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Boyd Gordon’s Zone Starts

A few days ago I posted the top 20 players by excess defensive zone starts in 2013/14.  Leading the league was Boyd Gordon of the Edmonton Oilers who had 487 excess defensive zone starts (defensive zone - offensive zone).  This gives him a well over 100 zone start lead over anyone else in the league.  Boyd Gordon played the most defensive role in the NHL (at least by zone starts) and he did so by a significant margin.

Part of the reason Gordon was on the ice for so many defensive zone faceoffs is that Edmonton was a poor team and had more defensive zone starts as a team than any other.  Gordon is the Oilers best faceoff man and they used him for key defensive zone faceoffs.   This put him in a very tough role.

Statistically it is easy to overlook Gordon.  He scored eight goals and 21 point.  He posted a -15 +/- rating.  These numbers do not suggest anything special.  The fact that he played such a tough role shows that he had a significant value to his team that isn't shown in these numbers.

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Top Defensive Zone Starters

I continue my summer sabermetrics and hockey series by looking at defensive zone starts.  This is the opposite of offensive zone starts.  These are players who are on the ice for more defensive zone faceoffs than offensive ones.  These players are chosen by their teams to play tough defensive roles.  They are often the unsung hero of their team who does the dirty work with little recognition.  Some of these players should be Selke Trophy candidates.  The context of excess defensive zone starts is useful to make Corsi into a more individualized ranking as it helps to show which players play a more defensive role on their team and will thus suffer in terms of their puck possession.

Here are the top 20 players in the 2013/14 season by excess defensive zone starts:

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Zone Starts and Mike Ribeiro’s Buyout

The Phoenix Coyotes bought out Mike Ribeiro's contract this summer.  He had signed a four year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit the year before.  Since this contract was signed after the most recent CBA was signed it is not a compliance buyout and will count against the Arizona Coyotes salary cap into the future.  The reason given for the buyout is that Ribeiro had off-ice issues that prevented him from being a productive member of the team.  The Nashville predators gave him another chance.  They signed him to a one year contract worth $1.05 million.  This will either be a last chance or a chance to reinvent himself as an NHL player.

Ribeiro has had rumors of substance abuse that have followed him throughout his NHL career.  Perhaps this is part of the reason Ribeiro is moving onto his fifth NHL team.  In the NHL the ability to forgive players for off-ice behavior depends upon their productivity on the ice.  It is far easier to forgive a superstar than it is a role player.  When Ribeiro was scoring 70 or 80 points a year in Dallas, if he had the same issues, it was easier to forgive him than when he scored 47 points last year.  This isn't to say that 47 points is bad.  It makes him a solid second liner on most NHL teams.  The problem is he played an extremely easy offensive role as is shown by his zone starts.   

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Top Offensive Zone Starters

As I continue my summer sabermetrics and hockey series, today I am looking at the top offensive zone starters.  These are the players who most frequently are on the ice for faceoffs in the offensive zone as opposed to the defensive zone.  These players are ranked by offensive zone starts minus defensive ones.  This group of players are given a significant number of offensive chances and this will help them boost their offensive numbers.  Unless they succeed to post significant offensive numbers this is likely a failed opportunity.  These players may be weak defensively and are being protected from defensive responsibility or they may be strong offensive players given further chances to boost their offensive numbers.

This is useful in order to understand the context of how players are used in the NHL.  This context will be used to adjust Corsi ratings.  Players who start their shifts in the offensive zone are more likely to have positive Corsi events (attempted shots) in their favor than those who start their shifts in the defensive zone.  This is a necessary adjustment to Corsi ratings in order to make them an individualized ranking of puck possession. 

Here are the top 20 players in 2013/14 by excess offensive zone starts:

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Dion Phaneuf’s Puck Possession

Dion Phaneuf was a star as soon as he entered the NHL.  He was a Calder Trophy nominee in the strong class of 2005/06 where he beat out Henrik Lundqvist to earn a nomination alongside Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.  The next season he made the First All Star Team and was nominated for the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the NHL.  His career was then on a Hall of Fame track but he never arrived as a Hall of Famer.  He failed to progress.  Perhaps he had come too far too fast but he developed a bad habit of abandoning his defensive responsibilities to take offensive risks that rarely panned out.  As Phaneuf became less defensively responsible, he was forced into a more significant defensive responsibility.  Phaneuf played a tougher role and he played it less responsibly. 

This is shown when we look at the worst players by team adjusted Corsi.  Phaneuf has the third worst rating of -295.2.  It doesn't help that his usual linemate of Carl Gunnarsson is worst in the league at -332.2.  The fact that Toronto's top defensive pairing were among the worst puck possession players in the NHL last season helps to explain why the Leafs missed the playoffs.

