The paradox of believing in face-off win value and that Handzus is terrible at hockey

First fanpost, long-time Shark fan (i.e. when people talk about the Ray Whitney goal in the double OT Game 7 against the Flames, I add, "and Wade Flaherty had 56 saves!").

Something about all the talk regarding Handzus struck me.

(Note: when critiquing players in the By the Numbers posts, Handzus appears most frequently. For those of you counting, he shows up 10 out of 25 total cases of player critique (out of 59 total bullet points) and the closest others were "vlasic-stuart" and "thornton/topline"; not surprising given Neutral's rather open--and not completely irrational--bias.)

So, hear me out on this.

1) We still think there is some value with face-off wins. Indeed, this is at least part of the reason why the Sharks pursued and signed Handzus in the first place (here). Data is jumbly for sure, but one (pretty magisterial) post here and elsewhere suggests that face-off wins are still useful in some respect for explaining and predicting puck possession. At least, both seemed unwilling to give up on face-off wins as part of accounting for possession.

2) Note, in addition, that other players we think are good, have good face-off numbers (per ESPN; FO, W, L, %):

Thornton: 115, 66, 49, 57.4
Couture: 105, 60, 45, 57.1
Pavelski: 106, 59, 47, 55.7

Also, they have good Corsis--and I believe that we think this relationship holds true.

3) Yet Handzus has very comparable face-off numbers (140, 79, 61, 56.4), and his Corsi is crap.

It should be noted that for players who take this many face-offs (let's say >100), Handzus is 15th in the league in %. (And much better than his numbers last year.) So, relative to other draw-takers, he should have value, but we don't have a statistic for this, do we?

(Note: In running some individual correlations between Handzus' Corsi+, Corsi +/- (as per FTF) and face-off percentages (off, def, neutral, total)... that's right, all negative/weak with one exception: Corsi+ and off%... and though this was positive, it was weak.)

4) Therefore, what gives? Do we reject the thought that face-off wins have no impact on Corsi? Seems unlikely. If we don't reject this, are there other explanations for Handzus' Corsi other than "dude sucks"? My intuition is that it's got something to do with zone entry, but I haven't seen numbers on this. Disclaimer: I don't think Handzus is particularly good, but I'd like to be able to quantify his value in some way.

Bottom line claim: it's paradoxical to think that Handzus sucks and also believe there to be a positive relationship between face-off wins and Corsi+. Thoughts?

This item was created by a member of this blog's community and is not necessarily endorsed by Fear The Fin.

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