Can Corsi Explain the Buffalo Sabres’ Success?

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These days, a lot of hockey blogs have been posting about the Corsi Number. This is a number that compares all shots directed at goal (shots on net, missed shots, blocked shots) for and against a player. A positive number indicates that a player has directed more pucks at the net than have been directed against his own net. A negative number… um, well, I won’t insult your intelligence.

One point to keep in mind is that this number is only calculated during a five-on-five situation. Therefore, the Sabres’ power play struggles have no bearing on this metric. Otherwise, this works a lot like the plus/minus rating, except your using shots instead of goals. Now, I’ll end the suspense and reveal the team’s top 3 leaders in the Corsi Number (according to the blog Diebytheblade.com) through the month of October:

1.) Drew Stafford – +39   2.) Steve Montador – +33   3.) Tim Kennedy – +32

Huh?

Wait, let’s take a look at the bottom three on the team. Without further ado:

22.) Tim Connolly – (-)12  21.) Chris Butler – (-)6   20.)  Jason Pominville – (-)1

Double Huh?

For completion sake, I’d like to add that I did not include Daniel Paille, who, after two games, was a -3. That aside, does this mean that our leading scorer is our least effective player?

There are some who dismiss this number due to a team’s style of play (Detroit’s shot totals are always among the league leaders) or the very nature of the player (someone like Ovechkin or Malkin who shoots a lot should have a high number).

And since power play shots are not included, how can you get an accurate gauge of someone like Vanek or Connolly that play on the team’s first power play unit? Let’s take a look at the four Sabres who have scored on the power play this year:

Tim Connolly – 3 ppg, -12 Corsi

Drew Stafford – 3 ppg, +39 Corsi

Jason Pominville – 2 ppg, -1 Corsi

Thomas Vanek – 1 ppg, +12 Corsi

A final nail in the coffin for the overall effectiveness of the Corsi Number: The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins ranked 21st in the league in Corsi Number last season. In fact, only 11 of 16 playoff teams last year had a positive Corsi.

That means that only 68 percent of the time does a positive Corsi number indicate a playoff berth (one more note: only 14 teams had a positive rating). There are many more arguments against it, but I think that the point is clear; the Corsi number has its flaws.

So why bring it up, you ask? Because I believe that it is an excellent indicator of the strength of a team’s third and fourth lines, the lines that rarely get power play time and are usually up against an opponent’s top line. Let us examine the Sabres’ third and fourth lines:

Third line: Hecht – +2 Corsi           Kennedy – +32 Corsi                 Grier – +13 Corsi

Fourth line: Ellis – +19 Corsi            Gaustad – +24 Corsi                  Kaleta – +20 Corsi

Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi is credited with developing this statistic during the NHL lockout. The same NHL lockout in which Lindy Ruff developed his ideal system of play, the system of play that the Sabres are sticking to this season, even when they are losing (yes, even during the Islanders game).

Thanks again to Diebytheblade.com for the Sabres Corsi statistics. I should also note that I got the 2008-2009 Team Corsi numbers from KulasKorner.com.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

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