Jason Garrison’s fifth year: Expecting goals

About a minute after my post on Province Sports about Jason Garrison went live, I got a barrage of texts from resident blog chief Thomas Drance:

“You kidding me?”

“5 Garrison goals”

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“You expect JG to score 5 goals”

“Wrote it today”

“Least well thought out thing you’ve written in a while!”

Obviously I pride myself in thinking out at least half the things I write, but I calmly explained by reasoning. For one, I never stated that Garrison would score “5 goals”. I wrote “upwards of five”. The second thing to note is that I think five goals is a lot of goals for a defenceman.

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Jason Garrison has had an odd start to his NHL career. In two full years of playing, he’s been a #fancystats darling and has scored a bunch of goals. From his Hockey-Reference page:

2008-09 24 FLA NHL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   12 11:57
2009-10 25 FLA NHL 39 2 6 8 3 5 23 2 0 0 0 24 8.3 590 15:08
2010-11 26 FLA NHL 73 5 13 18 6 -2 26 5 0 0 3 116 4.3 1627 22:18
2011-12 27 FLA NHL 77 16 17 33 13 6 32 7 9 0 3 168 9.5 1825 23:42
Career     NHL 190 23 36 59 22 9 81 14 9 0 6 308 7.5 4054 21:20

That 7.5% shooting percentage is an awfully high number for a defenceman. While I’m usually okay with looking at career average shooting percentages for certain players, fact is that 308 shots is not enough shots for us to determine whether a guy is a terrific shooter or not.

So I ran a test to figure out what would happen for players with high shooting percentages. Using HR.com, I looked for defencemen who had taken between 258 and 258 shots in their first four NHL seasons, and took the best ten shooters by shooting percentage. Tie-breakers went to the player with the most goals. I then manually checked to see how they did in Year #5. Here is the list of players:

-Greg Hawgood
-Richard Smehlik
-Derian Hatcher
-Alexei Kasatonov
-Steve Smith
-Larry Sacharuk
-Garry Galley
-Brent Burns
-Vladimir Konstantinov
-Tomas Kaberle

I’ve heard of a few of these names. The most famous is Greg Hawgood, whose name and number hangs famously in the rafters of the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops. Then there are a bunch of scrubs.

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Anyway, the combined shooting percentage of these players in their first four years was 8.7%. More than Jason Garrison, for sure, but we’re looking to see if shooter talent for defencemen is predictive after the first four years.

In Year 5, Kasatonov scored 4 times on 87 shots. Smehlik scored 3 times on 90 shots. Burns scored 8 on 147 and Galley had 8 on 145. Overall, the players combined for a shooting percentage of 6.4% and averaged just 6.1 goals on the season.

Actually, Brent Burns is a good offensive comparable:

  Goals Shots Sh%
Jason Garrison 23 308 7.47%
Brent Burns 22 266 8.27%

Since that initial outburst, Burns is chugging along at a respectable 6.3% in his last four seasons. That’s still above average for a defenceman, but what you’d expect when you factor in shooter regression. Some shooting involves talent, but there’s some luck involved, whether you get to play against bad goaltending, or a lot of powerplay time, or what have you, there are certain factors that are involved.

I also tallied up a group of “average” shooters and a group of “bad” shooters:

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  Sh% First 4 Sh% 5th Year Avg. G 5th Year
Top 8.7% 6.4% 6.1
Average 5.1% 4.5% 3.3
Bottom 2.5% 3.1% 3.1
Garrison 7.5% ? ?

All three groups regressed towards the mean, which I’m guessing is about 4.5%. Since this is looking at players in different eras, I don’t know exactly what the average defenceman shooting percentage is.

The point is, a high shooting percentage in four seasons doesn’t guarantee a fifth season. 6.1 goals is a good number to expect from Garrison next season, and anything else would be a bonus. That’s taking everything into account. Not just regression, but injuries and a decrease in ice-time.

I’m erring on the side of tempered offensive expectations of Mr. Garrison. I think his defensive game is what makes him a terrific buy at $4.6M per.

Previously: Jason Garrison, the Brian Campbell effect, and regression

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  • How many of these other players made a move from a team scraping into the playoffs to a 2-time Presidents Trophy club?

