Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Marcus Johansson's Queer Stats

Marcus Johansson, the Capitals' 1st round pick in 2009, is a fantastic skater with good defensive instincts. He's in the lineup each night he's healthy. He's played first line center, second line center, and third line center already. His scoring chance differential is pretty decent, especially for a 20-year old rookie. Yet, his Corsi is terrible, with middling competition and teammates and easy zone start.

What gives? Maybe this is a trend of young players, who don't have the strength to generate good Corsi numbers but don't lack the smarts to prevent good scoring opportunities (which are heavily influenced by stickwork and positioning, not just strength).

Here I'll test that hypothesis. The young players I can compare Johansson to are the ones who also have scoring chance data, so players for the Oilers, '09-'10 Flames (72 games), '10-'11 Flames, Maple Leafs (76 games in '09-'10), Canadiens, '10-'11 Rangers, '10-'11 Panthers, '09-'10 Avalanche (first half of the season only), and the '09-'10 Wild (through Game 20589) are included along with Johansson. Caps scoring chance data courtesy Russian Machine Never Breaks.

Here's the list of forwards I got, with a 20 game cutoff for 09-10 and five games for 10-11:

09-10: Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, TJ Galiardi, Ryan Wilson, Viktor Stalberg, Tom Pyatt, Brandon Yip, Robbie Earl, Christian Hanson, Ryan Stone, Mikael Backlund, Luca Caputi

10-11: Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Lars Eller, Stefan Meyer, Evgeny Grachev, plus some of the guys in the previous year.

All stats from and Timeonice as of the morning of November 22, 2010. I apologize for the incomplete stats at this point. Click to enlarge.

The thought that struck me about halfway through this exercise is that Johansson's Corsi Rel could be so poor because the Capitals are a good Corsi team. His Corsi On is about -0.8, which bears out that hypothesis. The Capitals' scoring chance percentage, going by Neil Greenberg's numbers, is .517 (my numbers are incomplete).

What jumps out to me is just how poor Magnus Paajarvi's scoring chance percentage is (which makes me wonder about this post). He's getting creamed, and for some reason Tom Renney is playing him against top competition. His linemates tend to be a combination of Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff, Gilbert Brule, Ales Hemsky, and Jordan Eberle. And Eberle has been terrific so far (sigh...the 2008 draft...)

For an idea of what this season's Corsi% totals look like, here's some data compiled by JLikens, used to adjust Corsi based on various factors.

Marcus Johansson looks middling to slightly above average among first-year players on that list, with Eberle, Bozak, Eller, Hall, and Backlund looking better. Not bad at all. Backlund has remained very, very good for Calgary.

Looks to me like Marcus Johansson's Corsi and scoring chance numbers are only queer because he's one of the few young players that actually plays for a pretty good team. Is that good or bad that such a good team is dressing such a young player? Only time will tell.

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