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Rolling out the welcome mat

Now that the NHL season is well underway, I thought it would be a good time to introduce this blog to the new visitors who have been stopping by. Traffic is up 200-300% since the end of last season, so I'm sure there are plenty of first-time visitors arriving and wondering, "what the heck is this mess?" So, here's a brief introduction, followed by what I think might be some useful and/or interesting resources for the discerning hockey fan.

I've been writing about hockey online since the mid-1990's, originally for a site called In The Crease, but also another one called eSports for a while. There was an 8-year interlude while I lived in Indiana that put a halt to my hockey writing, but upon moving to Nashville in the fall of 2005 I decided to take up the keyboard once again. Instead of merely commenting on the action, however, something else caught my eye and led me to the sparsely populated niche of hockey statistical analysis.

The idea behind On the Forecheck has been to try and gather additional information about the NHL from the statistics and data we have available, particularly the play-by-play data provided on NHL.com after each game. While the accuracy of those reports have often been called into question, my feeling is that fuzzy information is better than no information, and that by working with this stuff and shouting our findings from the rooftops, the NHL might eventually find it in their own best interests to improve the quality of data capture. As the Falconer observes over at Thrasher's Talons, "I see the use of statistics [by NHL teams] as inevitable since number crunching has proven to supply advantages to certain baseball teams and such analysis has now spread to the NBA and NFL." In the modern salary-cap era, it's not how much you spend, but rather how smartly you spend those precious salary dollars. Statistical analysis offers the prospect of greatly increasing the amount of information that GM's and coaching staffs have available in their competitive toolbox.

The bottom line is that if we understand the data for what it is, we extend our knowledge of the game and possibly slay some ill-conceived notions that have made their way around the hockey-loving culture. For instance, there's a common notion that a team earning the best regular season record is somehow a bad thing, and that the Presidents Trophy is somehow "cursed." Baloney, I say! And what about the idea that the shootout is basically a coin-flip and that there's little strategy that can be applied to help a given team win? I say, match the shooter's hand with the goalie's catching hand when picking your shooters, and you'll fare pretty well.

Anyways, the basic structure here is that I try to check in daily on what's going on around the league, and particularly with the Nashville Predators (some of whom show up on my fantasy hockey team). The left-hand sidebar contains internal links within this site, to some of the more popular articles that have been posted (particularly the Alternative NHL Awards and Is It Better to Give Than Receive, which looks at team hitting). One resource I've made publicly available is the "NHL Super Schedule", a Google spreadsheet that contains the complete 2007-8 NHL Regular Season schedule, along with columns showing how many days have elapsed since the last game for each team, as well as how far they travel and the strength of the opposition in terms of final 2006-7 team statistics. You can download it yourself into Excel or OpenOffice's Calc, and take a look at how your team's schedule looks this year.

The right sidebar contains links to great hockey resources around the web, whether blogs (first the generalists, and then broken down by division), or other websites like the NHL Players Association. I try to keep that blogroll relevant by not merely linking to every site I can find, but rather the ones that I think truly add to the conversation related to NHL hockey on the web. If you're interested in a particular stat, like Giveaways, you can always use the Search box at the upper left corner to look for posts containing that word within this blog.

For Nashville Predators fans, I also have a publicly accessible Google Map which shows which restaurants and bars in Nashville support the team. Before you head to lunch or dinner, I'd encourage you to take a look at the map and make an informed choice as to where you spend your dining dollars.

Anyways, I'm always open to questions or suggestions as to what should be studied next, so either leave a note in the comments, or email me at the (dot) forechecker (at) gmail (dot) com. And thanks for stopping by...

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