# Carolina Hurricanes Adjusted Corsi Numbers

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

A couple weeks ago, I made a post with a couple graphs showing how the players on the Hurricanes were used last season in terms of zone starts and quality of competition. Charts like that are excellent for seeing how coaches use their players but they don't give you the best idea of how they performed against them because raw corsi and corsi relative numbers do not take context into the situation. Hockey statisticians all over the Internet are looking for ways to fix this and one system that has been introduced is Adjusted Corsi or "Corsi corrected for shift location."

I believe that I stated this in a few of my articles, but where a player starts his shifts will have a huge impact on his corsi number because if a player starts most of his shifts in his own zone, he's likely to be on ice for more shots and his corsi number will suffer from it even if he plays well defensively. To correct this, the writer at Objective NHL determined that one offensive zone start is worth 0.8 in corsi based on Vic Ferrari's study that an offensive zone start is equal to 0.6 in Fenwick and Fenwick is just Corsi without blocked shots factored into it.* If you look at the graphs that I made for the Hurricanes, you'll notice that there were a lot of players who had mostly defensive zone starts and I attempted to show their performance by color coding the bubbles, but corsi relative numbers alone doesn't reflect how well they performed here so I thought this project would be good to do. I used the formula in the Objective NHL article posted above to determine these numbers and found their zone start percentages and corsi numbers at Behind The Net's stat site.

*I prefer to use Corsi because I feel that blocked shots should be accounted for here. If a player in his own zone allows the opposing team to get a shot away then he should be penalized for it. However, shot blocking as a skill should be taken into account when signing players.

# The "Importance" of Face-offs

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

The Hurricanes were the second worst face-off team in the league last season with a success rate of 44.6%, only .4% higher than the Edmonton Oilers. I saw this is a big problem when I was tracking the team's defensive errors because there were many opposing goals that resulted from the Canes losing a face-off in their own zone. Then I read a post over at Flames Nation which addresses the point that winning a face-off is overrated in the grand scheme of things and shows evidence that where a player's shift location began is more important than winning the face-off. He also brings up the point that the difference between the best and worst regular face-off men in the league is about 20 percent with most players having a face-off rate between 40-60%. David Steckel and Manny Malhotra's being the only ones with a success rate of over 60%

How much does winning the draw contribute to team success? Last year, some of the best face-off teams were also the best territorially:

Vancouver and San Jose were the two best face-off teams in the league by nearly 2 percent and they also had the two best team corsi percentages with the score tied. After those two, it gets jumbled a bit and you'll have good face-off teams like Florida play poor territorially while bad face-off teams like Calgary and Buffalo outplayed their opponents 5v5. So there is some correlation but you have to be either a really good or really bad team at taking draws for it to make a distance. That brings up another question; is it worth it to spend money on "face-off specialists" in the off-season to make your team better? It is if said player can do more for the team than just win draws.

# Makeshift Wings

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

When considering who will be on the opening night roster for this upcoming season, I believe the consensus among most Canes fans is that we have our centers figured out. Staal centers the first line, obviously with Ruutu, Sutter and Tim Brent or Jiri Tlusty on the second, third and fourth lines respectively. The biggest issue is figuring out who will be playing the wings on these lines because things kind of look like a mess right now on the first line. Judging from what I've gathered from other Carolina fans, most would like to keep the second line of Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner together instead of bumping up Skinner to the first line with Staal and I can understand that because it gives the team more scoring depth. However, that leaves two holes on the first line and there isn't a lot to work with to fill those spots. Then you have to consider who will play the wings on the bottom-six too. Let's take a look at what our options are:

Note: There's a few players who I have ruled out already because, like Jokinen and Skinner, they seem to have found spots on other lines. Chad LaRose appears to be comfortable on the third line and Patrick Dwyer is set on the fourth-line so we don't have to worry about them.

# More Canes Powerplay Analysis

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

About a week ago, I made a post addressing an article on Pro Sports Talk where they came up with system for ranking a team's powerplay going by how many goals they scored instead of using conversion rates. The Canes powerplay looked better through this because they scored 55 goals with the man advantage. I don't think this is a bad system to go by but I was very skeptical of how much validity there was to a system like this because of how much it rewarded teams who could draw penalties. Teams who have more opportunities on the powerplay are obviously going to score more goals and Carolina drew more penalties than any other team in the league last year. They converted at a low rate of 15.3%, good for 25th in the league and they had only 46.2 shots per 60 minutes when they were 5-on-4 and that was also in the bottom-five of the NHL. So, Carolina apparently had a "good" powerplay because they scored over 50 goals on a lot of opportunities despite not getting the puck on net that much or creating much pressure. Makes sense. I did a little more investigating to see just how good "or in this case bad" our powerplay was last season.

