Vladimir Zharkov Makes Offense Happen? The New Jersey Devils' CORSI Values

Earlier today, I was checking out the blog by the operator and owner of hockey statistics site Behind the Net, appropriately called Behind The Net.  Today, Hawerchuk had post on the overachievers and underachievers in the NHL with respect to their CORSI numbers.  He figured out who was exceeding and not at all meeting expectations through a regression analysis of the CORSI values that are regularly collected and calculated at Behind the Net.   No one on the New Jersey Devils is overachieving, though Mark Fraser did appear on the underachievers list.

Now, as explained in the post at Behind the Net, CORSI tallies the number of shots for and shots against while a player is on the ice.  It's a stat that requires context, such as the quality of opponent, quality of teammates, and, of course, the player's own role and skills.  Mark Fraser not having a high CORSI shouldn't surprise anyone given his low average ice time of 12:12, he's almost always on the third defensive pairing, and that he's a stay at home defenseman.

Nevertheless, I figured it would be a good time as any to take a look at the active roster's CORSI values.  I'm only focusing on even strength situations since power plays result in high CORSI values (NJ would be shooting in a short period of time) and penalty killing situations lead to very low CORSI values (NJ would be primarily defending in a short period of time) by default.  To take out players who haven't contributed much, I've limited the values to players who have played 20 games or more this season.  I obtained all of these values from Behind the Net. To make it a little more interesting, I decided to also list the where each player ranks among the Devils (and only the Devils) in scoring for this season according to NHL.com's stats page.

I think you'll be surprised who has the highest CORSI value on the team if you didn't figure it out from the title.

A quick key before I throw up the charts.  CORSI REL refers to the relative CORSI value.  Behind the Net keeps track of a player's CORSI value when they are on the ice (CORSI ON) and when they are off the ice (CORSI OFF).  As far as I can tell, CORSI REL is a rounded up value of CORSI ON minus CORSI OFF. This value essentially states whether a player's presence really leads to more shots on net for their team.   QUALCOMP and QUALTEAM are calculated measures of quality of competition and quality of teammates, respectively.  Higher values indicate higher levels of quality: tougher opponents, better teammates.  

GP stands for games played by that player - not necessarily games played for New Jersey.  That all said, here's a chart for the forwards 

03-09-10_corsi_devils_forwards_medium

Note: Ilya Kovalchuk is highlighted because the numbers from Behind the Net are from his entire season, all 58 games of it.  He's only played 9 for the Devils, so take his numbers with a big grain of salt.

Overall, I think chart clearly shows who the offensive players are and who the defensive players on the team.  This should be helpful for anyone unsure of who is supposed to do what. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Now, Zajac and Parise having the highest and second-highest CORSI REL values, respectively, should surprise no one. They are constantly on the top line, they work very well with each other, and they have been very productive this season. All the more impressive considering that they face tough opposition players regularly. It should also be of no surprise that the CORSI OFF values for both are below zero because of how many shots they create and take. Especially since Parise not only leads the team with 273 shots, but he's third in the league in shots on goal. Incidentally, Zajac is fourth on the team with 159 shots on goal.

Coming at number 3, however, threw me for a loop.  In fact, Travis Zajac or Zach Parise doesn't even have highest CORSI ON value, but Vladimir Zharkov.  He of no goals and 8 points. When he steps on the ice, the team apparently has shot the puck more. A lot more.  Granted, he's going up against weak, in terms of defense, competition but also with some seriously weak, in terms of offense, teammates.   


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Vladimir Zharkov 36 0 8 8 1 8 0 0 0 0 54 0.0

I don't know about you, but it tells me two things. One, he really needs to work on his shot.  With more development, he really could contribute so much more on offense - the work ethic is there, the desire to shoot or create shots are there, but he just needs that shooting skill to improve.  Two, he's got a future in New Jersey.  He's not just fodder on the third or fourth lines.

