by PuckStopsHere on 07/17/14 at 02:42 PM ET
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.
A healthy season by Cory Schneider when he plays the vast majority of the Devils games as well as he has played in the past should be enough to make then a playoff team.
New Jersey is not a particularly strong power play team. They haven't had a particularly good team shooting percentage either. These are numbers that often swing significantly from one season to the next. The number they can control is goaltending. The more games Cory Schneider plays the better the Devils goaltending will be. This assumes that Schneider can play as well as he has in the past and that they have competent backup goaltending. Currently the Devils plan to have Scott Clemmensen and Keith Kincaid battle for the backup job, so I am not convinced that these conditions will be met. If they are met, I think the Devils will likely be a playoff team.
New Jersey is the best current counter-example of a team that posts good puck possession numbers and still manages to miss the playoffs in the past two years. Three years ago they made the Stanley Cup finals, so on a longer term this trend fails. Last season, 11 of 14 non-playoff teams had negative Corsi ratings. New Jersey was one of the counter-examples and they have been for two years. There are good reasons for this and goaltending is the biggest one. If the goaltending situation improves, look for the Devils to be a playoff team. Look for their puck possession to carry them there.
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