Photo credit: CBC.ca
With Ryan Kesler on pace for 44 goals, is it safe to assume that he’s back into the form that made him one of the league’s elite players and the 2011 Selke Trophy winner? Or has Kesler simply been opportunistic while playing with the Sedins and the beneficiary of lucky bounces like the gimmie in Philadelphia? For my first article on Canucks Hockey Blog I take a look at the underlying numbers to find out if ‘Kes’ is indeed back into Selke form.
If you’re not familiar with advanced stats, otherwise known as #fancystats, most people put a fairly large emphasis on a player’s Corsi rating and a team’s Fenwick rating. Both stats attempt to measure which players and teams are best at possessing the puck. These stats are much more reliable than stats such as goals, which have a large luck component. Over the course of the season you’ll see teams that have the best possession ratings end up near the top of the standings while those that have poor ratings finish near the bottom.
Corsi is generally reserved for evaluating players while Fenwick is used for teams. When a shot is directed towards the opponent’s net, whether missed, on-net or blocked, a player will get a plus-1 in Corsi and when the opponent directs one towards a player’s net they will receive a minus-1. Depending on what site you visit, Corsi can be displayed per 60 minutes of ice-time or as a percentage. Fenwick has the same definition except it excludes blocked shots. Pretty simple stuff, and even if you don’t follow those stats regularly, you probably understand that more shots towards the opponent’s net and less towards your own is a good thing.
So, back on the topic of Kesler, we can compare the Corsi ratings of his two seasons to help determine if he has been as dominant this season as he was back in 2010-11. With only 15 games played so far this season, there is still noise in the data but it should still suit our purpose well enough.
In 2010-11, Kesler finished the season with a Corsi rating of 17.73 meaning for every 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play with Kesler on the ice, the Canucks directed almost 18 more shots towards the net then their opponents. That, by the way, was good enough for third best in the league among players who played at least 60 games. So far in 2013-14, Kesler only has a Corsi rating of 2.62.
Those stats alone would suggest that Kesler isn’t driving or dominating shifts as much as he did during his award-winning season even though he has been filling the net lately. Based on those numbers, it is probably safe to assume that the goals are going to slow down soon, especially if he ends up being replaced on the top line by Alex Burrows as Kesler has no doubt gotten a boost in both Corsi and goals by playing with the Sedins – two of the best possession players in hockey.
That said, part of the gap in Kesler’s ability to drive play can be attributed to the fact that he has played against much tougher opponents then 2010-11. Without getting into how to interpret Quality of Competition statistics in this article, Kesler has gone up against the other team’s best players more often than any other Canucks forward and only Alex Edler has played against tougher competition overall. That is a big difference from 2010-11 when the toughest defensive assignments were generally given to Manny Malholtra and occasionally Max Lapierre.
Basically, a healthy Kesler is back to being a great player, significantly better than at any time in the last two seasons, but not quite as great as the guy who helped the Canucks reach the Stanley Cup Finals.