• Chart Du Jour

    by  • August 23, 2013 • Hockey • 20 Comments

    Prompted by a discussion with the internet’s Ryan Lambert on Twitter, I present this chart of the Penguins’ Corsi% with and without Crosby or Malkin on the ice for the six years in which that data is available.

    Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 9.38.01 AM

    Having two lines (Crosby and Malkin barely played together this year at 5v5) that can crank out Corsi% at 56% is a hell of an advantage for a team. It can overcome a lot of things. For example, this year, it overcame having a bottom two lines that piled up Corsi% at a 43.5% rate. That was the Pens achilles heel though. (Fine, their other achilles heel.)

    Awards are awards and kind of silly but I found it sort of bizarre that Ray Shero won GM of the Year this year. The whole job in Pittsburgh is to put a bottom six on the ice around Malkin and Crosby. The Pens, for whatever reason, were unable to do that this year. They spent draft picks and prospects to get players who didn’t fix it. Flags fly forever and you don’t know how long Sid and Geno will be all-world players, so I get going for it. I just kind of think that the electorate rewarded the appearance of action rather than asking whether or not problems were actually fixed.

    Crosby and Malkin are special players who kind of warp the laws of hockey – they’re players with true talent 5v5 on-ice shooting percentages that might be north of 10%. That being said, the bottom six was a pretty tremendous weakness in PIttsburgh last summer and I don’t see them as having fixed it this summer. This, to me, kind of symbolizes the difference between the elite in the West and the elite in the East – the elite teams in the West have their weaknesses but they don’t have glaring disaster areas like Pittsburgh did in the bottom six last year.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    20 Responses to Chart Du Jour

    1. August 23, 2013 at

      The loss of Staal was huge for the Pens. Then Shero compounded it at the deadline with the acquisition of guys like Murray and, yes, Jarome Iginla. Now they’ve lost Tyler Kennedy as well, one of the few decent possession guys who was left in their bottom 6.

      • Aron
        August 23, 2013 at

        In all fairness Shero did his best to keep Staal with the 6m/yr offer. I think getting Sutter, Dumoulin & Pouliot was good business knowing Staal was only going to go to 1 team. Sutter took some time to gel with the Pens and I think he’ll be a fine 3C in the long run and cheaper obviously than Staal.

        Agree with the other points in the article, it’s maddening seeing Crosby with Craig Adams on his flank even for a shift. Byslma just loves terrible, terrible players.

    2. Triumph
      August 23, 2013 at

      In fairness to the East, while I agree Western teams tend to have fewer glaring flaws, none of them have two true talent 10% on-ice shooting Corsi monsters, either.

      Losing Matt Cooke was a good move – he was propped up an enormous amount by Staal and Kennedy. Losing Tyler Kennedy was probably a large mistake but with how they treated him he likely had to go. I wonder this across team sports, but IME it mostly applies to hockey and baseball – I wonder how much Dan Bylsma overvalues a guy like Craig Adams because Bylsma was basically the same kind of player.

      • Aron
        August 23, 2013 at

        Re: Kennedy. I think he’s uniquely overvalued by Corsi than almost anyone else in the league. He takes some of the worst angle shots that have no chance of going in. His specialty is going around the net to the right wall and turn and shoot, goes in about twice a year. He did have great chemistry with Staal and Cooke, but IMO he’s overvalued. I think Dustin Jeffrey can fill in, but unfortunately that spot will go to someone terrible like Tanner Glass.

        • August 23, 2013 at

          I suspect you’re right but it’s worth noting Kennedy has historically been a fairly productive even-strength scorer given the minutes he plays; he was 64th among forwards in 5v5 goals per sixty minutes from 2008-13 and 80th in points. So a good deal of those shots he was creating did go in, either for himself or his teammates. Granted his production fell off a cliff this past year so it’s certainly up for debate whether that’s because he was entirely a product of Jordan Staal or just a victim of shortened-season variance.

        • Triumph
          August 27, 2013 at

          Kennedy isn’t being asked to score a ton and as Derek noted he was a productive scorer in the time he got. If I’m giving a player the kind of ice time Kennedy was getting, I’d be overjoyed with how he was playing it, even if he was taking a bunch of terrible shots (which of course he was, his shooting percentage is like that of an excellent defenseman’s). I’m not saying Kennedy’s Corsi is great and therefore he is great, but Pittsburgh’s bottom 6 wasn’t winning the territorial war with him this season, it’s doubtful it does better without him.

      • August 23, 2013 at

        Toews and Kane sort of fit the bill, don’t they? Granted, Kane was anything but a Corsi monster this past season but they’ve both managed fairly elevated on-ice shooting percentages over the past three years or so while dominating possession.

      • radapex
        August 27, 2013 at

        I don’t see how Cooke was propped up by Staal & Kennedy. He was a 25-40 point guy in Vancouver, the same in his short stint in Washington, and the same in Pittsburgh.

