As the NCAA season approaches (exhibition games start on September 27th), I’ve been giving some thought to this site’s mission. I promised I would do some research on GVT, the advanced metric Puck Prospectus uses to evaluate player contributions, and I’ve done that. Here is a page detailing how to calculate GVT. Advanced stats have not made near the inroads into hockey journalism or the general fan population that they have in baseball, and certainly they’ve not been applied to the women’s game. One of the things that make advanced stats valuable is that they are regularly calculated relative to things like team and league offensive/defensive numbers. They aren’t counting stats, in other words, where you can just add this week’s to last week’s and get a final number. However, in terms of my own ability to do the regular work needed to keep up with something like that…I believe I can complete the basic calculations, although I am pretty bad with fine detail as my teachers from grade zero onward can tell you, but the constant updating, without a program to plug the numbers into, is not going to be work. I am even mediocre at keeping to a regular posting schedule, as you will have noticed.
I greatly admire sites that redefine the way we think about a sport by using these sophisticated ways of calculating player value. If there is someone who has the aptitude to do this work, I will most certainly use her/his numbers on The First Line with many hosannas of thanks. But I have to play to my own strengths. The other thing that the modern sports journalism has given us is an avenue for people to be creative. If you want to write a piece comparing, say, NBA basketball to Congressional Progressive Caucus or Deep Space Nine, have at it. Finding those angles is something I do (note the piece on team evaluation by most unique player name, which I will definitely be repeating this year). I’m a feature writer at heart, rather than the person who feels compelled (or is able) to comment on every single occasion on which something happens. Now, I’m doing various new things this season so my baseline knowledge will be more complete, and I certainly wouldn’t write about anything without that background knowledge, but my preferred mode of communication continues episodic rather than comprehensive. The First Line is also dedicated to bringing a feminist perspective to its analysis, that takes into account things like race and class in reading the rhetoric and reality of the game. That’s something that is really growing in the sports blogging community and it’s a very positive development. But probably my greatest or at least most useful skill is in that which the saber-community sometimes maligns, actually learning from games. I know that the eyeball test can give many false impressions, but honestly if it were totally useless we would just stay home and run regressions rather than doing the part of this gig we all got into it to do: enjoy watching it. So this year I promise even more commentary based on experience. I cannot promise to know everything or to, you know, not do things like accidentally missing the CWHL draft, but promise to continue to find ways to make this site fun and hopefully a bit informative.
Thanks so much for reading and supporting the game we love.