FanPost

How Josh Bailey has improved this year: A statistical look at his defensive performance.

I asked a question in a fan-shot recently which basically asked this:

If Josh Bailey turns into a new Frans Nielsen, is he truly a bust?  The answers were interesting...the general feeling I got was that Bailey wouldn't be a bust, but he would be a disappointment due to being the #9 pick in the draft, who the Isles would have taken at #5 (if they couldn't find a trade partner to trade down)*. 

The alternative answer was that he was a bust because of the draft position, even if he would still be a solid NHL player.  But despite the use of the word "bust" in this answer, I think that this is the same as the above answer...that he'd be a disappointment due to the high hopes we had, but that he wouldn't be a total bust.

There was a second interesting thing from the fanshot: a few of the commenters seem to be underrating how good Frans Nielsen truly is. This is a mistake and I feel in order to talk about how Josh Bailey has improved, first I need to explain how elite Frans is as a defensive forward.

 

The fact that Frans Nielsen is an elite defender - one whom probably deserves Selke consideration, has been discovered by several others.  Kent Wilson of Hockey Prospectus (formerly Puck Prospectus) and Flames Nation wrote about it here.  Derek Zona of Copper n Blue has said that Nielsen last year would've been his number 2 choice for the Selke.  And while not necessarily pointing to defense completely, but to Frans' play overall, Lighthouse Hockey's own Ben Hasna looked over this as well

Still, I'm going to show this once again to emphasize just how good Frans Nielsen really is.  So without further ado, Frans' numbers:

SEASON NAME GP TOI/60 Relative +/-  Relative Corsi/60 of Competition
 Corsi/60 Quality of Teammates
Relative Corsi Per 60
Corsi Per 60

Normalized Corsi
Per 60

Sv% Penalties Taken Per 60 Penalties Drawn Per60 Zone Start %
2010-2011 Season FRANSNIELSEN 44 11.48 0.47 0.611 -7.625 8.2 -3.56 3.85 911 0.4 1.2 38.4
2009-2010 Season FRANSNIELSEN 76 11.59 0.29 0.653 -4.046 13.5 3.88 7.53 914 0.1 0.3 44.5
2008-2009 Season FRANSNIELSEN 59 11 0.03 0.497 -7.412
12.8 1.48 3.33 915 0.6 1.7 46.9

Table 1: The numbers of Frans Nielsen the last three years. 
Table Legend:
Relative Corsi/60= A Player's Corsi while they're on the ice MINUS the team's corsi when the player is off the ice. 
Corsi/60 = Total Shots directed toward opponent's net MINUS Total Shots directed toward Your OWN Net (Per 60)
Normalized Corsi/60 = A Player's Corsi rating normalized to show how the corsi rating would be if a player started an equal amount of time in the offensive zone as the player does in the defensive zone.
Relative +/- = A players +/- while on the ice MINUS their +/- while off the ice (with some minutes adjustment)
Zone Start% = The percentage of faceoffs you're on the ice that are in the offensive zone (not including neutral zone faceoffs)
Relative Corsi Per 60 of Competition = A measure of the skill of the average opposing player on the ice.  (Basically it's the average Corsi Relative of the opposing players on the ice while this player was on the ice.)
Corsi Quality of Teammates= A measure of the skill of the average teammate on the ice.  (Basically it's the average Corsi of the linemates and D-Men who are on the ice at the same time of this player)

Before I continue, I want to apologize for doing a poor job explaining some of these numbers.  If you have any questions, ask me in the comments or check out HERE for an explanation of Hockey Advanced Statistics. 

The measurement I'm using to demonstrate defensive ability here is Corsi.  Corsi is essentially shot differential, though it counts missed and blocked shots.  A positive corsi means that while you're on the ice, more shots are directed at the opponent's net than at your own, and a negative means the opposite.  Now of course, this could be accomplished in multiple ways....for example, a player who was insanely good at keeping the puck in the opponent's zone but only okay at getting it out of his own zone would probably have a good corsi even if he wouldn't normally be considered good at defense.  BUT REMEMBER:  That player's performance is good defensively as well!  After all, if you're getting shots on the opponent's net, the opponent cannot shoot on your own goal, meaning that you can't be scored on...and thus your team will give up less goals. 

Now I know a few commenters here do not like corsi for whatever reasons.  They disagree that it shows a player's skill on offense (they claim that getting more shots toward the net doesn't necessarily equate to more goals).  But it seems fairly obvious to me, that by getting more shots on your opponent's net and less on your own, you will end up surrendering less goals.

There are a few measurements of corsi I've included in the table above and they each make a point. Relative Corsi/60 of Opponents is a measure that shows the level of competition that Frans has faced while he's on the ice.  The higher the number, the stronger the opposition.  Frans has faced the toughest opposition of any forward this year, the third toughest of any forward last year, and actually 7th toughest 2 years ago.  So keep in mind that the last two years especially, Frans has been facing the toughest players opponent's can throw at him.

Corsi/60 is the basic measurement of corsi, which simply does what I mentioned above (shows shot differential) per 60 minutes.  So for Frans Nielsen, in 2010-2011, when he has been on the ice, the team has been outshot by 3.56, a measure that's not bad given the tough opposition Frans has faced this year, but still doesn't look particularly great.

