Edit: since publishing this, I have been fortunate enough to have been granted the opportunity to review the book, Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, by the author himself! Look for my book review early next week.
You’ve gotta love modern science, eh readers?
First, it gave us the atomic bomb, which . . . wait, that was kind of bad.
Then it gave us the cell phone, which . . . turned us into a bunch of zombies who now shun human interaction. That could have turned out better.
Now, modern science has brought us statistical analysis, which gives every nerd, dork, and bookworm who could never swing a baseball bat or stand upright on a pair of skates the chance to reduce all the things we love about professional sports into pages upon pages of charts, pie charts, graphs, and more graphs!!!!
Love it or hate it, statistical analysis has arrived in the NHL, courtesy of Rob Vollman, author of the book, Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract.
Scintillating title, eh?
In all seriousness, Vollman used hockey analytics in order to determine which NHL players were the most over-rated, which were the most under-rated, which teams were truly the worst (based on talent and real performance, not simply wins and losses), and which teams were the most likely to spend the offseason infuriating their fans.
Okay – I made that last part up. So much for remaining serious.
If you want to read more about the book – and why Vollman found the Edmonton Oilers to be the worst team in the NHL last season – head over to the Edmonton Journal and tell your family to stay at least 50 feet away from you, lest they be sprayed with brain matter after your head explodes. If, instead, you choose to remain on this site, here is all you need to know: using his big brain, crazy formulas, a dash of voodoo magic, and a Magic 8 Ball, Vollman determined that the three teams destined to be the worst in the 2013-2014 season will be the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames, and the Buffalo Sabres.
Look: many of us realize the Sabres are going to have a tough time qualifying for a playoff spot. Their conference is loaded with teams who qualified for the playoffs last year, and to make matters worse, they welcome the perennial playoff contending Detroit Red Wings into the fold. They are the youngest team in the NHL, and so far this offseason, they have only added youth to their ranks, opting not to rebuild through free agency or trades. As a result, their offensive and defensive woes stand to get worse before they get better, as many of the players wearing blue and gold will find themselves in over their heads quite a bit during the 2013-2014 season.
Still – could it be that the Buffalo Sabres will be among the three worst, if not THE worst, teams in the NHL next season?
I like Ron Rolston – I was quick to publicly commend the Sabres for removing the interim tag from his job description when they named him the full-time head coach of the team – and I think he will do a great job helping young players such as Mikhail Grigorenko, Mark Pysyk, Luke Adam, Jamie McBain, and whoever else gets to skate with the Sabres next season . . . but with so much raw, still-developing talent in the mix, I hate to say it, but I could see the Sabres ending the season as the worst team in the NHL (in terms of statistical analysis, mind you). This doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as a bad thing; I prefer that the young players who will make up the core of this team for the next 4-5 years be given ample ice time next year, in order to hone their games and learn from their mistakes, and if that happens, I’m sure Ron Rolston will live with disappointing statistics if it meant that his younger players were given the opportunity to improve. Still, it will be a tough pill to swallow for a good number of fans. Even when your team is entering a rebuilding phase, you want to believe that the organization is making an effort, even if it amounts to baby steps, to improve – not take an actual step backwards . . . especially when season ticket prices increased! Yowza!
Of course, it’s one thing to analyze a season that recently concluded; predicting the season to come is a whole different story. The numbers may not lie, but in this case, fans of the Buffalo Sabres are hoping that the past doesn’t hold sway on the future.
How do you think the Buffalo Sabres will fare next season? Leave your comments below, or blow up my Twitter feed @theamazingMrS!