Even Strength Scoring Chance Rates

Posted by The Coach on May 06, 2012
Columbus Blue Jackets, Roster Review

The awesome Matt Wagner at The Cannon wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago with the full breakdown on the leaders in scoring chances for and against for the 2011-23 Blue Jackets. While a fantastic piece that required a tremendous amount of work by Mr. Wagner, I thought I would take his statistics one step further. I took Matt’s gross scoring chance statistics and turned them into rates by dividing the scoring chances by the amount of time on ice that player had. This produced a per 60 minute rate for every player who wore a CBJ jersey this season. This produced a wealth of information, far too much for one post. So in this one I will break down the scoring chances rates at even strength for every player who played over 20 games for the Jackets this season. This ruled out Kris Russell, Matt Calvert, Cody Bass, Radek Martinek, Maksim Mayorov, Tomas Kubalik, Alexandre Giroux, Dane Byers, Dalton Prout, Kristian Huselius, Andrew Joudrey and Cody Goloubef. These players did not play enough to gather enough information to be meaningful. Ideally, I would have set the bar higher but that would have ruled out the player I was most interested in getting a handle on: Jack Johnson.

I’m going to handle Johnson individually before I get into the rest of the team, as I suspect this will cause some outrage. To put it mildly, Johnson came out terrible. He rated as the 2nd worst defenseman at even strength, and 22nd overall (out of 26 players). He was only the 3rd best defenseman in chances for, ranking 10th on the team overall. It gets worse. Johnson was the worst defenseman in scoring chances allowed by a significant margin. The only player who gave up scoring chances at a higher rate was Derick Brassard.

Another important factor to look at is how tough/easy the minutes a player played were. Jared Boll played among the easiest minutes on the team, which is a big reason why he ended up with one of the lowest scoring chances allowed rates. To figure this, I combined the rank each player had among their position on the CBJ for zone starts and Corsi Rel QOC (from BehindtheNet.ca). Basically, Boll started most of his shifts in the offensive zone and played against the opposition’s worst players. This also factors into my analysis of Johnson. He played a ton of minutes, but he wasn’t the defenseman playing the hardest minutes. He received favorable offensive zone starts (3rd highest rate among CBJ defense) and played against the 5th easiest competition (out of 10 qualifying players). Now these numbers may be skewed due to the small sample size, but I fear that his good numbers with the Jackets may have more to do with the crazy amount of minutes he played, especially on the powerplay (4:23 per game). Enough about Johnson, onto the rest of the team.

Let’s start with scoring chances for first. The top five forwards are not a surprise, although the leader might be. Cam Atkinson finished with the highest rate, followed by Vinny Prospal, Rick Nash, Brassard and RJ Umberger. Atkinson’s performance is especially noteworthy, as he played the 3rd toughest minutes of any Jackets forward. The top defenseman offensively is a much bigger surprise, as Aaron Johnson (him?) somehow had the highest rate. He played enough minutes for sample size issues to be weeded out and he only played the 5th easiest minutes of CBJ d-men. Maybe Aaron Johnson is better than we all think he is (I think that may be a different post).  Johnson was followed by David Savard, Jack Johnson, Nikita Nikitin and James Wisniewski as the defensemen with the highest rates of scoring chances for. Savard played the easiest minutes and has good offensive tools, so he is not much of a surprise at number two.

On the negative side, Jared Boll was the worst Jackets forward (and player) at generating scoring chances by a considerable margin. Boll also played the second easiest minutes among forwards (topped only by Ryan Johansen). Boll was followed by Derek Mackenzie, Darryl Boyce, Colton Gillies and Sami Pahlsson. Pahlsson played the toughest minutes among Jackets forwards, while Mackenzie, Boyce and Gillies were all in the middle of the pack. The worst defenseman at producing scoring chances was John Moore.  This is somewhat disheartening, as Moore played the third easiest minutes. He is followed by Marc Methot, Grant Clitsome, Brett Lebda and Fedor Tyutin. Tyutin, Lebda and Methot all played tough minutes, ranking 1st, 3rd and 4th among Jackets d-men. Clitsome on the other hand played the 2nd easiest minutes and still couldn’t produce.