Once again, to truly appreciate how great Frans is, you have to remember here how bad the Islanders have been over the past three years....a candidate for worst in the league in 08-09 and 10-11, and a bad team in 2009-2010.  You can see this in the Corsi Per 60 of Teammates...while Frans' linemates were on the ice (with and without Frans), the team was outshot by over 7 shots per 60 minutes in 08-09 and 10-11, and by over 4 shots per 60 in 2009-2010.  These numbers show that the team was better when Frans was on the ice, as his teammates' overall performance is a good bit worse than Frans', which could only happen if they played worse with him off the ice.

We can see how much Frans makes the team's shot differential better with the statistic known as Relative Corsi.  What relative corsi shows is how much better the team's shot differential (corsi) is with Frans ON THE ICE than with Frans OFF THE ICE.  Two seasons ago, the team's shot differential was 12.8 better per 60 minutes with Nielsen on the ice than without him on the ice.  Last season it was even better (13.5!).  In other words, this measurement shows how clearly his being on the ice increases the team's ability to keep shots directed at the opponent's net rather than at the Isles' own net.  These two numbers are the 2nd best of any forward on the Isles each of the last two years (Trent Hunter was the only one better), showing how great he was. 

However, this year, Frans' Relative Corsi seems to have dropped...does that mean he's played worse defense?  Not so much...you see not only did Frans' teammates get worse this year, but he's also been used more frequently in the defensive zone (as seen by his zone start) this year.  The end result is that while Frans has been on the ice, the Isles had less opportunities to get shots off on the opposing net and  the opponents have had more chances.  This is not Frans' fault...rather its a function of deliberate strategy by the coaching staff to put Frans on the ice in these situations. 

We can compensate for this with Normalized Corsi which adjusts a player's corsi to eliminate the lower or higher numbers caused by how that player is used (as in, how often he's been put on the ice during faceoffs in his defensive zone rather than the opposing zone).  You'll note that with this measure, Frans Nielsen's corsi is all POSITIVE, showing that all three years, Frans' play has been good enough to make it so that more shots are going at the opposing net rather than at the Islander net.  Also note, that while Nielsen's normalized corsi HAS dropped from last year (showing that there is some decline in his performance from last year), it's actually still better than 2 years ago.

So what does this tell us about Frans Nielsen? (PLEASE READ THIS, ESPECIALLY IF THE ABOVE PARAGRAPHS WERE TOTAL GIBBERISH)

I'm terrible at explaining these things, but essentially here's what the above says:

  • Frans Nielsen has played the toughest competition of any Islander Forward this year, and played tough competition in previous years as well.
  • Frans has done so with linemates (and Defensemen) who have had issues keeping the puck directed at the opponent's net and who thus have been poor about preventing opponent's from scoring goals (and at helping the Islanders score more goals).
  • This year especially, Frans has been used by Gordon/Capuano primarily in the defensive zone, resulting in him being on defense more often than not, and more often than almost any other forward (except for Zenon Konopka)

DESPITE ALL OF THE ABOVE, Frans Nielsen has managed to essentially keep more shots going at the opponent's net than at the Islanders' net, by a decent amount.  This is INCREDIBLE....essentially on a team that is terrible at defense, when Frans is on the ice, the Islanders' D is like that of a normal average team instead of being like that of a 29th place team.  That's amazing.  That's Selke worthy.

 

RETURNING TO JOSH BAILEY: 

This article makes no claims about Bailey's offense.  It certainly has not improved as many expected over the last three years.  But the measures I just used above to show how amazing Frans Nielsen is at defense show something very interesting....Josh Bailey's defense has greatly improved each year, making him one of the better defensive players on the team.

SEASON NAME GP TOI/60 Relative +/- Relative Corsi Quality of Competition
Corsi Quality of Teammates
Relative Corsi Per 60
Corsi Per 60

Normalized Corsi
Per 60

Sv% Penalties Taken Per 60 Penalties Drawn Per60 Zone Start %
2010-2011 Season JOSHBAILEY 39 13.16 0.29 0.595 -8.904 5.3 -6.08 -1.59 919 0.9 0.7 41.9
2009-2010 Season JOSHBAILEY 73 12.01 0.65 0.124 -5.547 1 -5.61 -5.17 922 0.6 0.9 49
2008-2009 Season JOSHBAILEY 68 11.91 0.11 0.409 -9.385 -2.5 -11.93 -10.74 912 0.3 0.6 52.4

Table 2: The numbers of Josh Bailey the last three years. 
Table Legend:
Relative Corsi/60= A Player's Corsi while they're on the ice MINUS the team's corsi when the player is off the ice. 
Corsi/60 = Total Shots directed toward opponent's net MINUS Total Shots directed toward Your OWN Net (Per 60)
Normalized Corsi/60 = A Player's Corsi rating normalized to show how the corsi rating would be if a player started an equal amount of time in the offensive zone as the player does in the defensive zone.
Relative +/- = A players +/- while on the ice MINUS their +/- while off the ice (with some minutes adjustment)
Zone Start% = The percentage of faceoffs you're on the ice that are in the offensive zone (not including neutral zone faceoffs)
Relative Corsi Per 60 of Competition = A measure of the skill of the average opposing player on the ice.  (Basically it's the average Corsi Relative of the opposing players on the ice while this player was on the ice.)
Corsi Quality of Teammates= A measure of the skill of the average teammate on the ice.  (Basically it's the average Corsi of the linemates and D-Men who are on the ice at the same time of this player)

