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October CSSI Roundup: The Curious Case of Drew Miller

Back when Chris Hollis gave birth to the Common Sense Scoring Index, he mentioned that the intention was to create a way to track how the Red Wings' players are actually playing in a meaningful way that didn't ignore context while rewarding or punishing them on the stat sheet.  I've tried, and would like to think I've succeeded so far in moving toward that goal when Hollis willfully handed me the reigns with a chuckle and a smirk when I asked for them.  Doing the CSSI analysis so far has been time-consuming, but also very enjoyable.

Now that the Wings are out of October and a full 9 games into their season, I want to take a look at what the analyses have brought us so far and see what kind of information can be gleaned from the numbers.  Only a little more than a tenth of the way into the season, there aren't going to be a lot of very big differences, but if trends continue, some players are going to have monstrously different CSSI-adjusted stats from the official NHL sheets. 

Before we get farther into the analysis, I do want to make a correction first.  In my analysis of the October 23rd win over the Ducks, I let Doug Janik keep his minus on a play where Dan Cleary turned the puck over to Teemu Selanne and he broke in past Kronwall to beat Jimmy Howard through the five hole.  My reasoning at the time was that Janik is the stay-at-home guy on that pairing and should have backed out of the zone.  On the analysis for the October 28th loss to the Coyotes, I absolved Ruslan Salei of his minus on Radim Vrbata's breakaway goal as the only player on the ice who was in position.  Looking at those plays together, they are very similar.  Either I should not have absolved Salei of his mistake or I should not have let Janik keep his minus for his positioning in the Ducks game.  Well, I looked at the video and a few other similar plays, and I think I was being too harsh on Janik.  I've gone into the tracking post and adjusted his plus/minus upward by one.  He's still a worst-among-defenseman -4.5, but I feel confident this was the right correction to have made.

There, with that off my chest, let's take a look at the most interesting case of the CSSI adjustment, the case that Drew Miller has for being the team leader adjusted pluses.  Join me after the jump, if you will.

Going back to the purpose of the CSSI again, I broke it into adjusted points and adjusted plus/minus so that we'd not only get a better feel for who was producing the actual numbers on the scoreboard, but also so that we could catch how well guys are doing their job in ways that don't properly reflect in the final game summary.  I wanted the adjusted plus/minus to give us the ability to see which of the offensive guys are really carrying the offense and which of the defense/energy guys are working behind the scenes as the unsung heroes.


Drew Miller is the perfect example for this.  While his one assist in nine games might be low even for a fourth line grinder's pace, only the most unreasonable of Red Wings fans are unable to see the contributions he's making to the team.  I have to admit that even I'm a little surprised that his adjustment is worth six extra pluses on the season, though.  The regular stat sheet has Miller as a -4 on the year, but so far, that has been adjusted upward to a +2.  Compared to his linemates Darren Helm (+1.5 from official) and Patrick Eaves (+2 for adjustments), this is a large number.  The next closest player to Miller for upward adjustments is Pavel Datsyuk and his five bonus pluses, and Datsyuk is likely the front-runner for team MVP so far on the season. 

First off, let's take a look at all of the goals Miller has been on the ice for to see how he got to his official -4 rating:
Game 2 - Chicago: On the ice for Seabrook's PP goal against. - Does not count as a minus (aggregate: even)
Game 5 - Phoenix: On for Martin Hanzal's goal (ES). - Even strength counts (aggregate: -1)
Game 7 - Anaheim: On for Syvret goal. - Even strength goal. (aggregate: -2)
Game 8 - Phoenix: On for Vrbata goal (ES). On for Yandle PP goal. - Vrbata goal counts (aggregate -3)
Game 9 - Nashville: On for Joel Ward goal (ES); on for Patrick Eaves goal (ES); on for Kevin Klein Goal (ES) - Busy night for Drew (aggregate: -4)

Now that we have that, let's look at each of the even-strength goals to see how many of those minuses he keeps:
Game 5 - Phoenix: The Martin Hanzal goal is a team defensive breakdown following a clean faceoff loss.  Miller kept his minus here for playing too high in the zone.  Helm earned an extra minus for blowing both the faceoff and the pass low that set up the pass to Hanzal in the slot.
Game 7 - Anaheim: Miller is cleared of his minus here.  The Syvret goal was caused by a terrible Doug Janik turnover.  Eaves kept his minus for being back, but failing to cover the high man, but Miller's job was to help the rush up ice that Janik ruined with his play. 
Game 8 - Phoenix: On the even-strength Vrbata goal, Miller kept his minus because both he and Eaves mishandled a pass deep in the Phoenix zone that helped contribute to the breakaway. 
Game 9 - Nasvhille: The Joel Ward goal was right as a penalty expired.  I did not credit Miller with a minus.  He did keep his minus for being completely out of position on the Kevin Klein goal later though.

So adjusting for the goals that weren't his fault or were a result of bad timing, that moves Miller from a -4 to a -2.  Time to check the game logs for the bonus pluses earned to make up the difference:
Game 2 - Chicago: Miller earned a plus for drawing a penalty that led to a Detroit power play goal.
Game 6 - Flames: Drew got a plus rating for some aggressive forechecking that led a Calgary defenseman to take a penalty on him.  He was also given a bonus plus for exceptional play throughout the game.
Game 9 - Predators: Miller earned a plus on the Brad Stuart goal for excellent forechecking which helped lead to the eventual goal.  He made a line change that got Franzen on before the goal was scored, but his play earned him the plus. 

Looking at it, the biggest difference between Miller's +2 and Helm's -0.5 is that the Red Wings have capitalized on more of the penalties that Miller has drawn than on Helm's hard work.  My own thoughts about the season thus far is that Helm has played at a level at least as deserving of Miller's plus rating as he has.  Helm has more defensive gaffes so far, but he also has more defensive responsibility, being the center on that line.  Looking back at the games, Miller and Helm have drawn an even number of penalties.  Fortunately, I caught this early in the season and I don't think it will be hard to correct.

First off, starting with the Calgary game on November 3rd, I intend to change the way plus/minus adjustment points are given.  Instead of only crediting a player with a plus for drawing a penalty if Detroit scores or only charging a player with a minus if the opposition scores on their power play, I'm going to give out pluses and minuses for working hard to draw penalties or making boneheaded plays to take them regardless of the outcome of the ensuing man advantage.  As a point of clarification, the bonus pluses will only be in the case of penalties earned; taking an accidental high stick to the face may earn you some stitches, but it shouldn't earn you a bonus plus.  On the flip-side, only particularly egregious penalties will earn a player a minus.  I also plan to be slightly more lenient toward defensemen than I will be to forwards in these situations; defensemen are too often forced to take penalties because of a screw-up by forwards to consistently hammer them with negative ratings every time the ref decides that now is a good time to start calling chintzy holding penalties. 

Finally, I can't go back and watch every game for every penalty.  I know does track penalties taken versus given, but the numbers there currently show that Darren Helm has drawn no penalties this season and I know that's not accurate.  So, to correct the ratings to get back to a good even point moving forward with the changes, I'm proposing the following changes to players' plus/minus ratings based on their penalties drawn-to-taken ratios.  Please give feedback in the comments if you feel I'm giving somebody too much credit or blame.

Datsyuk +2
Helm +2
Zetterberg +1
Filppula +1
Salei -1

Holmstrom and Stuart would be two others to receive bonus minuses, but I know specifically that they were credited with minuses in post-game CSSIs for their mistakes.  I have already made these changes to the tracking post, but will make additional adjustments as you deem worthy.