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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

From The Community: CanucksArmy 2018 Shooting Percentage Rebounds and Comedowns

CanucksArmy has always looked for new ways to provide interesting and new content from a variety of writers. We all started somewhere and sometimes we just needed a break to get into the world and then go from there.

Given that, I wanted to start a series called “From The Community” that allows content creators an avenue to write out an article and have it posted on CanucksArmy. They may be from Reddit, Twitter, the comment section, or even somewhere like youtube.

Some may want to do a one time, some may want to hone their craft, and others may want to work towards being a regular writer here (or possibly somewhere else).

Postive and constructive criticism is welcome. But keep in mind that these writers are taking a leap of faith and should be treated with the utmost respect and positivity. The same can be said about the series – if there is enough positive feedback (and people reaching out), we can continue to keep it going and thus allow people a chance to keep contributing to the series or be added as a full contributor to the site.

I had a couple of really interesting people reach out to me over the last few weeks with hopes of joining CanucksArmy on a regular basis and one of which was /u/hockeytalkie from the Canucks subreddit. So without further ado, here is a little background about him:

Stephan Roget is a freelance writer specializing in history, politics, and pop culture, and they’ve been writing about hockey in a very amateur fashion for the last few years. As hockeytalkie, Roget has been putting out Weekly Reports and other Canucks-related content on their blog, as well as sharing it on the thriving /r/Canucks Reddit community.

His post talking about some rebounders and fallers in terms of shooting percentage to keep an eye on for the 2018-19 season is below.


Using a player’s shooting percentage to predict their future production might sound like advanced stats wizardry, but it’s actually one of the easiest analytical concepts to break down.

Statistically speaking, NHL players develop an average shooting percentage over their careers,and tend to stay relatively close to that average in any given season. On average, NHL forwards score on 10-11% of their shots and NHL defenseman score on 5-6%. In 2017/18, those numbers were 9.7% and 4.8%, respectively. Of course, the best snipers will regularly exceed those numbers—and those with the stoniest of hands will regularly fall short—but most fall within those bounds, and the longer a player stays in the league the more likely they are to approach the average.

Whatever a player’s career shooting percentage is, one can assume that most of their season totals will end up within a percentage point of that average and that any outliers can be taken as just that—outliers. If a player’s shooting percentage has a serious deviation up or down for a single season it will likely have an impact on their goal scoring, and one can reasonably predict that their shooting percentage will return to something closer to their average the next season and their production will follow suit. In other words, whether or not a player deviated largely from their career shooting percentage in an anomalous season can point to the difference between an individual truly breaking out—or declining—and a player who is just getting lucky—or unlucky—for a year.

Obviously, it’s not a perfect predictor, and sometimes a player’s average shooting percentage will suddenly increase or decrease unexpectedly and permanently, but the formula holds true for the majority of players. Sportsnet tracked the phenomenon last year, and the results speak for themselves.

With that out of the way, it’s time to take a look at which Vancouver Canucks saw major deviations from their career average shooting percentage in 2017/18—and, subsequently, which Canucks could be down for a big rebound or comedown in 2018/19.

Rebounds

Fans who found themselves less-than-pleased with Jim Benning’s recent UFA signings may soon receive some sweet statistical relief, with a number of lagging veterans poised for comeback seasons.

Loui Eriksson

Career Average Shooting %  2017/18 Shooting %
13.2%  9.9%

Stating that Loui Eriksson has been a disappointment in Vancouver is putting it mildly. His production hasn’t even approached fair value for his enormous UFA contract, but a more specific stat may be the culprit—his shooting percentage. Over his career, Eriksson has averaged a more-than-respectable 13.2%, but his two seasons with the Canucks have seen Eriksson plummet to 8.3% and 9.9%. This leaves two possibilities: either the 33 year old had his ability to score goals immediately decline upon joining the Canucks, or he’s experienced two relatively unlucky seasons and is due for a resurgence in 2018/19. With three years remaining on his contract, Vancouver fans are certainly hoping for the latter.