Let's just say we could do a lot better....

# Shea Weber's Value

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

Yesterday, Nashville Predators defenseman and pending free agent Shea Weber was awarded with a one-year contract worth \$7.5 mil after his arbitration hearing. When any player signs a contract with that kind of cap hit, people wil always say that it's an overpayment and the team paying that kind of contract is foolish. To justify spending that kind of money on one player, that certain player has to be in an elite class for his position. In my opinion, Weber fits into that class and is arguably a top-three defenseman in the league right now. This is why I do not have a problem with Weber receiving this kind of salary and why I think he will be worth it.

# Carolina Hurricanes 2010-11 Scoring Chances

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

I've talked a bit about scoring chances on this blog and how important they are when it comes to determining how much success a team has. If you don't remember what a scoring chance is, then I'll give you a brief explanation. It's a shot directed at the opponent's net from a dangerous scoring area and it includes missed and blocked shots. The exact "scoring chance area" is debated over by several bloggers but the general idea is that it's the area in front of the net to the top of the face-off circles from inside the two face-off dots. This picture courtesy of Arctic Ice Hockey explains it better. It is similar to corsi only we use shots that were counted as scoring chances instead of shots in general so we know which players are creating offense better than others. Corsi is a great system for measuring possession numbers, but scoring chances gives you a better idea of which players are producing better than others and which ones are getting lucky or unlucky.

Most teams have statisticians who track numbers officially for their respective teams and this has slowly been gaining popularity on the blogosphere, too. Bloggers who currently track chances for their teams are Derek Zona at Litter Box Cats (Florida Panthers), Dennis King at MC79hockey.com (Edmonton Oilers), Neil Greenberg at Russian Machine Never Breaks (Washington Capitals), Kent Wilson at Flames Nation (Calgary Flames), Eric T. at Broad Street Hockey (Philadelphia Flyers), George Ays at Blueshirt Banter (New York Rangers), Oliver at En attendant les Nordiques (Montreal Canadiens), the people at Under The Helmet of Slava Duris (Toronto Maple Leafs) and I will be doing it for the Canes on this blog for this upcoming season.

Doing this for the most recent Hurricanes season was a bit difficult because I don't have all 82 games available for me to watch on demand (although that would be sweet) but what I do have is access to every game's shot charts on NHL.com and Vic Ferrari's awesome scoring chance script at Time On Ice to help me do this project. So, we are looking at scoring chance data based on shots on goal instead of shots directed at the net. It's a little rought but I think the data does give a good general idea of who was producing more than others. You have to take things like zone starts, playing time, quality of competition and a player's performance in comparison to the rest of the team into context with these numbers, too. Without further ado, are the scoring chance numbers for the Canes:

# The Maurice Effect

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

In baseball, there is a belief called "the manager effect" that goes around among fans and bloggers. It's basically the idea that some managers can get their team more motivated than others and play harder to win games. Some believe in this, some don't. This idea usually runs wild whenever a new manager comes in at the middle of the season and the team undergoes a hot/lucky streak during that time (see Buck Showalter's run with the Orioles). This belief obviously carries over to all sports when questioning how much of a role the coach plays with how good or bad a team is. There are many who have the mindset that a great coach can get a poor team to overachieve and vice-versa, it's one of the reasons why Pete Deboer was sought after by a few GMs this off-season to fill their vacant head coach positions. One way people try to determine how effective a head coach is by looking at a player's performance after he is traded or after his previous coach was fired.

If you remember the Canes playoff run during the 2008-09 season, a lot of players who were a big part of that team were basically cast-offs from other clubs and most of them started producing after Paul Maurice took over as head coach. Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov all started to "rejuvenate" their careers a bit after being signed by or traded to the Hurricanes and all except Samsonov seemed to play better under Maurice. Let's go through the first three.

# Reasonable Expectations: Tomas Kaberle Edition

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

The biggest signing the Canes made this off-season was picking up veteran puck-mover Tomas Kaberle for three-years with a cap hit of \$4.25 mil per season, which was the same as it was on his previous contract. Almost immediately after Kaberle was signed, Joe Corvo was traded to the Boston Bruins for a fourth round pick, leading many people to assume that Kaberle would be replacing Corvo as the team's powerplay specialist. However, in a post on my other blog, I noted some big differences between Kaberle and Corvo's game and the latter had a lot more responsibility on the Canes than Kaberle did on the Bruins and Maple Leafs. Yes, Kaberle plays more minutes but Corvo took on tougher competition and killed penalties, which Kaberle did not to do a lot of. Kaberle's biggest responsibility was quarterbacking the powerplay and that fills a need in Carolina but just how big of a workload should the Canes give Kaberle?