Speaking of, it's clear that the third and fourth liners aren't out there for their offense.  Jay Pandolfo and Rob Niedermayer (whose production was boosted by his hot start of the season) are not and will not become offensive players, they are checking forwards who face strong opposition regularly. Therefore, their CORSI values will suffer for it.   Rod Pelley and Matt Halischuk have plied their trade on the bottom two lines mostly in checking roles, so their values are low as well.  Players who didn't do a whole lot regularly on the fourth line like Ilkka Pikkarainen and Andrew Peters have understandably low CORSI values.  (Not so fun fact: Martin Skoula and Peters are the only ones in this analysis who have not put up any points yet for New Jersey.  Understandable for Skoula, he's played 1 game; Peters, well, it's understandable because he doesn't do much on the ice)

Who sticks out among that group below the zero CORSI REL value is David Clarkson.  He's usually on the third line and given that includes at least one defensive player, the focus isn't going to be on offense.  Does have offensive talent? Sure.  But he's not in a position to use it, which is why Jacques Lemaire gives him power play time on top of his even strength duties.

Going back to positive values, Dean McAmmond's CORSI values may have been positively affected by his top two line duty back when the Devils had several injuries; yet it's also further proof of his good play considering his minimum wage contract. 

The values of Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, and Brian Rolston (the third, fourth, and fifth team leading scorers respectively), I think, have all been affected by their various positions changing throughout the lineup.  Langenbrunner's would be much higher had he stayed with Parise and Zajac all season long.  Still, it's a good value for someone who still has a realistic chance of meeting or surpassing his career best in points.  Elias has been in offensive roles all season; but has been undercut by a rotating group of linemates as well as needing to get back into form after injuries.  Rolston's CORSI value isn't at all bad for someone who is usually found on the third line. Though, like McAmmond, his own numbers may have been bumped given his own shining moments of production when he played next to Elias earlier in the season.

Lastly, if you want proof of Dainius Zubrus having an positive effect that his own stats don't back up on their own, well, this is one way of showing it.  When he's out there, offense happens.  Granted, he's usually around good teammates but over the whole season his quality of teammates high as, say, Langenbrunner's quality of teammates.

Enough about the forwards, here's the chart for the Devils' defense:

03-09-10_corsi_devils_defense_medium

This definitely doesn't look good.   The only player with a positive CORSI REL in the group is Anssi Salmela, and we can't even say for sure how much his short time in New Jersey has affected his CORSI values - for better or worse.  I've highlighted Salmela and Skoula because Behind the Net's numbers are for their whole season, there's no breakdown of team-by-team stats for the player. 

In any case, this chart is proof that the Devils really do not have an offensive defenseman. No wonder Lemaire has 4 or even 5 forwards in power play or last-ditch offensive situations. Andy Greene was doing well earlier this season, but his own drop in production and performance has seen his CORSI values slide down.  That said, he's still facing the best competition in even strength situations among the defense.  In fact, if you look at quality of competition alone, then you'll see Lemaire really has been splitting up the majority of work among Greene, Bryce Salvador, Colin White, and Mike Mottau

Now, the low CORSI values should be not at all surprising for Fraser, White, or Salvador. They are all defensive defensemen, they aren't going to contribute much offense.  This is also why when they have a bad game in their own zone, it's more frustrating because it's their primary function they are failing at.  This chart also shows that Mike Mottau really isn't productive either going forward; though it is a little better than his usual partner White.

Lastly for the blueline, while his numbers are almost entirely from his time in Pittsburgh, Martin Skoula isn't an offensive defenseman at all.  Not just in points, but in being present when shots happen.  He is not the answer in terms of offense coming from the blueline.  Only Paul Martin can significantly help the Devils now.  Whenever.

Hopefully you all found this to be interesting in some degree.  These numbers are across the entire season, so this is not to suggest that Rolston's value isn't high because he hasn't done much recently or that Kovalchuk needs to pick up the pace in New Jersey (again, most of those values are from his time in Atlanta - he has 8 points and 44 shots in 9 games, what more do you want?).   In any case, let me know what you think of all this then in the comments or by Twitter (@JKFischer).  If you want to complain about the Devils' recent performances, this post is more appropriate.

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