Advanced metrics becoming part of hockey

Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar fared well in the world of advanced metrics last season.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Just as most baseball players couldn’t tell you what their WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numbers are, most hockey players aren’t too familiar with some of the advanced hockey metrics.

But just as advanced metrics in baseball have become a bigger part of the mainstream, hockey is also beginning to look deeper into the numbers and incorporate them.

The two primary statistics that are gaining traction in the NHL are Corsi and Fenwick.

Corsi is named after Jim Corsi, who developed his system when he was the goaltending coach for the Buffalo Sabres. He’s now the goaltending coach in St. Louis.

A player gets a Corsi rating based on the number of shots his team has while he’s on the ice, including shots that miss the net and blocked shots, minus the number of shots the opposing team has, including missed shots and blocked shots.

This is for 5-on-5 situations, but some websites can break the numbers down for other situations, as well.

So if Player A is on the ice while his team has 12 shots, 3 missed shots and 2 blocked shots while the opposing team has 10 shots, 1 missed shot and 1 blocked shot, Player A’s Corsi number would be 5 (12+3+2=17-10+1+1=5).

When comparing players with Corsi, some prefer to use CorsiRel, which is a player’s Corsi number relative to the rest of his team.

Studies have shown that a better predictor of success than goals-for and goals-against is the number of shots a team has. Basically, the better teams are those that possess the puck more often, and the teams that possess the puck more often have more shots.

Fenwick is named after a blogger, Matt Fenwick. The Fenwick number is similar to Corsi but doesn’t use blocked shots.

Because Fenwick lets blocked shots be a statistic on its own, it’s more commonly used to compare teams rather than individual players.

Extraskater.com formerly provided these statistics, but its founder, Darryl Metcalf, was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Behindthenet.ca, stats.hockeyanalysis.com and war-on-ice.com are some of the other websites devoted to advanced hockey metrics.

Using progressivehockey.com’s team stats from the 2013-14 season, the Los Angeles Kings had the highest Corsi percentage at 56.9 and highest Fenwick percentage at 56.3.

The Red Wings ranked eighth in Corsi percentage at 51.4. Their Fenwick number was very similar at 51.5.

As for individual Red Wings last season, Tomas Tatar had the highest Corsi percentage at 56.3. Pavel Datsyuk was second at 55.6.

Not looking so good in terms of Corsi was Drew Miller at 48.9.

For comparison’s sake, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron was at 61.2 and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar at 61.

So what does this all mean?

For the players right now, not a lot.

"I’ve heard somewhat about it, but I don’t know too much," Wings forward Luke Glendening said. "I’m sure I would care, but they don’t give (those numbers) to us here.

"I’m not going to go looking too deeply to find them."

For front offices, it’s another tool in helping to evaluate players.

Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke to NHL.com over the summer about the topic. He suggested that the Wings would eventually hire a statistics expert as some other teams have done.

"Not only is it a great idea, but if you don’t (use analytics), you’re going to fall behind," Babcock told NHL.com. "You have to be on the cutting edge.

"It was (Arizona assistant general manager) Darcy Regier who said, ‘If you didn’t invent it, you have to be the second or third-best copier because if you’re fourth or fifth, you’ve got no chance.’"