Let's talk about shooters

Do I really need thousands of lines of spreadsheet data to prove that Alexander Ovechkin is consistently the best shooter in the National Hockey League, despite having a drop-off season recently?

No, not at all. But one of the issues of advanced hockey statistics is the view that measures that Corsi or Fenwick should be reliable for determining the amount of actual goals given up. That's not exactly true, at least in my observations, and it's led to this simple hierarchy: Possession leads to shots, shots lead to chances, and chances lead to goals.

So, really, because I have the ability to confirm what we know already via spreadsheet, looking at new shooting metrics will allow us to sort through some of the more under-appreciated players in hockey—and don't be surprised if Nikolay Zherdev makes another routine appearance.

 

Ben Schnell over at Pension Plan Puppets posted something in late July called DGSR which looked to calculate how dangerous a shooter is by taking into account where he is on the ice when he took the shot, and the number of shots he takes. We're looking at possibilities at determining shot quality. I loved the method, but my issue with the actual measure was while it told us how dangerous a shooter was, it didn't give us a round number on the number of goals we could expect from a player.

It starts with what we know already: a shot from up close is better than a shot further away. Schnell goes into more detail with his DGSR post, so in this one we'll attempt to figure out which players take the most shots from the closest distance with the greatest effectiveness.

I decided to take my amateurish mathematical skills to the formula and, through trial and error, come up with something that would reflect pretty accurately the number of goals a player would score over an 82 game stretch if he took all his shots from the same area on the ice. I started the opposite direction, by dividing the distance of the shot by the number of shots taken. This puts Corey Perry, Phil Kessel and Jeff Carter high in the NHL over the course of last season.

Then, I looked at the average S/D calculation and the amount of goals scored in the NHL. I saw that one S/D was worth about 3.88 goals. I then dicked around with the number to determine how much of scoring is luck, and how much of it is shooter skill, experimenting with percentages through trial and error to come up with a number that was pretty close to the actual number of goals. It worked out to being 60% skill and 40% luck, so I plugged those ratios in for over 3000 players that played over the past four seasons according to Behind The Net and checked my results. I call this statistic "marginal goals" and have already showed it off in a post highlighting the virtues of Scott Gomez(shooting is not one of Gomez's virtues).

SEASON NAME TEAM POS GP TOI/60 TOT G TOT SH TOT MS TOT DIST S/D M G M G/60 MIN M G/82 GP
2008 Alexander Ovechkin WSH LW 82 16.6 38 260 137 34.2 8.713 36 1.60 32
2009 Alexander Ovechkin WSH LW 79 15.94 33 288 145 33.8 9.497 35 1.64 33
2010 Alexander Ovechkin WSH LW 72 16 36 217 98 35.3 7.167 33 1.70 34
2010 Sidney Crosby PIT C 81 14.99 34 168 62 29.3 6.894 31 1.54 31
2008 Jarome Iginla CGY RW 82 15.93 33 194 81 33.3 6.817 30 1.39 28
2011 Corey Perry ANA RW 82 16.51 28 178 77 25.5 8.078 29 1.30 26
2009 Zach Parise N.J LW 82 13.97 28 222 85 31.5 7.937 29 1.52 31
2010 Zach Parise N.J LW 81 15.44 27 234 77 31.7 8.233 29 1.39 28
2010 Marian Gaborik NYR LW 76 15.78 27 155 65 23 7.913 28 1.42 29
2011 Daniel Briere PHI RW 77 14.65 28 164 41 26.2 7.328 28 1.50 30
2008 Evgeni Malkin PIT C 82 14.88 30 141 49 27.4 6.241 28 1.36 27
2011 Jeff Carter PHI C 80 13.93 26 214 83 31.6 7.595 27 1.47 30
2009 Eric Staal CAR C 82 14.53 23 227 101 28.6 8.741 27 1.38 28
2009 Corey Perry ANA RW 78 14.77 22 192 81 23.6 9.068 27 1.42 28
2011 Bobby Ryan ANA RW 82 16.15 26 179 66 27.4 7.482 27 1.23 25
2009 Jeff Carter PHI C 82 14.14 27 195 77 31.8 6.981 27 1.40 28
2010 Alexander Semin WSH LW 73 14.18 30 171 78 34.6 5.809 27 1.57 31
2008 Ilya Kovalchuk ATL RW 79 14.52 32 116 46 30.6 4.837 27 1.40 28
2011 Martin St. Louis T.B RW 82 15.24 26 164 65 27.2 6.985 26 1.27 25
2008 Henrik Zetterberg DET LW 75 14.42 26 196 79 32.3 6.873 26 1.46 29
2009 Marian Hossa DET RW 74 12.98 27 196 74 35.3 6.317 26 1.62 33
2010 Ilya Kovalchuk N.J RW 76 15.73 29 153 60 33 5.515 26 1.30 26
2011 Rick Nash CBJ RW 75 14.09 25 198 74 32 6.969 26 1.46 29
2009 Phil Kessel BOS LW 70 13.39 27 154 62 29.8 6.074 26 1.64 33
2011 Steven Stamkos T.B C 82 14.6 27 150 80 29.5 6.000 26 1.28 26

