I think it is usually more meaningful to look at counting stats than rate stats when determining the best players in the NHL. As such I have listed the top 20 and worst 20 player’s individual Corsi Ratings from last season, where Corsi is the difference between the shots directed at goal (on goal, missed net and blocked) for a player’s team and the opposition when the player is on the ice in 5 on 5 situations. This is a strong gage of puck possession in NHL games.
Throughout this process, commenter GoPens has been asking about why I like counting stats over rate stats. I think the best way to explain this is to give the top 20 players by Corsi rate (Corsi per minute) and compare with the top 20 by counting stats.
Yesterday it was announced that Evgeni Nabokov signed a four year contract with SKA St Petersburg in the KHL. Nabokov is a good NHL goalie. He was named to the First Team All Star in 2008. He is better than many goalies who are employed in the NHL, including many starters. He is a better goalie than either of the pair his former NHL team, the San Jose Sharks intend to use next year. There should be little controversy in claiming he is a better goalie than Antero Niittymaki or Thomas Greiss.
If Nabokov is such a good goalie why was he pushed out of the NHL? Largely it comes down to a finite number of NHL jobs available. The salary cap has forced teams to economize in some positions and the prime goaltending jobs filled up with players who will be paid less than the price Nabokov demanded (and deserved based on his past history). When jobs began to be filled and Nabokov saw other big name goalies in Marty Turco and Jose Theodore remaining unemployed as well, he opted to return to his homeland to play in the KHL.
I am continuing my look at sabermetrics and hockey today. Yesterday, I listed the players with the top 20 Corsi ratings as counting numbers and today I will list the worst 20. Corsi is a measure of the difference between shots directed at goal (on goal, missed net and blocked) by a player’s team and his opponents. It is used as an alternative for +/- because it encompasses far more events than only goals scored and is an indicator of puck possession.
The players scoring worst in Corsi Ratings are poor at puck possession. They also likely play on teams that are poor at puck possession and are often used in defensive roles, where it is expected that the opposition team will most likely control the puck. While being on this list is not a sign of a good player, it is not necessarily a sign of a poor NHL player. Other factors can have come into play to keep the rating low.
I am continuing looking at sabermetrics and hockey, by looking at Corsi Numbers. I will not spend as long on them this summer as i did last year, but I want to look at the league’s best and worst while looking at them a few different ways.
A Corsi Number is a total of all shots directed at the net (whether on goal, blocked or missing the net) for minus those taken against while a player is on the ice in 5 on 5 situations. The best source for Corsi Ratings online is behind the net, but it tends to look at things on a rate (per minute) basis and I find it is often more useful to look at counting totals over the full season. They tend to better show who had a good season, as opposed to who played well in a more limited situation.
When one hockey team is run by the NHL and financed by the other 29 clubs, every move they make will be looked at under a microscope that doesn’t exist for the other clubs. If they make a move that looks too good for another club, does this show NHL favoritism to that club? This is especially a question if that club is struggling financially and may be receiving NHL aid (such as Tampa Bay last year when Phoenix traded for Radim Vrbata) On the other hand; if Phoenix is too active it also looks bad. Why should a team on NHL welfare be acquiring more payroll than necessary to satisfy the NHL salary floor? Why are NHL team paying for somebody to potentially defeat them? This happened last year at trade deadline time.
Several people were making top ten lists around January 1st to celebrate the bests and worsts of the last decade (2000-2009). In hockey, I think a decade is better defined as the 2000/01 season until the 2009/10 season and now that it is concluded, I will make my top ten list. Here are the ten best players of the last decade.
Martin Brodeur He firmly set himself up in the debate for the best goaltender of all time in this decade by becoming the all time winner in shutouts and wins. He won the Vezina trophy four times and the Stanley Cup once in this decade. He was chosen as a goalie for Team Canada in all three Olympiads in this decade. Brodeur clearly established himself as the top goalie in the last decade. Even as he is 38 and clearly slowing down in the final year, he was a Vezina nominee.
We are into the third day of free agency in the NHL and things are beginning to slow down. It is time to ask how good a team can get if it is built through free agency. To attempt to do that, I picked an all star team of the 2009 UFA’s to be and another one this year. Last year’s team has 21 legitimate members. I attempted to put 23 on it but in the hours between my posting of the team and the opening of the free agent season Henrik and Daniel Sedin re-signed with Vancouver and were taken out of the mix. Thus the team is slightly smaller than intended and it takes a hit in quality as those two were the best two players on it.
Here is my 2009 All UFA Team along with their salary hit and key numbers:
When Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel bought the Florida Panthers outright from Alan Cohen (where they had been minority partners), I cautioned that this may be a desperate financial move by people who are unfit financially to own an NHL team. I was criticized by Stu Hackel of the New York Times Slapshot blog for misreading the situation, but it is looking as though I am correct.
The first major change the new owners are bringing into Florida is a slashed payroll and that is consistent with them not having the money to properly finance their team, especially as it is second to the Phoenix Coyotes in recent financial losses.
I like to make an all star team of the best unrestricted free agents available each year so that I can do some analysis later and try to determine how good the team would have been if they had all been acquired by the same squad. Usually that all UFA team winds up well above the salary cap but does not look too competitive as an NHL team.
Here is last year’s team and i am yet to do any serious analysis (I will in a couple days). I screwed up on this team in that I announced it a few hours before free agency began in earnest and its two best players, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, re-signed in Vancouver before the start of free agency. Thus, those two players will have to be removed from any analysis, as they were never actually available as free agents. Had the eventual NHL MVP and the second team All Star left winger been on the team it would have been much better than it actually was.
In the last couple days I have discussed the NHL awards voting. I have written posts on the Hart Trophy and the Selke trophy. There is one more voting result I would like to comment on and that is the First Team All Star right wing. Patrick Kane of Chicago was given this award. From the voting results and looking at point totals, there were effectively four people in this race. They are Martin St Louis, Marian Gaborik, Dany Heatley and the winner Patrick Kane. No one else appeared on more than five ballots.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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