Yesterday, I began to take a closer look at the defensemen from the 2010-11 New Jersey Devils to see whether or not there could be a credible replacement for Andy Greene. While I looked at on-ice/off-ice stats for the 10 defensemen I'm focusing on, the comments tended to focus on how much he may be worth. Given that he's somewhere in the middle of the impending UFA market for defensemen this summer, and figuring how many don't figure he'll get a lot, then this question is all the more important to ask.
In this part, I'm focusing on Corsi. It's not a perfect metric by any means, nor is it an be-all, end-all stat. Absent a better way to look at what the possession was when they were on the ice, it will be looked at. Whereas in Part 1 I used Quality of Competition and Quality of Teammates as context for the on-ice and off-ice stats; here I'll be using Corsi relative to Quality of Competition (Corsi QoC - not Corsi Rel QoC, sorry for getting that wrong in the past and thanks to Red Line Army for letting me know about that) and Quality of Teammates (Corsi QoT). These two metrics will show whether the defenseman in question did well in terms of possession (as best as we know) against his level of competition. Don't worry, I still have the original values which are based on relative plus-minus too; I'm just not sorting it by that. This post will also include on-ice Corsi as well as Corsi adjusted for zone starts. As usual, all numbers come from Behind the Net.
Incidentally, if you're curious on the concepts of Quality of Competition, Quality of Teammates, and zone starts, then please check out this FAQ Gabe Desjardens put together on the Behind the Net blog. That said, let's look at defensemen from last season's Devils team once more.
Devils Defensemen by Corsi Relative to Quality of Competition
Greene's once again in the middle of the pack; but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly based on how much they played with each other) behind Anssi Salmela. Still, Salmela and Greene are on the wrong side of Corsi here. It suggests that this pairing wasn't all that good or should have been paired with a different forward line or some other tweak to their usage.
On the positive side, the other three Devils defensemen - Mark Fayne, Henrik Tallinder, and Colin White - with positive quality of competition values also came out ahead in Corsi QoC. OK, they didn't destroy their competition, but it's the right direction. Matthew Corrente is the leader among all Devils defensemen here, which surprised me a bit. He did face weak competition and got limited minutes, so I wouldn't take this to mean that he was really awesome. This is further supported by Corrente's really low Corsi Rel QoC (or Relative Corsi with respect to Quality of Competition). But, again, coming out ahead in Corsi with respect to quality of competition is usually a good thing.
Speaking of surprises, I'm not pleased to see Anton Volchenkov so low here. Sure, he's positive in Corsi Rel QoC; but Volchenkov didn't always face off against the toughs and didn't always get big minutes. Just as it's usually a good thing to come out ahead, it's not all that good to have a Corsi QoC just ahead of Mark Fraser and well behind Matt Taormina. Better health and a more consistent role next season may help him. Volchenkov has the benefit of past experience to just chalk it to an off season. I can't really say the same for Olivier Magnan, who got weak competition and tended to be in his own end more often than not.
Devils Defensemen by Corsi Relative to Quality of Teammates
Here, Greene is on the lower end of this list. Greene didn't get great teammates to play with all season, and so Corsi QoT isn't all that high on this team. The range for this stat is fairly positive among Devils defensemen, which is interesting by itself. It's not as if it's a function of the stat. For the entire league, it runs from -12 to 8. There are guys who have negative values. Perhaps it's a function of the team itself? The flux resulting from a combination of different coaches, guys getting hurt and being shifted in role, and the team's defensive style?
Anyway, Volchenkov was similar to Greene in both stats, as can be seen in the chart. Fraser and Corrente are in the end and they didn't play with strong teammates. Still positive, just not as much as Salmela and especially Fayne. Those two did it without the benefit of strong quality of teammates, which I think is notable. Colin White leads the group, but really my big takeaway is that the Devils blueline coming out ahead in this stat so similarly is the real feat.
Devils Defensemen by Adjusted Corsi per 60 Minutes
Now we get to my favorite chart of the three. This is just straight up Corsi along with zone starts and adjusted Corsi. If you want evidence of the flux the blueline went through this season,just look at the offensive zone start percentage. Only White started off in his own end than in the offensive end, which is rather shocking considering the number of defensive-minded defensemen on this list. I don't think it's possible to protect that many guys with beneficial zone starts. I think it's a case that guys had to play a lot with top lines and so they got starts.
The good news for this group is that only three of them were negative in on-ice Corsi (Corsi On): White, Corrente, and Salmela. I can understand White given his defensive-mindedness; possibly Corrente as well. Salmela being dead last by a significant amount is further proof, on the other hand, just tells me that he's not helping much out there. Given that the idea is that Salmela is some kind of two-way defenseman, this isn't good.
Fortunately, Greene finished the season positive but he's on the lower end of the group. Were I to organize this by Corsi On, he's just ahead of the guys below zero. The mitigating factor for Greene is that he played so much, he didn't have a set partner until the last third or the season or so, and that partner was Salmela. On the other end, Tallinder shines at the top with one of the best on-ice Corsi rates in the league. Fayne clearly benefited with Tallinder as he posted up a great rate as well. Surprisingly, the other three call-ups ranked well here: Fraser, Magnan, and Taormina all had rates of 5 or better, which isn't bad on it's own. Then again, looking back at the quality of competition and teammates, I would be skeptical on that.
Of course, on-ice Corsi can be adjusted for zone starts. For background on that, check out this post by JLikens at Objective NHL. Since all but White had 50+% offensive zone starts, all but White had their values take a dive in the calculation. Taormina, Magnan, and Fraser also got hit by way of not playing a lot since I'm using adjusted Corsi per 60 minutes. Greene's still positive but not by much and just ahead of White, who got a small boost. Again, not really all that great for him. At least Tallinder and Fayne still look good at the top; whilst Salmela looks even worse.
Sources of Data
All of the quality of competition, quality of teammate, and Corsi numbers come from this link at Behind the Net. The zone start information comes from this link at Behind the Net. As with Part 1, all of these stats are for 5-on-5 play only.
Commentary So Far
Between this post and Part 1, I'm coming around to the notion that while Greene wasn't bad, he was not spectacular. It suggests that while by eye-sight he can handle big 5-on-5 minutes, the underlying numbers suggest that it may not be the best option. More relevant to the larger question, it also suggests that there may be other defensemen who can replace him. Tallinder has played more minutes and may have better numbers across the board, as he mostly did in Part 1. Possession went much better with Tallinder and Fayne on the ice. White's not too bad given his defensive nature, especially per QoC and QoT. Volchenkov was somewhat disappointing; and Salmela just didn't look good at all. The call ups were a mixed bag, but such is the nature of anyone who hasn't played much.
Again, this is not an be-all, end-all way to look at things. There's still some other parts to look at still; namely scoring and PDO in Part 3. (And eventually special teams as soon as I figure out how to organize it.) In the mean time, did this change your opinion about Greene or some of the other defensemen? Are you disappointed that Andy Greene did not stack up well against his fellow teammates when it comes to Corsi. Please leave your answers, and your other thoughts about the Devils' defensemen - including Greene - discussed here in the comments. Thanks for reading.