My last post was to list the worst 20 players in 2014/15 by their raw Corsi rating. The worst player in the league was Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabres. He posted a -618 Corsi rating which is over seventy points worse than any other player in the NHL. Let's look at why Ristolainen does so badly. Why does he have the worst Corsi in the NHL? Why is his puck possession so bad? Why does the opposition team take the majority of the attempted shots when Ristolainen is on the ice?
The first reason is that Ristolainen plays for the Buffalo Sabres. They are the worst team in the NHL. They have the worst puck possession in the NHL. Since puck possession is a team based concept, it is logical that the player with the worst Corsi is a Buffalo Sabre. Why is Rasmus Ristolainen that player and not some other Sabre? He is not ready for the NHL. He was Buffalo's first round draft pick in 2013. He came to the NHL immediately. In his first season he split time between the NHL and the AHL. His NHL time was not memorable. He played 34 games scoring four points and posting a -15 +/- rating. Buffalo is a weak enough team that he stayed in the NHL the next season. He played 78 games last year. He was a defenceman who was easily beaten by his opponents. He scored 20 points and posted a -32 +/- rating. Ristolainen had the worst +/- rating on the Buffalo Sabres. He was the ice time leader in Buffalo as well.
Buffalo is such a bad team that their top player by ice time is a young player who isn't ready for the NHL at all. His development is probably being stunted by being forced into a situation where he is failing. If you have a player who is such a poor NHLer leading a bad team in ice time, he should have the worst puck possession numbers in the NHL and Ristolainen does.
I am continuing my summer sabermetrics series by posting the worst 20 players in 2014/15 by their raw Corsi rating. Corsi is getting more accepted by the NHL who started tabulating this stat on the NHL.com website this season. The NHL calls this SAT or shot attempts. It is the difference between attempted shots (shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots) taken in 5 on 5 situations when a given player is on the ice by a player's team and his opponents. It is a measure of puck possession similar to +/- except that it measures all shots instead of only goals. Hence it gathers a much larger sample size, but there are questions about whether shot attempts are as meaningful as goals scored.
I have already posted the top 20 players by raw Corsi and found Drew Doughty led the league. Here is the flip side. The worst 20 players:
In the past I have criticized the Toronto Maple Leafs because they hired a coach in Mike Babcock without hiring a GM. Babcock was signed to an eight year $50 million contract that gives him more pay and a longer term in his contract than the GM. That looked like a problem. Perhaps the solution to that problem is to hire a GM who has no desire to stay employed for eight more years.
Lou Lamoreillo is the new Toronto GM. He stepped aside this spring in New Jersey after 28 years as general manager. He had been successful. He took over a team that was a bottom feeder and built it into a three time Stanley Cup winner. The problem is he is 72 years old. He basically retired from his last job. He is essentially a short term hire. He will not last a long time because age and health are issues.
A couple days ago, I posted the top 20 players by raw Corsi rating in 2014/15. At number one with a +410 rating was Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. Doughty had a good season. He finished second in the Norris Trophy voting and had the most first place votes of anyone in the league. He didn't have the same support as Erik Karlsson did among those who didn't place him first overall, so Karlsson won the award.
Karlsson was the top scoring defenceman and led his team into a somewhat improbable playoff berth. Doughty did not score as well and played on a team that missed the playoffs. When all was said and done, Ottawa had for more points than Los Angeles. As Corsi shows, Doughty's team did better in puck possession when Doughty was on the ice than Ottawa did with Karlsson on the ice. Of course there is more to life than puck possession. Actually scoring is important. Karlsson had a full twenty points more than Doughty. Defensively Doughty is the better of the two but can he make up a twenty point difference? Karlsson had the better +/- rating. Both players played against relatively tough competition, although Doughty played against a bit tougher. I would argue that the Norris Trophy voting went right. The right man won. Doughty's statistical argument comes largely from his Corsi, but Karlsson has a better season. His more traditional stats like points scored show that.
The NHL expected that if they put out calls for expansion applications that there would be enough applications submitted that they could be choosy. That looked good when sixteen different groups asked for applications, but only two actually submitted them on time. Las Vegas and Quebec City are the only applicants. The fee for a bid is $10 million and only $2 million is refundable. It is step one of the cash grab of expansion.
