Book Review: Hockey Prospectus 2011-12

Hockey Prospectus 2011-12

Before Moneyball (the book, not the movie), there was Bill James.

For those of you who may not know, James is the grandfather of Sabermetrics (baseball #fancystats) and is currently a senior advisor on baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox.

Part of my personal #fancystats book collection

He began writing The Bill James Baseball Abstract in 1977 which was “the first of its kind to scientifically analyze and study baseball, often through the use of statistical data, in an attempt to determine why teams win and lose.”

Luckily, Hockey Prospectus is there to carry the torch into the Moneypuck era.

Since I got their inaugural copy last year I have been waiting for Hockey Prospectus to make their 2011-12 annual available. Finally, I got to download it last week.

For those not familiar, the book is, for the most part, an in-depth analysis of each NHL team. It certainly has a #fancystats element to it, so those who love stats will enjoy it. But make no mistake: this is for anyone interested increasing their knowledge of hockey, sounding smarter on Twitter or just as a guideline for expectations for the 2011-12 season.

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Doug Johnson of PuckBuddys writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks.

“It’s tough, it’s fast, and you better be highly skilled,” says the Chicago pol bluntly. “Believe me, I’ve got my share of bruises and stitches over the years. There’s a brutal beauty to it.”

Rep. Quigley during last year's Warriors game.

You could be forgiven for thinking the not-quite-second term Democrat and former Cook County Commissioner was talking about politics– Chicago-style or otherwise. But he’s talking about his other hard-knocks passion: hockey.

Stocky and pugnacious, Rep. Quigley looks and talks like a guy who’s been around the rink a few million times. He should. “I’ve been playing since I was eight years old, skating around on old frozen lagoons,” he says. “Twenty degrees below zero, all of that. And I never stopped. I played every chance I could get.”

Quigley loves everything about hockey. Watching it: “Sitting at the old Chicago Stadium – 3rd row, 2nd box behind the blue line– man, that place just shook. Never shoulda torn it down.” Playing it: “My favorite play out there is setting up a bang-bang play, you know, a real good-looking goal.” Even tweaking his opponents about it: “When I was Cook County commissioner, I passed this resolution, right before the Winter Classic between Detroit and the Blackhawks. All the whereas’s and here-to-for’s … but if you read every red capitalized letter, it spells out “DETROIT SUCKS.” (We checked it out. He really did.)

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USA Warriors: “Hockey Was a Life-saver For Me”

Wounded warrior

Doug Johnson of PuckBuddys writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks.

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Drew Hill doesn’t sound like a guy whose life needed saving. He’s confident and friendly, with that ingrained Army habit of calling you “Sir,” and he loves talking about hockey. “Chippy,” it turns out, is one of his favorite descriptions for just about everything.

The Warriors pose for a photo after a recent game.

We spoke recently just as he stepped off the ice after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. He was tired — “Sorry about being winded, Sir,” he said — but eager to talk about his team of military pals who don skates as often as they can. Whether they have all their limbs or not. After all, they have a big game coming up.

Hill is a member of USA Warriors Ice Hockey, a project of USA Hockey and the NHL, that gets wounded American combat veterans out on the ice, playing hockey, no matter if they’ve ever played before or not.

Hill was one of those who had. “I played off and on through high school and up from there,” he told me. “But when I got into the Army I had to back it off a bit. Then I got hurt in Afghanistan in 2006; I picked it back up. Hockey was a life-saver for me.”

In fighting, Hill’s right ankle was essentially shattered and had to be completely rebuilt. “I’ve got titanium and all kinds of metal down there,” he said. His rehabilitation was long and, as they often are, difficult. “Physical therapy was great, but it just wasn’t aggressive enough. I was still walking with a cane. Well, I strapped on a pair of skates and started skating around, and the therapy I got from being on the ice basically got me working my right leg again.”

Hill’s story is a familiar one to anyone who plays with, or knows of , Warriors Ice Hockey. Composed of wounded vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s part exercise, part amateur league, and part therapy. And this Thursday at 7pm, the puck will drop at Kettler on a big game — the Wounded Warriors vs. the Congressional hockey team.

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Tonight, I was watching the Sabres/Flyers game on Versus when the above commercial popped up on the screen. Talk about furious. I’d rather have Gary Bettman come to my house, dip his hand in a bucket of ice water and backhand me across the face than involuntarily have to watch this goal again. But there Dubinsky was on my TV. In all his mustached-glory. Raising his arms triumphantly, while Neuvy hangs his head in utter defeat. What a great juxtaposition.