The biggest help that Kaberle can provide for Carolina is helping spark this powerplay which, despite what some think, was pretty bad last season, especially when it came to getting shots on net. This is where Kaberle would step into Corvo's role as the powerplay quarterback and hopefully provide more production from there. If you take a look at the article I linked, it's possible that the Canes might get more out of Kaberle than they did from Corvo on the powerplay, but calling him a "replacement" for Corvo is a bit of a stretch.

The biggest difference between Kaberle and Corvo's game is that Corvo had a huge role in Carolina as a top-4 defenseman who contributed a lot at both ends. Kaberle doesn't kill penalties often and has barely done it in the past two seasons and he faced weak competition the past couple of seasons. Corvo saw the second toughest competition among Carolina defensemen. Kaberle also failed to score a goal on the PP last year but he had 25 PP points (which made up over half of his 47 point total) which was higher than Corvo's 23 PP points last season (although 8 of his were from goals). Also, when you compare Kaberle's production on the powerplay in terms of shots with Pitkanen and Corvo over the last four seasons, Kaberle leads the pack by a longshot. Even his most recent season looks like an improvement over those two so I have to believe that Kaberle should help out the Canes powerplay a bit.

Now the question is what role does he play in Carolina and how much ice-time should he see per game? When I tracked scoring chances for the Stanley Cup Final, Kaberle was getting third pair minutes with Adam McQuaid and was mainly utilized on the powerplay. He thrived in this role ending the series with a very good scoring chance ratio and did very well on the powerplay. His ice-time and 63.7% offensive zone start percentage also shows that he was given relatively soft assignments. I feel that it's unlikely the Canes use him in this way because Boston has a stronger defense corps than Carolina but if players like Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference were getting more minutes and tougher assignments than him, then what makes you think that Pitkanen, Allen, Gleason and possibly McBain won't do the same? However, putting him a third pairing role would mean that we're paying \$4.25 mil a year for someone to only be a PP specialist, which doesn't look good on the front office's part. My thought is that the Canes can use him as Toronto did where he got mostly offensive assignments but still was given a lot of ice-time and the tougher assignments that Corvo left behind can go to Allen.

I've always liked Kaberle but I felt that he was kind of overhyped in Toronto with the Leafs believing that they could get a massive haul in return for him in a trade. He isn't as good as some people make him out to be, but the fact is that Kaberle can prove to be a big help to this team if he plays to his full potential (if he plays like his 2006-08 self then I will be very happy). It's all about reasonable expectations, though and if people are expecting him to be Shea Weber then they will likely be disappointed but hoping that Kaberle can help Carolina's powerplay find some sense of life is not out of the question at all.

# NHL News and Notes

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

• A pretty significant trade went down today as the New Jersey Devils sent Brian Rolston to the New York Islanders for Trent Hunter. This looks like a clear win for the Devils at first because it frees up more cap space for them to re-sign Zach Parise (they now have \$7 million free) and Rolston has never lived up to his \$5+ mil plus cap hit. When looking at things more closely, the Islanders don't look too bad for doing this trade because they need to get to the cap floor and Rolston's cap hit is higher than his salary (barely) so this helps their cause there. Also, Rolston has only one year left on his contract while Hunter still has two years left with a \$2 mil cap hit so the Isles aren't taking on an albatross of a contract here.

That said, what makes the Islanders look bad here is they took a big contract off the hands of a divisional rival, which obviously will not go over well with the fanbase. Rolston will also be the highest paid player on the Islanders roster next year unless they sign someone else. Luckily for them, he isn't close to being the best player on the team as there are plenty of great young goal scorers on Long Island. Rolston may be able to take on soft minutes and play in the top-six there but he's clearly past his prime. Trent Hunter did not have a good season last year but he is a solid two-way forward who can be a big help for the Devils third line or fourth line. This trade helps the Devils causes right now because it creates cap room to re-sign Parise and it's not like Hunter's \$2 mil in cap space will cripple them next season so I don't think them taking that contract is a huge deal, especially if he plays like he did before this most recent season.
• Avs get deals done with two of rookies, Gabriel Landeskog and Duncan Siemens. Good chance that Landeskog starts the year in the NHL for them. Excited to see what he can do.
• Review of Tim Gleason's 2010-11 season by the folks at Canes Country. I disagree with most of the negative things said about him but you could probably tell by reading this blog that I'm higher on Gleason than most people seem to be.

