Advanced stats are sucking the life out of enjoying this Rangers team

"What do you mean my stats are fancy?"

“What do you mean my stats are fancy?”

The NY Rangers are 17-8-1 with 35 points and tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for 1st overall in the NHL. Furthermore, the Blueshirts are 1st in Goals For with 95, 5th on the PP (22.7%), and 8th on the PK (85.1%). The one number that isn’t so hot is they are middle of the pack in goals against at 14 (64 GA). Every fan of the Rangers should be over the moon, but thanks to advanced stats, some are not. Sadly, these fans are usually the most vocal.

Win or Lose It’s Almost Always the Same Complaints

If you are a fan of the Rangers and heavily use social media during games like Twitter and Facebook, the same complaints are regurgitated over and over. Dan Girardi sucks, Marc Staal sucks, Kevin Klein sucks, only Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei are good because they are better at moving the puck.

This is all driven primarily by advanced stats like corsi/fenwick. Matter of fact, NYR fans aren’t just using these stats to evaluate a team’s and individual’s performance over a sufficient sample size (say 20 games), but they are tweeting out stats down to a player’s shift. It’s actually annoying and not really all that helpful.

Clendening

Clendening

These stats have determined that Dan Girardi can’t play hockey anymore and needs to just leave the team. It has also given Rangers fans this hashtag, #FreeClendo referring to journeyman defenseman Adam Clendening.

The thought process is that Clendening who thus far hasn’t been able to earn a full time job on 5 different NHL teams (including the defense starved Oilers and Canucks), should somehow supplant Girardi in the lineup. Well, excuse me!

It’s really nice that Clendening appears to drive possession highlighted by his 60.9% CF, but his inability to play defense reared its ugly head against Buffalo. His holding penalty against Jack Eichel led to the PP game winner in the third period.

That was also Clendening’s 2nd minor in just 7 games. In contrast, Girardi has only 3 minors in 22 games. While bloggers scream for Clendening in the lineup because of corsi, they ignore that he plays sheltered minutes against the opposition’s weaker lines because Alain Vigneault doesn’t trust him. Want more proof? Clendening has started in the offensive zone a staggering 69%! That’s 18 points higher than rookie, Brady Skjei. I guess AV and the staff are really concerned about his ability to, you know…play his position.

The bottom line, taking out Girardi or even Klein for Clendening’s better ability to “drive possession” actually hurts the team. A defenseman who is a liability in his own zone, isn’t really much of a defenseman.

The Truth About Advanced Stats
Girardi hits Ovechkin

Girardi hits Ovechkin

There is some impressive work being done out there, but realize the ones pushing this the hardest are those in the blogosphere hoping to land a job with an NHL team. It isn’t unprecedented as several of these bloggers have been hired over the last few summers.

Still, the majority of this information may be cool to look at but doesn’t hold the weighted value they try to attribute to it.

Recently, Kevin Allen wrote a scathing article on how players are gaming the stat because it is now being used in contract negotiations. Barry Trotz was quoted as saying, “We have businessmen, they will throw pucks from anywhere to get a better Corsi.” If you don’t believe this, maybe you didn’t watch the 1st period against Carolina closely enough yesterday, where they literally fired about 10 of their 15 shots off the boards and from the blue line.

Even Jordan Staal of the Canes admitted as much to Allen. He said, “probably some players might shoot a couple extra to maybe get that number (Corsi) up…but it’s definitely part of the game now.” So by a player’s own admission we know that these numbers start to lose their value even more. I also spoke with a former NHL player who is now an analyst that admitted he knows players that sauce a puck on goal at the end of their shift to pad that stat.

The most damaging comments came from the coach of the Red Wings, Jeff Blashill. He warned that players are now developing “ill-advised habits to inflate their Corsi.” In a moment of self vindication he reiterated a belief I hold firmly with regards to advanced stats.

“Shots are more of a byproduct of how you play rather than a driver of performance…teams that have good Corsi are those that are outplaying their opponents. That’s why they have more attempts. In other words, teams aren’t dominating because they generate more shot attempts. They have more shot attempts because they are dominating.

I’ve been saying this since last November:

And again in January 2016 just to highlight a few:

Stats vs. Reality and Let’s Just Enjoy The Game

Listen, I said it before the season started that Dan Girardi is no longer a top pair defenseman at his age. The real issue is that the one thing GM, Jeff Gorton failed to do this off-season is to find an adequate replacement for AV to use.

The Rangers will need to address this at some point, but right now the team is playing really well. They are scoring and they are winning. There’s no denying that how you play the game is very important, but no one gets awarded 2 points in the standings for out corsiing the other team. Coaches don’t strategize or set a lineup to win the corsi battle, they do so to win the game.

And winning is something the Rangers have been doing a lot of…so enjoy.

11 comments

  • If Rangers play anyone like they played the 3rd yesterday no me worry man.

  • You criticize people for evaluating events in a single shift then go on to do the exact same thing 3 paragraphs later…

  • It’s pretty simple to see that they are getting out played and out hustled by some teams that shouldn’t be out playing and out hustling them. This team has won nothing. They ought to be remembering that more often rather than looking at their record. Teams have found us out… again. Clog the neutral zone and you shut down our long outlet passes and minimize our speed. The PP looks awful against teams who won’t let us skate around them. Dump the puck in on the PP and out hustle the other teams to the puck in the corners. I repeat. We’ve won NOTHING. I am a Ranger fan since ’74. One Cup and two other trips to the Finals. They must play with more urgency if they are to win anything in the Playoffs.

  • Phillipe DeBasquette

    The dippy human stats centipede aka BS banter clique are the biggest and most obnoxious proponent of #fancystats. Thank God hockey is played on ice and not on a motherboard.

  • Trade for one quality defenseman. Then push Girardi down to 2nd or 3rd pair, then buy him out at year end. Clendening is not the answer.

  • Anthony. Great article and I never imagined a player doing what you described for a contract edge. Although what you reported makes complete sense. I’ve been a Ranger fan for a VERY long time. The comments I make on a few boards, are derived from years of watching my team, and I don’t pay any attention to advanced stats. So putting all those advanced stats aside, this Ranger team as constituted is one dimensional, FAST. Smart opposition coaches will use a 1-3-1 trap more often. The Rangers need some grit, some physical players who will by LEGAL hard hitting and LEGAL aggressive play wake up a morbidly quiet Garden. A Garden which has become almost as quiet as the Nassau Coliseum was…………. Thanks for a great and informative article.

    • I blame AV for not being able to set the team to play against the trap. That should be part of his practice between games.

  • The biggest problem is that AV does not realize that Girardi is not a top dman and needs to be moved to third pair and not play every game. Clendening should be rotating alternate games. Fast is responsible but needs to play fourth line ONLY.

  • Agree about Clendening – its wishful thinking to think he is actually good based on a sample size Corsi and ignoring his defensive deficiencies. However Girardi coudn’t trick the system enough to produce a good Corsi number. He just is a bad dman at this point- too slow and bad with the puck.. In his case the eye test matches the Corsi, except in AV’s kaleidoscope eye test. Better suited to 4th pair now than anything else.

    Still there is not much point to pinning Clendening to the bench. Playing him once a week and resting Girardi/Klein can only help them; not to mention making them earn their playing time. Look how energized Klein was after getting his wakeup call.

    Only bad choices here.

  • My eyes glaze over when I find anyone commenting about Corsi, Fenwick, or any other of the other “advance stats.” Thanks for the article. Good read, good points.

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