So what does this all mean so far? With the forwards, everything is pretty much as expected. The team was led by its more offensively skilled players, and the worst forwards were either Jared Boll or a player focused more on the defensive end. With the defensemen, the more offensively inclined guys finished on top, with Clitsome really being the only “offensive” defenseman in the bottom five. None of this is surprising so far, which tells me this analysis is worthwhile.

As for scoring chances against, the top forward was Derek Mackenzie. Surprisingly, DMac finished with the 4th easiest minutes among CBJ forwards. He was followed by Boll, Ryan Russell, Pahlsson and Dorsett for the least amount of scoring chances allowed. I covered Boll earlier, but Pahlsson, Dorsett and Russell are all very impressive as they also played very tough minutes (1st, 2nd and 4th toughest). On the other side, Brassard was the worst Jackets forward defensively, followed by Atkinson, Mark Letestu, Jeff Carter and Nash. This is pretty disconcerting, as none of those players ranked among the top five in Blue Jackets forwards for tough minutes. Brassard and Letestu finished with the 3rd and 5th easiest minutes, and Carter and Nash finished middle of the pack. Atkinson played tough minutes and produced offensively, so I am okay with his inclusion on this list. These results are more telling than the scoring chances for numbers. The Jackets defensive forwards were quite good this season. In fact Ryan Russell and Derek Dorsett have the makings of being a top shutdown line, as they both handled very tough minutes and didn’t allow scoring chances. What is disappointing is how bad the Jackets offensively talented forwards were defensively. Carter is gone and Nash is soon to follow, so they are not a concern anymore, but Atkinson, Brassard and Letestu need to be better moving forward.

Nikitin was the leader among defensemen for the lowest rate of scoring chances allowed, followed by Tyutin, Savard, Clitsome and Methot. As mentioned earlier, Savard and Clitsome played buttery soft minutes. However, Nikitin, Tyutin and Methot played among the toughest minutes on the Blue Jackets. On the flip side, Jack Johnson allowed the most scoring chances against, followed by Wisniewski, Moore, Lebda and Aaron Johnson. Those five names aren’t too surprising, although Moore playing fairly easy minutes and his struggles on both sides isn’t a great sign. Like the chances for, these results were fairly predictable, leading me to believe that they are pretty accurate.

Now how do these two parts compare? By subtracting one rate from another, we can determine who helps the Jackets out-chance their opponents, and who is a detriment while on the ice. The Jackets finished the season with only seven players who were on the ice for more scoring chances for than against. They were: 1) Vinny Prospal, 2) Cam Atkinson), 3) Aaron Johnson, 4) Antoine Vermette, 5) David Savard, 6) Nikita Nikitin, and 7) Derek Dorsett. What impresses me most about this list is seeing Atkinson, Nikitin and Dorsett on it. Those are three young players who all played among the toughest minutes on the CBJ. All of them regularly played against other teams better players and started more of their shifts in the defensive zone compared to their teammates. Johnson and Savard were more a product of playing sheltered minutes, as the two offensive minded defenseman were often playing in the offensive zone against easier competition, but they did still manage to hold their own. Vermette was a surprise, as he doesn’t appear on any of the other top fives. He finished in the middle of the pack in scoring chances for, scoring chances against, and how tough his minutes were. His inclusion sums up many of the Blue Jackets problems, as for the most part their defensive-minded players did not create enough offensive chances and their offensive-minded players gave up too many scoring chances.

If you’ve been reading closely, the five players with the worst combined scoring chance rate should not come as a surprise. Finishing up last was Jared Boll, followed by Gillies, Boyce, Moore and Jack Johnson (with Wisniewski at 6). Jared Boll is probably not an NHL player at this point, as even with playing the second easiest minutes on the team, he still managed to finish last. Gillies, Boyce and Moore fall under the defensive-minded players who do not create enough scoring chances category. Couple that with their lack of tough minutes, and that makes me think that Boyce can probably join Boll on the free agent market, while Gillies  is probably not much more than a fringe 4th liner. Moore definitely has some work to do, but enough raw tools are there that I wouldn’t expect to see him this low on the list moving forward. Johnson was covered earlier, but it’s interesting to note the similarity between him and Wisniewski. Both had solid scoring chances for rates, while they also allowed a lot of chances against. Not a shocker, but it’s disappointing they allowed so many more chances against than they got themselves.

