Torts has no time for ‘the Corsi and the Fenwick’

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Good ol’ Torts was at it again today, railing against hockey’s new statistics.

The head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets told reporters that he charts scoring chances, both for and against, and displays them for all his players to see.

And in true John Tortorella form, he wasn’t done there.

“I’d rather spend time doing that than listening to this crap about the Corsi and the Fenwick, because those stats do not apply,” he said, per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. “I don’t care what anybody says in this league, they don’t apply to the game of hockey. The scoring chances for and against is what tells you the story of the individual player and your team concept, as far as what’s going on.”

It’s a classic straw-man argument, really, because nobody who knows anything about hockey will profess that Corsi and Fenwick tell the whole story. They’re simply a way to measure puck possession. That’s all they are. That’s it. Football measures time of possession and nobody makes a big stink about it. The Dallas Cowboys lead that category this season. And guess what? The Cowboys are 7-1. The San Francisco 49ers are last in that category, and they’re a 1-7 tire fire.

Now, does time of possession tell the whole story in football? Of course it doesn’t, and for myriad reasons. For example, you can’t drive 75 yards down the field and throw an interception every time. That’s not a winning strategy. But generally speaking, good teams keep the ball while bad teams go three-and-out and call Cleveland home.

It’s the same theory in hockey! First step, fight like hell to get the puck. Second step, score a goal with it. Can’t do the second without the first, unless you’re playing the Canucks that is.

The fact is, there’s a very strong correlation between NHL teams with strong Corsi/Fenwick scores and NHL teams that win the Stanley Cup. That’s why those stats have risen to the forefront the last few years. They’re not a magic bullet, and anyone who says they are is wrong.

But…

Pittsburgh last year: 3rd
Chicago the year before: 2nd
Los Angeles the year before that: 1st
Chicago the year before that: 3rd
Los Angeles the year before that: 3rd

What is that, just a coincidence? Because in that same time period, Corsi and Fenwick also predicted the regressions of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, and Calgary Flames.

Again — sigh — these aren’t perfect stats. Get a great goalie like Carey Price and puck possession doesn’t matter quite so much. But it still matters. Because it’s just common sense, that’s why.