Is David Booth a shooting% outlier?

Thomas Drance
May 16 2012 11:37AM

What is more ironic? That David Booth, who has struggled to finish pucks throughout his career, shares a last name with John Wilkes Booth, a man famous for his short range accuracy. Or, that his precision shooting has generated more attention this offseason than it did on the Canucks five game playoff run? I can't decide, but I am beginning to worry that David Booth's style of play isn't conducive to driving on-ice shooting percentage.

Click past the jump for more.

David Booth appeared in fifty-six regular season games, and five postseason games in his first season with the Canucks, and his performance met with mixed reviews. While he brought a physical dimension that was previously lacking in the club's top-six, and was among the teams best two-way forwards by every relevant metric - he produced only sixteen goals, thirty total points and apparently struggled to find chemistry with Ryan Kesler (something I believe to be poppycock, frankly).

More troubling from an analytical standpoint is that his team low 978 PDO, which I'd usually use to contextualize his seeming lack of production, is suggestive of a troubling trend: that David Booth is significantly below average at driving on-ice shooting percentage.

On-ice shooting percentage (on-ice sh%) is distinct from individual shooting percentage in that it takes into account not just an individual player's shots, but all of his teammate's shots when he's on the ice as well. It is a remarkably stable number and most of the league (like 90% of all players) over a large enough sample, will fall between 7 and 8.5% on-ice shooting. Of course, there are the other small percentage of players who are outliers on one end or the other.

The Best and Worst

One thing I find particularly fascinating about on-ice shooting percentage - is that it's a stat where the numbers, and the judgement of your eyes intersect. The top-end outliers in on-ice shooting percentage (over a large sample) are generally the leagues most talented players, who have been proven as a group to demonstrably drive on-ice shooting percentage. A list of the top-10 players in on-ice shooting percentage generated over at David Johnston's hockey analysis site over the past four seasons (over 3000 minutes played) reads like a "whose who" of the leagues most offensively gifted players. Here's the top-10 in no particular order: Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Bobby Ryan, Alex Tanguay, Nathan Horton, Alexandre Semin, Martin St. Louis and Marian Gaborik. Sounds about right,

On the bottom end are mostly the players you'd expect to find there, for one reason or another: Daniel "stone hands" Winnik, Scott "soft shot" Gomez, Samme "play it again" Pahlsson and Marty Reasoner - for example.

If we reduce our sample to the past three seasons and two-thousand minutes played, David Booth - the 4.5 million dollar man - is 415th in the league in on-ice shooting percentage out of 423 skaters who qualify. For an expensive second line winger and former thirty-goal scorer, that isn't good to see.

Let's look at some numbers compiled from behindthenet - here's David Booth's on-ice shooting percentage over the past five seasons (the * denotes an injury shortened season):

Season On-Ice Sh%
2011-12 6.58
2010-11 6.92
2009-10* 6.97
2008-09 9.9%
2007-08 9.32%

Basically the Michigan born power-forward's on-ice shooting percentage has been below 7% over his last 172 games, or, as David Johnston suggested in the comments over at Pass it to Bulis, since he was separated from Nathan Horton. It's not definitive by any means, but that's beginning to be a large enough sample for us to describe him as a legitimate, bottom-end outlier. I'd still like to see if this trend persists for another season before I leap to any real conclusions, but the suggestive evidence is strong. 

Not Just the Math

These numbers are especially troubling beyond the analytical ramifications of on-ice shooting percentage because they match the eye test. I don't mean to be critical, and I'll think David Booth is a useful player even if he never again scores thirty goals in a season, but he isn't a natural finisher on the break. He's a solid net-presence forward with a nice collection of power-moves, but he doesn't seem likely to be able to drive on-ice shooting percentage with his play in the slot (like his former line-mate Nathan Horton does). He's not a "plus" passer, and while he packs a good deal of velocity on his shot, I doubt anyone outside of the animal kingdom is likely to describe him as a "sniper." 

We know that the best players in the league drive on-ice shooting percentage, and we know that on-ice shooting percentage is a repeatable skill to some extent. It's very rare that a single player can impact his line-mates on-ice shooting% over a large sample of games, but having watched the Sedins consistently turn plugs into thirty goal scorers - I anecdotally believe that it can be done.

Canucks fans should be hoping that David Booth isn't the other side of that coin.

The Silver Lining

The silver lining is that "accuracy" has never been Booth's game (hockey-wise, that is). Booth is a volume shooter, who drives play, dominates the puck and has scored goals at a solid rate, despite his low on-ice shooting percentage. Let's break his production down in terms of goals, goals/60, total shooting% and shots-per-game (stats in the below table are compiled from behindthenet as well as NHL.com):

Season EV Goals EV G/60 EV Sh% EV Sh/60
2011-12* 12 0.91 7.7% 8.99
2010-11 14 0.66 4.7% 10.09
2009-10* 7 1.13 6.4% 12.02
2008-09 18 1.12 7.6% 10.67
2007-08 21 1.29 8.5% 11.39

A couple of things to remember when looking at the above table. First of all, Booth only played 28 games in the 09-10 season, before being sidelined with a concussion that he suffered following a a blindside hit from Mike Richards. He also only played 62 games this season, so pro-rated over 82 games he was on a 16 EV goal pace. 

Now to the analysis, while Booth's on-ice shooting percentage continued to dive this season, his G/60 rate rebounded in a big way from his "down year" in 2010-11. In fact, his .91 goals per sixty minutes was third among all Canucks forwards (behind only Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows). His personal shooting percentage at even-strength also rebounded, and was the highest on the team this season.

Yes, he was down roughly a full shot per sixty minutes this season, but I'm not too concerned by that seeing as how he went from being a featured offensive option on a bottom-feeder in 2010-11, to a complimentary top-six forward on a contender in 2011-12.

While I'm still concerned about Booth's on-ice shooting percentage, we can take solace in the findings that a forward's goal scoring rate is a better metric for forecasting future production, than on-ice shooting percentage is. So long as Booth continues to generate shots at a high rate, the goals will come, even if it takes him a few extra shots to score those goals. Without prime power-play time (something the Canucks tend not to afford second line wingers), however, he'll be very hard pressed to manage thirty of them next season.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 GayCanuck
May 16 2012, 11:52AM
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How could anyone struggle to find chemistry with Ryan Kesler? He's charming and likes to doff his clothing for crying out loud!

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#2 David Johnson
May 16 2012, 11:58AM
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Excellent post. Good to see a player analysis that doesn't focus purely on corsi stats.

Any truth to the rumours that David Booth's poor shooting percentage is the reason why he has to bait bears?

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#3 Marlon
May 16 2012, 12:23PM
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I followed that top 10 link. The big names keep coming - Andrew Alberts was 16th? Something I don't know?

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#4 Cam Charron
May 16 2012, 12:33PM
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Confused as to what numbers from that third chart you procured from NHL.com. Unless you're some sort of witch doctor.

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#5 David Johnson
May 16 2012, 12:45PM
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@Marlon

Probably an anomaly resulting from playing a fair bit while the Sedin's are on the ice. He may also benefit from score effects and zone start effects. There are very few defensemen that I would suggest can drive shooting percentage in a significant way, and especially not Alberts.

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#6 canucky
May 16 2012, 01:22PM
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@GayCanuck

hockey is so stupid

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#7 real man
May 16 2012, 01:25PM
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@canucky

football is a real game. hockey..hahahhaa....so stupid. for stupid people. for losers. for idiots who burn their own city. grow some balls and dont pretend to like hockey. nobody really likes it. you guys are just a bunch of cowards who band together calling yourselves hockey fans.

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#8 jobman
May 16 2012, 01:26PM
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@Cam Charron

get a job and stop analyzing hockey. get a life. grow some balls

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#9 babyy
May 16 2012, 01:26PM
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@Marlon

there is alot you dont know. dumb schmuck hockey idiot loser

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#10 fgkjgh
May 16 2012, 01:28PM
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@David Johnson

you do know that the canucks suck and will never never never win the stanley cup right? never. not ever. cos they suck. and you are stupid to be a fan. you are stupid to watch hockey. get a job. LOSER

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#11 Cam Charron
May 16 2012, 01:44PM
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jobman wrote:

get a job and stop analyzing hockey. get a life. grow some balls

The underlying message is that women shouldn't be in the workforce.

Also, I do have a job. As it happens, my job happens to be analyzing hockey, so here we are...

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#13 Chri$
May 16 2012, 07:22PM
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Could someone please get rid of the troll, because it's rather obvious it's the same dude mashing his keyboard trying to seem funny.

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#14 Chri$
May 16 2012, 07:25PM
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And in response to the article; Good job Thomas. Im not exactly sure that Booths on ice SH% scares me; the guy is still driving possession, and if Kesler comes back from injury and can return to his 2011 season form, Booth's scoring rate may well jump sky high.

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