Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mr. Nice... Corsi Numbers

Our man has NHL experience. He's a career coach. He's not coaching in the playoffs, but the team he coached this year is. He's no former Oiler but the general manager that gave his last gig is the Kingpin. He's worked with Steve Tambellini in Vancouver so the two know each other. He's also worked with Jaromir Jagr.

If that last bit becomes a requirement from on high then Tom Renney is the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers and it's not as though I'm the first one to bring up the connection. Now Renney has had a couple of NHL jobs in the past so we'll go into the same comparison that we've used for Quinn and Crawford before him, namely, compare him to those coaches he immediately preceded or followed (hat tip for the methodology to the Contrarian Goaltender). Now Renney has been hired and fired twice each which gives us only four different situations to look at. This is a smaller sample than for either of the two previous coaches so it may be a bit less valuable. Still, let take a look:

The non-Renney coaches are Mike Keenan (63 games), Glen Sather (62 games), John Tortorella (21 games) and Pat Quinn (6 games). The difference between Renney and the others is pretty marginal so by this measure he looks like an average coach. It's worth noting that only three seasons of Renney's coaching career are eliminated using this method. They also happen to be his three best seasons, all with the Rangers. His points percentage in those three seasons was .591, a substantial leap up, so it's not as though he's been a consistently mediocre coach. I don't think this points to Renney being a great coach but neither do I think it points to him being particularly poor.

In terms of experience Renney and Tambellini have working together, Renney spent one and a half seasons as coach of the Canucks where they had no success. The two also would have worked together with Team Canada in 2004 and 2005 where Renney was an assistant coach. The two enjoyed a much greater degree of success winning gold in 2004 and silver in 2005.

Renney is generally considered a player's coach, a nice guy. Everyone and their dog used the phrase "no more Mr. Nice Guy" when he was replaced with John Tortorella though that might be more of a commentary on Tortorella than Renney. I'm not sure it's too relevant either way as it pertains to his status as a potential coach in Edmonton but if he gives the boys a lot of rope he may end up being disappointed if guys like Penner and Nilsson are as unresponsive as MacTavish made them out to be. Stylistically, Renney has (at least) one very interesting quality. Given the emphasis placed on Corsi numbers in a lot of the discussions I thought it would be good to look at this little piece from Renney in the 2006 playoffs (hat tip Blueshirt Bulletin):

"They have to shoot more, they overpass the puck. The concepts of attack are there, they're good. [The] bottom line is, when you're in the [playoffs] you've got to shoot the puck, go there, and try to do something with it beyond that. [There is] something certain players think they have to do in order to score, and that's to create an empty net. The only bad shot is the one you don't take. I'd like to see us shoot more."

The emphasis is mine but I do think this quote is pretty telling. Renney encourages his players to shoot, shoot, shoot. The high Corsi numbers the Rangers have posted in the past have, at times, led people to believe that they're getting a raw deal from the percentages. It would seem that at least some of their outshooting has been a strategic choice and that lower percentages might be expected. If Renney becomes the next head coach of the Edmonton Oilers the Corsi debate will get some interesting new evidence under the close and watchful eye of the Oilogosphere. Unfortunately (for research purposes), I don't think we'll get that chance. I really think that the biggest reason Renney's name is getting thrown out there are the Jagr rumours. He doesn't have a great track record in the NHL and the worst part of it came with the man in charge looking on. I wouldn't cry bloody murder if Renney were hired, but I wouldn't be excited either. Unless he brings Jagr.


Coach pb9617 said...

I wouldn't cry bloody murder if Renney were hired, but I wouldn't be excited either.

Exactly. However, I would be happy that the Oilers would outshoot a team every once in awhile.

Scott said...

How much value do you think there is in outshooting Coach? Obviously I'd rather be taking more shots than my opponents, but do you think it's a good proxy for which team is carrying the play?

Jonathan Willis said...

The Rangers absolutely dominated at ZoneShift this year; way, way more offensive zone than defensive zone draws (I think they led the league at the time of Renney's firing).

I'd be very happy to see Renney as the coach in Edmonton; I just don't think it will happen.

Coach pb9617 said...

I don't know how much stock I put in Corsi alone, but combined with zonestart differential [which I think JW is talking about], it's meaningful. If you are dominating both ZD and CORSI, you're kicking ass or playing in the southeast.

I'd just like to see EDM 31 - CAL 28 once in awhile. You know, instead of DAL 34 - EDM 21

Scott said...

The ZoneShift numbers add a lot to the argument I'd say. It suggests that there is real territorial advantage to go along with the Corsi advantage. Thanks for chiming in Jonathan.

Jonathan Willis said...

I should add that I do think Scott's correct when he calls the Rangers a shot-happy team. I do think Renney is also one of the more territorial-oriented coaches out there, and that doesn't hurt the shot totals either.

And Coach is right, I was referring just to Zone Start, where the Rangers had 280 more offensive zone than defensive zone draws.

Scott said...

Yeah, the Zone Start is what I meant when I said Zone Shift. Sometimes my brain and my fingers don't line up.

Chris said...

I think we could do worse than Renney. Given that MacT seems to have aggravated the personal perhaps its time for Mr. Nice Guy to have everyone sing kumbaya and make smores for a while. If he can get them to actually outshoot their opponents and improve their territorial game that would clearly benefit the team, shooting would certainly help our anemic powerplay.

I also kind of think Renney is unlikely to wind up being a dabacle. While the fact he's unlikely to screw things up too badly isn't a huge selling point it should be a consideration.

Scott said...

I largely agree that Renney would be able to handle the room in non-debacle fashion but Renney does have at time have his own scapegoats just as MacTavish did with Penner. The biggest example is probably Marek Malik. When he played he got the toughs and did reasonably well but he often got benched and it seemed like some of that may have been due to a rift with the coach. There was probably even a good reason for his frustration, but then again, there was probably good reason for a lot of MacTavish's frustrations as well.

Bruce said...

It would seem that at least some of their outshooting has been a strategic choice and that lower percentages might be expected.

Hear, hear, Scott. Outshooting in and of itself is overrated. This year the outshooting team took 52.6% of available points, the outshot team 47.4%, and that is typical of recent years. There is an advantage to outshooting, but it's not a ginormous one.

Consistent with MacT's entire tenure, the Oilers once again posted a much worse record when they were the outshooting team (.460) than they did when they got outshot (.536). Good thing they only outshot their opponents 25 times in 2008-09. :)