Before I post the complete list, please remember a few things. First, this analysis is related to scoring chances only. It’s slightly better than using Corsi/Fenwick (based  on shot attempts) as a judge of a player, as the quality of the shot is being taken into account. It’s better than +/-, as there is a much larger sample of scoring chances in a game than there are goals. However, the quality of the chances is still not taken into account. A scoring chance for Jared Boll is not equal to a scoring chance for Rick Nash. Likewise, Wisniewski and Jack Johnson finished poorly in this analysis, but it remains a possibility that their offensive talent means the offensive chances created by them are more valuable than the scoring chances against given up.

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Coming soon: Special Teams Scoring Chance Rates

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3 Comments to Even Strength Scoring Chance Rates

  • This is an exceptionally interesting article and I hope people get a chance to read it. I’ve followed the Scoring Chances updates from Matt all year and it’s fascinating to see just how much of what I saw isn’t quite related to what I remember (or think I remember). This form of the data is exceptionally informative.

    I wanted to share some ideas discussed by the guys from Behindthenet.ca. There’s a great primer to the Corsi number and what it entails here (http://www.arcticicehockey.com/2009/10/8/1076788/frequently-asked-questions-3-what), but one of the more useful links included in this short piece is the following by Vic Ferrari (http://vhockey.blogspot.com/2009/10/oiler-team-scoring-chances-and.html)

    In this piece, we get a look at data from the 08-09 Oilers season and the author plots goal %, scoring chance %, and Corsi %, all of these at even strength. Ferrari notes, when comparing scoring chance percentages to corsi:
    “So, quite clearly Corsi% (or any of the shots metrics for that matter) ends up giving us a clear indication of scoring chance percentage. Using 20 game rolling averages as above, they are almost on top of one another.”

    Of course, that’s for an overall team consideration, so player-specific information isn’t entirely separated from that sort of analysis. But the connection is made back at the original primer:
    “Shot volume is much more a function of a team’s ability, and a much better predictor of future performance than goal-scoring metrics – in other words, there is basically no such thing as a team that shoots efficiently, just teams that get a lot of shots on goal…or not.”

    I’d invite others to take a look at the Corsi Rel data on behindthenet.ca to see where the 11-12 Blue Jackets players ended up compared to the scoring chance data here. It serves as a very interesting side-by-side look between the two metrics: in Corsi we see the top 3 players (Even Strength, at least 20 games played) as Prospal, Atkinson, and Letestu. The drastic difference for Letestu in the two rankings is quite interesting and I’d be interested in finding out where the change occurs. Perhaps Letestu wasn’t generating shots in “scoring chance” ways, or his opponents were getting better chances on him than vice versa?

    Unfortunately, this method also supports the idea that Jack Johnson is simply not a good at defense. His Corsi Rel value was very negative (although this did include his time with the Kings) and this is something that other hockey bloggers were shouting at the time of the Carter trade (http://hockeyanalysis.com/2012/02/23/just-how-bad-is-jack-johnson/)

    Of course, Corsi data isn’t entirely useful without looking into zone start % and similar information, but it gives you an accurate look at who was getting the most net shots off. I do wonder if there’s a good way to determine which method (scoring chances or shot volume) would be most effective in determining player value. The conclusion from Ferrari that they’re practically inseparable is an interesting one.

    Again, this was an awesome read and I look forward to seeing what other articles comes out of the Union Blue!

    • Yeah Corsi and Corsi Rel QOC are two things that I follow quite closely and I used zone starts and Corsi Rec QOC to generate a easy/tough minutes ranking for use here. I want to start using those stats a lot more but for this piece here I wanted to keep that part of it as simple as possible. I like the balance that using scoring chance +/- as opposed to Corsi or actual +/-, as it provides a nice bridge between the fancy stat people and those that avoid them. While Corsi may be mathematically proven to be the best predictor of success, it is very tough for anti-stat people to buy that. But those very same people can absolutely buy the exact same analysis using scoring chances, as they are intuitively more valuable than a simple shot on goal. With hundreds/thousands of events for every player I looked at, it is much more valuable than simply using +/-.

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