five deals. Roman Josi, Slava Voynov, Ryan McDonagh, and Travis Hamonic have all signed for 6+ years with their respective clubs

Like those four players, Bogosian is a very good young defenceman with the potential to be a cornerstone of his team’s defensive corps in the future. Bogosian’s contract, however, has been criticized in some corners by those who don’t think he deserves either the term or the money. I also saw a number of people making understandable comparisons of Bogosian with the four aforementioned defencemen who also signed long-term deals, wondering why he received more per year than any of them.

Some of the criticism is rooted in underestimating Bogosian, who has played for teams that could be generously described as mediocre and in front of goaltending that doesn’t even deserve that generosity. But a fair portion of the criticism seems to stem from missing the differences between his situation and those of his RFA defencemen contemporaries.

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Canada's Jason Spezza celebrates after h

(Fabrice Coffini, Getty Images)

In the early 80′s, when Wayne Gretzky dominated the Art Ross race repeatedly, fantasy hockey pools and leagues were forced to either ban Gretzky entirely or split his goals and assists. Gretzky’s dominance was so total that he sometimes had more assists than other players had points, making Gretzky’s Assists a legitimately good first overall selection in a fantasy draft.

While Team Canada isn’t anywhere near as dominant in international hockey as Gretzky was during the 80′s, but because of the depth of talent in Canada, there is always an argument that a second Team Canada could be created, participate in the Olympics, and finish in the medals. Perhaps that’s hubris, but it’s understandable hubris given how much talent has to be cut from the team.

On Monday, Canada announced their Olympic orientation camp roster, inviting 47 players to attend. Even that generous camp roster managed to upset some hockey fans, as several significant players, such as Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, and Patrick Marleau.

So, I got to thinking. Sure, you could create an excellent B-Team from those cut from Team Canada’s camp. But could you create a viable international team from those not even invited to the camp? In other words, not the B-Team, or even the B-Minus Team: the C-Plus Team. Read the rest of this entry »

2013 NHL Draft

You know nothing, Garth Snow. At least, about goaltenders. Which is pretty ironic, really. (Dave Sandford, Getty Images)

The Islanders making the playoffs this past season seems to have changed people’s opinions about Garth Snow significantly. At one point, Snow was a bit of a punchline. There were many reasons, starting with how he became the Islanders’ GM in the first place, getting hired the same day he retired from being an active player. Then, a couple months later, he signed Rick DiPietro to his ludicrous 15-year contract.

Even when he was named the executive of the year by Sports Illustrated in 2007 after less than a year on the job, no one took it particularly seriously: after all, what does Sports Illustrated know about hockey, really? Sure enough, the Islanders lapsed back into mediocrity and finished at or near the bottom of the league in five straight seasons.

But with success comes recognition and Snow’s masterful manipulation of the CBA and clever use of the waiver wire to navigate his way around one of the lowest internal budgets in the NHL while still icing a competitive team has garnered Snow praise from all corners.

There’s really only one issue: Snow can’t find a good goaltender.

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(Brian Babineau, Getty)

(Brian Babineau, Getty)

Early in the 2012-13 season, minor penalties were being called at a significantly higher rate than in 2011-12, resulting in nearly two more minor penalties per game.  The renewed commitment to calling obstruction and the addition of penalties for concealing the puck and using your hand on faceoffs seemed to be the culprits.

By the end of the season, however, that trend had completely reversed, with the result that minor penalties were called at almost exactly the same rate as 2011-12. So much for that.

The fact that the number of minor penalties called hasn’t gone up does, however, make what Nazem Kadri accomplished this season even more impressive. Kadri led the NHL in both penalties drawn and penalty plus/minus and it wasn’t even close.

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Spoiler warning: it's this guy. (Harry How, Getty Images)

Spoiler warning: it’s this guy. (Harry How, Getty Images)

It may have just been me, but the Calder Trophy race this year seemed a little disappointing. No one came even close to scoring at the same rate as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did last season, nor did anyone step up to take a leadership role like Gabriel Landeskog or take on the defensive responsibility of Adam Henrique. It seemed fitting that the award was handed out with minimal fanfare during the Stanley Cup Final.

The most intrigue that could be mustered surrounded Nail Yakupov and his exclusion from the top-three in voting, despite tying with Jonathan Huberdeau for the league lead in points from a rookie. It just didn’t grab my attention like last year’s race. What I do find interesting is looking back at last year’s rookies and seeing how they performed in their sophomore seasons. The dreaded sophomore slump did indeed seem to claim a couple of victims, while others stepped up and improved on their rookie years.

The season’s best sophomore didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, as he had a solid rookie season, but the strides he took in his second year had to be a pleasant surprise.

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