A quick look at Bailey's corsi shows that Bailey was not really that good at defense his rookie season...while he was on the ice, the team was outshot by nearly 12 shots per 60 minutes.  He can't quite blame that on his teammates either....his linemates' average corsi was only -9.385, while his relative corsi shows that the Islanders were out-shot by 2.5 more shots per 60 minutes with him ON the ice than off the ice.  He can't blame it on how he was used either....Bailey was sent out into the offensive zone more often than the defensive zone, in fact, something that should have helped his corsi.  He did face a decent level of opposition, but not a high enough level to justify these numbers. 

But Last year, things changed.  Bailey faced a lower level of opposition and seemed to have some better teammates, perhaps as a result of his struggles the previous year.  However, he started to be used more frequently in the defensive zone than two years ago.  And his numbers, though possibly aided by better teammates and worse opposition, show a clear defensive improvement.  His corsi improved by over 6 shots per 60 minutes: in other words, the Islanders' shot differential was 6 shots better with Bailey on the ice in 2009-2010 than in Bailey's Rookie Season.  Relative Corsi show this as well:  When Bailey was on the ice, the Islanders' shot differential was 1 shot better than when he was off the ice.  These are both pretty big improvements in his defensive numbers.  But as I said above, it was possible that some of this, perhaps even all, was due to Bailey no longer facing super-tough opponents and having as bad linemates.  However, this year's results show that's not the case.

This year, Bailey is facing tougher opposition than he did in his rookie year; in fact he's facing essentially the same tough opposition as Frans Nielsen has this year.  Moreover, Bailey's linemates have been much worse than they were last year, and are almost as bad as his rookie year linemates.  And of course, Bailey is getting MUCH less ice time in the offensive zone than ever before; in fact, other than Zenon Konopka (Defensive Faceoff specialist) and Frans Nielsen (Selke Candidate), Bailey starts his shift in the opponent's zone the least of any Islander forward.  In other words, Josh Bailey has been given a MUCH BIGGER DEFENSIVE RESPONSIBILITY THIS YEAR THAN EVER BEFORE, so we would expect for his defensive numbers to take a good step back.

But we don't see that.  Instead, we see that Bailey's Corsi has barely dropped from last year, despite facing much harsher conditions.  And indeed the two corsi statistics that take context into account (Relative Corsi and Normalized Corsi) show that Bailey has greatly improved at keeping the puck going toward the opponent's net over the last two years.  Relative Corsi shows that when Bailey is off the ice, 5.3 more shots per 60 are being directed at the Isles' own net rather than the oppositions, an increase of 4.3 shots from last year and 7.8 shots from his rookie year.  Normalized Corsi shows that if Bailey had played an equal amount of offensive faceoffs as defensive faceoffs, his corsi would be only -1.59, an increase of almost 4 shots from last year, and over 9 shots from his rookie year.  Remember, this is despite the fact that Bailey has had pretty bad teammates helping him on the ice. 

 

CONCLUSION (or: PLEASE READ THIS IF THE ABOVE ANALYSIS WENT OVER YOUR HEAD BECAUSE MY EXPLANATIONS SUCKED): 

Josh Bailey has not managed to improve his offensive skills every year, or so it seems.  But what the above analysis shows is that Bailey has DRASTICALLY improved his performance on the defensive end of the ice, as:

  • Bailey is facing opponents' top lines fairly frequently this year; almost as much as Frans Nielsen does.  He's also being used as a defensive stopper in the Isles' defensive zone by Capuano/Gordon this year, far more than in previous years.  He's also working with weaker defensive players this year.
  • Despite this, Bailey's managed to keep shots directed toward the opponent's net as often as last year, when he faced much easier conditions.

Now this leads of course to my question from a few days ago:  If Bailey continues to improve defensively at this rate, he could quite easily be as good as Frans Nielsen on the defensive end...and Bailey is only 21!  Frans is of course, 27, and probably is going to go a little bit downhill, but if Bailey becomes as good as him on the defensive end, the team will have a Selke-Candidate under team control for many more years...which is a major asset on the contender we hope to be by the time the Isles' lease ends in 2015 or sooner. 

Now, that may be a disappointment for the team, given how high we drafted Josh.  But please remember when you're talking about Bailey in the comments, that Josh is not a failure, and he HAS been a very useful asset of this team, who deserves the playing time, and not to get cut or benched.

<em>Submitted FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or SB Nation. If you're reading this statement, you pass the fine print legalese test. Four stars for you.</em>

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Lighthouse Hockey

You must be a member of Lighthouse Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Lighthouse Hockey. You should read them.

Join Lighthouse Hockey

You must be a member of Lighthouse Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Lighthouse Hockey. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker