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Top 20 Offensive Zone Starters

The next step in the sabermetrics and hockey problem of making sense of Corsi ratings is to take into account zone starts.  This is a recording of which zones (offensive, defensive and neutral) a player is on the ice for faceoffs.  Players who have an excess of defensive zone starts will tend to have a worse Corsi because it is easier for their opponent to take a shot when they start on offence and vice versa for players with an excess of offensive zone starts.

When I tabulate offensive zone starters, I am talking about the imbalance between offensive and defensive zone starts.  These players are a combination of offensive players who were used in offensive situations and weak defensive players who are not trusted in their own zone.  These players should show a noticeable increase in their offensive numbers as a result of the way they are used.

Here are the top 20 offensive zone starters in the 2010/11 season:

2010/11 Top 20 Offensive Zone Starters
Excess Offensive Zone Starts 
1Daniel SedinVan


2Henrik SedinVan


3Alexandre BurrowsVan


4Patrick KaneChi


5Christian EhrhoffVan


6Patrick SharpChi


7Jonathan ToewsChi


8Thomas VanekBuf


9Derek StepanNYR


10Kevin ShattenkirkStL


11Anton BabchukCal


12Troy BrouwerChi


13Ville LeinoPhi


14Brian CampbellChi


14Patrik BerglundStL


16Marian GaborikNYR


17Duncan KeithChi


18Alexander EdlerVan


19Derick BrassardCBJ


20Dustin ByfuglienAtl


20Ilya KovalchukNJ


The runaway leaders on this list are the Sedin brothers and their linemate Alexandre Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks.  Vancouver made it a big part of their strategy to get their offensive players in as many offensive situations as possible.  It is smart hockey and it is also a reason why the Sedins are not the best players in the NHL despite leading the league in points for the last two years. 

Strong offensive teams that had a lot of offensive zone starts tended to dominate this list.  There are five Vancouver Canucks, as Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler join the Sedin line.  They are beaten in numbers by six Chicago Blackhawks - Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Troy Brouwer, Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith.  No other team has more than two players on this list of 21 players (there is a tie for 20th).  The New York Rangers offer Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik, the St Louis Blues offer Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund.  The lone players from their team are Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres, Ville Leino of the Philadelphia Flyers, Anton Babchuk of the Calgary Flames, Derick Brassard of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dustin Byfuglien of the Atlanta Thrashers and Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils.

A significant portion of the players on this list changed teams this summer.  This is a way for a player to be overrated and likely have a bigger cost than he otherwise should.  A player with an imbalance of offensive zone starts should have better offensive numbers than he otherwise would have if he played a more balanced role.  Buffalo acquired Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino with large free agent contracts.  If they cannot offer them as many offensive zone starts in Buffalo, look for their numbers to drop.  Brian Campbell was acquired by Florida and is almost certain to have fewer offensive zone starts there than he did in Chicago.  Troy Brouwer moves from Chicago to Washington.  Likely the Capitals will not offer him as many offensive zone starts and he will see his numbers decline.

The next step is to look at a few of the players who headline this list and then look at defensive zone starters.  Then I want to incorporate these numbers with Corsi ratings to get a better feel for player performance in 2010/11.

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These numbers are interesting, but I think it would be more interesting to see their offensive to defensive zone ratios compared to the ratio of offensive and defensive zone faceoffs their team had.  Players like Toews and Keith were probably out there for a TON of faceoffs as both log a good amount of ice time and Toews was the best faceoff man on the hawks.  Just like the Nucks, the Hawks tended to outshoot their opponents, which would lead to more offensive zone faceoffs, which you mention a little in your article. But if a player is out there for a ratio similar to what the team experienced as a whole you could argue that it wasn’t the teams strategy to put them out there for more offensive zone starts, they just put them out there a lot.

Posted by pstumba on 08/03/11 at 04:29 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

The New York Rangers offer Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik, the St Louis Blues offer Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund.

Shattenkirk was an Av for the majority of the season, so he and Berglund probably should be considered in the “lone players from their team” category.

I’d be interested to see how many teams had players at the high end in both offensive zone and defensive zone faceoffs, as well as which teams tended to be more in the middle. I expect Detroit and San Jose, for example, would have low differential numbers whereas Vancouver seems like it is going to have people high on both ends of the spectrum- based on the assumption that Malhotra and others low, low corsi numbers were partly due to defensive zone faceoff load.  Is this something you’re going to cover?

I’d also like to see a list of the differentials for the top 50 or so point scorers in the league.  Is this information available somewhere?

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 08/03/11 at 10:20 PM ET


A big reason the Canucks top line is so far up the list is because of the stellar defensive play by their other centers. When you have the Selke winner Kesler and defensive specialist Malhotra at your disposal there is not much need to use the Sedins in a defensive role

Posted by PJ from Victoria on 08/04/11 at 05:54 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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