WOWY. Also known as With Or Without You. It’s not just a U2 love song, in fact it’s a pretty useful tool for looking at how players perform with certain teammates, what players are driving their lines, which ones are dragging their lines down, and which combinations seem to work at bringing the best out of each other. The basic data came from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, and boy do they have a lot of data. Within those pages you can find WOWY details for pretty much every player over the last few seasons, combined seasons, when the score is close, and much more. For this post, I used 5v5 data from the 2013-14 season only (to keep the sample size as large as possible). So I took all that information, and made a nice big fancy chart. It shows the Corsi percentage that each player is better (or worse) with each player. So the corresponding space in the chart of Johansen With (along the top of the chart) and Foligno (on the left side of the chart) shows the difference between Ryan Johansen‘s Corsi For % with Nick Foligno, and Johansen’s Corsi For % away from Foligno. Got it? Good. Let’s take a look at the chart, then go over a few things that need to be considered. After that is the good stuff: the players who come out best (and worst) in this analysis, the best combinations of players, and various ideal/terrible/etc. lineups.
Columbus Blue Jackets, Roster Review, Stats, Team Discussion / 1 Comment
Before digging into the substance of the post, I must provide an apology. As many of you know, we just returned from a two-week vacation to Maine, Nova Scotia, PEI and Quebec. (Articles forthcoming during lulls in the hockey action). The down side of the vacation was that we missed the start of the season, and in our absence, the Blue Jackets posted a 2-5 record. Since our return last Saturday, they are 3 – 0. Just sayin’. Anyway, notwithstanding any dubious claims of causation, I promise to never again allow vacation to interfere with hockey. Mea culpa . . .
Let’s turn to the matters at hand. The Blue Jackets now have 10 games under their collective belts, which equals 12.19% of the season. Instead of relying on Twitter summaries or online post-mortems of the games — as we were compelled to do on the cruise — I’ve seen the live, in-person product on the ice for three games. Combined with some statistical review, I’ve got all I need to provide a first review of the good and the bad, and some indications of what might be forthcoming.
As of Sunday morning, the Blue Jackets are 5-5-0, with 10 points, but working on a three-game winning streak. The record might not be what some had hoped for, but represents a significant improvement over the 3-6-1 start last year, and light-years ahead of the 1-8-1 start in 2011-2012. More importantly, the club was able to shrug off a miserable four-game losing streak and post truly solid efforts against Vancouver, New Jersey and Toronto.
Last year I put together a series of posts centered around my expectations for the various Blue Jackets players goal totals, with one running before the season, one at midseason reviewing how I did and predicting the remainder of the season, and one after the year was over looking back at the first two pieces. I was pretty happy with how my method worked out, so I figured I’d do this for the entire league. You can find my preliminary post on it here, along with an update after the Capitals signed Grabovski. Here at the Union Blue, you’re going to get everything I’ve put together regarding the Jackets.
Unfortunately, I don’t think most of you will be happy with me. I have the Jackets finishing 15th in the NHL in goal differential. However, I also have the Metropolitan division as the league’s most difficult. If the season proceeds this way, the Jackets will finish 6th in the Metro, behind the Rangers, Devils, Penguins, Islanders, and Capitals. The Grabovski signing actually pushed the Caps above the Jackets for the final playoff spot in the East. Consolation prize: I also have the Red Wings missing the playoffs. So there’s that.
The signs are all there. The “back to school traffic jams” are in full flower, the pools are closed, and the hockey players are returning to Nationwide Boulevard, just as the swallows to San Juan Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley. The youngest among them will head north to Traverse City late this afternoon (where our own @CBJProspects is also headed), while training camp awaits in just a week’s time. Hockey is in the air, without the foul stench of a lockout, and its time to start taking a critical look at the key questions confronting the Blue Jackets as they wind down the final 30 days to the season opener, and the club’s Eastern Conference debut.
So, as the month-long countdown proceeds, I’ll be providing new installments of this Inquiring Minds series, focusing on specific questions that hold special significance for the organization as we eagerly anticipate the curtain rising on a new season. This first installment focuses on scoring — Who’s going to do it? How often does it need to happen? How likely is it to occur?
Advanced stats in hockey is a misnomer. The most commonly used advanced stats, are not advanced at all. Well, they may be advanced if you are a three year old, but if you consider counting and addition advanced, you have bigger problems. Let’s start with Corsi. And yes, it’s Corsi, not CORSI (making it something of a shibbolleth for the stats-inclined hockey fan). If it were called shot attempt differential, people would have no issues with it.
That’s all it is. The more shots you get, the more likely you are to score.
Is it a be-all, end-all? Of course not. It’s really just a good way to figure out where the puck is when player X is on the ice. Someday Corsi is going to be irrelevant, as sooner or later the Stats Inc. SportVu system will be advanced enough for hockey. These cameras are up in over half the NBA’s arena’s now and track player and ball movement to the inch. When this can be applied to hockey, we won’t need a stand-in for puck possession anymore. We’ll know exactly how long a player has the puck on his stick, how often his team has the puck when he’s on the ice, and where on the ice this possession time comes. But until then, we are stuck with Corsi, so deal with it, learn about what it means, and even more import learn how to use it.
When you think about it, hockey really is a funny game. In what other sport (other than boxing and MMA), is fighting a largely accepted element — penalized, but done so with a wink and a nod? It is a sport where failing to tie down your sweater is penalized more harshly than pummeling your opponent and where elementary safeguards, such as helmets, goalie masks and visors have inched their way into the game over the grudging “Hrrumphs” of grizzled veterans. Where else do players and coaches talk about playing the game “the right way”? For that matter, in what other sporting endeavor do the participants wear “sweaters”?
