One thing I’ve noticed since writing about hockey for the past year is the increasing use of advanced statistics. Yes, we all know about the tracking tool of plus/minus, but I’m talking some real next level stuff.
This article will be a primer for any neophytes that don’t want to feel lost when they hear the terms Corsi, Fenwick, Close and Relative situations. For those that want to spend a little time getting to know their terms I’ve provided a glossary from the guys at Extra Skater. First, I’ll give a small background about why advanced stats are catching on.
Advanced statistics or “fancy stats” have been around for years. (Legendary coach Roger Nielsen had his own variation of plus/minus based on credit and blame during each scoring play.)
Corsi is named after current St. Louis Blues goaltending coach (and former Buffalo Sabres goalie coach) Jim Corsi. However, he’s the first to tell you that he did not invent the stat. Here’s an excerpt of how the stat came to be from a recent interview with the Toronto Star.
An outside-the-box thinker, Corsi was trying to measure just how busy his goalies were in a game. He didn’t believe the simple shots-against total — usually around 30 a game — was totally reflective of just how busy a goalie was. And since it’s up to the goalie coach to ensure the goalie is in shape, it was up to Corsi to find out how much workout time goalies needed between games.
So he added all shots and shot attempts, including ones that went wide, and ones that were blocked, figuring a goalie had to be in position or moving around regardless. He reasoned the shot total was more in the region of 50 to 70.
“I was doing work on how much work a goalie does,” Corsi said. “Another fellow took my stats and started applying it to players to find out what their contribution was overall, on both sides of the puck, and voila, the Corsi stat came out.”
As the article later says, the stat was first bandied about in the lost 2004-05 season when blogs were picking a part statistics. (Because there wasn’t much else to do.)
Guys like Vic Ferrari, who is really Tim Barnes, and Gabriel Desjardins of BehindtheNet.ca brought them to forefront as Ferrari came up with the stats and Desjardins put them on his site. (About the same time other bloggers were trying to do so.)
Things started to take hold online as fans weren’t satisfied with the sometimes deceptive stat of plus/minus. That’s when Corsi, Fenwick and other stats were used as a more of a gauge on how effective a player really is.
Advanced stats have really gotten into the news as the Edmonton Oilers hired stats maven Tyler Dellow (http://www.mc79hockey.com/) and the New Jersey Devils hired a former poker pro to help them win the statistical battles. Teams like the Kings, Blackhawks and Penguins have been using statistical approaches for years.
There are some people that hate these stats. (Go to 28:40 to hear this rant on the Nielsen and Fraser Show.) However, the advanced stats people did predict the Toronto Maple Leafs' fall through the standings after their fast start due to their terrible Corsi and Fenwick stats.
The Leafs are trying to fix this as they hired assistant GM Kyle Dubas who has experience in advanced stats. New Leafs president Brendan Shanahan is trying to fix the problems that made the Buds missed the playoffs.
Corsi: This is basically shot differential for a player that counts shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots for or against. An example would be if a player has two attempts on goal, his linemate has a shot blocked and is on the ice for two shots by his opponent; the Corsi rating is +1. (his shot on goal + teammates blocked shot - opponents missed shots.)
Fenwick: Invented by Calgary Flames blogger Matt Fenwick. The stat is basically is Corsi without the blocked shots. (Example 8 shots on goal+4 shots wide – 4 shots against+4 shots against wide= +4 Fenwick)
Close: Relates to any situation where the game where the game is tied at any point or within a goal in the first and second periods. It’s a better indicator of game situations as teams go for it to score or pack it in to preserve a lead.
Relative: This is a statistic that compares a player’s on-ice stats compared to his team’s. If a player’s Corsi For % (CF%) is 56.1% and his team’s CF% is 52.1%, than his Corsi relative or (CF% rel) is +4
There are other stats that break down how a goalie performs as more weight is given to save percentage (especially even strength) than wins. (To quote the Grantland article “God help you if you say wins.” There’s even the adjusted save percentage that measures SV%+ = [(1 - League-average save %) / (1 - Goalie SV%)] * 100.
Hope this gets you some background on these advanced stats. I may not be an expert like a Mr. Dellow, but I think I helped. If you’ve got a question, comment below or tweet me @DanMountSports or @HockeySentinel and I’ll try to answer your question as best I can.
Dan Mount is the editor of Hockey Sentinel and covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for NYSportScene.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.