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07-26-2012, 02:29 PM
Bear of Bad News
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Join Date: Sep 2005
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Welcome / What This Forum Is / The Rules (PLEASE READ ME)

I'm proud to announce the new "By The Numbers" subforum, a place where mathematics and statistics are used (in a rigorous fashion) to answer questions about the game that we all love.

Who's the greatest player of all time? How much should that player receive on his next contract? Are goaltenders used in the most efficient way by teams? Did Player X deserve the Selke Trophy last year? How important was Scotty Bowman to the success of the Red Wings? What will Phoenix's playoff run mean to their long term financial viability? What percentage of revenues should players receive in the next CBA?

We all love a good argument, and between all of the teams and leagues out there, there are a lot of viewpoints. Unfortunately, "conventional wisdom" has dominated the conversation for essentially all of the 20th century. I'll have my opinion and you'll have your opinion, and they're both based upon "what we know" and anecdotal evidence to support our preconceived notions. Generally, arguments evolve into who's "played the game", and (if a tiebreaker is needed), "who's played the game at a higher level".

A rigorous, science-based approach, attempts to bridge that gap. No longer is it necessary to stand in front of a 90mph slapshot, or fight a heavyweight, in order to have credibility and understanding of the sport that we love. With the right data (that's important) framed the right way (that's also important) we can see things that even tenured professionals miss. (I'm also not suggesting that these methods eliminate the need for traditional methods. Both can, and do, happily work together if done well).

Hockey has lagged behind baseball in this area by a few decades, and there are many reasons for this (most prominently, because baseball features more one-on-one confrontations than hockey, which is a free-flowing game). However, many people have worked to gain traction in the analysis of hockey through mathematics. Klein and Reif's Hockey Compendium in the mid-1980s was the first book (that I can think of) where a rigorous approach to measuring these things. More recently, the team at Hockey Prospectus has advanced matters with a collaborative effort that we'd been talking about since the mid-1990s. If I start listing quality blogs out there, I'll only forget some, but they're out there and there is some fine work being done.

Hockey is a challenging sport, and the great thing is that we're never going to understand it completely. That may frustrate some, but I call it a "great thing" because, since we're never going to get all the way there, we can always make progress towards that goal.

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