Is David Booth a shooting% outlier?

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.