by PuckStopsHere on 07/13/09 at 02:41 AM ET
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.
Several conclusions can be made by looking at this list and by comparing it to the top 20 list. The first is that the worst players do not have as bad negative Corsi Numbers as the best ones have positive ones. This makes sense because if a player was as bad as the best players in the league are good, he wouldn’t get much ice time and would find it difficult to keep an NHL job. The top three players on this table (who are essentially even) are Kurt Sauer and Zbynek Michalek of Phoenix and Brendan Witt of the New York Islanders. They would place ninth in the top 20 rankings if they took the absolute value of their negative ranking. Scott Hannan would be tenth and Nick Schultz would be tied for fifteenth. No other players from the worst 20 would appear in the top 20. Thus these players are not as bad in terms of Corsi Numbers as the top players are good.
In the top 20 rankings the Detroit Red Wings were the dominant team. They had seven of the top eight players. No team places as many players in the worst 20 ratings. The Florida Panthers place five players to lead the pack (Skrastins, Bouwmeester, Peltonen, Campbell and Dvorak). Unlike Detroit in the top 20, these players are spread throughout the rankings.
Jay Bouwmeester is the most surprising player in these rankings. Most of these players are players who have significant amounts of ice time in shut down roles on bad teams. This is not surprising. A bad team will allow more shots than it takes. A shutdown player will do little to increase the number of shots his team takes. Does that mean these players are all bad because of their poor Corsi Numbers or do they force a lot of very low percentage shots and thus not hurt their teams?
Bouwmeester is the defenceman who had the most ice time on a bad team in the NHL. Perhaps that explains his inclusion on this list, but it is alarming that he didn’t do enough to drive the Florida offence to have a better Corsi Number. Is that worth $6.6 million a year from the Calgary Flames? I am skeptical.
The entire top 20 players list was from teams that made the playoffs. Not all of the worst 20 list missed the playoffs. In fact, Brooks Orpik made the worst 20 list and won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was possible to play your entire season with the Anaheim Ducks and make both of the top 20 and worst 20 lists. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry made the top 20 list, while Rob Niedermayer (and Travis Moen who was traded to San Jose at the trade deadline) appear on the worst 20 list.
Defencemen are over-represented on this list. The worst eight Corsi Numbers all belong to defencemen. Fourteen of the worst 20 belong to defencemen. I guess it is more possible to be a defenceman and have little value in terms of puck possession and shot generation (that Corsi measures) than it is to be a forward. Conversely, the top 20 has a more natural forward/defence split with 13 forwards and 7 defencemen, which is approximately the ratio of such players in the NHL.
These 20 players did not score well in 2008/09. Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester led the pack with 42 points. The top scoring forward was teammate Radek Dvorak who scored 36 points. Corsi Numbers are somewhat a measure of offensive production and it makes sense that the worst players did not produce much
Most of the players who appear on the worst 20 Corsi Number list are bad players who were forced to play significant minutes on bad teams with few other choices. A few are players that I think are valuable, despite their poor Corsi Numbers. It is possible to be a good player who plays a lot of minutes in a largely defensive role on a bad team and have a bad Corsi Number. How much of this shows that the player is not doing well and how much shows the circumstances of where and how he plays is a largely open question at this point.
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