Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie, Replacement Players, and Jay McClement

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Joffrey Lupul has become the latest Maple Leaf to suffer an injury during the Leafs’ mini cap crunch. He missed practice this morning with a “bruised calf” and is day-to-day, travelling with the team to Nashville and it’s conceivable he may play, but are the Leafs ever scrambling for depth early on in the season so far.

So far the team has had to use Troy Bodie, Trevor Smith, Jamie Devane and Spencer Abbott in place of Nik Kulemin (chipped bone in ankle), Carter Ashton (broken nose), Jay McClement (paternity leave) and Frazer McLaren (who cares). So far the new guys have acquainted themselves well to depth positions on an NHL roster.

We only have minuscule samples of player data to work with, so looking at shot differential numbers for those players is a little suspect. Still, it’s funny that Carter Ashton and Troy Bodie have been some of the best Leafs for driving play in the early going. They’ve played some of the lowest quality of opposition players, but the Leafs have 23 shot attempts for and just 9 against with Ashton on the ice in the early going. It won’t last if he continues to play as much as he is, but it’s still miles better than anything Colton Orr ever accomplished.

Using Extra Skater, I broke up the early season Corsi numbers by the Top 6, Bottom 6 and Replacements. The “Replacements” are the players whose names weren’t written in pen on the roster in the pre-season. They’re Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie, Jamie Devane, Spencer Abbott and Trevor Smith:

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  Avg. TOI Corsi For Corsi Vs. Corsi %
Top 6 14:30 360 420 46.2%
Bottom 6 9:31 97 121 44.5%
Replacements 6:19 61 67 47.7%

Last year I spoke a lot about how the Leafs were just wasting an organizational strength of good minor league wingers. You have all the time in the world for Bottom Six guys like Ashton and Bodie, and you can tell that the work with Barbara Underhill is paying off. These guys look like very fast skaters and, though it’s been four games, I can’t really pretend that the Leafs are missing a chunk of the speed that they lost last season.

What happens, though, when Josh Leivo plays in place of Joffrey Lupul on the second line, facing tougher competition than the Leafs face on the bottom six. That’s why depth is important, but I sure like the Ashtons and the Bodies over the Orrs and McLarens.

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A point about Jay McClement

The “Bottom Six” and “Replacement” Corsi percentages come closer to even if you remove Jay McClement. It’s odd how successful he is on the penalty kill, but he gets absolutely hammered at even strength. Steve Simmons was on Winnipeg radio yesterday, and while I didn’t listen to the segment, a few statophiles in the Jets blogosphere knocked him around a little bit. Supposedly, he called Jay McClement “the third worst player in the league” if all you did was look at Corsi. Corsi isn’t a mathemagical simulation designed to rank players, it’s simply a record of which team took the shots when a player was on the ice.

I should have looked into why McClement’s Corsi was the lowest in the league among regulars more this summer. According to Behind the Net, the Leafs were outshot by 31.73 attempts per 60 minutes with McClement on the ice. It’s easy to say that it was because he played a lot of his minutes with McLaren and Orr, but I broke up his stats from last season, via Hockey Analysis’ WOWY app, to see how he fared in certain situations:

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  TOI Corsi For/20 MIN Corsi Vs./20 MIN Corsi For %
Top 6 78:42 7.6 28.0 21.4%
Checkers 327:57 15.4 22.3 40.9%
Replacements* 10:02 6.0 13.0 31.6%
Goons 113:53 10.2 20.4 33.3%

(*The only two replacement forwards last season were Ryan Hamilton and Joe Colborne, which shows you the disparity in injury luck from last year to this year.)

I’m paying close attention to that 21.4% Corsi rate with Top 6 players like Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur, generally the best Leafs at controlling shot attempts last season. He was okay with Bottom Six guys like Mikhail Grabovski, Leo Komarov, Nik Kulemin and Matt Frattin. Well, not okay because 40% is still pretty low, but considering how they’d play very tough defensive minutes (Grabovski-McClement-Kulemin was often the line sent out to protect a lead if the Leafs had a defensive zone draw) it’s alright.

Playing with the best offensive players, McClement saw just 7.6 shots per 20 minutes go the Leafs way, compared to 28.0 against. I think that’s pretty interesting and merits a closer look. What did the Leafs do differently with McClement on the ice with a skill guy as opposed to a checker? How did the system change? He saw 40 minutes with Kessel and 35 with Kadri and the Leafs generated absolutely nothing in those situations.

Jay McClement was sixth in Selke voting last year, but I hope nobody was counting his even strength play with that. The Leafs got torched with him on the ice at 5-on-5 last year. It was probably more to do with the system than the player, considering the player was the No. 1 penalty-killer on an elite PK unit.

Those problems have surfaced once again this year. The Leafs have been outshot 15-33 in 29 minutes with McClement on the ice. What is happening out there?

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  • “Well, not okay because 40% is still pretty low, but considering how they’d play very tough defensive minutes (Grabovski-McClement-Kulemin was often the line sent out to protect a lead if the Leafs had a defensive zone draw) it’s alright.”