The NHL is a ponzi scheme. At least it appears to act like one. Each time teams expand into the league they pay larger and larger fees to the existing ones. This time around teams are being asked to pay $500 million to expand. This is more than some existing NHL teams are worth. The NHL wants this money because it is not money that has to be shared with players according to the bargaining agreement. If we assume two expansion teams with $500 million fees each we have $1 billion to split between thirty teams. This gives about $30 million to each club. That is enough to cover the reported losses of the Arizona Coyotes for a season.
I am continuing my summer sabermetrics series by looking at the top players in 2014/15 by their Corsi. In the past season this information has become available on the nhl.com website when looking at enhanced stats here. This makes Corsi more accessible to fans. On the NHL webpage it is called shot attempts or SAT. It means the difference in attempted shots (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) for a team when a given player is on the ice and those allowed by their opponents in 5 on 5 situations. It is essentially a measure of puck possession as teams need to possess the puck to attempt a shot. In many ways it can be considered like +/- but with a larger sample size since it measures every attempted shot and not merely every goal.
Here are the top 20 players in 2014/15 by their raw Corsi:
I am happy to report that hockey sabermetrics is being taken more seriously by the hockey media. While that is a good thing it is not without problems. Here is one that comes from a Sportsnet post by Jonathan Willis. He writes about the 10 best NHL analytics free agent signings.
The problem with this post is that is that you cannot look at absolutely anything from an analytics standpoint and have it make and sense. The unrestricted free agent class this year is weak as is shown by my 2015 All UFA Team. This year's team is particularly weak. Even in a strong year we get a team that is significantly more expensive than the salary cap allows. The team has problems with its average age and is usually not good enough to be a solid contender. Thus if we signed all the best UFA players we wouldn't expect good results.
Yesterday I posted the worst 20 players by adjusted +/- in 2014/15 as part of my sabermetrics and hockey series. The three worst players on the list are the Toronto Maple Leafs first line of 2014/15 - Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk. Bozak and Kessel have -25.6 ratings and Van Riemsdyk is one point better at -24.6. As the Toronto Maple Leafs fell apart last year, it is clear that they had problems and this clearly shows one of them.
It isn't obvious which of the three Leafs was the biggest puck possession problem. It is hard to isolate individual players who play together most of the time.
Typically when a player has a poor adjusted +/- rating it happened in part because of bad luck. This is shown by a poor PDO (the sum of the shooting and saves percentage of all five players when a player is on the ice). No player can repeatedly control their PDO. Kessel and Bozak have 970 PDOs. This places them in the 50 worst PDOs among players who played 50 or more games last year. Van Riemsdyk at 977 is slightly better. These players are not the most unlucky in the world, but they are among the worst.
It was back in June when I started my summer sabermetrics series and posted the top 20 players in 2014/15 by adjusted +/- rating. This is a first look at measuring puck possession in a team independent way. It is a little crude because there are only a few goals scored in any given game to give us a small sample size of plusses and minuses. Nevertheless it is a good start. The players with good adjusted +/- ratings have succeeded in their roles in 2014/15 and those with poor adjusted +/- ratings struggled in their roles.
Here are the 20 worst players in 2014/15 by adjusted +/- rating (among players with 50 or more games played with one team):
One of the big stories this summer is the NHL has opened themselves up for expansion applications. The reason for this is obvious. They are asking for a $500 million expansion fee. This is more than some of the current NHL clubs are worth.
Given the current NHL alignment, it is obvious that expansion is in the works. There are two more east teams than west ones. The NHL needs two West Conference teams to even things out. Since that comes with $1 billion that doesn't have to be shared with the players that is even better.
The problem is expansion is not in the best interest for hockey quality. It will make the quality of NHL teams weaker. It isn't really a big step to go from 30 to 32 teams. Each team gets a little bit weaker. The two new teams will be bad - at least for a generation. The best teams won't be able to get as big a piece of the talent.
If we had a situation where there were thirty stable teams that might be acceptable. The NHL talent pool isn't static. Since the KHL is not doing well as Russia is suffering economic hardship, the talent may exist. The problem is we don't have thirty stable teams right now. Arizona is in trouble. The city of Glendale is trying to get out of their lease. Even without that problem it is quite likely their days are numbered in Arizona. They are losing money at such a rate that their only chance at financial success comes from moving. Florida may be in even worse shape. They had even lower attendance than Arizona. These teams are in such financial distress that they had to trade to bring in Chris Pronger and Marc Savard to ensure they make salary floors, since they are paid well below their salary cap hit.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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