Do the Devils Actually Need Goal Scorers?

Jim McIsaac

To put it lightly, several people are of the opinion that the Devils need goal scorers and that is what is keeping us from being a playoff team. My analysis of the stats makes me lean in a slightly different direction.

We Want Goals, We Want Goals!

Browse any one of the comment sections on this or any other Devils blog and you'll stumble upon a litany of frustrated fans that implore the Devils to find goal scorers. This was obvious in both the Draft and Free Agent Frenzy to name 2 occasions. We also are aware that the Devils are currently a "low-event" team though so just analyzing goals isn't enough. In this article I will use advanced stats to show how that idea isn't completely true.

Low-Event Team

In a brief foray into Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, you will immediately find the Devils are a "low-event team." This is in reference to their low number of Corsi events. They have very few shots directed at the opponents net (less than anyone but Buffalo) and very few shots directed at their own net ( fewest in the NHL). Combined, with 7524 total Corsi Events (ES, PP, and SH combined) , the Devils had 628 less Corsi events than the 2nd most "boring" team in the NHL, the Wild.

There is no team like the Devils. We often get comparisons to the Kings because both are good possession teams -- each have been top 3 in 5v5 CF% (ratio of corsi shots for to corsi shots against) each of the past two years. However, the Kings were 3rd in the NHL with 4959 Corsi For events. If you recall the Devils were 2nd lowest in the NHL so there's a bit of a gap there.

The reason being a Low-Event Team is important is that that needs to adjust our idea of how many goals we should be scoring. In the next section, we look at Corsi Shooting percentage and where the Devils rank within it.

Do we score well for such a low event team?

To answer this question we look at Corsi Shooting Percentage. This can be found at ExtraSkater.com. I customized the stats for my own use consolidating the situations into one Corsi Total statistic for simplicity.

Corsi Shooting Percentage is much like regular shooting percentage except instead of checking the ratio of shots on goal that went in, we look at the the proportion of corsi events -- shots attempted -- that went in. We can now compare the Devils scoring to other teams despite the fact that we are a low-event, high possession team. Below I've sorted the list by CS%Diff. This is shorthand for "Corsi Shot percentage for" minus "Corsi Shot percentage against". To simplify what this stat means. A team with a high CS%Diff will score on a higher percentage of Corsi events than their opponents. Let's take a look:

Team GF/CF GA/CA CS%Diff
1 Colorado Avalanche 5.40% 4.18% 1.22%
2 Anaheim Ducks 5.50% 4.32% 1.17%
3 Boston Bruins 5.03% 3.88% 1.15%
4 Pittsburgh Penguins 5.27% 4.46% 0.81%
5 Toronto Maple Leafs 5.04% 4.41% 0.63%
6 Tampa Bay Lightning 5.00% 4.39% 0.61%
7 St. Louis Blues 4.96% 4.39% 0.57%
8 Montréal Canadiens 4.43% 3.91% 0.52%
9 Washington Capitals 4.85% 4.53% 0.33%
10 Minnesota Wild 4.64% 4.35% 0.29%
11 Columbus Blue Jackets 4.92% 4.63% 0.29%
12 San Jose Sharks 4.25% 4.16% 0.08%
13 New York Rangers 4.20% 4.13% 0.07%
14 Dallas Stars 4.47% 4.49% -0.02%
15 Chicago Blackhawks 5.12% 5.18% -0.07%
16 Philadelphia Flyers 4.59% 4.68% -0.08%
17 Nashville Predators 4.90% 5.01% -0.11%
18 Calgary Flames 4.70% 4.84% -0.14%
19 Phoenix Coyotes 4.36% 4.55% -0.19%
20 Detroit Red Wings 4.84% 5.05% -0.20%
21 Edmonton Oilers 4.76% 5.01% -0.25%
22 New Jersey Devils 4.66% 4.96% -0.30%
23 Los Angeles Kings 3.75% 4.08% -0.33%
24 Winnipeg Jets 4.44% 4.84% -0.40%
25 Vancouver Canucks 4.01% 4.48% -0.48%
26 Carolina Hurricanes 4.00% 4.57% -0.57%
27 New York Islanders 4.40% 5.26% -0.86%
28 Buffalo Sabres 3.61% 4.51% -0.90%
29 Ottawa Senators 4.35% 5.29% -0.94%
30 Florida Panthers 4.11% 5.82% -1.71%

First thing I want to point out. Check out that team right below the Devils. The Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings had a worse CS%Diff than us. In fact the Kings are the only playoff team in the bottom 10 though. Next thing I want to point out, however, is that the Devils are actually 15th in Corsi Shot percentage. This means that when adjusted for the low-event hockey, we score the exact right amount, and a heck of a lot more efficiently than the Kings. This is where the intrigue with regards to the title comes in. The Devils score the proper amount for their style of hockey according to the stats. They aren't great, but it certainly is not the thing keeping them out of the playoffs. (Side note: Most comparable teams to us were Detroit and Columbus)

What's holding us back? Well for one thing, I hate to say it, but Marty probably hurt us quite a bit. The Devils save percentage was 23rd in the league whether or not it is adjusted for Corsi. However, if we only took Cory's stats we would have been tied for 3rd. For another thing, we could be giving up better scoring opportunities.

These all imply that there are more pressing matters for the time being. But what about for the future? A large portion of these complaints came during the draft where we religiously avoided offensive talent.

We still need young scorers though right?

In short ... yes. Very yes. Inescapably yes. I took the year-end rosters of all the teams and tried to find where the Devils fell with regards to production from the young guys. A couple points to clarify first here:

1. Young is defined as less than 30 years old.
2. A teams total goals are calculated by summing the year-end stats of all their players as opposed to summing the production while on the team.

With only 78 goals for 39.39% of the goals on the roster, the Devils had the lowest percentage of goals scored by young players and it wasn't close. The second oldest team in terms of production was Arizona with 49.05% (103 goals) coming from young players. However, clearly the Devils have addressed the age issue on D as the youth movement is upon us (See Mike's article on that very subject here). So let's narrow that down to young forwards.

End Team YG G YPTS PTS % Gs from young Forwards % Pts from young Forwards
NJD 64 198 147 542 32.32% 27.12%

This is an excerpt from the chart ranking the teams. YG and YPTS mean Goals and Points scored by young players. The Devils were last in all 4 "young" categories on this chart except for percent of goals scored by young forwards which we were second to last (Arizona had 31.43%).

Recent signings will not help us at all in this area, and to me, the draft criticisms are not completely unfounded. However, for a team who also had the 24th ranked total GVT from their forwards, drafting the best available forward as opposed to the best available scorer isn't completely indefensible.

Conclusions

Considering that the Devils play low-event hockey, we are scoring at an appropriate rate. With Marty gone, our save percentage numbers should improve which will fix the problem with defensive efficiency. Despite the fact that we are scoring at an average clip, an extremely disproportionate amount have come from old players. Now can Lou continue to sign older players via free agency and keep us afloat while our young D and stud goalie carry us? Only time will tell. But for now, the stats don't lie.

Your Thoughts

As always, I'd like to hear your input. Is any of this particularly surprising? Did any of those stats catch you particularly off-guard? Do you agree with the conclusions? Do you think Lou's signings will be enough or do we need to start addressing the age problem in the draft now?

The only information used to create the following file were from Robert Vollmans data found here and NHL.com. Here's the file for all the stats in this article:

GVT, Corsi %, and Young Goals

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