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Another Look At Steve Simmons Corsi Comment

Last summer, Steve Simmons made an ill-advised comment about Corsi in his weekly column.  He wrote:

Another reason why I have next to great difficulty for the CORSI analytic statistic in hockey. I saw a team adjusted CORSI ranking for this past season. Tyler Seguin of the Bruins was rated fifth best in the NHL. The same Seguin whom Bruins coach Claude Julien kept on the third line, moving rookie Carl Soderberg from press box to first-line centre when Patrice Bergeron got hurt. I’ll take Julien’s instincts over strange numbers anytime

This prompted me to write a response.  As predicted in that response, time has made Simmons comment look even stupider.  His comment suggests that something is wrong with Corsi ranking because a player he doesn't agree with does well.  This would be equivalent to somebody arguing that goals cannot be a meaningful statistic because Joe Pavelski is currently fifth in the NHL in goals and there is no possible way that Pavelski is the fifth best player in the NHL.  It is a strawman argument that comes from not understanding what goals or Corsi measures.

What makes Simmons look even sillier is that Tyler Seguin would be the line in the sand that he draws.  Seguin is a young talented player who was clearly ready to break out.  His puck possession numbers showed it.  Watching him play would show it.  Steve Simmons couldn't see it.

Tyler Seguin is currently the 13th highest scorer in the NHL.  He is leading his Dallas team in points.  He is showing himself to be a star player in the NHL.  He would have made most Olympic teams this year.  Because he is a Canadian and Canada is very deep and he doesn't have the long track record of some players, he didn't make the Canadian team in 2014, but it looks like he would be a prime candidate for Canadian Olympic Teams for years into the future.

If you want to look stupid, you can make a strawman argument against a statistic you do not understand.  If you are going to do that, at least do not pick a young player who is about to make a significant breakthrough as your line in the sand.  Tyler Seguin is an NHL star.  His star is quickly rising.  Picking a rising star as the player you think doesn't belong at the top of a group of Corsi ranking leaders will make you look really silly as that player becomes a star.  Tyler Seguin is doing that and he is making Steve Simmons look silly.  However, given the soundbite method to Simmons columns, I don't expect that this criticism will be ever addressed by him.  It will be ignored with the hope that most people don't remember or notice how silly that comment was.

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While the shot at Corsi was misguided, I note that Seguin isn’t on the Corsi leaderboards this season.  In all likelihood his Corsi numbers were inflated last year by facing weaker competition—while he finished 5th in Corsi his Corsi Rel QualComp was 0.665, just sixth on the Bruins.  This year he’s improved that number to 0.723, but that’s not an elite number, and his current Corsi puts him barely in the top 30 among centers who’ve played at least 20 games.  A closer look at Seguin’s advanced numbers, both this year and last year, reveal that Julien was right to view him with skepticism when compared to other options on the Bruins roster.

In other words the “mistake” wasn’t to prefer Julien’s evaluation of Seguin to the Corsi number.  It was to fail to understand how Julien’s usage of Seguin had sheltered him and inflated his Corsi.

Posted by captaineclectic on 02/09/14 at 05:31 PM ET

Laran's avatar

So Simmons is “Stupid” and “Silly”.  Real deep stuff…

Posted by Laran on 02/09/14 at 05:33 PM ET

Bossy_Rules's avatar

Even the adjusted Corsi rankings heavily favor the players on the teams with the best Corsi.  I don’t know what the problem is but something is wrong when the top 15 spots contain players from only 5 teams:


Los Angeles and New Jersey players litter the top 20.  It is the team’s systems I think.  There is no way that Dainius Zubrus is a better possession player than Pavel Datsyuk or Dwight King better than Henrik Zetterberg but they play on teams that dominate possession far better than Detroit does.  This number, Corsi HART, is supposed to be adjusted for quality of teammates (and for competition - but that’s another matter) but it still seems to heavily favor players on good possession teams.  The only explanation that I can think of is that those teams play a style that allows them to have a better Corsi independent of the talent and the talented players in such a system look even better than they are by this measure.

Posted by Bossy_Rules on 02/10/14 at 05:08 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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