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Scott Cullen

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Examining players with the greatest change in relative possession numbers compared to last season, including Anderson, Ladd, Karlsson, Wheeler, Santini and more in Scott Cullen’s Statistically Speaking.

One of the ways to look at a player’s shot differentials is using relative Corsi, which compares a team’s percentage of shot attempts for when a particular player is on the ice vs. when that player is off the ice.

These numbers often get labeled as an indicator of possession, which then starts pedantic arguments among those who would rather argue than understand. Nevertheless, it’s easy to consider shot differentials as “productive possession” and away we go.

It’s usually a good starting point; a place to dive in and figure out why those numbers are especially good or bad for an individual player.

So, here is a look at the players that have had the greatest increase in relative Corsi For percentage this season compared to last year (minimum 500 5-on-5 minutes both seasons):

 

RelCF% IMPROVEMENT, 2016-2017 vs. 2017-2018 (MIN. 500 5-on-5 MINUTES BOTH YEARS)

 
PLAYER TEAM POS 2016-17 RelCF% 2017-2018 RelCF% DIFF
Josh Anderson Columbus RW -4.12 7.25 11.37
Andrew Ladd N.Y. Islanders LW -1.59 7.12 8.71
William Karlsson Vegas C -3.38 5.22 8.60
Nick Bjugstad Florida RW -6.33 2.25 8.58
Jason Demers Arizona D -2.30 5.97 8.27
Karl Alzner Montreal D -6.77 0.81 7.58
Brayden Schenn St. Louis C -3.85 3.57 7.42
Tom Wilson Washington RW -1.81 5.44 7.25
Mikko Rantanen Columbus RW -1.60 5.35 6.95
Mikael Granlund Minnesota RW -0.72 5.94 6.66
Nicklas Backstrom Washington C -0.86 5.49 6.35
Erik Karlsson Ottawa D 1.98 8.32 6.34
Kevin Hayes N.Y. Rangers C -6.31 0.01 6.32
Derek Forbort Los Angeles D -1.01 5.23 6.24
Henrik Sedin Vancouver C 1.71 7.90 6.19
Alexander Steen St. Louis LW -3.21 2.91 6.12
Esa Lindell Dallas D -3.22 2.66 5.88
Jordan Eberle N.Y. Islanders RW 2.68 8.52 5.84
Markus Nutivaara Columbus D -3.09 2.74 5.83
John Moore New Jersey D -2.27 3.46 5.73
Drew Doughty Los Angeles D 0.90 6.40 5.50
Kyle Turris Nashville C -0.71 4.77 5.48
Dustin Brown Los Angeles RW -1.52 3.84 5.36
Mitch Marner Toronto RW -0.22 5.08 5.30
Dmitry Kulikov Winnipeg D -4.63 0.49 5.12
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona D -0.11 5.00 5.11
James van Riemsdyk Toronto LW 1.67 6.67 5.00
Claude Giroux Philadelphia LW 1.24 6.22 4.98
 

Some observations:

Wow, Josh Anderson. But, moving from the lower-half of the Columbus depth chart to playing on the top line has worked in his favour. Same goes for Tom Wilson in Washington.

Islanders rookie centre Mathew Barzal has made a big difference for Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle.

Some players have rebounded from atypically poor seasons in 2016-2017. That includes Nick Bjugstad, Karl Alzner, Alexander Steen, and even Erik Karlsson to some degree.

Sometimes a reduced role works, as it has for Dmitry Kulikov, but then Brayden Schenn and William Karlsson have responded to first-line roles with their new teams. Essentially, these numbers don’t say a player needs to play more or less, only that a team needs to find the right role for a player’s talent level.

These would seem to be encouraging numbers for young and developing Finns Mikko Rantanen, Esa Lindell and Markus Nutivaara.

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Jets captain Blake Wheeler is scoring a lot, but is getting outshot to an unusual degree.

