A statistical comparison and analysis of Byfuglien the forward and Byfuglien the defenceman
Corsi percentage Goals percentage
Points per game Goals for/against
2013-14 Dustin Byfuglien on defence
52 per cent 40 per cent
2013-14 Dustin Byfuglien at forward
48 per cent 44 per cent
2010-13 Dustin Byfuglien at defence
53 per cent 51 per cent
5-on-5 points last season
Two goals, 13 assists, 15 points in 46 games on defence Six goals, five assists, 11 points, in 32 games at forward
Whether a forward or a defenceman, Byfuglien will be playing the point on the power play and 4-on-4 situations; therefore, only 5-on-5 minutes are used for the analysis.
Corsi percentage is the percentage of pucks the team directs at their opponents net while the player is on the ice. Corsi closely relates to puck-possession time and scoring chance differentials, where over 50 per cent means outpossessing and out-chancing the opposition. Goal percentage is essentially plus/minus but for 5-on-5 minutes only, where over 50 per cent means outscoring the opposition. Goal percentage also closely resembles high-profile events people tend to emphasize in importance, or “high-grade scoring chances”.
Last season, the opposition outscored the Jets with Byfuglien on the ice as both a defender and a forward. The Jets had a better goal percentage with Byfuglien as a forward, but better Corsi with him as a defenceman.
Outscoring is the desired outcome, however, most statistical hockey analysts use Corsi because it predicts future goal percentage better than past goal percentage. The difference in Corsi for Byfuglien as a defenceman both last season and the previous three years is small, while his goal percentage was much higher during his run as a defenceman from 2010-13. Goals and high-grade scoring chances are rare, and are less resistant to the influence of goaltenders and puck luck.
In all three situations we see Byfuglien’s goal percentage is lower than his Corsi. One reason for this may be defensive-zone lapses. Another possibility is the organization posting the fifth-worst 5-on-5 save percentage in the league over the last four seasons combined. It could also be both.
Byfuglien’s best play, according to the statistics, came as a defenceman during a larger sample size from 2010 to 2013. His Corsi was better, his goal percentage was better, his points per game average was higher and he was a plus in goals for and goals against.
Byfuglien’s numbers dipped last season on defence and resulted in his change to forward. Once moved to forward, all of his numbers improved but for his Corsi. But the sample size was fairly small at only 32 games.
All in all, over his career, Byfuglien has been more effective for a longer period of time when utilized as a defenceman. So say the numbers.
All numbers derived from NHL.com play-by-play reports
Statistical data provided by Garret Hohl