Jim Corsi: The man behind Corsi numbers

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The hockey world is ages behind “Moneyball” philosophy and Sabermetrics, just to name a few buzzwords associated with the innovative stats championed by baseball writers and stats gurus for years. That isn’t to say that hockey bloggers/writers/fans/front office people are completely turning a blind eye to analysis that goes deeper than goals, assists and plus/minuses, though.

One of the most well-known “new” stats is the Corsi Number, named after Buffalo Sabres goalie coach Jim Corsi (he’s the guy in that photo who’s either short … or maybe standing next to Tyler Myers). To explain the stat (a bit too) simply: it’s basically an alternative to plus/minus in which shots replace goals. Here’s a more detailed description from David Staples’ great story about Corsi (the man and the stat).

Corsi is a plus/minus stat that measures shots directed at net. For example, if the Edmonton Oilers direct 30 shots at even strength at the Calgary Flames’ net in a game, while the Flames direct 45 shots at the Oilers’ net, the Oilers have a Corsi of -15 for the game. People who put a lot of faith in Corsi plus/minus numbers argue that you even if a team loses a stretch of games, but if that team has a strong Corsi plus/minus in each game, it’s an indication that the team really isn’t so bad, that it’s moving the puck to the right end of the ice, that it has territorial dominance, and that the goals will soon come.

This team Corsi number is also broken down and applied to individual players. For example, if Sheldon Souray is out on the ice for 10 shots directed at the Flames’ net, while the Flames direct 15 shots at the Oilers’ net while Souray is on the ice, he’s said to have a Corsi plus/minus of -5.

It’s a fascinating story that is definitely worth the read. I’ll leave you with the stat’s origin story, from Corsi himself.

The traditional way of measuring a goalie’s work load was to look at the number of shots against the goalie faced in a game. But having played goalie himself, Corsi didn’t trust that basic indicator so much. “When I played, I’d finish a game with about 25 shots on goal and I was really tired. I was really very, very tired,” he says.

“When you look at 20 or 25 shots, you say, Well, it’s a light game.’ But if you look at a game, an (attacker) comes down the right side, he’s got the puck, and he turns up the boards, towards the wall, the goalie is not standing on his heels going, ‘Oh, you know, whatever.’ He’s going to bear down, tense up, prepare that this is going to end up as a shot. Now as (the attacker) turns, he (the goalie) has still got to be engaged and wait for the next play.

“You get a 25-shot game, but with all the blocked shots and the increase in blocked shots and the tightness of the defensive zone coverage, the activity of the goalie could almost be like 75 to 100 actions at the net.”

To get a better sense of how much work his goalies faced, Corsi started to use the NHL’s data that tracks missed shots, blocked shots and shots on goal. He added all these together to come up with a goalie’s so-called Corsi number for a night of work. “It’s really just a number that I’ve used for goaltenders to hone in on their fitness and how much activity is actually going on with respect to goaltending.”

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    Oilers ‘owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time’: Chiarelli

    SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: Peter Chiarelli of the Edmonton Oilers attends the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The more Peter Chiarelli talks, the more anticipation grows for a big trade.

    The Oilers’ general manager spoke to Sportsnet yesterday at the Memorial Cup, where he was asked once again about the possibility of dealing the fourth overall draft pick for some NHL-ready help.

    “Would I look to move it? We want to win. I took the job in Edmonton to win, so as I said earlier, we’ll look at all options,” said Chiarelli. “There’s some pretty good players that are going to be available at four but we may look to move down and still use a pick to get an asset as part of a larger deal. We owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time and we’re going to look at all options to allow us to do that.”

    The number one area that the Oilers need to upgrade is the defense. So if, for example, a player like Tyson Barrie were made available by the Colorado Avalanche, Chiarelli would no doubt be interested. Ditto for Jacob Trouba, Sami Vatanen, or whoever else could be in play this offseason.

    It won’t be easy, but if Chiarelli can add a capable, young top-4 defenseman (arguably the most valuable commodity in the NHL) and perhaps a veteran too, all of a sudden things look a lot more promising on the back end. Remember that Darnell Nurse is still only 21, Oscar Klefbom just 22. And even if the Oilers move down in the draft, they could still add another d-man to a mix that also includes youngsters Brandon Davidson, Adam Clendening, Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle.

    If, on the other hand, Chiarelli fails to upgrade the defense, then the Oilers may struggle once again next season.

    Hence, the urgency to get something done now, for a fan base that hasn’t experienced playoff excitement in a decade.

    After so much losing, there’s no selling patience anymore in Edmonton.

    Related‘There’s a real legitimate chance’ that Oilers trade fourth overall pick

    People are wondering — do the Florida Panthers know what they’re doing?

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    The Florida Panthers’ managerial shakeup continued this week with the firing of their director of player personnel, Tom Luce.

    Luce had been with the club since 2002. According to his bio, he had “been responsible for the Panthers drafting notable players, including Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau and Dmitry Kulikov.”

    The firing of Luce was particularly noteworthy, since it came just days after Dale Tallon was “promoted” to president of hockey operations. That move was sold as a way for Tallon to do more of what he liked (scouting), while handing off other responsibilities (contracts, salary cap, etc.) to new GM Tom Rowe and his young assistants, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier.

    But not all in the Florida media are buying, apparently.

    From Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde:

    I can retire now. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen teams fire everyone after bad, average and even mildly disappointing seasons. But I’d never seen a team replace people who created a record-setting season that buoyed the franchise’s future.

    Until the Florida Panthers over the last few days.

