by PuckStopsHere on 07/13/11 at 02:02 PM ET
A couple days ago I made a sabermetrics and hockey post where I listed the top 20 players in 2010/11 by Corsi rating. Appearing in the number two spot on the list is Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks. He has a +322 Corsi rating for last season. I think it is an interesting case study to understand why he has such a good Corsi.
The first reason that any Clowe appears near the top of a raw Corsi list is that he played on a good team. The San Jose Sharks were one of the best teams in the NHL. They finished second in the West Conference and had a good team Corsi. Of the San Jose players, why is Clowe the one with the highest Corsi?
For the most part San Jose’s scoring in 2010/11 came from its top two forward lines. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley were the nominal top line. They had the most playing time and scored more points of any San Jose line. Their second line of Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture had nearly as many points in slightly less playing time. The second line was very successful because it tended to get weaker opposition than the first line did. Usually the first line would play against the opposition’s first line and the second line would play against somebody weaker. This quality of opposition difference placed the entire San Jose second line in the top 20 Corsi ratings. It isn’t obvious that the second line’s better Corsis than the front line is due to talent and not due to quality of opposition. In short, it was the front line who helped the second line’s numbers by playing against the top opponents, thus allowing them weaker opposition.
One reason that Ryane Clowe has the highest Corsi of the members of his line is that he does not play on the penalty kill. Corsi ratings, as I have reported them, are only in 5 on 5 situations, so they don’t include short handed playing time. Penalty kill situations become 5 on 5 situations as the penalty is over. At this point, the former power play team usually possesses the puck deep in the offensive zone and often gets a shot or two before play the former penalty killing team has a chance to gain control. This can hurt the Corsi ratings of penalty killers.
+/- ratings on the other hand benefit penalty killing players because any short handed goals count toward +/- ratings. This makes penalty killing a time where a player can get a plus but cannot get a minus. The way that penalty killing is treated in Corsi and in +/- ratings is an issue with no easy answers.
Of several very good San Jose Sharks forwards, Ryane Clowe is the one who was in the best situation to get a good Corsi rating. He succeeded in doing so. This is clearly a sign that he has a high level of talent. It will be interesting to see how this situation progresses into the future. Dany Heatley has been traded to Minnesota for Martin Havlat. This changes the personnel of their top two lines. It is possible that Havlat will be subbed into the Heatley spot for minimal change, but it is also possible that the lines will be shuffled. This is a situation to monitor to help us better understand Corsi ratings. How will changing playing roles affect the Corsis of the top San Jose forwards? Can Ryane Clowe continue to do as well in a different role? Only time will tell.
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