Stats might just be the third most controversial topic in hockey after Shootouts and realignment. Even as we've seen analytics turn from curiosity to lifeblood in baseball and basketball, many NHL teams (and their fans) wrestle with how data can or cannot apply to the game.
Despite that controversy, we're in a great time to be a stat head. Not only are we finding more and more information from sources at the NHL and individual teams (it's not a coincidence the Blue Jackets are starting to offer live TOI tracking and real time game stats in the arena), but fans and writers like Eric Tulsky, Robert Vollman, and Tom Awad are working to find more ways to explain why and how certain players and teams succeed in particular situations ranging from defensive zone faceoffs to zone transitions.
One of the "master keys" to hockey stats over the last few years has been the yearly guides from the team at Hockey Prospectus, and after looking at their 2012-2013 edition it's still one of the best ways to keep a lot of useful information at your fingertips for all 30 NHL clubs.
Focusing on the Goals Versus Threshold and VUKOTA projections (measuring the values of individual players in various aspects of the game and value over an "average" replacement player), this year's guide also features an expanded version of the Player Usage Charts we linked to back in June to demonstrate how much players are used in or out of the offensive zones, and the quality of competition they normally faced. Trying to figure out of Jan Hejda is still a good fantasy asset for +/- and defensive stats? A quick look at his projections will tell you he's getting all the tough minutes and shorthanded situations, but his quality of competition shows how much he's been dominated over the last season.
Unsurprisingly, this year's edition reviews all the woes for the Jackets and doesn't waste time skewering Steve Mason, but they do point out his good qualities - particularly his consistency and the signs that Mason could make big strides as he's grown in experience...but they also point out that Sergei Bobrovsky brings a pretty solid pedigree of his own.
There's also some really fantastic analysis of the Rick Nash deal, and there's some clear signs of hope in the numbers.
Some of the information isn't as up to date as I'd like (the version I was provided to review was published during the lockout), and the player sections are based on the teams as constructed last season, so even though they talk about the Nash trade, his stats are still listed under Columbus, while AA, Dubi, and Tim Erixon are all detailed out under the Rangers.
Even so, the HP remains one of the only resources of its' kind available for hockey fans, and a no-brainer for anyone looking to keep a good selection of information in easy reach.
A review copy of the 2012-2013 Hockey Prospectus was provided to The Cannon by the Hockey Prospectus staff. No other compensation was provided in exchange for our consideration.