No, hockey is steeped in tradition, and surrenders to progress with great reluctance. It’s players are — for the most part — polite, soft-spoken and subservient to The Game. In many ways, hockey is more akin to golf than any of the teams sports, with the ceremony attendant to winning The Cup not far removed from hoisting The Claret Jug at St. Andrews. Of the team sports, baseball comes closest to that sense of tradition, but still falls somewhat short.
Tradition is a great thing, but sometimes it crosses the line into bias. A large segment of the hockey population relies on tradition to cast aspersions on those “pretenders” who would dare to join the fraternity of hockey cities. After all, hockey is the birthright of Canada and The Original Six, and the rest are largely pretenders. Sure, Minnesota and Buffalo are readily accepted, as they are almost in Canada anyway. The Flyers get admitted to “the club” by virtue of sheer nastiness — or “Old Time Hockey” — as the Hansen Brothers would call it. The Blues get a pass as well, due to the illustrious names passing through that franchise since 1967. New Jersey and the Islanders are accepted, both because they fall in the geographical “sweet spot” of the NHL, and their ability to hoist The Cup. Other than that, however, there is a significant segment of the hockey community that views hockey in “non-traditional” markets as a fool’s errand, and would much rather see a 16 team NHL than cater to the likes of Phoenix, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Nashville, Florida . . . and Columbus. Peruse the message boards, listen to talks shows from Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver and you will here how these cities do not “deserve” franchises. Even cities with demonstrated success — such as Anaheim and Los Angeles — receive only modest recognition. This segment points to revenue numbers, attendance figures and the twice-failed experiment in Atlanta as evidence that expansion outside The North is futile. The lack of a “Hockey Tradition” is deemed fatal in these cities.
At the halfway point of the season I wrote about the second half expectations for the Blue Jackets. I looked at my preseason goal predictions for each player, then predicted how I thought they would perform over the second half of the season. Before I got to that point, I briefly discussed the team results. At the outset of the season, I had predicted a total of 128 goals scored on the season. I was off by a bit here, as they came in at only 120. However, I was off by the same amount in their goals against, as I had predicted they would come in at 127 goals allowed over the full 48 game season. Instead, they finished with 119 goals against. Excuse me for a second while I pat myself on the bat for exactly nailing their goal differential. In my preseason predictions, I hit another point that I think probably raised some eyebrows at the time: that the Jackets offense would actually improve with Rick Nash off in New York. And believe it or not it did (barely). The Jackets scored 120 goals this season, or the equivalent pace of 205 goals over 82 games. Not a great number, but better than the 202 goals the Jackets scored in 2011-12. Continue reading…
Hey look, hockey is coming. With training camp starting this weekend, and actual real NHL hockey starting later this month, I figured it might be time to finally post my goal predictions for the 2012-13 season. So for this post, I did an obscene amount of research, spent an insane amount of time crunching numbers, and poured over data from many years relating to every player on this team. The problem is that all this time was spent back in September. So the numbers sat, and sat, and sat, and sat, and sat, until now when there really isn’t a 2012-13 season anymore, and goal projections for an 82 game season make no sense. Nor does a lot of the logic behind how I came to those conclusions. Sigh.
The Blue Jackets forwards corps have undergone a massive overhaul this offeason. Gone is Rick Nash, and with him the semblance of having a traditional top line. Much discussion has happened over the summer of how the forwards will look this coming season. The Cannon has been breaking down the battles we should see in training camp, and a lot of the comments have been focused on a “Top Six” versus “Top Nine” approach. There are a number of schools of thought on how to build a forward group. Some people, like Toronto GM Brian Burke, prefer a Top Six-Bottom Six approach (ie. six offensive forwards, six defensive/checking forwards). Vancouver has built a specialized line up consisting of a pure offense 1st line, solid two-way 2nd line, defensive specialist 3rd line, and rugged 4th line. Boston rolls three lines who are capable in both ends of the rink. Last season the Jackets planned to have three lines capable of scoring, with one shutdown group. While that failed for a number of reasons (impatience, coaching, and personnel), I think we are going to see something in between that approach and the Boston approach in 2012-13.
But what exactly does this mean? The potential for an offensive struggle is something I have been batting around in my mind since the Nash trade. The Blue Jackets don’t appear to have any 1st line talents, but a large contingent of 2nd to 3rd liners. It’s difficult to see how this compares to other teams, as so many factors come into play. To quantify these players, I took a very simple approach: points per game. I broke down every forwards who played at least 27 games last season, then split them into approximately the top 90 forwards (ie. three forwards per team), the second 90 forwards, and the third 90 forwards, with any players below being “4th liners”. With this breakdown complete, I was able to look at forwards and teams in a number of ways, from what that means practically, to the availability of each group of players, to how those players fit into their teams for next season.
Let’s start this one off with some quick trivia. Tell me which one of these prorated stat* lines belongs to what player:
Player A: 21G, 21A, +3
Player B: 21G, 18A, +6
Player C: 11G, 38A, -8
Player D: 11G, 40A, +5
*Prorated stats devised from dividing total goals, assists and plus-minus by games played with the CBJ in their first full-ish year with the team, then multiplying those numbers by a full 82 game season.
I’m sure the title of this post will give away who the four players are, but without looking at their stats there is really no way to differentiate between Cam Atkinson (Player A) and Matt Calvert (Player B), as well as Nikita Nikitin (Player C) and Grant Clitsome (Player D). Traditional stats show almost no difference at all. Cam looks like a little bit more of a playermaker, but those three assists are basically negated by the extra +3 heading to Calvert. Clitsome on the other hand, looks like the better player, with 2 more assists and a +13 jump on Nikitin.