by PuckStopsHere on 07/12/10 at 12:44 PM ET
Over both of the last two years, I have noted that Ryan Johnson of the Vancouver Canucks has the worst Corsi when viewed as a rate stat among players with 50 or more games played. Here are the worst Corsi rates from this year and here they are from the year before. Notice that as Vancouver improved in the standings, Ryan Johnson’s Corsi rate actually got worse.
There is some resistance from Vancouver and the league in general to looking at this stat and concluding that Ryan Johnson is a liability to the Canucks. Here is Nucks Misconduct’s responce when I suggested Ryan Johnson had played himself out of the NHL. I was wrong that he did that last season, it looks like he played himself out of the league this year and only should have done it last year, but the Canucks continued to play him another season.
Here is Don Cherry defending Ryan Johnson (assuming he understands the concept of Corsi Numbers at all)
Don Cherry is a reason that players like Ryan Johnson remain in the NHL (though his status as an unsigned free agent makes it look possible that his career is over). Johnson is a hard working player. Don Cherry loves hard working players. He doesn’t notice or care that Johnson is hard working and ineffective. It is interesting that Cherry claims every team would love to have Johnson on their team and yet no team has lined up to sign him when he hit the open market.
Now how bad (or good) is Ryan Johnson? He isn’t the worst player in the NHL. Nobody claims he is (although that is the position that Don Cherry attacks). The worst player in the NHL is a goon who is so protected in terms of ice time that he doesn’t get the chance to have the worst Corsi in the NHL. Last year, I picked Raitis Ivanans of the Los Angeles Kings (inexplicably now signed by the Calgary Flames) for that honor.
Ryan Johnson is the worst player in the league in terms of puck possession. He has held that position for two years in a row, which shows that conclusion is relatively robust. He has done it on a strong team that has been in the playoffs both seasons and won their division last year. Since any puck possession stat (+/-, Corsi) has team effects (i.e. players on good teams appear better than they should be and players on poor teams appear worse) this is quite damning.
This analysis can be criticized by arguing that Ryan Johnson’s game is not based upon puck possession. There is some truth to that. Ryan Johnson is a penalty killer and a shot blocker. As a penalty killer, nobody who played as much as Johnson on the penalty kill on the Canucks had a worse ranking from Behind the net. This is not a plus that shows his value. Johnson’s shot blocking counts against him in his Corsi rating, as each shot he blocks is a shot directed against his team. Ryan Johnson finished 127th in the league in shot blocks with 85 this season. He is a player known for his shot blocking ability and nevertheless failed to make the top 100 in the league? That doesn’t support his claim to be a useful player.
The problem with a defensive player, who has one significant weapon in his arsenal in blocking shots, is that he will allow extra shots against in an attempt to block them. Even when he is successful in a shot block, he will usually be temporarily out of the play as he is sprawled out on the ice and the puck rebounded off of him in a random direction. Shot blocking can be a useful skill, but it must be part of a group of defensive weapons. Any player who is predominantly a shot blocked and not close to being among the top shot blockers in the league is of questionable use.
Ryan Johnson does not play many minutes a game. This has kept his counting Corsi from landing among the league worst. That is an admission that he is not a particularly good player. The Canucks could only afford to give Johnson a little over seven minutes of even strength ice time per game and that ice time came against weak competition. Nevertheless, the weak competition controlled the puck and took the majority of the shots against the Canucks. This Vancouver team under nearly every other circumstance, except when Johnson played, controlled the puck and took far more shots than their opponents. This is a condemning case against Ryan Johnson.
Nevertheless, Johnson has been a popular hardworking hockey player. This is a description of many of the worst players in the NHL who remain regulars. He is a popular hardworking player so coaches, teammates and fans like him. The fact he works hard and still fails is overlooked because his hard work is seen as such a positive. Fans defend him as they can see he is trying hard. Coaches do not want to send the wrong message by benching such a hard worker. Thus he gets the chance to continue to work hard and to continue to hurt his team.
Ryan Johnson has not played well in the last couple of years. He has hurt the Vancouver Canucks. He has done so in a minor role with limited ice time, so his damage is not as big as players who play more frequently, but he has nevertheless hurt the team. Vancouver would be better served with somebody more competent in Ryan Johnson’s spot and they will likely have that next season as Johnson remains an unsigned UFA. Ryan Johnson is the worst player in the NHL at puck possession. That is pretty damning. The length of time he has held that position reduces any uncertainty in making that declaration. There is nobody in the NHL who is worse in terms on puck possession than Ryan Johnson. The mitigating circumstances, such as his penalty killing and shot blocking, that are used to argue that he does have a positive value are not very strong. Ryan Johnson plays on a good team, he plays against weak players and for the last two years those players have controlled the puck against him more than they have against anyone else in the NHL.
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