Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Kris Russell: A Story In Three Tweets

Oilers defenseman Kris Russell is one of the most contentious points of battle between "old school hockey guys" and the analytics community. He's rolling a 45.5% 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage this season, which is even worse than his career average of 48.2%. Corsi corsi corsi, ergo Russell is a Bad Player.

Except the people in charge of some NHL teams don't think he's bad at all. Since he was traded to the Calgary Flames in the summer of 2013, he's been playing the minutes of a top-four defenseman. Before this season, he signed a contract that pays him in excess of $3 million for the year.

So, clearly, somebody who knows about hockey thinks the idea that "he's bad and he stinks!" is maybe incorrect. And sometimes visualizing different sets of data can help explain why coaches and front offices value certain types of players more than the advanced stats internet community.

Or maybe not.

Edmonton is not a good defensive team overall. Regardless of which line/pairing combination is on the ice, they allow more chances from the slot (and the middle of the ice in general) than they should. Russell certainly doesn't help the defensive side of things, don't get me wrong, but it's not like he's a catastrophe in the defensive zone.

But on the other side of the rink, he's a goddamn hurricane through a third world country. Without Russell, the Oilers generate shots from the points, and the circles, and right in front of the net. When you throw Russell into the mix, they basically stop shooting altogether. To call Russell a negative influence would be an incredible understatement.

If you want to take one positive, and you REALLY have to take this begrudgingly, it would be the "with Russell on offense" chart combined with this:

At least he's taking some shots, right?

(His on-ice Expected Goals For percentage, 44.4%, is even lower than his Corsi For percentage. Pencil me in on the Team Kris Russel Is Bad.)

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