It's been asked in the comments section of every blog I visit, been asked on the message boards, and even been discussed within the Predators Twitter community as well..."What will it take for Cal O`Reilly to get back into the lineup?"
Since his recall on January 25th, O'Reilly has appeared in 13 games for the Predators registering 2 goals and 3 assists over that span and due to his waiver status looks to have earned a permanent spot on the Nashville roster (Milwaukee has re-assigned #16 to Marty Murray). However, since the acquisition of Dustin Boyd at the trade deadline on March 3rd, O'Reilly has not appeared in a game.
This lead me to dive into the advanced statistics today and take a look at the numbers for the two and do a little comparison that even shocked me a little...
To start my quest, I immediately turned here to On The Forecheck where Dirk has done a wonderful job opening our eyes to some of the raw data collected in terms of advanced statistics after each Predators game this season.
Over the course of the season, I've taken a particular interest in the Corsi rating for each player on a game-by-game basis and that's where I went first...
What is the "Corsi rating" you ask? That's a good question. The Corsi rating is calculated only during even-strength play by taking the total number of shots directed at the opponent's net while a player is on the ice and subtracting the total number of shots directed at the player's own net while he is on the ice. In it's simplest form it breaks down to Total Shots For - Total Shots Against = Corsi rating.
Since the end of the Olympic Break, Cal has played in three games (3/2 - 3/5) over which time he registered a negative Corsi rating in all three games and overall the 2nd worst rating among forwards on the team at -11. Interestingly, it was O'Reilly's linemate Colin Wilson that registered a team-worst -12 rating during that period, but since being separated has posted an even or positive rating in all 6 games with one game's worth of data missing (3/16 vs. Philadelphia) and has recorded the best Corsi rating among Predator forwards at +25.
After joining the lineup on March 7th, Boyd has appeared in 7 games for the Predators registering a positive Corsi rating in 4 of the 6 games (again missing data for 3/16 vs. Philadelphia) and is overall a +18 rating over that time period (tied for 3rd best among forwards).
But I didn't stop there and on the advice of Dirk, I visited Vic Ferrari's Time On Ice site where I could run customized reports to delve a little deeper into the numbers and run a report that allowed me to compare O'Reilly's last seven games played to Boyd's first seven games with the team...
The report was run for the even-strength numbers (excluding empty-net situations) for the games from February 9th through March 18th. In this report, I found similar results for both O'Reilly and Boyd to my earlier limited observation simply looking at the raw Corsi ratings data since the Olympic Break...
Beginning with a comparison of the Corsi percentage (.500% is equivalent to a "zero" or "even" Corsi rating) for each player, Cal O'Reilly (.478% in 7 games) came in below the team average of .512% over the 14 game span, while Boyd (.550% in 7 games) registered the 2nd highest percentage (Tootoo - .582% in 14 games) on the entire team.
Also much to my surprise I learned in the report that since being acquired, Boyd has not yet been on the ice for an even-strength goal against, but has been on the ice for two even-strength goals for. In his seven games, O'Reilly was also on the ice for two even-strength goals for, but also on the ice for three even-strength goals against...
While O'Reilly does have an advantage over Boyd in terms of traditional statistics with 2 goals vs. 1 assist, his production simply doesn't bear out any reason I can find to insert him into the lineup in terms of production. When taking into consideration all ice time (ES+PP+SH+EN), Boyd has recorded 12 SOG to O'Reilly's 10 SOG. At even-strength Boyd holds a 10 SOG to 5 SOG advantage and a 17 to 8 advantage in total shots (shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots).
So in conclusion, after studying the advanced statistics I believe that the decision by Predators head coach Barry Trotz and his coaching staff to scratch Cal O'Reilly in 7 straight games in favor of Dustin Boyd has in fact been the correct decision and has proven to be a true benefit to the team.
I do not want to use this analysis to be misrepresented as a characterization of Cal O'Reilly as a "bust", nor do I want to fool anyone into thinking that O'Reilly doesn't have a future within the organization. I believe that O'Reilly possesses excellent on-ice vision and passing skills that translate to the NHL level and provides value to the Predators organization, however at this time it is Boyd's superior two-way skills and NHL experience that are providing more immediate value to the team at the moment.
I will update this article with the Corsi rating numbers from the 3/16 game vs. Philadelphia as soon as I receive them, however in the mean time as this is my first foray into advanced statistics analysis...I would love to hear other people's opinions on this topic and am open to constructive criticism in a pursuit of gaining a better knowledge of advanced statistics for myself and also to insure that the most accurate information is contained within the article.
Thanks for reading!!!