I'll be honest. I struggled with this piece, more than any of the articles I've written for PPP. I've spent about 45 minutes on this so far, and I've made it three sentences in. Nonetheless, lets give it a go.
This is a hockey blog (God knows we hear it from some commenters whenever we deviate even slightly from that topic), so let’s start there. My parents are immigrants to Canada, but I was born in Mississauga, and have spent basically all of my life there.
As such, I've been a Leafs fan pretty much since birth. The earliest memory I have of the Leafs is the 2001 playoffs. 6-year-old me was confident we would destroy the Hurricanes. How could we lose? The Leafs playoff run was charmed until that point.
I vividly remember watching Game 1 of the Ottawa series, and when Sundin won it with one of the most iconic goals in recent Leafs history, there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win that series, and three more after it. That's the great part of being a kid - the players really were superheroes to me, and it didn't even cross my mind that a team could be better than the blue-and-white.
If you had asked me who the three best players in the league were that year, I would've answered Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts, and Tomas Kaberle. I drank the Kool-Aid by the litre. And then it all came crashing down, thanks to Arturs Irbe. Nonetheless, I was hooked. The Leafs were competitive every year, and I assumed it was only a matter of time before we would finally win it all. I was not a smart kid.
Growing up, I gravitated towards the skilled players, as most kids do. They were the ones who were wizards with the puck, who could make anything happen. I was always a scrawny kid, so I identified more with the slight, shifty, and creative players than the bruising forces of nature. My favourite Leaf growing up was Alex Mogilny (my brother was a huge fan of his too, which only made me like him more), and my favourite player was Sergei Fedorov.
That trend has continued to today. The expressive and unique players are the ones who really excite me and despite the hockey media's best efforts to quash personality and create an NHL of 450 hockey-playing robots, I don't think I'll ever be able to watch the Subbans, Karlssons, and Tarasenkos of the world without feeling excited at how easy and fun they make the game look.
I started lurking PPP when I got to university, in 2011 (this is also around the time I started playing hockey). I started commenting in the summer of 2013, shortly after 'The Week Dave Nonis Destroyed the Leafs'. I was immediately hooked by the community, and by the willingness of commenters and writers here to say the unpopular.
At the time, the prevailing site opinion that the Leafs were screwed was in stark contrast to the sycophants in the mainstream media. I went to school to study math, and I've always been a proponent of using math and data to understand more about sports.
It was insanity to me that someone would willingly reject additional information because it didn't conform to their preconceived notions of how the game was played. I had long been interested in advanced statistics in basketball and baseball, but PPP introduced me to advanced stats in a hockey context, and I was hooked. Part of the reason was their simplicity.
I was (and still am) a huge basketball and baseball fan, and was fully on board the analytics movement for both of those sports. But with hockey, it was astounding to me how much of the game could be explained by something so simple. If you have the puck and are doing useful things with it, you have a better shot at winning than your opponent. It's such a simple idea, and that’s really what made me want to delve deeper into that world.
I started writing for PPP in 2014, first starting with FTBs and game previews, and then adding more of my own content, including articles and studies that I undertook. The overlap between good math and good writing in the hockey blogosphere is small (though it's getting bigger all the time), and was made smaller by the analytics hires of 2014.
It'd be presumptuous of me to say that I can fill that void, but my hope is that the work I do is both understandable and approachable, while accurately describing what is going on in the game. I've included some of my better pieces for PPP at the end of this article. My work at PPP actually helped me secure a role working with the University of Waterloo Men's Hockey team this fall as part of their statistical team. Since I now work for a team, according to Steve Simmons, I am now infallible, so kneel before me, y'all.
Aside from hockey, I'm a huge sports fan in general. I was a competitive tennis player growing up, and play soccer, basketball, and tennis at a recreational level. While sports are my biggest hobby, my (prospective) career (like a few others here at PPP) lies in the industry of finance. I'm graduating from my undergraduate studies in math at the University of Waterloo in about 3 weeks, after which I start working.
That's pretty much it! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. Hit me up on Twitter @SunkenCost.
I designed a player performance visualization tool here. The tool has been retired, mostly because it wasn't a great visualization, and @MimicoHero's HERO charts do the same thing, but better. I've taken a cursory look at whether it's really better to draft North Americans, and exposed the myth that Phil Kessel fades down the stretch. More recently, I took a look at the Leafs draft strategy after the first round of the 2015 draft, and compared it to the New England Patriots. I also formally quantified the effect of drawing penalties, with a specific look at Nazem Kadri. On a lighter note, I have a review of the NHL awards.