        • Triumph
          August 29, 2013 at

          Matt Cooke is 34 and turns 35 before the season starts, I doubt very much that he’s stayed the same player for 10+ years, especially with the kind of game he plays. Point is once Staal was taken off his line, he got much worse territorially this year, and I expect him to be dreadful in Minnesota this season.

    3. Stool
      August 23, 2013 at

      Live and die by the Superstar. Washington is interesting now with Grabovsky….and brings much more depth, and Superstars to the table.

    4. August 23, 2013 at

      This issue/definition of depth is interesting. Would be fascinating to see charts like the one you made above that compared every team’s top 6 and bottom 6 forwards.

      I’m not sure the East/West generalizations hold water. Boston seemed to be as deep as Chicago, and maybe LA was at a similar level. But many of the west’s stronger teams (I’m thinking Vancouver, San Jose, St. Louis) had depth issues at forward. The Penguins didn’t get the results they wanted, but almost anyone looking at their roster as the playoffs began would have said their forward group was deep.

      • Bill
        August 25, 2013 at

        Ray Shero didn’t win for what he did in 2013. He won for what he’s been doing. I know it’s not supposed to go like this but the acquisitions at the 2013 deadline were just the icing. Nobody thought the Penguins would never hold a lead against Boston and bow out looking like chumpanzees.

        Even the graph says the bottom 6 on the Penguins was pretty damn good up until last season. And that was WITH Kennedy for most of the year. And without Staal whom they had in their B6 in 2012. And it wasn’t Shero’s choice to keep Staal around.

        • Tyler Dellow
          August 26, 2013 at

          Bill -

          I would have put the risk higher of something bad happening to the Pens because their bottom six was a disaster than I would have otherwise. Shero’s past work may have played into it but the fact is that his additions this year were showy but didn’t do much.

          I don’t know that having a great bottom six with Staal is all that impressive either. Most teams don’t have the luxury of a third line centre who was picked in the top couple picks, who didn’t bust and is still legitimately the third centre on his team.

          • radapex
            August 27, 2013 at

            A weak bottom 6 and a weak bottom 3 defenseman (Eaton, Murray, and Niskanen) are going to make it nearly impossible to be successful in the playoffs. They can’t even put the blame on Fleury this year since he played all of 40 minutes of hockey once Vokoun took over in the 5th game of the playoffs.

        • Bill
          August 31, 2013 at

          –Just to be clear for Jeremy, my post wasn’t a reply to you. I hit the wrong reply button.–

          Honestly, though. I was just trying to explain Shero’s win. When those trades happened at the deadline, I didn’t think it was fixing many problems. A little devil’s advocate. These are the same GMs that value goalie wins for the Vezina so it’s not a surprise.

    5. Jose Cuervo
      August 27, 2013 at

      The reason for the drastic change in that bottom-6 corsi was because of the change of philosophy of that 3rd line. In 11-12 and before, they had Staal on that 3rd line, and had the perfect wingers to complement him in Cooke and Kennedy. That line was an offensive line. However, when Staal was lost and replaced by Sutter, a lot of offensive ability and chemistry were lost as well. Cooke and Kennedy didn’t fit well with Sutter. Sutter plays a drastically different game than Staal does. Staal was basically a powerforward with elite defensive skills. Sutter isn’t remotely a powerforward, and that’s why that line was a major weak point on the team last year.

      The Pens 3rd line wasn’t an offensive shutdown line anymore, it was a defensive shutdown line. To clarify what I mean there, Staal’s line was an effective shutdown line because they kept the other team in their own zone with their speed and strength. Sutter’s line was focused more on being strong in their own zone. However, Cooke and especially Kennedy aren’t very strong in their own end. They are much better in the offensive zone than in the defensive zone. That’s probably a factor on why neither Cooke nor Kennedy were retained and were replaced by much more fitting players (most likely Jokinen and Bennett, who are both strong in their own zone). Assuming a Jokinen-Sutter-Bennett 3rd line, the Pens 3rd line right now isn’t bad. The players complement each other well.

      That 3rd line in previous years was so successful because of the chemistry the line had (and how good Staal is). Those were the perfect wingers for Staal, not Sutter. That’s why the line wasn’t clicking last year, they weren’t complementary players.

      However, with that being said, I completely agree that the Pens offensive depth is very weak right now. When you have D’Agostini in your top-9 F, there’s a problem. Other than the nostalgia purposes, I can’t fathom a reason on why Scuderi was signed. Yeah, I get that he would be a great complement for Letang, but the Pens had a great complement for Letang already in Despres. Also, Bylsma’s system has shown to not be kind to slow DFD. In 2009, when the Pens won the cup with Scuderi, that wasn’t Bylsma’s system running, it was Therrien’s with a few tweaks. That’s why it was so successful. It combined Therrien’s defense with Bylsma’s offense and grinding. However, as soon as the season was over, Bylsma scraped anything that had to do with Therrien’s system and implemented his own, starting the era of disappointing finishes.