Sam Gagner

Career Average Shooting %  2017/18 Shooting %
9.4%  6.1%

Sam Gagner was coming off a career season when he joined the Vancouver Canucks, and many accurately depicted that he was due for a downtick in production for 2017/18. However, his shooting percentage in that season of personal bests—10.1% in 2016/17—was a lot closer to his career average of 9.4% than the abysmal percentage he recorded for the Canucks: a paltry 6.1%. That score puts Gagner significantly below both his own average and the average shooting percentage of an NHL forward, so it stands to reason that a rebound of some sort is coming if Gagner can maintain his place in the lineup.

Antoine Roussel

Career Average Shooting %  2017/18 Shooting %
11.6%  5.9%

Many fans and pundits were upset with the UFA deal handed to Antoine Roussel, who was coming off his worst season since his rookie year. Roussel put up just five goals and 12 points for Dallas in 2017/18, but that was accompanied by a major downturn in his shooting percentage. In his six NHL seasons, Roussel has averaged a percentage of 11.6%, but last year that dropped to just 5.9%. At just 28 years old, the odds are that Roussel will return to scoring in double-digits when he joins the Canucks, and that will go a long way toward winning over the skeptics in the fanbase.

Markus Granlund

Career Average Shooting %  2017/18 Shooting %
12.5%  8.6%

Markus Granlund had a career year in 2016/17, notching 19 goals in 69 games and solidifying himself as an NHL regular. This past season, however, he regressed to just eight goals in 53 games, and once again, the culprit appears to be shooting percentage—15.6% in 2016/17 and 8.6% in 2017/18. Both numbers actually represent deviations from the norm, and it seems that Granlund may have experienced a lucky season followed by an unlucky—and injury-plagued—one. Going forward, one would expect Granlund to start putting up something closer to his career average of 12.5%–and return to double-digit goal totals—if he can stay healthy.

Comedowns

The good news, depending on how you look at it, is that most Canucks had average or bad seasons in 2017/18, which means that most don’t have to worry about comedown years. That being said, there were a couple players whose healthy shooting percentages should raise a bit of suspicion moving forward.

Sven Baertschi

Career Average Shooting %  2017/18 Shooting %
14.7%  17.1%

Sven Baertschi’s injury-plagued season made it difficult to notice just how good of an offensive year he had—putting up 14 goals and 29 points in just 53 games. It was the highest points-per-game Baertschi has notched since his famous three goals in five games debut for the Flames, but the increased scoring may not last. He shot 2.4% above his career average of 14.7% in 2017/18, which suggests that he got a bit lucky. The loss of the Sedins will mean more opportunity in the top-six this season, but Baertschi’s production may not live up to the increased expectations.

Brock Boeser

Career Average Shooting %  2017/18 Shooting %
16.0% 16.2%

Discussing the career shooting percentage of Brock Boeser is a bit silly, as he’s only played 71 games to date. During that period, however, Boeser has scored on a ridiculous 16% of his shots—numbers that are amazing not just for a rookie, but for an NHL forward in general. The vast majority of players can’t sustain numbers a percentage like that for any length of time, including Alex Ovechkin and his average of 12.5% over his first five seasons. It’s at least conceivable that Boeser will maintain this sort of conversion rate going forward, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all if his shooting percentage—and goal-scoring rate—dipped a bit in his sophomore season.

On the other hand, if Boeser is able to maintain a percentage around 16%, it would prove he definitively belongs in the upper echelon of NHL snipers, and that’s certainly not an undesirable outcome. It’s just not a very likely one. It’s unfortunate, but it seems that Matt Murray may have actually been on to something abotu Boeser being lucky.

Darren Archibald

Career Average Shooting %  2017/18 Shooting %
12.8%  14.3%

Like Boeser, Darren Archibald hasn’t had much of a career upon which to base a career average. Unlike Boeser, Archibald is 28 years old—which means he’s even less likely to maintain a shooting percentage so far above the league average. In 43 career games, he has cashed in on 12.8% of his shots, and that shot up to 14.3% in 2017/18 as he scored at a near 30-point pace. Archibald might not even make the team next year, but if he does, no one should expect him to keep scoring at that rate.

  • Love the idea of this series and this was a great starter.

    One question regarding Eriksson and shooting percentage – is shooting percentage a stat that tends to decline with age? If age-related decline tends to impact shooting percentage, then it’s possible that Eriksson’s first season in Vancouver was a little unlucky, and last year’s slight increase reflects his true talent level at this point in his career. Or he’s just been terribly snake-bitten. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs next season.

