In a recent article for the Boston Globe -- http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/08/17/stats-studies-illuminate-nhl-signings/1uJPpt3Ig5tWItkfIGWSrI/story.html -- Fluto Shinzawa pointed out that some in the analytics community, including Michael Shuckers the co-founder of Stastical Sports Consulting, feel that the Penguins signing of Rob Scuderi this offseason to a 3-year, $13.5million contract was anything but informed. Shuckers points to Rob Scuderi’s 2012-13 Corsi rating (1.42 compared with Drew Doughty’s 14.84) as an indicator that $3.75 million is probably a bit too much, hinting that the Penguins might end up regretting the deal by the end of Scuderi’s contract when the defenseman will be 38 years old.
I, however, hold a different point of view on the matter. Scuderi has been a top-4 fixture for the Penguins and Kings, and was an integral part of a Stanley Cup run with each team (2009, 2012), shutting down opponents and allowing defensemen like Gonchar and Jake Muzzin more “sheltered” minutes to produce offensively. Furthermore, Scuderi has only suited up in 585 career regular season contests in his career, despite being 34 years old. Age is just a number -- he has loads of good hockey left to give the Penguins. Pointing out Scuderi's on-ice Corsi in 12-13 is great and all, but these statistics should be viewed in context with other statistics and mitigating factors. But don’t take my word for it, let’s take a look at some numbers that paint a more accurate picture of Rob Scuderi’s contributions:
In 2012-13 Rob Scuderi posted a positive on-ice Corsi rating (1.42) despite facing the fifth toughest quality of competition (Corsi Rel Qoc: 0.69) of all LA Kings players. In addition, Scuderi only started 48.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone – finishing 49.7% of those shifts in the opponent’s end. What we can glean from these numbers is that while Scuderi was facing tough competition on a nightly basis, and starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, he still managed to emerge as a positive possession player.
Relative Corsi (RelCorsi) is a different story, however, and measures a player’s on-ice Corsi relative to that of his teammates. In 2012-13, Scuderi’s RelCorsi was a somewhat abysmal -18.00 when compared with the rest of the LA Kings roster – only two players posted a negative on-ice Corsi: Jordan Nolan and Robyn Regehr. Relative to his teammates, Rob Scuderi posted the second worst RelCorsi rating. But Scuderi’s RelCorsi rating doesn’t tell the whole story; in fact, it only tells a small part of it.
Between 2010-13 (a period of three seasons) Rob Scuderi posted a .511 CorsiFor%, meaning essentially that for every 100 total shot attempts while Rob Scuderi was on the ice, 51 were being directed at the opponent’s net. Some critics will point to his RelCorsi numbers, stating that he doesn’t rate well compared with the rest of the LA Kings roster – a very highly rated possession team – however, Rob Scuderi has been a positive-possession player in each of the past three seasons. It's not exactly a fair assessment that Scuderi is a bad possession player just because he doesn't match up with two-way phenom, Drew Doughty. Another useful statistic to view a player’s contributions to possession involves offensive zone starts and offensive zone finishes.
Essentially, a player who finishes a higher percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone than he starts in the offensive zone is contributing well to his team’s possession. Over the past two seasons Scuderi has done just that. In 2011-12, Scuderi started 48.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone, yet finished a remarkable 51.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. In 2012-13, Scuderi followed that up with a 48.9% / 49.7% split – not as impressive, yet still a positive impact on possession. What these numbers tell us is that despite facing relatively tough competition (CorsiRelQoC) and starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, Rob Scuderi has been a positive possession player in each of the past three seasons. But that still leaves us with the question about his $3.75m annual salary: is Rob Scuderi making too much money?
Among defensemen with >3000 min. played between 2010-13, Scuderi ranks 29th overall in CorsiFor% (.511) -- http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/ratings.php?disp=1&db=201013&sit=5v5&pos=defense&minutes=3000&teamid=0&type=corsi&sort=PCT&sortdir=DESC . If we look at the defensemen with comparable ratings over that span of time (.516 - .505 CF%), we get names like Jason Garrison, Brent Burns, Keith Yandle, Dennis Seidenberg, Joe Corvo, Fedor Tyutin, Sergei Gonchar, Lubo Visnovsky, Ryan McDonagh, Victor Hedman, and Barrett Jackman. These are the defensemen who have posted similar possession numbers to Rob Scuderi over the past three seasons, and when determining whether or not Scuderi is overpaid we should compare his salary to these players. If we take an average of all these defenseman’s salaries, we get $4.17 million annual cap-hit. At first blush it appears that Rob Scuderi isn’t overpaid, but in fact somewhat underpaid based on the salaries of his comparable peers over the past three seasons. Scuderi will only be earning $500k more than Barrett Jackman in 2013-14 / 2014-15. Which defenseman would you rather own? No need to answer that.
All in all, what the Penguins have with Rob Scuderi is a 34-year old defenseman (585 GP) who has been a positive possession player over the past three seasons despite facing tough competition and starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. Not only has he exonerated himself on the ice, but he hasn’t broken the bank in the process – earning $350k below the average salary of his comparable peers based on CorsiFor%. Rob Scuderi isn’t a flashy defenseman who will score a lot of points, but he provides solid possession play for a below-average salary. When adding his leadership qualities and defensive abilities to the equation, along with the Stanley Cup rings on two of his fingers, Rob Scuderi looks like a very shrewd signing by GM Ray Shero."The Piece" is back in the 'Burgh, and I'm on board.