by PuckStopsHere on 07/10/09 at 02:50 AM ET
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:
The most obvious conclusion when looking at this list is that the Detroit Red Wings dominate it. Seven of the top eight players were Red Wings (Datsyuk, Rafalski, Kronwall, Lidstrom, Franzen, Hossa, Zetterberg) and an eighth Red Wing (Samuelsson) also appears. In the same vein, no Boston Bruins appear despite many of them having high +/- ratings. Boston had the top two +/- ratings (David Krejci and Blake Wheeler) and three more players in the top 20 (Dennis Wideman, Michael Ryder and Marc Savard) and has none of the top 20 Corsi Numbers. This shows the influence of goaltending on +/-. Boston had the goalie with the best saves percentage in the league (Tim Thomas), while Detroit had the starting goalie with the worst saves percentage in the league (Chris Osgood). Boston did better in terms of +/-, where we are looking at goals scored, but Detroit did better in terms of Corsi Numbers, where we look at shots directed at the net. Boston was able to allow a relatively high number of shots at the net while not allowing many goals, due to their good goaltending. Detroit allowed a relatively high number of goals, given the low number of shots allowed on goal, due to their bad goaltending. There is a goalie influence on +/- and it can be seen by comparing to Corsi Numbers.
One obvious conclusion is that to compare players on different teams, we need to make a team adjustment. There are too few teams with players in the top 20 Corsi Numbers for it to be any kind of comparison between teams and Detroit dominates too much.
Looking beyond the Detroit players, There are seven other teams represented on this list (Chicago and Washington three times each, Anaheim twice and once each for Calgary, New Jersey, NY Rangers and San Jose). These are all playoff teams and are all among the better teams in the league.
NHL MVP Alexander Ovechkin is the only player who was good enough to break the Detroit stranglehold at the top of the charts. He places third.
Most of the players on the list are players one might expect on a list like this. The two biggest surprises are David Moss of Calgary and Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers. Moss is an underrated Calgary grinder, but is he really this valuable? Scott Gomez is a good set up man, who was lost with the Rangers because they had nobody who could score on the chances he created. He was traded to Montreal because of his large contract, but I think he will do quite well in Montreal (better than many predict) if he finds a top sniper to play with.
This list is probably closer to a list of top players in the NHL than a top 20 +/- rating list, despite the over-representation of Detroit Red Wings. This shows, preliminarily, that Corsi Number may be more useful than +/- because of the increased number of events involved.
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