I have two questions for the NHL after being forced to watch this. First, if they don’t want to risk showing favoritism to certain teams, why show goals from this playoff year? The point of the promotion is to show the NHL’s rich history. Have they already run out of moments from the past? Don’t they think that fans’ feelings might be just a little raw one day after a loss? Second, how is this goal any better than the marker Alex Semin scored in overtime in Game 1? So Dubi can get a commercial, but Sasha Minor can’t? Sure, maybe I’m being a little sensitive here, but this just rubbed me the wrong way. I get what you’re trying to do NHL marketing team, but please go back to the drawing board.

Update: Nick Kypreos of Rogers Sportsnet reports that Matt Cooke has been suspended by the NHL for the rest of regular season and the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

During Sunday’s Penguins vs. Rangers game, Matt Cooke was up to his old tricks. The 32 year-old former Capital delivered an elbow to the head of a defenseless Ryan McDonagh. The Ranger player went down like a sack of potatoes but fortunately was uninjured. Cooke received a five minute major for elbowing on the play and a game misconduct. As Daniel Tolensky points out, Cooke has played in 881 NHL games yet has only been suspended a total of ten matches in his career. The League obviously deserves some of the blame for allowing Cooke’s dirty play to continue without significant consequences for his actions.

A month ago, Pens owner Mario Lemieux criticized the NHL for being too soft on the Islanders’ players that participated in the mega-brawl between New York and Pittsburgh. Just a week ago, Sidney Crosby said the NHL needed to fight deliberate head-shots. But now their own player, Matt Cooke, is once again under Colin Campbell’s review. Below, we’ve chronicled Cookie’s dirty deeds throughout the years.

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Tomas Fleischmann

With Tomas Fleischmann’s arbitration hearing looming in the next few days it doesn’t look like the two sides will come to an agreement beforehand. GMGM moved pretty swiftly to avoid the courtroom drama with Fehr and Schultz indicating, at least to this writer, that the two sides are VERY far apart.

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Nicklas Backstrom is close to a new deal. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Nicklas Backstrom wants to dominate in DC Long Term. The Russian Machine approves. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Nicklas Backstrom is probably the best center in hockey now, but we’ve been worried about what will become of him next season. Well, not anymore.

As Swedish site Expressen.se reports, Backstrom is very close to a new deal with the Caps, in which the details are being finalized now. According to the Swedes, the Caps will retain Backstrom for 7-10 years, earning 5.5 to 6 million per year. Backstrom’s agent characterizes the deal:

You should understand that the new contract must match the level of a player who will become a superstar.

Express.en says the deal is close to being done and should be finalized this week. If it’s not, the Russian Machine is prepared to scribble the thing out in Sharpie pen and run the contract over to Backy’s house ourself.

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Red Square in Moscow, Russia

Surprisingly, It is tough to be a Caps fan in Russia.

Fedor Fedin lives in Moscow, Russia, and he’s a huge fan of the Washington Capitals. Personally, that’s awesome. I love it. But there’s one giant problem, from our collective perspective here in America, we assume that it’s easy following the team overseas. But the reality is, it’s quite the opposite. We asked Fedor to talk about some of his experiences and let us know what it’s really like. I hope this opens some eyes. Welp, take it away, buddy:

Some Americans think following the Capitals in Russia is easy. It actually is quite hard and you are made fun of quite a lot. Here are some of the problems:

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Mike Green’s Second Geico Commercial

I’m not sure if I should ask, but if you haven’t gotten enough of the Geico Cavemen – and Lord Knows how could you not – here is Geico’s Second Commercial featuring Canada’s Best Defenseman, Mike Green. If you ask the Russian Machine for his opinion, this commercial is substantially better than the first, only because Mike Green is actually doing what he’s good at: playing hockey and mugging at the camera. No more of that silly “acting.”

So yes, this is a good hockey commercial. Why? Great dramatic lighting. Sweet Trick Shots. And a weird, almost confusing cameo by Head Coach Bruce Boudreau in the final seconds. Geico – you must have made a mistake – because this commercial is a pleasure to watch. As we did last time, let’s vote. How did Greener do? Let us know below:

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Wednesday Webhits: The Frost King’s Best Links Of The Week

Week two of The Frost King’s Webhits – out of 156* – has links looking at how well the Capitals’ goalies perform on the penalty kill, the diversified scoring of Washington’s forwards, which players excelled at scoring in the past decade, whether defense still wins championships, and a discussion about reforming the shootout system. Enjoy!

* My contract apparently goes through the end of time, which latest info says will be December 21st, 2012. Plan to start (and finish) your Christmas shopping a little early that year!

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