What to Expect in 2010-11: Colby Armstrong


Colby Armstrong’s shiny new 3-year, $9,000,000 contract with the Maple Leafs has been the focus of much debate over the past month. Leaving the contract argument aside, it would be prudent to take a look at Armstrong’s advanced statistics in 2009-10, so that we might better gauge our expectations for the coming season. Thanks to BehindtheNet.ca for these fantastic statistics.

Quality of Competition (QoC) and Quality of Teammates (QoT) were very important stats when analyzing the potential impact that Kris Versteeg could have for the Maple Leafs. In Versteeg’s case, the QoT stat helped us understand his modest offensive numbers and how they might be improved in Toronto. However, they can tell a different story, namely that of defensive responsibility. Armstrong’s QoT was an astoundingly low -0.119. These stats are calculated with advanced +/- statistics being compared between their linemates throughout the season. As before, it is important to note the linemates Armstrong had to work with (courtesy of DobberHockey.com):

17.95% Colby Armstrong – Evander Kane – Rich Peverley

13.16% Colby Armstrong – Evander Kane – Jim Slater

10.93% Colby Armstrong – Evander Kane – Marty Reasoner

8.39% Colby Armstrong – Evander Kane – Todd White

As you can see, Colby bounced around lines quite a lot, which is not uncommon for players in the bottom six. Looking at offensive statistics, Armstrong (15-14-29) had more points than Kane (14-12-26), White (7-19-26), Slater (11-7-18) and Reasoner (4-13-17). Of his frequent linemates, only Peverley (22-33-55) had more goals or points. The biggest difference between Armstrong and his linemates was not in the opponent’s end, though. While he certainly had better numbers than most, you’d be hard pressed to argue that he’s more offensively gifted than Peverley, White or Kane. Peverley is already better offensively and Kane will almost certainly be at a higher level next season. The real difference, however, is in defensive statistics.

We’ll begin by taking a look at the +/- statistics for each player. Armstrong (+6) had a higher +/- than all of Kane (+2), Slater (+1), Reasoner (-3), White (-11) and Peverley (-14). Armstrong’s +/-ON/60 (the +/- of the Thrashers for every 60 minutes that Armstrong was on the ice) was sixth best on the Thrashers among players who played at least 25 games at +0.13. This is behind Kane (+0.15), but ahead of Slater (+0.10), White (-0.32), Reasoner (-0.49) and Peverley (-0.75). Armstrong’s +/-OFF/60 (the +/- of the team when Armstrong’s on the bench for every 60 minutes) is fourth best on the Thrashers among those who played 25 or more games at -0.20. This leads all of his linemates with Kane at -0.14, Slater at 0.00, Reasoner at +0.04, White at +0.08 and Peverley at +0.15. Armstrong compares very favourably to his linemates in these +/- categories. We have seen him keep pace offensively with all but Peverley and we’ve seen his defensive play indicators are much better. Next up are possession stats.

Corsi ratings are a set of statistics that measure possession between two teams. In simple terms, Corsi measures the amount of shots directed at the opponent’s net when a player is on the ice and then the shots directed at their own net. From these numbers you get a Corsi rating. Armstrong ranks eighth on his team in Corsi while on the ice at -1.02. This is not a good Corsi rating. It indicates that the opposing team had possession more than the Thrashers when Armstrong was on the ice. However, it is important to note that Armstrong’s off-ice Corsi rating is -1.91, meaning that despite his low possession numbers, the team was actually worse at possessing the puck when he was on the bench. For this reason, Armstrong’s overall Corsi number is +0.9. This puts him into ninth place on his team behind only Peverley at +9.2 among his regular linemates. He was ahead of White (+0.2), Kane (-2.4), Reasoner (-5.9) and Slater (-6.6).

Corsi does have some failings, however. It should be noted that Corsi does not track the quality of shots on net. A shot from the boards at the blue line and a shot at the hash marks would register as even under Corsi. If we realize that Armstrong had much better +/- stats than all of his regular linemates except for Kane, it indicates that the two of them are better at forcing opponents into taking bad shots. This syncs with their respective play styles, as both Kane and Armstrong are known as heavy hitters. Being strong on the puck carrier and forcing outside shots is part of their job.

Another part of the Corsi stat that may be unknown to most is blocked shots. At its heart Corsi is a possession stat and blocked shots, while good for your team, indicate that you don’t currently have the puck. So let’s take a short look at blocked shots before wrapping up. Armstrong blocked 22 shots in 2009-10. That ranks him as tenth best on the Thrashers. Among regular linemates, he’s behind White (25), but ahead of Peverley/Slater/Kane (all at 19) and Reasoner (0). In addition, BF/60 tracks the amount of blocked shots for your team per 60 minutes of ice time for a player and BA/60 tracks the amount of times the opponent blocks shots for every 60 minutes the player is on the ice. Armstrong’s 1.4 BF/60 is thirteenth on the Thrashers and his 2.0 BA/60 is third on the team. Armstrong should not be expected to be a big shot blocker.

So we’ve thrown around a ton of stats in this article, but what does it all add up to? Basically, Burke was right in his summation of Armstrong. He checks hard, he’s versatile, he’s incredibly competent defensively and he’ll chip in the occasional goal. He is overpaid a tad, but that doesn’t take away from the many positives in his game.