Who's Chasing the Puck, and Who's Controlling It? Possession Metrics for the Columbus Blue Jackets

By Jacob Nitzberg on March 18, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin (9) skates with the puck against Pittsburgh Penguins center Zach Aston-Reese (46) during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins shut out the Blue Jackets 3-0.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Objectively speaking, the Blue Jackets have controlled the puck and produced more shot attempts than their opponent.

That's technically a true statement – but only by the slightest margin. The Blue Jackets' Corsi For percentage (CF%) is 50.01% this season, which ranks them at 13th in the league, per Natural Stat Trick.

Hey, technically correct is the best kind of correct

Which Blue Jackets have been best at driving play? According to CF%, this group has fared well, although there are other factors (linemates, zone starts) to consider. 

Name Position GP CF%
Artemi Panarin LW 69 54.45
Oliver Bjorkstrand RW 67 52.46
Seth Jones D 65 51.89
Lukas Sedlak C 46 51.55
Pierre-Luc Dubois C 72 51.31
Cam Atkinson RW 70 50.81
Ryan Murray D 56 50.61
Markus Hannikainen LW 43 50.38
Zach Werenski  D 72 50.26
Alexander Wennberg C 67 50.07

Still, it's no surprise that Artemi Panarin tops this list. The dynamic winger is capable of creating offense by himself, even though he's in the midst of a slump. Also worthy of recognition: Ryan Murray's value to the Blue Jackets, who are noticeably missing him during his prolonged absence due to an upper-body injury.

A low CF% indicates that the player may spend more time chasing play, so to speak, as they're on the ice for more shot attempts against than for. Here are the players who haven't driven play so well. 

Name Position GP CF%
Brandon Dubinsky C 51 44.60
Scott Harrington D 66 47.59
Nick Foligno LW 66 47.83
Markus Nutivaara D 71 48.41
Boone Jenner C 67 48.44
Riley Nash C 68 49.51
David Savard D 72 49.68
Josh Anderson RW 72 49.92

Oof, Brandon Dubinsky. It's been a rough year for the veteran center, but when paired with the right linemates, he can still have good nights, like in Boston recently. It's also no surprise that Scott Harrington, Nick Foligno, and Riley Nash appear on this list.

To ensure a fair sample size, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel (as well as many other skaters with less than 40 GP on the Blue Jackets) were excluded. In 13 games, Duchene has a 47.35% CF, and Dzingel has a 45.98 CF% in 11 games. 

In Boston on Saturday night in a 2-1 OT loss, the line of Wennberg - Dubinsky - Bjorkstrand dominated possession, despite Dubinsky having the worst CF% on the Blue Jackets. The trio notched a CF% of 58.33, followed by Dzingel - Duchene - Anderson posting 52.17%. Then, it gets ugly. Panarin - Dubois - Atkinson were chasing the puck all night, registering a 41.94%, which is pretty bad, but they weren't even the worst line on the ice. Sedlak - Jenner - Nash brought up the rear at a meager 40.00%.

While puck possession isn't a perfect stat, as it can be skewed by score effects or zone starts and doesn't account for the quality of those chances, it's still a useful metric. If the Blue Jackets dominate possession, it both increases their chances of scoring and limits chances for their opponents. 

With big enough sample sizes, it can show the effectiveness (or potential shortcomings) of certain lines or pairings. In Bjorkstrand's case, it seemingly shows that he may be deserving of a bigger role, while someone like Foligno may be playing a bigger role than deserved. 

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