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Best Forwards In The NHL - Normalizing Corsi

<strong>Jay McClement moves up ice after yet another defensive zone faceoff.</strong>   Photo by: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport <a href="" target="new">via Getty Images</a>
Jay McClement moves up ice after yet another defensive zone faceoff. Photo by: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

I've written about the best before - those forwards that, year in and year out, face the tough competition, and in some cases, outscore that tough competition.  Those forwards are unique in that they are given the most difficult opponents every year, sometimes at the discretion of multiple coaching staffs (Rick Nash, Scott Gomez, Martin Hanzal, Samuel Pahlsson, Stephen Weiss, Daniel Alfredsson, and Shawn Horcoff).  I've also talked about Zonestart and its impact on Corsi.  Essentially, a person starting play in his own end is going to struggle.  To quote from that article:

It's obvious that defensive zone starts will have an impact on Corsi - it's difficult for a player to direct shots at the opponents' net when he's starting 175 feet away from that net.  We've previously graphed the inverse relationship between Zonestart and Corsi at the team level, but Vic Ferrari and Jlikens have worked out the math at the individual level.  Vic demonstrated that each net offensive Zonestart is worth +.6 Fenwick, and Jlikens demonstrated that each net offensive Zonestart is worth +.8 Corsi.

Presented below is a table showing the DZ - OZ split for the tough minutes forwards in the league over the last three years.  I've normalized their Corsi values using the multiplier mentioned above and determined the difference in the last column.  All stats are taken from Desjardins' Behind The Net.

These tables are sortable by column -- simply click on the desired column header cell.

Player DZ OZ ZS Corsi/60 Norm Corsi/60 Δ
Pavel Datsyuk 876 981 -105 21.914 20.47 -1.444
Henrik Zetterberg 806 884 -78 21.486 20.33 -1.154
Eric Staal 999 1102 -103 7.977 6.54 -1.433
Scott Gomez 736 1029 -293 10.400 6.29 -4.111
Mike Richards 1255 838 417 -0.449 5.82 6.269
Rick Nash 970 1017 -47 4.600 3.92 -0.678
Martin Hanzal 898 701 197 -0.931 2.34 3.270
Jochen Hecht 872 818 54 1.238 2.09 0.849
Stephen Weiss 1037 940 97 0.378 1.85 1.475
Daniel Alfredsson 745 924 -179 4.072 1.24 -2.828
Shawn Horcoff 1044 802 242 -4.424 -0.44 3.984
Samuel Pahlsson 974 609 365 -8.745 -1.92 6.825
Jay McClement 1073 662 411 -10.172 -3.18 6.992
Milan Hejduk 813 807 6 -3.488 -3.39 0.096
Ilya Kovalchuk 1010 944 66 -6.077 -5.17 0.904
Martin St. Louis 794 1217 -423 -0.060 -5.39 -5.330


This look shows just how differently tough minutes players are used and how their starting position impacts their on-ice performance. The leaders in raw Corsi are, for the most part, taking their faceoffs in the offensive zone.  The players that see the biggest gains in normalized Corsi are those that spend their time taking defensive zone faceoffs.

Jay McClement, Mike Richards, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Hanzal and Shawn Horcoff have done some serious heavy lifting for their teams over the last three years.  They've been deployed as defense-first options on their respective clubs.  Guys like Eric Staal, Daniel Alfredsson, and especially Martin St. Louis have been deployed in the offensive zone, probably against checking lines like those that are anchored by McClement, Richards, Pahlsson, Hanzal and Horcoff.

A final word about Jay McClement: the centerman is the salt of the earth and he's moving along, completely unrecognized for his work.  He's playing the toughest minutes in the toughest conference in the toughest division in the NHL.  He's got the most difficult starting positions in his conference.  Yet when you account for his starting position, he's nearly breaking even, and when you consider his linemates - Brandon Crombeen and Alexander Steen - he probably deserves the kind of credit that goes with doing better than breaking even.  If I had a vote for the Selke, McClement would have been at the top of my ballot each of the last two seasons, narrowly edging out Frans Nielsen this season.