    No, it is not alright. It’s terrible. Why even try to sugar coat it? 40% is not acceptable under any circumstances.

  • Bertly83

    I’d like to see zone entries/exits from McClement, because even with his horrendous face-punching boat anchors, to my eyes, he seems pretty efficient at carrying it out of the zone/into the opposing teams zone, if only to get rid of it.

    As well, while Devane may be a face-puncher, he at least has some speed for a big man.

      • DevinStillman

        That’s true. Likely because Orr can’t keep up/is changing because they’ve been hemmed in their own zone, and McClement takes it upon himself to get it out.

        I look forward to when the sample size is larger and we can put that theory to the test.

  • Back in Black

    My impression is that while McClement is very good at taking the puck away from the other team, he’s not very good at keeping it once he has it. On the penalty kill this doesn’t matter, but at even strength it’s a big problem.

  • What I would like to see is you write one article without mentioning “corsi” or some other form of data.

    Could ya do that for me, Cammy? It will be tough though for it involves paying attention to the actual GAME

    • Not that I don’t like having readers on this website, but we branch out a little bit beyond what you might find on the pages of the Sun or the Star.

      If the mind-numbing dreck from Steve Simmons or the faux-intellectual ramblings of Dave Feschuk is what you enjoy, then by all means, comment at the bottom of their posts without adding anything to the discussion there.

      It seems that there are a lot of people that find Carter Ashton’s and Jay McClement’s Corsi… interesting, in fact. We’ve split the data to find something unexpected, and what comes next is *gasp* using video to find the problem. Why does Jay McClement struggle with skill players?

      Besides, most of the time commenters complain about the use of Corsi on this blog… they’re usually the first to actually mention Corsi. I could call it “attempted shot differential”, but that’s a waste of keystrokes.

      • Just want to start off by saying that I agree with your first point Cam. If you don’t enjoy the article then don’t read it. However I did want to point out that the reason why Mcclement stuggles with skill players is obvious, he’s not as good as them. And I don’t know what your last point means, as you mentioned Corsi quite a few times in this article.

      • Nothing is more “mind-numbing” or “faux-intellectual” then the constant breakdown of numbers you post. You’re in that new wave of bloggers who saw Moneyball and now tries to write about hockey as a numbers game instead of a sport where nothing is predictable.

        There’s a reason why those are writers for a credited newspaper and you’re well…. nobody.

        • Just silly.

          I like this site because it offers a different perspective – the news isn’t coming from idiots (Simmons).. or majority owners (Bell & Rogers). It’s always easier to hear the “rose coloured glasses” story, but it’s nice to have valid information out there to steady the ship/bandwagon.

          If you disagree, perfect.. but Cam obviously knows his stuff, and he offers a view point that you don’t hear whilst gobbling up all that mainstream media.

          A wise man once said.. “The Sun has great value if you own a puppy or a parakeet”!

          • I don’t “gobble up” anything. My hockey knowledge and opinion have both been formed over a lifetime of playing, coaching, and watching hockey.

            And I’m not questioning whether or not he knows his stuff. I’m saying that this constant examination of statistics is both brain melting and mildly pointless… especially as in depth as this. You can use data like corsi to help support an opinion in hockey but there are far too many intangibles that can’t be measured and analyzed to think that you can run a team based on numbers alone.

          • Jeremy Ian

            Also, it’s not as if stats are the only evidence on the block here, as if Cam’s got one note. In fact, I appreciate the effort to put the correlations into context. Though I often disagree with the portrait of Leaf management’s handling of the contract (successful organizations use all the capacity at their disposal; it was smart for Nonis to hit the cap), I like the diversity of analyses.

  • “My hockey knowledge and opinion have both been formed over a lifetime of playing, coaching, and watching hockey”.

    I think you just described 80% + of the readers on this site.

    I don’t think anyone’s claiming that it’s a great idea to build a team based solely on player Corsi rates – but more knowledge is better… no?

    Why not put all this great hockey knowledge to work and write your own blog about how Corsi stats are terrible. I’d probably read that too.

  • Set Theory

    We used mathematics to hit an asteroid the size of a dump truck travelling tens of thousands of miles per hour with an object the size of a desk. I’m pretty sure mathematics has some application on something as (comparably) simplistic and trivial as hockey.

    Clearly, the problem is that opponents to advanced statistical measures lack the mental fortitude to grasp the concepts and apply them to what they see to potentially see something else. Such fans are akin to “face punchers,” in my estimation.

    • Jeremy Ian

      What a worthless comparison, show me how that’s in any way similar to hockey? I’ve been meaning to say this for quite some time, there seem to be a general consenses on this site that the second someone can fight, they’re labelled a “facepuncher” and are automatically ripped on. Someone being able to fight, and stand up for themselves or teammates is a skill. Not a handicap. The fact that you talk about toughness like it’s a negative is so backwards it’s rediculous.