    Will there not be far better/more offensive opportunities for JG this year than was available to him in FLA?

  • Chris Edwards

    Interesting numbers. I would think that 200 games and 300 shots would be enough to predict performance if other extraneous variables remained consistent.

    As a bit of an aside, I followed your link and Burns shows only two seasons (06/07 and 07/08, which totals 266 shots), because he was a forward for his first two years. Given your search criteria the result is that the forward years are not included (because he must be a defenseman to count). Doughty also shows only two season (your search only included up to the 09/10 season), but he has a higher shooting % than your 9 and 10 spots… not that any of that really matters much, but it was a bit confusing.

    Anyway, I think part of the problem is the randomness inherent in most goal scoring from d-men. Deflections (and blocked shots) play a huge role in the result — even a save could be the right play and end up being an assist. The importance is on getting the puck through to the goalie, not in the shooting percentage. This is something Garrison looks to do very well (although I haven’t seen a ton of him). Maybe there is a stat out there somewhere?

    The overall powerplay almost gives a better indication of offensive potential. The powerplay for Florida was pretty good overall (7th, 4 fewer goals scored than Vancouver, 4th), and that is a good sign that Garrison was making the right decision with the puck (as well as the other players he was with).

    Garrison seems like a quality all-round d-man, who by all indications, will be a perfect Sami Salo replacement. Big shot, smart with the puck, solid defensively, and won’t get the credit he is due… hopefully without the injury bug *knocks on wood.

    I don’t like putting high expectations on Garrison, but I’d say 6g is the low mark for a satisfactory season. But it will depend on his ice time and injuries. A quick look at goals from canucks dmen might help lower some of the lofty expectations on Garrison:

    Canucks dmen the last 3 years:
    Edler = 11g in 82gp
    Salo = 9g in 69gp
    Bieksa = 8g in 78gp
    Rome = 4g in 43gp
    Hamhuis = 4g in 82gp
    Alberts = 2g in 44gp
    Ballard = 1g in 47gp
    Tanev = 0g in 25gp

    Ehrhoff = 14g in 79gp
    Edler = 8g in 51gp
    Hamhuis = 6g in 64gp
    Bieksa = 6g in 66gp
    Salo = 3g in 27gp
    Ballard = 2g in 65gp
    Alberts = 1g in 42gp
    Rome = 1g in 56gp

    Ehrhoff = 14g in 80gp
    Salo = 9g in 68gp
    Edler = 5g in 76gp
    Mitchell = 4g in 48gp
    Bieksa = 3g in 55gp
    Schneider = 2g in 17gp
    O’Brien = 2g in 65gp
    Rome = 0g in 49gp

    I’d put the over/under at 10g. Likely +/- 4g. And I’d bet that a healthy 82 games should see him get over that mark. He will be on the first PP with Edler and the Sedins, largely filling the role Ehrhoff had up until last season. Now 10g is a lot, and 14g (the high market) is a mountain. But with Edler’s inability to get the puck past the first shot blocker, the main point option will be Garrison on the top PP unit.

    He will fill the role of Ehrhoff to a large degree. He will bring better defensive responsibility to that role, but with Garrison a little more passing/rushing responsibility with have to fall to Edler than it did with Ehrhoff – although Garrison is no Willie Mitchell on the breakout.

  • Chris Edwards

    Hard to believe in a post that long I forgot to mention something…

    But… I forgot to mention… it feels a bit strange to call next season “Garrison’s 5th season? — although technically true. Having played only 2 full seasons, half of another season, and only 1 game in his “first season”.

    It feels a bit like Garrison with 190GP is only just over the start of season 3 (26GP beyond two full seasons)… although for your comparison, it may be safe to assume other players have similar experiences of games played in their first four seasons.

    • Basically, he’s 308 shots into an NHL career.

      I was looking for players who had similar offensive output at a similar point in their careers.

      Some good points above. Did not know that Burns was a forward.

      The other thing to consider is that 10 goals, basically, anything over five, is really good production from a defenceman. I have no idea what kind of PP formation they’ll run out, or what Garrison’s health will be like, but the point seems to me that shooting percentages after 300 shots aren’t predictive of future shooting success.

      A lot of Garrison’s goals last year came because he had a Sh% that was more like a forward’s.