 

 

On the other hand, there are naturally players that aren’t faring as well in terms of relative Corsi compared to last season (minimum 500 5-on-5 minutes both seasons):

 

RelCF% DECLINE, 2016-2017 vs. 2017-2018 (MIN. 500 5-on-5 MINUTES BOTH YEARS)

 
PLAYER TEAM POS 2016-17 RelCF% 2017-2018 RelCF% DIFF
Michael Del Zotto Vancouver D 1.36 -3.69 -5.05
Nate Schmidt Vegas D 2.74 -2.34 -5.08
Mats Zuccarello N.Y. Rangers RW 4.55 -0.64 -5.19
Alec Martinez Los Angeles D -0.48 -5.70 -5.22
Patric Hornqvist Pittsburgh RW 5.94 0.67 -5.27
Victor Rask Carolina C -0.90 -6.26 -5.36
Torey Krug Boston D 4.20 -1.37 -5.57
David Perron Vegas LW 1.25 -4.41 -5.66
Jordan Staal Carolina C 6.38 0.71 -5.67
Carl Gunnarsson St. Louis D -1.26 -7.06 -5.80
John Tavares N.Y. Islanders C 7.40 1.32 -6.08
Henrik Zetterberg Detroit C 3.71 -2.38 -6.09
Jack Johnson Columbus D -1.35 -7.50 -6.15
Erik Haula Vegas C 2.48 -3.71 -6.19
Calle Jarnkrok Nashville C 0.37 -6.25 -6.62
Boone Jenner Columbus LW -1.17 -7.94 -6.77
Brooks Orpik Washington D 1.00 -6.20 -7.20
Andy Greene New Jersey D -0.53 -8.08 -7.55
Vincent Trocheck Florida C 5.58 -2.02 -7.60
Sam Gagner Vancouver C 4.85 -3.29 -8.14
David Savard Columbus D 1.96 -6.55 -8.51
Steven Santini New Jersey D -0.53 -12.33 -11.80
Blake Wheeler Winnipeg RW 8.18 -4.57 -12.75
 

More observations:

As productive as Blake Wheeler has been this season, his drop in possession numbers is jarring. Vincent Trocheck is another top-quality player who has had a notable decline, even if not to the degree that Wheeler’s differentials have dipped.

The Devils’ defence tandem of Andy Greene and Steve Santini is getting swamped.

Brooks Orpik fared better when he was allowed to play third-pair minutes for the Capitals last season.

Jack Johnson wants out of Columbus, reportedly, but he and partner David Savard have just been annihilated in relative terms this year. However, some of that is a reflection that the Blue Jackets’ top pair, Zach Werenski and Seth Jones, may be the league’s best. That makes it tough to have strong relative numbers in comparison, though it doesn’t require Johnson and Savard to get drilled to this degree.

Erik Haula and David Perron are taking advantage of a more significant role in Vegas in terms of scoring, but they’re losing out on the shot battle. Nate Schmidt isn’t making the smoothest adjustment to a bigger role either.

New opportunities in Vancouver don't appear to be working out ideally for Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto.

Henrik Zetterberg having poor relative possession numbers hasn’t really been a thing, but it appears headed that way.

In any case, these differentials serve as an alert process, to give a heads up for when the numbers are moving dramatically in one direction from one year to the next.

From Wednesday’s games…

HEROES

Ondrej Kase – Anaheim’s second-year winger had a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win against Pittsburgh, and has nine points (6 G, 3 A) in the past nine games.

Brad Marchand – The Boston agitator is an elite point producer now and, after a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win over Montreal, has 11 points (4 G, 7 A) in the past six games.

ZEROES

Jeff Petry – Montreal’s de facto No. 1 defenceman while Shea Weber is out, Petry had a rough night (7 for, 20 against, 25.9 CF%, 3-6 scoring chances) in a 4-1 loss at Boston.

VITAL SIGNS

Matt Murray – Pittsburgh’s No. 1 netminder returned home following the death of his father, which leaves rookie Tristan Jarry as the starter in the meantime.

SHORT SHIFTS

Bruins C David Krejci produced a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win against Montreal, and has nine points (4 G, 5 A) in the past nine games…Bruins C Patrice Bergeron added a couple of assists, giving him 11 points (6 G, 5 A) in the past seven games…Although he finished minus-4, Penguins RW Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist in a 5-3 loss at Anaheim, and has 10 points (4 G, 6 A) during a five-game point streak…Penguins superstar C Sidney Crosby chipped in a couple of helpers, giving him 13 points (3 G, 10 A) during a five-game point streak.

FIRSTS

Jakub Jerabek - Montreal's 26-year-old defenceman scored his first career goal, in his 19th career game, a 4-1 loss at Boston.

Many of the advanced stats used here come from Natural Stat TrickCorsica and Hockey Reference.

Scott Cullen can be reached at scott.cullen@bellmedia.ca