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Worst 20 Players By Team Adjusted Corsi

Several days ago I listed the top 20 players by team adjusted Corsi.  Today I want to look at the flip-side and see the 20 worst players by the same measure.  Corsi is the difference between attempted shots (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) for and against a team when a given player is on the ice.  This is a measure of puck possession on the team level.  In order to try to make it a more team independent measure, the first thing one can do is subtract off a team adjustment.  That is what is done here. 

This list has a problem where several players on the list got traded during the course of the season.  It is not uncommon for players who are playing poorly (and hence have a poor Corsi) to be traded or waived during the course of a season.  In that case, the team adjustment was weighted so that if a player played 60% of his games with team A and 40% with team B, his team adjustment would be 60% of team A`s and 40% of team B`s.

Here are the worst 20 players in the 2013/14 season by team adjusted Corsi:

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s Puck Possession

Yesterday I posted the top 20 players by team adjusted Corsi ratings.  This is a group of players who were among the best in terms of puck possession in 2013/14.  Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles leads the pack, since I have already written about him; I will focus on the number two player in the list Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks and write a case study on him.

Vlasic has long been listed as one of the most underrated players in the game.  It isn't clear if he should be listed as underrated anymore now that he won a gold medal with Canada in the 2014 Olympics.  Vlasic was more of a depth defenceman in the Olympics, but given the depth of players available to Canada this is impressive. 

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Top 20 Players By Team Adjusted Corsi

Today I continue my summer sabermetrics and hockey series by looking at the top 20 players in 2013/14 by team adjusted Corsi rating.  Corsi ratings are strongly team dependent.  Players on good teams are more likely to have god puck possession numbers than players on bad teams.  In order to team adjust a Corsi rating, you must subtract a team adjustment with is the team Corsi rating for the player's team divided by five since five position players contribute to this number.  This is similar to the adjustment that Reif and Klein use on +/- ratings.  The idea is to remove team effects and make the number an individualized ranking. 

This number is not a final puck possession ranking because we have not yet adjusted for the role a particular player plays on his team.  Those that play in defensive situations are less likely to have good puck possession numbers than those who play in offensive situations.  That is still to come.

For the most part, the top players by team adjusted Corsi rating are similar to the raw, unadjusted top 20 although shuffling of rankings and some new players are introduced.

Here are the top 20 players by tam adjusted Corsi ratings in the 2013/14 season:

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New Jersey Is a Top Puck Possession Team

In the 2012/13 lockout shortened season, the New Jersey Devils had the second best Corsi rating in the NHL despite missing the playoffs.  When Ilya Kovalchuk left to play in the KHL, many people picked the Devils to do quite poorly.  I bucked the trend and picked them to have a solid season with the addition of Cory Schneider in goal.  That didn't exactly happen.  The Devils again missed the playoffs.  They missed by five points last season and they again had a top Corsi rating.  The Devils had the fourth best team Corsi in 2013/14.  New Jersey seems to be the one team that most bucks the trend that good puck possession (as shown by a good Corsi rating) leads to success on the ice.  Why is this?

Corsi is not the only thing required to have a winning team.  Anyne who suggests this is probably making a strawman argument against Corsi ratings or totally misinformed.  Corsi only measures puck possession at even strength.  It does not look at special teams at all.  Power plays and penalty kills are important but are not covered at all with Corsi.  Corsi stats are only taken in 5 on 5 situations.  Corsi also does not measure goaltending or shooting percentage.  It only measures the number of shots attempted.  We can get a look at goaltending and shooting percentage in part by looking at PDO - this is the sum of saves percentage and shooting percentage for a given team.  New Jersey had the fourth worst PDO in 2013 and again they had the fourth worst in 2014.  PDO is generally taken as a measure of luck as it is not repeatable on an individual player level.  On a team level this isn't so true.  A team with poor goaltending will have a poor PDO.  New Jersey is an example of this.  In 2013, their goaltending of Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg was the worst in the NHL.  Last season, things were better.  Brodeur played fewer games (though still nearly half of the season's games) and was no better than he had been the previous year.  Schneider was an improvement on Hedberg and he played a larger percentage of games.  This was an improvement, but the Devils remained below average in goaltending thanks to Martin Brodeur.

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LA Kings Have Best Team Corsi

Yesterday I posted the team Corsi ratings from 2013/14.  This is the difference between attempted shots (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) taken and allowed in 5 on 5 situations.  It is a measure of a team's puck possession.

The Los Angeles Kings led the NHL with a +630 team Corsi.  Thus they attempted nearly eight more shots than their opponents per game.  They were the best puck possession team in the NHL.  The Los Angeles Kings also won the Stanley Cup.  How much of a success of Corsi is this?  How much of the Kings Stanley Cup came from their puck possession ability?

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About The Puck Stops Here

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.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com


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