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The Future is Already Here: Advanced Stats and BoltProspects

The revolution in hockey analysis, late-developing and centered around the increased reliance on statistical information, has been underway for some time now. A small and marginalized movement in the past for various reasons, advanced analysis has gained such widespread traction that its relevance and influence is no longer deniable. That isn't to say that advanced stats are close to or ever will be the panacea for evaluating hockey players and teams. As Robert Vollman, one of the leading hockey statisticians out there, explained in the foreword to his recently-released 2011-2012 Player Usage Charts:

"...objective hockey analysis acts a useful supplement to everybody’s own experience-based understanding of the game..."

Part of a larger sports trend, this shift, predictably, has faced some well-reasoned skepticism (for example, Daniel Wagner's Kierkegaard, Choice and the Limitations of Advanced Statistics) and, from traditionalists, prolonged resistance and outright disavowals (here's looking at you, Brian Burke and Mike Milbrury). At present, there's a very charged discourse surrounding the merits of advanced statistics but, no matter one's take, clearly a new era in professional hockey has dawned when the powers that be are attending conferences on sports analysis, teams (including the Lightning) are adding analysts to their operational staff and mainstream sources are catching on. For these reasons alone, it's worth keeping up with the times.

Observations from Day 5 of Tampa Bay’s prospect development camp

The final day of camp was comprised entirely of half-ice, 3-on-3 tournament action between six groups:

Team Brewer - Devos, Milan, Mullin, Witkowski

Team Hedman - Koekkoek, Namestnikov, Nesterov, Paquette

Team Lecavalier - Bradley, Brown, Gotovets, Landry

Team Malone - Clarke, Gauthier, McNally, Peca

Team St. Louis - Blujus, Czarnik, Dotchin, Richard

Team Stamkos - Hart, Langelier-Parent, Sergeev, Sustr

Following are the takeaways from watching as much as Day 5's scrimmages as I could individually focus on:

Prospect Camp Observations - Day 3

By Mike Gallimore

The third day of camp opened Thursday with goalies-only instruction followed by a mixture of power skating sessions, passing and shooting drills, which I saw the bulk of but could not stay to see in their entirety.

Following are just a few takeaways from watching Day 3's on-ice action:

Prospect Camp Observations - Days 1 & 2

By Mike Gallimore

Day 1

With a national holiday Wednesday, promising a lighter workload and an afternoon excursion to see the Rays looming, the Lightning's prospects and invitees took to the ice for several sessions Tuesday morning and afternoon. As GM Steve Yzerman took the time to stress, this camp is strictly a tool for presenting the culture of professional hockey, getting a feel for each player's conditioning, abilities and, in the case of returning participants, progression and provide some structured learning opportunities.

Lightning Free Agency and Trade Season Preview

The NHL free agency period starts July 1 and while the Lightning were active in past years, the shallow pool of players available this year may mean they spend more time observing than participating.

It’s no secret the Lightning need a defenseman and Assistant General Manager Julien Brisebois recently told the Syracuse Post-Standard the team plans to add two blueliners before the fall. A look at the numbers says that’s true.

Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher frequently dresses seven defensemen and the team could easily carry eight on the roster throughout the year.

Expected to start the season on the Tampa Bay defense are Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Brian Lee, Brendan Mikkelson, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Keith Aulie. The first hole is in the top-4, where someone like free agent Ryan Suter of Nashville would fit perfectly. Of course, he’d fit “perfectly” on to 29 other NHL rosters, too.

The Lightning were bombarded with injuries on the backline last year, led by veteran Mattias Ohlund missing the entire year with knee problems. While Ohlund is trying to make a comeback, that may not happen until next year – if at all. The bottom line is Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman likely isn’t counting on any contribution from the veteran Swede.

Speaking of Yzerman, he recently told the Tampa Bay Times that if he can’t get defensive additions through free agency or trade, he could look to the AHL for help. The options there include frequent flier Evan Oberg, reigning AHL Defenseman of the Year Mark Barberio, or hard-hitting Radko Gudas, who was arguably Norfolk’s best defenseman in their Calder Cup run last season. Gudas is also a right-handed shot, which is craved by Tampa Bay.

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