• A goal-by-goal analysis of Tomas Vokoun's season done by Red Line Station. Builds on what I did with Neuvirth, Varlamov and Ward in recent weeks. Great stuff.
• Nashville Predators ink Tyler Sloan to a one-year deal. I have to wonder about a few things; 1.) I can't believe Sloan was signed before Scott Hannan. 2.) Brett Lebda and Tyler Sloan might play on the same blue line. That scares me just thinking about it. 3.) What in the world is David Poille doing this summer? He's a terrific GM but he's made a couple questionable moves the past month or so.

• More great work from Gabe Desjardins at Arctic Ice Hockey looking into the question of how much quality of competition matters when looking at advanced stats in hockey.

That's all for today.

# What To Expect From Alexei Ponikarovsky

Written by Corey Sznajder on .

Not much was thought of the Hurricanes signing of Alexei Ponikarovski to a one-year deal worth \$1.25 mil per season and for good reason. He didn't exactly light things up with the Los Angeles Kings last season by scoring only 5 goals and 15 points in 61 games with them. Anyone who is coming off a season like that isn't going to get a lot of hype from the fans or media. However, Ponikarovsky was a decent offensive player for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the the five previous seasons. He has also been a good player through Corsi the last four seasons but if you take a look at his player card at Behind The Net, you'll see that he got tougher assignments in Los Angeles and was used more as a defensive player rather than a top-six winger like he was in Toronto. Instead of "Which Ponikarovsky will the Canes get this season," I think the question going into this year will be "How will the Canes use Ponikarovski? Will he be a third liner whose only role is to play defense and create momentum or do we bump him to a scoring line? You could make a good argument for both sides.

If you take a look back at his player card and compare his Corsi on with his offensive zone starts, you'll see that he was effective when used in offensive situations and in those seasons with Toronto (and 16 with Pittsburgh), he scored 18, 23 and 21 goals respectively while putting up 35, 61 and 50 points. Then look at his last year in Los Angeles, he saw tougher competition and had less starts that begun in the offensive zone. His most frequent linemates were also Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds, which was LA's third line that was relied upon for energy and momentum for most of the time. Ponikarovsky also had a higher corsi percentage than those three along with an abysmal shooting percentage but he only had 96 shots on goal so take that for what it's worth.

I spoke with a few Kings fans and asked them what they saw from Poni this season and what the Canes should expect from him and the general consensus is that he did all what Terry Murray asked him to do as a third liner: he played defense, worked hard, created momentum and occassionally set up his linemates. The problem is that he barely pitched in offensively and rarely shot the puck and was eventually bumped down to the fourth line once players like Kyle Clifford began to do the same things he and provide offense along with it. He played with Kevin Wesgarth and Trevor Lewis for most of the playoffs. I'm not completely sure of how he was in his Toronto Maple Leafs days but judging from what I was told by their fans, he was solid defensively for the Leafs and did a lot to create offensive pressure there so those goals weren't completely luck. He is only 30 years old so it's not like his ability just completely drifted away after one season. Just compare the roles and linemates he had with Toronto with what he had in LA. I'm sure most wingers would see an increase in point total if they played on a line centered by Mikhail Grabovksi or Nik Antropov instead of Michal Handzus or Trevor Lewis.

Now we just need to think about how Maurice will use Ponikarovsky in Carolina. I've addressed this a few times but the team really needs another goal scoring winger right now and if Maurice chooses to use him on one of the top two lines, then Poni replicating his production in Toronto when he was on a scoring line there, then it would definitely be a big help to the Canes. The one issue here is that I am not sure if he should be placed on Eric Staal's line right away unless he starts shooting the puck more, that and Jussi Jokinen seems to have the LW spot on the second line solidified for now so maybe the third line spot with Chad LaRose and Brandon Sutter is a good fit for him. He seems like he would fit on this line the best because these two are also defensively responsible and can provide offensive as well. The problem here is that these two got tougher zone starts than others on the team and Ponikarovsky's history suggests that he can't score when he's given tougher assignments. LaRose and Sutter also had similar point totals to what Handzus and Simmonds had last season, so playing on the Canes third line would put him in nearly the same situation as he was with the Kings. Sutter has a higher ceiling than Handzus right now, though so he may have a little more to work with. If he repeats what he did in LA, then the Canes will at least have themselves a big, physical, defensive winger who plays well territorially. If he does neither and compltely flops, then it only cost the Canes \$1.25 for one year to sign him. This is pretty much the definition of a low-risk, decent reward signing.

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