[ Legend: GP Games Played TOI/60 Time on ice per 60 minutes TOT G Total goals TOT S Total saved shots TOT MS Total missed shots Tot Dist Average shot distance S/D Shots over average distance M G Marginal goals M G/60 MIN Marginal goals per 60 minutes M G/82 GP Marginal goals per 82 games played, 14.65 minutes per 60 ]

Those are the top 25 scorers at even strength over the past four seasons. You'll notice that Alexander Ovechkin finds himself at the top of the list for 2008, 2009 and 2010, but he fell off a cliff last season (finishing with "only" 24 marginal goals). Here are the Canucks from last season. Courage, Sergei Shirokov supporters.

NAME TEAM POS GP TOI/60 TOT G TOT SH TOT MS TOT DIST S/D M G M G/60 MIN M G/82 GP
Daniel Sedin VAN LW 82 14.32 23 168 66 28.1 6.797 24 1.24 25
Ryan Kesler VAN C 82 13.91 23 144 70 29.7 5.623 23 1.18 24
Alex Burrows VAN RW 72 13.58 24 106 56 26.4 4.924 22 1.35 27
Mikael Samuelsson VAN RW 75 13.78 13 155 60 34 4.941 15 0.90 18
Chris Higgins VAN LW 62 12.91 12 127 39 26.8 5.187 15 1.14 23
Mason Raymond VAN LW 70 12.89 11 155 54 31.7 5.237 15 0.98 20
Raffi Torres VAN LW 80 11.56 11 95 39 32.9 3.222 12 0.75 15
Henrik Sedin VAN C 82 14.99 10 106 28 33.3 3.483 11 0.56 11
Maxim Lapierre VAN C 78 10.71 6 119 34 29.5 4.237 10 0.73 15
Jannik Hansen VAN RW 82 12.02 9 86 32 32.2 2.950 10 0.61 12
Jeff Tambellini VAN LW 62 10.21 7 89 40 27.2 3.529 10 0.92 18
Manny Malhotra VAN C 72 12.37 7 82 39 30.6 2.908 9 0.59 12
Christian Ehrhoff VAN D 79 17.67 7 105 52 55 2.036 7 0.32 6
Kevin Bieksa VAN D 66 17.41 5 70 42 50.5 1.485 5 0.28 6
Dan Hamhuis VAN D 64 17.2 3 85 30 53.8 1.636 4 0.24 5
Tanner Glass VAN LW 73 7.76 3 39 22 29.2 1.438 4 0.43 9
Alexander Edler VAN D 51 17.43 3 74 47 54.3 1.418 4 0.27 5
Keith Ballard VAN D 65 13.7 2 43 19 54.6 0.824 2 0.17 3
Alex Bolduc VAN C 24 6.81 2 18 5 28.2 0.709 2 0.84 17
Aaron Rome VAN D 56 14.87 1 45 22 53.8 0.855 2 0.14 3
Sami Salo VAN D 27 15.1 2 23 14 57.2 0.437 2 0.28 6
Peter Schaefer VAN LW 16 7.77 1 8 4 22.2 0.405 1 0.59 12
Andrew Alberts VAN D 42 13.41 1 20 7 53 0.396 1 0.13 3
Cody Hodgson VAN C 8 6.96 1 7 3 31.5 0.254 1 1.07 21
Sergei Shirokov VAN LW 2 9.93 1 5 1 26.1 0.230 1 2.89 58
Victor Oreskovich VAN RW 16 7.85 0 19 3 31.9 0.596 1 0.44 9
Aaron Volpatti VAN LW 15 6.49 1 5 1 34.3 0.175 1 0.54 11
Lee Sweatt VAN D 3 13.37 1 3 2 40.3 0.099 1 1.13 23
Mario Bliznak VAN C 4 5.76 1 0 1 16 0.063 1 1.81 36
Chris Tanev VAN D 29 13.07 0 15 4 39.1 0.384 1 0.09 2
Rick Rypien (RIP) VAN RW 9 5.02 0 6 1 40.9 0.147 0 0.30 6
Guillaume Desbiens VAN RW 12 7.24 0 4 5 31.9 0.125 0 0.13 3
Yann Sauve VAN D 5 12.57 0 6 0 57.7 0.104 0 0.15 3
Joel Perreault VAN C 7 6.86 0 3 2 42.8 0.070 0 0.14 3
Jonas Andersson VAN LW 4 6.05 0 1 0 15 0.067 0 0.26 5
Ryan Parent VAN D 4 13.69 0 3 2 55.4 0.054 0 0.09 2
Evan Oberg VAN D 2 9.82 0 1 1 56 0.018 0 0.08 2