      • Flanders Breivik
        September 3, 2013 at

        I have a hard time buying the chemistry and style thing, because if a team is trying to play better in their own zone as opposed to play defense by putting the puck in deep, then they’re playing the wrong game anyway, and I think some of the numbers Tyler ran on Randy Carlyle’s teams sort of proved this point.

        Before the season, Cam Charron showed that Randy Carlyle’s teams had about a .003 better save percentage, and recently, Tyler tweeted the numbers on Randy Carlyle’s Corsi% after a defensive zone face off loss, and they were a coat-hanger abortion. These two facts coupled with the fact the language Leafs players used this year, always talking about “limiting the quality of shots against” etc, has to make you think something about defensive hockey.

        First, let’s just look at Cam’s work on three different coaches who improve their goalies’ save percentages, Ken Hitchcock, Dave Tippett, and Randy Carlyle. Also included is the Brodeur Is A Fraud post about Pat Burns.


        So, Tippett adds .006 to a goalie’s save percentage, Hitchcock .004, and Carlyle .003. I would note that Tippett and Hitchcock have histories of teams with strong possession numbers, so Carlyle does more or less stick out. That said, if you had the displeasure of watching the Leafs regularly, you’d notice that the Leafs, while playing in the defensive zone, tend to try to block as many shots as possible, and are very passive. If the defenseman has the puck, the winger tends to hold their stick like a goalie and block it. When watching teams who do well possessionally and have coaches with histories of doing well, like the Boston Bruins or Los Angeles Kings, you see they’re far more aggressive, trying to take the puck back. All of this gets back to the point that even the best defensive coach adds .006% to his goalie’s save percentage. That’s the best, by a decent margin, and based on his 2012 shot totals, that’s a total of 15 goals, but what does it cost you in terms of shots against? For the Leafs, basically a season’s worth of being hammered with the lead came back at them in one game (if you watched that series, or checked the numbers, the Leafs skated with the Bruins Game 2-7 at any close situation, did way better Corsi wise in games they did not have a late lead, but were dominated in such an absurd way with a lead of any kind, you sort of see how stupid it is to try to sit on it or play “defensive hockey.” Imagine the goals you could score if you kept shooting, something the Leafs refused to do.

        And really, Penguins fans should definitely still be worried about their depth issues. Over the last three years, those two star players of theirs have missed 113 games (Crosby) and 63 games (Malkin), and the top six/bottom six dynamic is really more about Crosby and Malkin v. all when you consider they play with Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, and well, I have no idea. Neal is good, but I’m guessing he’s not as good playing without Malkin. They tend to shelter Malkin and while the sample size fluctuation AND coaching change make it harder to gauge, it looks like until the concussions they did, to a small degree, shelter Crosby as well. That third line gets the toughest minutes, and at the moment they just can’t handle them. Consider 2012 Staal and 2013 Sutter. Staal had a 1.461 CorsiRel QoC, and Sutter had a 1.496 mark. Admittedly, Staal had a 47.8 oZone start percentage and Sutter had a 37.8% rate, but I’d venture a guess that part of the increase in defensive zone workload is itself how mediocre a possession team Pittsburgh was this year, and that wasn’t cased by Malkin and Crosby. Staal’s Corsi was 12.02, and Sutter’s was -19.6. That’s an absurd difference. Sutter’s not a bad player, while most of the players below him in terms of straight Corsi On overall are enforcers, there are three decent players who managed to get even tougher minutes (Phaneuf, Grabovski, and Kulemin). That’s still a jump from 78th place Corsi On to to 491st (ftr, I filtered to >30 GP). While Brandon Sutter was 495th in quality of teammate, Jordan Staal was 503rd (which would explain why he got worse despite playing easier minutes).

        Jordan Staal is a really high end defensive value, and tbh, even the long run of Shero doesn’t deserve any credit for that award. We all laughed when Burke said they won a lottery, but look at the record. He inherited Malkin and Crosby, he took Staal second overall, and while Staal turned out great, he still probably took him over two better players (Toews and Kessel), though I’m not sure he played much of a role in that draft. He didn’t bring in Gonchar, who was a huge player for them when they won the Cup. He didn’t draft Letang. He’s stuck with Fleury, and given him a huge contract. Off the top of my head, he made a decent pickup in Paul Martin, won the Neal trade, though not by as much as MSM/HF types like to think, and offloaded Ryan Whitney for an okay NHLer in Chris Kunitz. Where are the good depth signings here? He has the highest of high end talent, all probably making below market value (despite being very well paid), he got Vokoun or nothing, and everyone with a NTC picked them, so you can sorta get the picture that players want to play there. How much different is that team if they know how to spend their money filling out the roster? Looking at three depth guys who hit UFA this summer, they could’ve signed Clarke MacArthur, Benoit Pouliot, and Dustin Penner all for about what Marc-Andre Fleury makes. We heard they were in for MacArthur, and maybe Penner was always going to stay in Southern California, but to me you’re looking at a GM who has pretty routinely failed to make the savvy signings, and the decent depth he inherited is drying up. I think you’ll see him exposed pretty hard as Crosby, Malkin, and Letang push 30.

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