December 30 2011 09:48AM
The combined shooting percentage of everyone with whom a player has shared the ice at even-strength is a consequence of several factors, including their combined shooting talent, the average quality of their opponents, the player’s own ability to set up his teammates and, of course, lots of luck.
Given these factors, of which a player’s own abilities is probably the least significant, comparing one player’s on-ice shooting percentage to another straight-up is completely unfair. Obviously talent has something to do with Alex Tanguay’s fantastic on-ice shooting percentage of 11.6% last year, but playing alongside Jarome Iginla probably explains his advantage over someone like Tim Jackman’s and his lowly 6.6% a lot better (ignoring the fact Tanguay’s superior playmaking is a big reason why he had that golden opportunity in the first place).
What’s perhaps more interesting to compare are the sharp increases and decreases in on-ice shooting percentage from season to season, because any differences that can’t be explained by new linemates or opponents must be the consequence of either improved play or blind luck.
Any player who has a notable increase in on-ice shooting percentage is likely enjoying far more assists per game, and potentially an increase in plus/minus (at least the offensive component) while those with big drops are probably getting dogged by the media and fans for their otherwise inexplicable drop in assists and plus/minus.
Take a moment to think about who might be on each list before we look at the Flames leaderboard so far this year.
On-Ice Shooting Percentage, 5-on-5 only Player 2010-11 2011-12 Diff Paul Byron 6.67 12.50 5.83 Olli Jokinen 7.81 10.61 2.80 Scott Hannan 7.04 8.96 1.92 Rene Bourque 7.88 9.60 1.72 Derek Smith 6.06 7.01 0.95 Mark Giordano 7.75 8.48 0.73 Curtis Glencross 9.00 9.65 0.65 Chris Butler 8.52 8.62 0.10 Jay Bouwmeester 8.21 8.31 0.10 Anton Bachuk 8.80 8.82 0.02 Lee Stempniak 7.93 7.49 -0.44 Tom Kostopoulos 7.09 6.40 -0.69 Jarome Iginla 10.57 8.39 -2.18 Tim Jackman 6.57 4.22 -2.35 Brendan Morrison 10.16 7.75 -2.41 Cory Sarich 8.68 6.25 -2.43 Alex Tanguay 11.62 8.96 -2.66 Matt Stajan 8.88 5.97 -2.91 David Moss 9.01 6.02 -2.99 Mikael Backlund 7.49 4.00 -3.49 Blake Comeau 8.23 3.21 -5.02
It’s no surprise to see Calgary’s assist leader, and the only Flame in double-digits at even-strength, Olli Jokinen near the top of the list, thanks to his left winger Curtis Glencross and his team-leading 22.6% shooting percentage. If his luck holds up Olli Jokinen could enjoy his first 40-assist season since 2006-07. Jokinen is also one of the few forwards in Calgary’s current line-up in positive plus/minus territory – Roman Horak and Brendan Morrison being the others.
Scott Hannan is playing on the Flames 2nd defensive pairing, a two-way unit with ample opportunity to skate alongside top-six forwards, unlike last season when he played on Washington’s third lines with strictly defensive-minded players. While not exactly planet-shattering, his 4 assists already match what he earned in 55 games with the Capitals last year.
As for Rene Bourque, he has just 1 even-strength assists (3 total) despite his linemates scoring at the 3rd highest rate on the team (not counting Byron). Curtis Glencross has eight times as many in a somewhat comparable but far tougher situation situation. Bourque’s struggles certainly appear to be of his own making rather than bad luck.
Even-Strength Rene Bourque Curtis Glencross Games Played 34 35 Time on Ice 12:27 13:30 On-Ice Shooting % 9.6% 9.65% Quality of Linemates 1.4 -2.0 Quality of Competition 0.4 2.0 Even-Strength Assists 1 8
Speaking of bad luck, what about Blake Comeau? Gordie Howe is one of history’s great hockey players, and the Spanish translation of the word “how” is “como”, so it’s really difficult to understand how (or “como”) he could come off a 24-goal, 46-point season at age 24 to just 2 goals and 5 points (all with the Flames). Well, his ice-time dropped by 4 minutes a game, most of that with the man advantage, and his linemates are scoring on just 3.2% of this shots - that’s enough to make anyone look bad.
Speaking of looking bad, Mikael Backlund was a healthy scratch despite playing some of the best hockey on the team. His linemates’ miserable 4.0% shooting percentage has left him with just a single assist and -7 in his 22 games. Hopefully Backlund’s luck will turn around before he’s buried completely.
And then there’s the sad fate of Calgary’s fourth line of veterans Tim Jackman, Matt Stajan and Tom Kostopoulos. Despite outplaying, outshooting and outperforming their depth line counterparts they all find themselves underwater on the scoreboard, a combined -19 plus/minus, three of the four worst forwards on the team by that measurement (Backlund being the fourth). Together they have combined for just 3 goals and 12 assists at even-strength, nowhere near last year’s 20 goals and 43 assists – all thanks to big drops in their collective abilities to finish (which weren’t all that high to begin with).
It’s almost as sad a story as the Flames top line, which includes veterans Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison last season, all bouncing back to their glory-day scoring levels thanks to double-digit on-ice shooting percentages. Unfortunately they’ve all come right back to Earth, which is why they’re scoring at 66% (Morrison), 76% (Tanguay) and 82% (Iginla) of last year’s scoring rate.
Remember that all statistics have their context, and there can be a lot going on behind the scenes, even with accepted box score statistics like goals and assists. There’s a difference between Rene Bourque’s and Blake Comeau’s 3 assists (or Mikael Backlund’s 1), and there’s a reason why Olli Jokinen is going strong while Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay are on a slide. Not only will we keep our eyes on these percentages throughout the second half, next week we’ll look at the other side of this equation: on-ice save percentage.