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Wisconsin men's hockey: Are the Badgers as bad as their 4-24-4 record?

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Wisconsin ranks 57 of 59 in "Corsi total" (41.4 percent), 56 of 59 in "Corsi even strength" (42.1 percent) and 57 of 59 in "Corsi close" (41.3 percent).

Larry Radloff Photography

In what become an infamous quote last week, Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Shuchuk called out "idiot fans" that "just care about the wins and losses and all that stuff."

To no surprise, the comments enraged Badgers fans, and Shuchuk eventually issued a halfhearted apology. If I coached a team that was 4-24-4, I'd probably want people to forget about our record as well. So, I guess I don't blame his strategy there.

For now, I'll heed the wishes of coach Shuchuk. Let's look at some advanced stats and hopefully we can dig into whether or not this current Wisconsin club deserves better than the record indicates.

College Hockey News has added some phenomenal tools for us to poke around with advanced statistics. We're still in the infancy in college hockey when it comes to this sort of thing, so any new tool is a major bonus for us.

We've talked about advanced hockey stats on this site a couple different times. One of the most basic metrics is Corsi. In case you're unfamiliar with the stat, SB Nation Ottawa Senators blog "Silver Seven" gives us an explanation.

Corsi Number = (Shots on Target For + Missed Shots For + Blocked Shots Against ) - (Shots on Target Against + Missed Shots Against + Blocked Shots For)

This is essentially measuring puck possession. Not only does it consider shots that hit the target, but also shots that went wide or high, or shots attempted that were blocked. This is because even if the shot was missed or blocked, the team still had possession in order to be able to attempt a shot on goal. An alternate to Corsi Number is a Fenwick Number, which doesn't consider blocked shots. I prefer the Corsi number because from an offensive point of view, it represents gaining possession in the zone and at least creating enough space to attempt a shot. From a defensive point of view, even if the shot was blocked, the need to block the shot was created and thus I view this as a negative event from a possession point of view.

Generally speaking, the more you possess the puck, the better chance you have at winning. So, theoretically, the better your Corsi number, the better chance you have at winning a hockey game.

How do the Badgers rank nationally in the Corsi department? In a nutshell...not well.

Wisconsin ranks 57 of 59 in "Corsi for total" (41.4 percent), 56 of 59 in "Corsi for even strength" (42.1 percent) and 57 of 59 in "Corsi for close" (41.3 percent).

In case you're not familiar with those terms, "Corsi for total" is Wisconsin's total possession for all situations, "Corsi for even strength" is possession in even strength situations and "Cosi for close" refers to situations when the game is within one goal (1st and 2nd periods) or tied (3rd period or overtime).

Basically, the Badgers are a horrendous possession team. How does Wisconsin compare to its Big Ten counterparts? I'm glad you asked.

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Wisconsin is by far the worst team in the Big Ten this season and it's not even close.

How did the Badgers fare on a game-by-game basis? We have those numbers for you as well. Again, the numbers show how awful UW has been throughout the season. Just four times Wisconsin had a possession advantage when the game was close and just six times did the Badgers carry the advantage in a game at even strength. There's a reason why you only have four wins, and that's a big one.

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Can we dig deeper into those numbers? We can.

I've compiled Wisconsin's possession numbers into categories against the top 20 teams in the country, vs. Big Ten opponents, vs non-conference opponents, on an Olympic size sheet, etc.

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What are my major takeaways from this data? The first thing that comes to mind is the Badgers are a really bad hockey team with awful possession numbers. But, we already knew that.

One major thing that stands out are the Badgers' numbers on an NHL-size ice surface (200x85), compared to larger ice sheets. On the small sheet, Wisconsin has significantly better possession numbers than when it plays on bigger sheets. The problem? UW plays all its home games on a larger ice surface, as well as road games in places like Minnesota.

Some people have talked about Wisconsin's strength of schedule this season for being a major reason for the current struggles. According to KRACH, the Badgers have played the 12th-hardest schedule in the country this season. Based on possession numbers I've compiled, UW is awful (40.44 even strength Corsi) against teams ranked in the KRACH top-20, and still pretty bad (44.12 even strength Corsi) against teams ranked outside of the KRACH top-20.

One thing the coaching staff keeps talking about is the progress being made by the team. Over the past 10 games, Wisconsin's Corsi for even strength is 46.62 compared to its 42.1 for the entire season. While that in itself is encouraging, the likely the source of that number is due to eight of the past 10 games coming on NHL size ice surfaces where the Badgers have had significantly more success this season.

Wisconsin's Corsi in the first-half at even strength (42.86 percent) is slightly better than its second half number (42.26 percent). So, while the Badgers may be improving, so is every team in the country.

What does all this mean? The Badgers are deserving of their 4-24-4 record. If they were truly unlucky, they wouldn't have possession numbers as awful as they do. This season has been a complete embarrassment from every level, and the secondary numbers confirm what Wisconsin's record shows -- this is the worst team the Badgers have fielded in the modern era of Wisconsin hockey.

But, then again, I'm just an idiot.

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