    Hyde goes on to question the Panthers’ new, analytics-focused direction. (If that direction sounds similar, it’s because the Arizona Coyotes are taking the same route.)

    His column finishes like this:

    This should be an offseason of great hope for the Panthers. Instead, it’s now weighed down with a question of recent days. It’s not what Tallon’s diminished role is or who Rowe is.

    The question starts here: Does Vinnie Viola know what he’s doing?

    And that’s a fair question to ask of any owner. Especially a new one.

    That being said, it’s also fair to question how much Tallon and Luce should be credited for the Panthers’ turnaround. After all, since Tallon was hired in 2010, Florida has had the first overall draft pick (Ekblad), the second overall pick (Barkov), and two third overall picks (Gudbranson, Huberdeau). Yes, there have been a few savvy picks — Vincent Trocheck in the third round stands out — and a few good additions via trade. But really, with all the blue-chip talent they’ve been gifted, making the playoffs this year was the least they should have expected.

    “It’s a great game, but a tough business sometimes,” Rowe said of the firings, per the Sun Sentinel. “The fans came out in big numbers and it was awesome. We made the playoffs and that’s good. But at the end of the day, I didn’t think we had enough punch in the playoffs and I don’t think we gave [coach Gerard Gallant] enough options to get past the Islanders on our third and fourth lines.”

    Regardless of where you stand on what’s happening in Florida, you can’t deny it’s all quite reminiscent of the summer of 2009, when Tallon was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks, replaced by the much-younger Stan Bowman.

    Here’s a column that was written by the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Morrissey after that decision was made:

    Wirtz and McDonough wanted to have their own crew in place. Fair enough. They don’t even want a suggestion of the mustiness of the Bob Pulford era.

    But let’s try to remember Tallon played a huge role in building a team that surprised a lot of people by getting to the Western Conference finals last season. How it came to be that they chose Stan Bowman over Tallon is no secret. There had been rumblings for most of the year that Tallon would be out.

    Yes, anybody could have picked superstars-in-training Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But let’s remember that anybody could have picked Michael Jordan in the first round of the 1984 NBA draft. The teams with the first two picks didn’t.

    The Blackhawks, of course, won the Stanley Cup the next year, a month after Tallon was introduced as the new GM in Florida.

    Back to Matt: Facing elimination, Pens will start Murray

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 16:  Matt Murray #30 and Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins look on against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but there’s a goalie change coming in the conference final.

    On Tuesday, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan announced that Matt Murray would be back in goal for tonight’s decisive Game 6 in Tampa Bay — this after Sullivan opted to park Murray in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 5.

    Technically speaking, Murray’s been parked since the second period of Game 4. That, of course, was the one in which he allowed four goals on 30 shots, paving the way for Fleury to enter the third with Pittsburgh down 4-0.

    And that’s when things changed.

    The goalie switch seemed to spark the Pens, who scored three times in the final frame to make things interesting. While that was going on, Fleury looked sharp — though not especially busy — stopping all seven shots faced, as his mates nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback.

    The decision was then made to start Fleury on Saturday night.

    He played to mixed reviews in a 4-3 OT loss, making just 21 saves (for an .840 percentage) while appearing shaky on a number of occasions. Though he could hardly be blamed for the game-winning goal — replays showed that Jason Garrison‘s point shot deflected off Tyler Johnson‘s behind — Fleury just didn’t look right, which isn’t a shock.

    It was his first start since suffering a concussion on Mar. 31.

    As mentioned above, goalie changes have been a predominant storyline among the final four playoff teams. St. Louis has started both Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, and the Bolts were forced to go to Andrei Vasilevskiy after Ben Bishop got hurt in the series opener.

    In that light, Sullivan’s questionable decision to start Fleury in Game 5 is somewhat mitigated because, hey, other teams are having goalie issues too.

    It’s also worth noting Pittsburgh’s situation in goal probably has much to do with its situation on defense. There’s little coincidence the club has conceded eight goals over the last two games with Trevor Daley (broken ankle) almost entirely out of action, Olli Maata being thrown into action and Kris Letang shouldering gigantic minutes — including a whopping 31:38 in Game 4.

    Related: Rutherford says Fleury’s ‘absolutely not’ done in Pittsburgh, but logic suggests otherwise

    Report: Wild parting ways with assistant coaches Wilson, Sydor

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    Bruce Boudreau has some staffing to take care of in Minnesota.

    Per the Star-Tribune, the Wild have elected to part ways with veteran assistant coaches Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor. The report comes just weeks after GM Chuck Fletcher hired Boudreau to replace outgoing interim bench boss John Torchetti.

    Wilson assisted three different coaches — Torchetti, Mike Yeo, Todd Richards — during his six years in Minnesota, and worked mostly with the club’s defensemen and penalty kill.

    Sydor had been one of Yeo’s most prominent right-hand men, dating back to their time together in AHL Houston. The longtime NHL blueliner was embroiled in controversy last season after he was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving and child endangerment, eventually getting jail time for DWI.

    Fletcher has reportedly given Boudreau “free reign” to fill out his coaching staff, which may include a third open position.

    Per the Tribune, it’s believed another of last year’s assistants — Andre Brunette — will move from behind the bench to the front office. Prior to taking a coaching gig last season, Brunette had been working as a special assistant to Fletcher.

    The other coaches from last year — Darby Hendrickson and Bob Mason — will return in their roles. Hendrickson works out of the press box while Mason is the club’s goalie coach.

    Related: With an aging core, the Wild could be Boudreau’s biggest challenge yet