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Marek Zidlicky: Worst Defenseman?

Marek Zidlicky seems to be having the kind of season that Martin Skoula had a couple years back and part of last season. It's not necessarily that he makes more mistakes than anyone else. It's that, for some reason, every time he makes a glaring mistake, the other team scores.

Marek Zidlicky

#3 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild



Feb 03, 1977

2008 - Marek Zidlicky 73 11 29 40 -14 72 10 0 3 0 143 7.7

Look at that -14. Now, without a frame of reference, you really don't know how bad that is. He has the lowest +/- of all Wild defensemen (Skoula is a -11, Burns a -7 and shockingly Bergeron is tops with a +2). He's third worst on the team (ahead of Veilleux and Sheppard). But does that tell the whole story?

In order to truly understand a player's effectiveness, we need to go beyond the +/- and get into the Corsi rating. I'll steal an explanation from Hockey Numbers:

"Corsi number is the number of shots directed towards the net while the player is on the ice. The number can be broken down into whose net the shots are directed towards (their own net (-) and their opponent's net (+)) similar to the plus minus statistic. The hope of course is that the Corsi plus minus would correlate well with the regular plus minus, but because the numbers will be 16x larger than plus minus numbers they'll be about 4x more accurate than the plus minus numbers."

In addition to the Corsi rating, Behind the Net has created their own rating for +/-, which is relative to the rest of the team, depending upon whether a player is on the ice or not.

Hockey's a team game; a good two-way player on a bad team will have a lower +/- than most players on a good team like Detroit or Nashville. That's obviously not an accurate reflection of their performance because they'd have a much higher +/- over the course of a season with a good team. Plus/minus relative to the rest of the team's performance is a more accurate reflection of a player's ability to score and prevent goals.

Ready to be shocked? Here are the advanced ratings for the Wild defensemen

Corsi Rating
+/- relative to team
Marc-Andre Bergeron 6.6 0.48
Marek Zidlicky
2.9 -0.22
Kurtis Foster
0.8 0.37
Brent Burns -3.4 -0.01
Martin Skoula -8.2 -0.60
Kim Johnsson -8.3 0.18
John Scott -11.8 -0.47
Nick Schultz -14.3 -0.06


So, from these evaluations, would you argue that Nick Schultz is the worst defenseman on the team, or that Marc-Andre Bergeron is the best? No. Of course you wouldn't. Clearly Corsi doesn't tell the whole story. Nor does +/- relative to team, nor even the goals against/60 minutes. So what does? This is why one has to take all statistics with a grain of salt. Especially defensive stats.

All too often in hockey, stats are heavily weighted toward offensive prowess. Look at the numbers for Bergeron and Schultz. Nick Schultz and Kim Johnsson put way too many minutes against the top lines for it not to have negatively affected their +/-, Corsi or pretty much any other defensive stat. You can see how the +/- relative to team really helps Johnsson and Schultz and punishes Skoula and Zidlicky, which makes sense. But Bergeron is still sitting out there as an outlier. Has he had a much better season than we originally thought?

I prefer to combine my stats with eyewitness review of the game from people who know hockey. Like this beauty from Russo's recap today.

But as often is the case, it was Mr. Zidlicky who caused the 2-on-1 by again carelessly stepping up in the neutral zone like he’s done so many times this season (most recent on Zach Parise in New Jersey, resulting in Brian Gionta’s nail in the coffin).

Zidlicky got lured into stepping up on Pavel Datsyuk. One pass later, 2-on-1 between Tomas Holmstrom and Marian Hossa.

Game over. Season over.

Because no matter what the statistics say, this is what we all remember from the season.