July 20 2012 12:50PM
It's rough collecting stray thoughts on a day like today, so our afternoon post at TLN will just be a bit of a data dump for the most part. Yesterday, I introduced the concept, I'm sure, of "zone-adjusted Corsi" to several readers. Corsi is basically a shot-differential statistic that measures puck possession.
Now, it isn't a perfect system, but it gives us an indication of where the puck was when a player was on the ice. If there were a lot more shots in the Leafs' favour when a player was on the ice, he's doing something right to tilt the needle. But since players have different roles, we need to take a lot of things into account. You can't just look at a player's Corsi number and render the judgment.
One thing we've managed to do is value shifts starting in the defensive or offensive zone a certain way. Players who start a lot at the wrong end of the rink, like Dave Steckel, you need to take that into account when you're looking at their Corsi number. For other players, like Mikhail Grabovski, they play against good quality competition. As Not Norm Ullman posts on our post for defence yesterday, sometimes you need to take into account the quality of teammates.
Anyway, the method was outlined yesterday. We looked at the numbers offered at Behind the Net, slightly adjusted Corsi numbers depending on whether players started shifts in the offensive or defensive zone, and will add the player's quality of competition (Rel QoC) in a separate column for reference, along with goals for and against per 60 minutes on the ice.
Again, this isn't a rating or a ranking system, but it does give us some insight. The first is that Steckel did his job last season but his plus/minus didn't comply. His linemates, Philippe Dupuis and Mike Brown, were carried along, but it's easier to play one-way hockey against easy competition and in fewer minutes. Dupuis ends up in Pittsburgh this year, while Brown will, I don't know if he'll stick around with the Leafs but I've concluded he doesn't do his role well enough to stick.
Joey Crabb may be missed, he did a passable job, but Mikhail Grabovski is the important bit here. He was the best regular Leafs forward, took on the top competition and still finished close to par in Corsi. No Maple Leaf was a plus-possession player without Grabovski on the ice last season, with the exception of Ryan Hamilton (1 shot for, 0 against, in 3 minutes of play).
Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel don't fare too well by this metric. They aren't defensively responsible enough on their own to play their high-tempo game without some aid. Tyler Bozak is clearly not the help they need at the back. Their offensive numbers have been just fine, so even playing with Steckel to some degree could help them out. My preference is still loading up that first line with Grabovski.
It's a very limited sample, but Nazem Kadri has put up decent possession numbers in his brief NHL career. With the re-signing of Nikolai Kulemin, you could conceivably put those two together with Tim Connolly and have a line come out ahead in puck possession if they were given offensively-tailored minutes.