I wrote about evaluating defencemen using CorsiRel the other day, making an argument that, generally speaking, a defenceman’s 5v5 contribution is equal to his impact on Corsi%. Now, that comes with all sorts of caveats. Not all minutes are created equal – it’s tougher to play against Sidney Crosby than it is against Luke Gazdic. Some guys get harder zone starts than others. Some guys are on better teams than others. There are a lot of knots to unravel in order to get to the point of precisely quantifying this. Theoretically, I’m pretty sure that I’m right in the vast majority of cases though.
Unfortunately, nobody’s really presenting CorsiRel for more than a few years – Extra Skater has it but stats.hockeyanalysis.com doesn’t. In light of that, I put together a series of graphs of famous defencemen and how they’ve done in terms of CorsiRel since 2007-08. I wanted to mitigate the impact of who guys play against a little bit, so I only included seasons in which a guy played at least 41 games and at least 19 minutes a night. Ideally, I’m capturing top four defencemen. I then went through and graphed a team’s Corsi% when the defenceman in question wasn’t on the ice and when he was. I think it’s kind of illuminating to see this laid out this way.
For technical reasons (ie. to simplify the work), I’ve also ignored seasons in which a guy played for multiple teams. Pay attention to the years at the bottom of each graph. The red line in each graph represents the player’s Corsi; the blue line is the team without the player on the ice.
One of the things that struck me as I went through this data is that Aucoin put up decent numbers pretty much every season for which we have lots of data. Above 50% every year and generally better than his teams.
That’s something that more famous defencemen can’t say. For a guy who’s made a lot of money in the NHL and garnered a lot of fame, it puzzles me that Bouwmeester’s never been able to hit 50% while outperforming his team until he was paired with Alex Pietrangelo. This will come up again but if a guy’s an elite defender, shouldn’t he be able to out-Corsi his team without a Norris-calibre partner?
For a guy who’s a soft puck mover, Campbell seems to do nothing but post Corsis a few points higher than his team, even if his team is really good, as the Blackhawks were when he played there. Amazing that he kind of slid through the league and ended up in Florida when Chicago needed to trade him.
Does Chara have any competition for best defenceman of his generation? Those are killer numbers, as he comfortably outperforms a pretty good team. What’s more, we know that he wasn’t being sheltered or anything. If you think of a generation as being five years before and after a player’s draft, the only players I can see in the discussion are Scott Niedermayer (1991) and Chris Pronger (1993). After that, well…Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo in 2008?
The amazing thing, as I’ve mentioned before, is that Chara was probably having a huge possession impact on the Sens in 2006, when they chose Wade Redden over him and saw their possession numbers go off a cliff. An incredible player who probably doesn’t get the credit for being an incredible player that he deserves because people are so focused on the size thing.
Speaking of Drew Doughty…these are pretty wild numbers too. Better than his team every year since his rookie year and breaking 58%. Those are incredible numbers for a guy matched up against the opposition’s best.
I’ve included Edler just because he took a lot of flak this year. A guy who can tread water on a 52% Corsi% team is a guy who can, at the very least, be a second pairing guy on a Stanley Cup contender. Vancouver’s got problems but I’m not sure their defence is really on that list.
Note how Ehrhoff has pretty much always outperformed his teams. He did suffer a sharp decline this year relative to his team, which is interesting to me because I vaguely recall that his numbers were pretty solid early – my sense is that he must have fallen off as the year went along. Whether ennui or decline will be seen, I guess.
I know it’s cool to rave about Oliver Ekman-Larsson but the Yotes weren’t a great team this year and he still couldn’t beat their Corsi%. What’s more, this is the second year it’s declined relative to his team. Worth keeping an eye on.
Giordano really did have a bonkers season. I’d kill to have SportVu data for a couple years for Calgary so I could try and figure out what was different. He seems awfully old to have made such a leap. Note that he consistently beat or matched the team in previous years though, something that Bouwmeester didn’t do.
Victor Hedman is starting to look an awful lot like a superstar. With a healthy Steven Stamkos next year, Martin St. Louis’ salary room and a couple of high draft picks, Tampa looks to me like they might be a team the Oilers face in a Stanley Cup final at some point.
Makes his team much better when he’s on the ice. Ken Hitchcock has sniffed that he doesn’t play like a traditional defenceman but does that matter? The name of the game is doing things to make your team better.
Keith’s name came up when I inquired on Twitter as to a defenceman drafted since Chara who might plausibly have a better career. I don’t really see it – he’s done well on a great team and been better than his team most years but he doesn’t seem to me to quite reach Chara’s heights, particularly when you consider that Chara’s doing what he’s doing in what should be the twilight of his career.
The King. I don’t think history will look too kindly on that 2010-11 Norris Trophy – he seems to have done a lot worse than his team that year – but his numbers before and after were excellent. The voting in 2010-11 was extremely close, with Weber and Chara both finishing within 50 points of Lidstrom, despite Lidstrom outscoring them by 14 and 18 points respectively. Given what we’ve learned about PHWA practices, it would be interesting to see the votes from that season and get a sense of how things broke down between voters you’ve heard of and voters you haven’t.
I’ll do the other half of the league early next week.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com