    • Dahlenfan

      I think Erickson is what he is. I think he could score 15-20 goals of put in a good spot. . I think the only way Peterson wins the Calder is if we stack our first line with petterson horvat boeser. But then petterson is not playing either center or right wing which he played the last 2 years. If we put him with horvat and baert maybe. But then boeser is playing with Sutter or gagner? Huge hole at center for offense. No way he wins it with gagner or Sutter centering him. I think this kid is gonna be a stud but imo I think that what is best for the future of the canucks he plays center. I know they want to sell hope but you sell more hope with petterson as a center than a winger. I think he should start the year as center at nhl lvl. If he cant cut it you send him down( which I believe is the better option)or move him to the wing. They way it looks right now he is a rw. Who’s gonna center this stud? If we make him center opens up more offensive possibilities. I love horvat with boeser. What about this.
      Goldy/leipsic horvat boeser
      Baert petterson Erickson
      Granlund Sutter virtanen
      Rousel beagle gagner
      Leipsic/goldy extra and schaller IR
      Or even better if we trade/waive gagner
      Just hope we don’t lose leipsic or goldy to waivers.

    • Stephan_Roget

      Shooting percentage, like most stats, does seem to decline as a player ages, but not quite as dramatically as Eriksson has experienced. He was only 31 when he joined the Canucks, after all! I think his age is definitely a factor, but I am hoping that he’s more snake-bitten than anything.

  • Steg

    This is a fantastic idea, Ryan, and well done Stephan Roget- breaking down a statistic like this is exactly what I think Canucks Army needs more of. Often in deep dives, I find myself lost in the analytics (wait, what am I looking at here!?), and the way you broke down the logic of shooting percentage makes that metric come to life (this is exactly why a glossary of sorts that helps break down the different metrics would be so useful on the CA site).

    Same line of thinking came to my mind as Goon… I would expect that as a player gets older there would also be a reduction in his shooting percentage. Curious if the statistics back this up? As for Roussel… seeing that data makes me feel quite a lot better about the signing. Four years still feels like too much term, but having an effective agitator on the ice who can also pot in his share on the 4th line is a prospect that leaves me much happier. Actually, it leaves me pretty stoked to see what he can do.

    • Stephan_Roget

      Thanks for the kind words! Making the stats accessible was my number one goal for this piece, so I’m glad it made sense.

      I don’t have a ton of stats to back up shooting percentage declining as a player ages, but it does seem to trend that way. Just not as dramatically, or as early, as Eriksson has experienced!

  • Hockey Bunker

    Great idea for widening the writer pool. I like the article. Personally I don’t think Boeser’s shooting percentage is too high. I liken him to Stamkos as a shooter and with that comparison and lots of PP time I think 16% or better most years isn’t too out of the question. Course Stamkos is one of the best there is but Boeser seems to be able to find the net with little space. It’s a rare skill. FYI his shot % was the same in his 9 game audition and his first full season.

  • Sandpaper

    Nice work Stephan.
    Gòd job Ryan. The people were requesting such guest articles etc. On your state of the blog comments section. It is nice too see you following up with that request.
    Good quality article.

  • Mellowyellow

    I have issue with how this shooting percentage is used and perceived. This average number of 11-12% is such a flawed number to be comparing to people like Boeser. His 16% last season represents an extreme part of the model which there are alot fewer data points. Why the heck are people including like Brandon Sutter as part of the 11-12% model who clearly is a defensive forward (using that as an example, 3rd and 4th line players don’t below as part of your starting model). A better starting point would be to say capture forwards with maybe greater than 30points and then calculate what the shooting % might be. I’d guess brock’s stand-deviation from my suggested new mean wouldn’t be as far fetched.

    The shooting % metric doesn’t sufficiently describe the fact that as you pointed out he’s played fewer games hence fewer shots. But even if you project forward to a full 82 games.. he still seems to have i’m guessing maybe 40-50shots fewer than the top scorers/point getters like Mcdavid and company as such the shooting % number is a flawed descriptor and incomplete predictor of his scoring potential.