      • Jeremy Ian

        The problem is not people who can punch faces. The problem is people who can do nothing else. Colton Orr’s career high in points in 9 — in the WHL. He is objectively terrible at hockey, except face-punching. He is not Wendel Clark or Tiger Williams. He is not even Tie Domi. He is ripped on because when he is not actually punching faces, he is a liability to the team. Toughness is not a negative. Lack of hockey skills is a negative.

        • Jeremy Ian

          I’m not here to debate whether or not enforcers are needed in the NHL, although I think the fact that they’ve been around since the game started does say something. I’m just a long time reader who is fed up with some of the know-it-all writers commenting saying things like “Bodie is tough, how much toughness do you need in a lineup?” (Kent) or “I’m not supposed to like Broll, since he’s a facepuncher” (Dangle). Having more toughness in a lineup is a great attribute and Broll is not a “facepuncher”. He’s a young power forward coming into his own, who also wanted to show Carlyle that he can bash heads in, too.

    • Cole

      You think that is comparable to hockey?! The point is that Hockey is not a numbers game, such as baseball may be. Anyone who thinks that it is… Is clearly a moron.

      • Set Theory

        No, I don’t think it is comparable. My point was (which I thought was obvious) that mathematics can either resolve or provide great insight into matters that present as elusive. Is relying predominantly on advanced statistical measures folly? Sure. Is ignoring them entirely folly? Absolutely.

        Cam’s proclivities should be obvious to pretty much everyone by now. Ripping him for doing what he does makes you seem like an asshat. Don’t like it — don’t read, and certainly don’t comment. As Cam pointed out, there are plenty of other alternatives.

        Advanced statistics don’t explain things in absolutes, but they do allow for greater understanding if you give them half a chance. Otherwise, stick to your simple GF, GA and +/- measures. We’ll all be better off.

        • Set Theory

          No actually, that wasn’t even remotely obvious. And I’ve said already (It’s annoying to have to repeat myself, learn how to read better the first time) that stats are a good TOOL, but aren’t anywhere near the only representation… I’ve never said that we shouldn’t use them at all. And I’m not going to stick to GF, GA, plus minus or any other stat because I don’t NEED them to form my opinion on a player. I can do that by watching and analyzing all the big and small things they do in the game as a fellow hockey player. Don’t be stupid, I know it’s hard.

          And as for “Don’t comment”, I’m simply trying to help the less fortunate. I think that there are many good writers on this site and I’d love to see Cam join their ranks.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I did a university course on intro stats and find some of the advanced metrics clear, but often they’re still confusing to me. Are there some that put these concepts in the form of standard deviation – say Z scores? It’s much clearer, to me anyway, to say “Jay McClement is two standard deviations below the norm in _____.”

    A question about corsi – when you say his corsi for/20 with top six guys is 7.6 while the against/20 is 28, I get that that’s the number of shots for and against. But what does the percentage at the end of the row represent?

  • Jeremy Ian

    I’m late to the party here, but this article pretty much tells you why Corsi is not a worthwhile stat for individual players. The baseball equivalent would be like saying Jose Canseco’s .9717 career fielding % means he’s much better defensively than Brooks Robinson was (.9713).

    When you’re looking at Corsi, of course McClement “got torched last season at 5 v 5”!! While he has excellent defensive skills, he’s not Patrice Bergeron playing regularly with other offensive forwards, and the competition he faces is usually the opposition’s top line – who will outshoot McClement’s line for sure… resulting in unfavorable Corsi. Does this make him a bad player? No! I’d actually look at the unreliable plus/minus for McClement for a more telling stat than Corsi: seeing as McClement generates little offensively, his +/- of EVEN suggests he does pretty good at limiting goals (which is far more important than limiting Corsi events such as unscreened low-percentage wristers from the blue line).

    Corsi is best suited as a team stat @ 5-on-5 close. Otherwise, I’d say it’s 100% useless since there is no apples-to-apples comparison between players.

    • Billyb0y

      I’m inclined to agree.

      The amount of time and effort you spend crunching numbers and finding different ways to use corsi saddens me. It’s a useless stat. Get over it Cam.

  • SkinnyFish

    Quite enjoyable reading this column and the comments it triggered. Nice work, Cam. I think all Leaf fans appreciate McClement’s terrific work on the penalty kill and it’s strange that his Corsi numbers are so bad, but let’s see how things evolve with the fourth line this year. The callups from the Marlies are doing well and perhaps a couple of them will become regulars – that should help McClement. It’s tough playing with different wingers – a lot easier with some stability. He’s a handy guy to have though.
    As for Carlyle’s coaching style, I’ll take it over Ron Wilson’s seven days a week….and one of the so-called modern coaches just left Philly rather abruptly. The NHL’s a tough league for players and they need to deal with criticism on a regular basis.The answer, of course, is to play the way the coaches want.
    Let’s focus on what matters, which is, the goalies stay healthy and play well. Go Leafs!

  • Set Theory

    I wonder if his Corsi is so low with skilled players because he was essentially sent out for a face off in tough circumstances (d-zone), then he jumped off to let Kadri or someone else on if they exited the zone… and before a positive event occurred.