In this summer’s look at sabermetrics and hockey, I have been looking at the Corsi Number as an alternative to +/-. Corsi Numbers are the difference between shots directed at the goal (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) for and against when a player is on the ice in five on five situations. The benefit is that they encompass a lot more events than +/- does. However, whether or not it is a better or comparable series of events is somewhat of an open question.
I have calculated the Corsi Numbers for all 30 teams in the NHL. These can be compared to team +/- ratings.
The baseball All Star break is ending. It happened without the current American League MVP, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia was voted by the fans to be the starter at second base. He skipped the All Star Game because his wife is having complications in her pregnancy. Though he missed a couple games earlier in the season to be with his wife, he did not miss the game directly prior to the All Star break and he will not miss the game directly after it. He was not at the All Star Game to mingle with the press. This would not have been tolerated in the Gary Bettman NHL. In the NHL when Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk missed the All Star Game to rehab injuries, they were effectively suspended for the game following the break. Sidney Crosby was also planning to miss the game due to injury, but chose at the last minute to attend in a non-playing role and this was considered to be OK.
Stan Bowman has been seen as a future NHL GM for a couple years now. He has served various roles with the Chicago Blackhawks in his eight years with the team (special assistant to the GM, director of hockey operations and assistant GM). The question was where would he become a general manager and when. If it was to be in Chicago, something would have to happen to Dale Tallon, who was their current GM. In Chicago he has his father, Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman working as the senior advisor of hockey operations. The Bowmans had a lot of power behind the scenes and were pressuring Chicago team president John McDonough to give Stan the GM job. What was needed was a strong excuse to show that Tallon was not competent and this had been hard to produce given the Blackhawks rise in the standings. However, Tallon made his mistake with the qualifying offers of several of the Blackhawks restricted free agents. The offers were not properly tendered, but it didn’t cause too much problem as all the players in question have resigned and not for significantly more than they probably would have without the mistake (Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker probably got a bit more money but nothing significant). This was the mistake used to push for Tallon’s replacement.
While I think it was a mistake for the New Jersey Devils to wait this long before hiring a coach, they got out of that situation in the best possible way by hiring Jacques Lemaire as coach. Jacques Lemaire is my pick as best coach in the NHL. Lemaire has had successful stints as coach of the Devils in the 1990’s and the Minnesota Wild. He won coach of the year in both stops and won the Stanley Cup in his New Jersey stint. He is one of the few coaches in the NHL who can consistently get results out of his team that are better than their talent level.
New Jersey has not been an organization that is friendly to coaches under Lou Lamoriello’s management. They cycle through a coach every year or two. The Devils coach is treated like a disposable part. On two occasions the coach has been fired at the end of the season, when things appear to be going well, in order to try to shock the team into a big playoff run. It last happened unsuccessfully when current coach of the year Claude Julien was fired in 2007.
In this summer’s look at sabermetrics and hockey, I have looked at the Corsi Number as an alternative to +/- ratings. Because Corsi Numbers include far more events (all shots directed at the goal) they may be more accurate than +/- which only includes goals scored, as long as the events included are meaningful (are blocked shots and missed shots meaningful?). The best source for Corsi Numbers online is behind the net. It treats Corsi Numbers as a rate stat (per unit of time). I think a more reasonable place to start in analysis is with the raw counting numbers. I have already listed the top 20 players by Corsi Number. Here are the worst 20 Corsi Numbers in the 2008/09 regular season.
When I listed the 20 players with the top Corsi Numbers in 2008/09, the name on the list that most surprised me was David Moss of the Calgary Flames. Moss ranks tenth in the league last year with a +343 Corsi. Moss is not a reasonable choice to be called the best player on his team, while any of the other top 20 players all might be (at least if you neglect other teammates who made the top 20). Moss is a 25 year old who completed his third NHL season (his first full NHL season). He played largely on the Flames third and fourth lines, but managed to chip in 20 goals and 39 points. This placed him tenth in Calgary’s scoring list. The secret to Moss’s success is he is the best puck controlling player who did not play on the top two lines under Mike Keenan.
Ever since there stopped being a valid player transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, both sides have been fighting over players. The first major battle was over Alexander Semin who played in Russia during the lockout year and the year after it despite a valid NHL contract. That was sorted out and he came to the NHL. Though he has become an NHL star since then, he was not one at the point of the fight over his rights. The Russians attempted to fight the transfer of several players to the NHL including Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, but the NHL was able to get any player they wanted and Russia was only successful in getting some NHL rejects (such as prospects Roman Voloshenko and Igor Grigorenko). The NHL had been able to get their way in any important case until Alexander Radulov left Nashville for the KHL.
In this summer’s look at sabermetrics and hockey, I have introduced the Corsi Number as an alternative to +/- ratings. Let’s take a look at some of the players with the best Corsi Numbers from the 2008/09 regular season. The best online source for this information is behind the net, but it treats Corsi Numbers as a rate stat (giving them per minute of ice time). I think it is a much more logical starting point to look at the raw counting numbers. This is how we most frequently view +/- ratings and should be best comparable to Corsi Numbers. In the adjustment process, we may wish to treat them as rate stats, but not at this point.
Here are the top 20 Corsi Numbers from 2008/09:
I like to write a career perspective when future Hall of Famers retire. Today Joe Sakic is expected to announce his retirement in a press conference in Denver. This retirement is one that I feel close to because I grew up near Joe Sakic and first met him (though I doubt he would remember) when I was a four or five year old child and Sakic was a slightly older child starring in Burnaby Minor Hockey.
Joe Sakic was born on July 7, 1969 in Burnaby, British Columbia. He grew up playing in the Burnaby Minor Hockey Program. He was first noticed by scouts in 1985/86 playing for the Burnaby Selects of the BC Amateur Hockey Association when he scored 156 points in 80 games. This was good enough to get him a three game tryout with the Lethbridge Broncos of the WHL. Lethbridge moved to Swift Current the next season and this is where Sakic became a junior star. In his first full junior season, Sakic scored 133 points in 72 games and was named to the WHL East Second Team All Star, WHL East Rookie of the Year and WHL East Player of the Year. This was good enough to get him selected by the Quebec Nordiques 15th overall in the 1987 entry draft.
In this summer’s look at sabermetrics and hockey I have began by looking at +/- ratings and the results of a couple standard methods of their adjustment. +/- ratings are sometimes considered a problematic starting point. One problem is “signal to noise” there may be slightly over 100 goals scored in even strength for a given player in a given season. Their +/- is the difference between the goals for and the goals against. If there are a few fluke events they can carry the majority of the signal (i.e. if a player is on for a few fluke goals those goals can greatly influence their +/-). One way to try to get around this is to increase the number of events we are looking at. Buffalo Sabres goaltender coach Jim Corsi has pioneered another metric. Why not keep track of all even strength shots directed at the net both for and against a team when a player is on the ice. This includes goals scored, shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots. The NHL keeps enough data in its games online that this can be calculated for each game. The main benefit of this method is that it gives roughly sixteen times the number of events for a player that standard +/- does. This is intended to increase the signal to noise (in experimental physics any counting number has an experimental error that scales with its square root so in principle the Corsi Number could be four times better).
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
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