Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract 2015 Update offers, for my money, one of the best looks at the NHL from an advanced stats perspective you can find on the market.
In its 150-plus pages of analysis, explanation, and insight on the current state of hockey played at its highest level, Vollman—with help from Tom Awad and Iain Fyffe—provides updates on hard-to-find stats and a variety of new material that builds on the template established by the 2013 and 2014 editions of his Hockey Abstract series.
(Publishing note: Vollman's team signed a deal with ECW Press this year, so future editions of Hockey Abstract will be available in bookstores starting in 2016. The 2015 version is available in digital download-form only.)
Although not as comprehensive as past editions, 2015 Update lays the foundation for analyzing the game on a team-by-team basis using the core principles floating around the advanced stats community.
The 2015 edition is, well, an update to what Vollman has published in years past; previously introduced stats and graphical representations of gameplay have been updated to reflect data through the 2014-15 NHL season.
At the risk of sounding like a commercial for a local car dealership: that's not all Hockey Abstract 2015 Update does, though! There's more! (*wacky waiving inflatable arm-flailing tube man*)
New advanced stats like delta corsi (dCorsi), adjusted save percentage (xSV%), score-adjusted weighted shots (SAwSH), and expected goals (expected goals) are all explained in clear, accessible prose by Vollman. Even if your knowledge of advanced stats begins and ends with plus-minus—in which case, maybe try logging onto the Internet once in a while—there's something for you in this text.
And I cannot be clear enough on this point: Vollman makes no assumptions about his audience in his writing.
Whether you're brand new to advanced stats or you've stopped accepting score-adjusted Fenwick as the best indicator of a team's future performance only because you want to know whether schedule-and-venue-adjusted possession rates really are the new wave of predictive models, you'll find something of interest in Hockey Abstract 2015 Update.
Here's a sampling of the material covered, in case you're in the TL;DR camp or just really love bulleted lists:
- Team analysis made easy
- Player usage charts
- Luck-neutral standings
- Set-up passes
- Home plate save percentage
- Wins above replacement
- Coaching data
- A whole bunch of other stuff that is also cool and good
And because this is a New York Islanders site, let's check up on what Vollman has to say about the Isles specifically:
"It's common wisdom that teams should build towards windows of Stanley Cup contention, but it's less commonly known just how quickly those windows open and close ... John Tavares is turning 25 early this season, so the time for the Islanders to win is right effing now ... The Islanders have all the tools, and should be going for it all this year."
You'll have to pick up a copy of 2015 Update to see exactly why Vollman is so high on the Islanders. No spoilers here.
Now: are analytics great? Maybe the best, even?
Now: analytics are great. The best, even. But that's just my opinion. And although the prevalence of the so-called "fancy stats" has increased over the years, they're only "mainstream" in the sense that traditional media outlets have basically been forced to reference them.
Why? Because fans are more discerning and better educated than ever. That, and advanced stats been proven effective in analyzing the game at a deeper level.
Still, that doesn't mean advanced stats are the only lens through which we as fans should view the game. After all, viewing the game is kinda sorta what sports are all about.
Here's Vollman again:
"I've often described the analysis of hockey without statistics as akin to watching a game with one hand over your eye. Likewise, conducting team-level analysis using only hockey analytics would be like simply covering the other eye instead. Use both eyes!"
So whether you're looking to break into the world of advanced stats for the first time or you want to fine-tune your understanding of the newer metrics by which players and teams are being evaluated in the blogosphere, Vollman's Hockey Abstract 2015 Update is a great way to accomplish your goal.
And don't sleep on the 2015-15 Isles. At least one expert isn't.