by PuckStopsHere on 07/23/09 at 04:05 AM ET
When I listed the players with the worst 20 Corsi Numbers last season, the list included a lot of defencemen who play on bad teams against top competition and usually start their shifts in the defensive zone. This of course is a contributing factor to their poor Corsi numbers. Copper N Blue notices this and points it out. He criticizes me for listing the players with the worst Corsi Numbers, suggesting that it will provide ammunition to the “anti-numbers” crowd. There are people who do not want to believe that statistics and math can be used to understand hockey and would just like it all to go away. It is obvious that statistical analysis has made significant in roads to hockey, so it isn’t going away. It also isn’t clear that hockey can ever be solved on the level of baseball, but that is a goal - even if it is unattainable. This aspect of the game has little effect upon your viewing of a game, unless you want it to. There is no reason you have to know anything about statistics to view a game.
The problem comes from looking at the worst 20 Corsi list. This is definitely not a list of the 20 worst players in the NHL. Nobody should suggest that it is. It is the 20 players who while they are on the ice in 5 on 5 situations have the most shots directed at their net minus those directed at their opponent’s goal. This is a failing for these players. It may be that this failing comes largely due to circumstances of how they are played. They might be in a situation where only a top player would be able to post a good Corsi Number.
The most significant name on the worst 20 Corsi list is Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester has been the best player on the Florida Panthers for several years. He has played a tremendous number of minutes in bad situations. He is clearly talented. He has always made scouts take notice of his game. He was selected third overall in the 2002 Entry Draft. He appeared in three World Junior Championships and has represented Canada in the 2006 Olympics. That is a star player. Isn’t it?
Bouwmeester has never seriously been considered for a Norris Trophy. Is this because he is overlooked in the bad Florida market or is it because he has never been deserving? How well would Bouwmeester play on a better team? We will see that next year now that he is a Calgary Flame.
It is hard to know how big an indictment that his Corsi Number should bring him. Is he in a situation where even a star would have Corsi problems? It is clear that lesser defensemen in similar situations (though less ice time) also have poor Corsi Numbers (Nick Schultz, Brendan Witt, Kurt Sauer, Scott Hannan etc.), but should that be the case with a legitimate star? We don’t have the numbers to know for sure. It is rare that legitimate star defencemen are on bad teams and in the years where enough statistics are gathered to allow for Corsi Number calculation, only Bouwmeester qualifies. What would happen if Zdeno Chara or Nicklas Lidstrom replaced Bouwmeester in Florida? Would they also appear on the worst 20 Corsi Numbers list or would they be off of it by significant margins? We don’t have any reliable way to answer that right now. In some ways, Bouwmeester is the test case.
It is always a cause for concern when a player who just signed a large contract (as Bouwmeester did in Calgary) appears on a “worst” list. Does that mean he is not as good as we think? Has Calgary signed a star who will make a big difference to their team or a player who will slip into the number three defenceman spot? Both scenarios are possible, as are many in between.
Corsi Number is relatively new to most hockey fans. We are still learning how useful it is and what exactly it means. How much is a poor Corsi Number dependant upon the player involved and how much upon his circumstances? What kind of a player could succeed in Bouwmeester’s circumstance in Florida? Was what Bouwmeester achieved the success we would expect from a star defenceman or did he fall short? Noting that Bouwmeester had a poor Corsi and that players in his circumstance often do is interesting and it leads to debate on his merits. Is this a failing of his?
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