 

Yes, that would be 58 goals at even strength for Sergei Shirokov had he played a full season at first line winger (as if). It's a small sample, but the data suggests that maybe he should have kicked around a little longer before being thrown to the curb. Lee Sweatt, Mario Bliznak and Cody Hodgson were in similar scenarios thanks to the sample size. Looking ahead to the actual total, you can see that Ryan Kesler actually earned the goals he scored at even strength this season, so while he's expected to regress on the powerplay next season, he got away some pretty quality shots this season compared to seasons past.

So why bother to look at marginal goal totals over actual goal totals? Because, when you look at it over the course of several seasons, you can see where some players, such as Brad Boyes in 2008 or Henrik Zetterberg this past season, had lucky or unlucky years rather than years with just bad shooter performance. It allows us to qualify whether a high shooting percentage early in a player's career can be credited to skillful shooting or a high amount of luck. It's separating luck from shooter skill in a way that simply analyzing shooting percentages can't do.

The last thing I used it for was to determine which shooters would have performed better playing 82 games and earning first line minutes last season. I used a minimum of 10 marginal goals to make this calculation The top spot, occupied by Sidney Crosby, is a no-brainer, but an old friend of mine made it into the top ten as well. Lucky bugger.

NAME TEAM POS GP TOI/60 TOT G TOT SH TOT MS TOT DIST S/D M/G M G/60 MIN M G/82 GP
Sidney Crosby PIT C 41 15.06 20 86 31 23 4.609 19 1.86 37
Daniel Briere PHI RW 77 14.65 28 164 41 26.2 7.328 28 1.50 30
Jeff Carter PHI C 80 13.93 26 214 83 31.6 7.595 27 1.47 30
Michael Grabner NYI RW 76 12.11 22 154 44 29.2 6.027 23 1.47 29
Rick Nash CBJ RW 75 14.09 25 198 74 32 6.969 26 1.46 29
Jeff Skinner CAR C 82 12.91 25 134 74 24.9 6.386 25 1.41 28
Alex Burrows VAN RW 72 13.58 24 106 56 26.4 4.924 22 1.35 27
Nikolay Zherdev PHI RW 56 11.61 14 106 28 31.1 3.859 14 1.33 27
Corey Perry ANA RW 82 16.51 28 178 77 25.5 8.078 29 1.30 26
Steven Stamkos T.B C 82 14.6 27 150 80 29.5 6.000 26 1.28 26

 

I've been a proponent of moving Burrows back down to the second line and bringing Jannik Hansen to play with the Sedins to aid their defensive game, but it appears that the twins are good enough at setting up Burrows to some pretty good shots so they come out far enough ahead over the course of the season. About us getting a winger... while Zherdev was the best option on the table this summer, that Grabner trade every day looks like it will come back to haunt the Canucks and us fans every day for the rest of our lives.

A few more takeaways here, while Corey Perry won the MVP and I certainly have no problem with it, don't draft him first overall in your pool thinking he'll have a repeat year. That goes for Ryan Getzlaf, too. It appears they're very good players who had a tinge of luck behind them in the second half of the season and finished with inflated numbers. Also, Columbus is going to be fun to watch if they attract a couple of more skaters—they have two of the best shooters in the NHL playing for them.

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