I was thinking today about the skills that it takes to be able to analyze hockey properly, and it took me back to classroom learning. As somebody who hated memorization, it was always a relief to me when a teacher explained that we didn’t need to know something specific for the test. Providing a periodic table, or a t-table, or allowing us to write our own “cheat sheets” for a test was interpreted as a measure of sympathy by the professor. “I know this stuff is hard as hell; I’ll cut you a break and relieve you of a little studying.”
The truth, though, is that allowing the use of these materials, or going as far as holding open-book tests, has practical legs. In the real world, whether in science or math – really in most fields – it is more important to be able to find and interpret information than to know it offhand. If one needs to perform a chi-squared test, for example, in the internet age I can find that information very easily. The more experience one has in the field, the less one will need to rely on guides to perform such calculations, but until that point there is no need to hold information that can easily be found.
This is relevant in hockey because there is a difference between the person who knows the most about a certain team, and the person who has the capability to find out the most about it. It’s great to know Max Talbot’s Corsi Relative offhand, but a quick search on War-On-Ice or another such website will provide that information in seconds. Nobody really needs to know this stuff by heart if you can find and understand it.
And that’s where Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract comes in. For the last three years, Rob has been putting countless hours into producing volumes that rival Bill James’ early baseball work. If one wants to know how the Columbus Blue Jackets deploy their forwards and how those players have fared – whether a fan or a GM – one need not look much farther than the book’s revolutionary player usage charts. Who were the best and worst teams on the power play? Penalty kill? Shootout? All of that information comes easy.
For 2015, due to an impending new publishing deal, Rob’s Abstract is in the form of a PDF update that you can purchase here for only $10. It really is an easy way to find information on last year’s players and teams. Stuff that you don’t need to know by heart.
Also included are features like historical coach evaluations, updated league-to-league equivalencies, and maybe my favorite section, Ian Fyffe’s Hall of Fame Inductinator, which makes the case that Paul Kariya should have been inducted in 2015.
Definitely check it out. I’ve read all three editions and learn something new in each one. It’s good for those at all stages of their analytical exploration, beginner to expert, and is a great way to prepare for the rapidly approaching 2015-2016 season.