When "corsi" became a buzz word in hockey, there was definitely a revolution in the types of players teams would employ. Gone were the lumbering defensive defensemen who couldn't move the puck - it was adapt or get out. Gone were many floating goal scorers who let their linemates do all the work.
But it seems that we've hit a point where the league has "homogenized" in those aspects. In 2008, the best possession team in the league had a CF% of 58.84% and the worst had 42.85%. This was about a 16% swing from top to bottom and nearly 9% swing from top to middle - which makes sense because some teams were oblivious to how they were handicapping their rosters. This year, the best team is at 53.84% and the worst at 45.71%. That cuts those previous numbers in half. What this also means is that teams have isolated the pure handicap players and these possession numbers seem more to do with coaching styles than anything. Players who can drive possession are still important - but it isn't an advantage because everyone has them on most lines.
If you look at the last two years and there just doesn't seem to be any real advantage to being a so-called possession team.
In last year's playoffs:
- Pittsburgh had a playoff CF% of 47.23% yet won the cup. Without Kris Letang they just had no puck possession but countered their way through.
- St. Louis out defeated the wild 4-1 by being outcorsied 39-61
- Ottawa had a playoff CF% of 48.45% and a regular season CF% of 48.35%, yet made the ECF, toppling the league's corsi leading Bruins en route
- NYR had a first round CF% of 47.77% and a regular season CF% of 47.96% yet advanced to the second round
- Edmonton had a playoff CF% of 48.03$ yet made the second round and even won some games there.
- Anaheim was outcorsied 49-51 yet converted that into a series sweep
Okay, so those are ALL small sample sizes. This year seems to be more of the same carrying right through into the regular season though. Carolina, Calgary, Chicago, and Dallas are the #2,#3, #4, and #9 possession teams in the NHL yet all are about to miss the playoffs with similar issues of being unable to score. What really stands out is that it seems rush scoring is far more dependable these days with the emphasis on pure speed, while all these teams appear overly focused on cycle-based "half-court" offense.
I'm not saying possession is irrelevant because it clearly is not either in terms of overall correlation to ES goal differentials, but I am wondering if it's been successfully countered by possession-parity and coaching strategy.