I feel like Alladin when he met Jasmine…it’s a whole new world when it comes to how you watch hockey and evaluate players. Apparently, they call them "advanced stats"…and for the guys and gals who have been using and applying them for the past few years, it’s second nature. For those of us who are just learning, it’s a whole lot of fun.
The reason why I didn’t know these stats were out there and being tracked accurately is probably the same reason many others don’t. I’m just so used to the ingrained way of looking at hockey games: goals, assists, plus/minus, PIM’s, faceoff percentage etc. Because the NHL doesn’t (officially) use these stats (yet), it never occurred to me they could be out there. But dilligent people have been, and thank goodness for that.
Thanks to our own Kent Wilson, along with some online tutorials and a couple other Flames Nation commenters, I’ve started to really understand what these stats mean. And that is helping me learn how to apply them for next years Flames season…whether it be on the air or just in my head. I’ve spent my time on three different areas so far: the Corsi rating, the zone start numbers, and the scoring chance figures.
I’ve found that Corsi is a much more accurate way of understanding how a player affects the play while on the ice…sure, +/- tracks goals for and against while a players is on the ice, but that’s not always the most telling number (although some of those -2’s Jarome Iginla racked up this season had some truth to them). But goals are just one part of a game…this rating takes into account everything directed at the net for and against, which becomes a whole lot more telling.
Now, as Kent pointed out to me, Corsi still isn’t a perfect indicator…in his words, it’s a proxy for zone time. So he encouraged me to also pair the rating with the zone start numbers; the frequency of when a player starts a shift in the offensive zone, defensive zone or neutral zone. This is where it becomes extremely interesting. PLEASE feel free to correct me on any of this…but if I’m understanding things right, a player like Curtis Glencross had a relatively normal Corsi rating this season (6.52/60) relative to the amount of offensive starts he had (52.2% of the time).
On the other hand, earlier this season when Kent and RO lambasted me for criticism on Daymond Langkow, they were right. He started from the offensive zone 49.7% of the time, which compared to 52.2% turns into quite a large number when looking at entire season. Yet, his Corsi rating was higher than that of Glencross…Langkow finished at 7.65. Extremely telling and highly interesting.
Finally, the scoring chances tracked by Kent this season really start to bring everything together. These show exactly who is on the ice when a scoring chances happens for and against. This is a much easier way to show who had a poor game or a good game, because you have evidence in front of you on an individual scoring chance basis. From what I’ve been told, when things are all put together, there are very few discrepencies between each numbers, showing that accuracy is pretty damn high on all accounts. (Flames corsi and scoring chances will be correlated later this off-season – ed.)
The challenge isn’t done for me and my ignorant kind…there’s all these other numbers to digest! Powerplay stuff, advanced plus/minus, and on and on and on. For anyone to discount these would be fool-hardy. They did the same thing with all those new-fangled stats in baseball, and now services like Baseball Prospectus are integral to top MLB scouts and decions makers.
How to incorporate this on the air will be interesting. Those three stats I just finished heralding are going to be the easiest ones to utilize to start, I think. Kent gave me a good idea, using the term "shots directed on the net for and against" instead of Corsi, to incur less blank stares. The rest are pretty easy to explain without getting bogged down in a bunch of numbers…it’s easy to say that "Langkow starts more shifts from the defensive end than Iginla does." The numbers can be used to backup any argument…I’m learning it’s pretty damn good ammunition!
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