Arii recently pointed out that the Flames shooting percentage has jumped from 9.2% (#12 in the league) last season to 10.6% (#2 in the league) this season. That may not sound like much, but if the Flames had shot 9.2% this season they’d have scored 26 fewer goals and would likely not be in the playoff race. If the Flames shooting percentage were identical to the league average this year, they would have scored 29 fewer goals. Team shooting percentage is considered, by many, to be the essence of luck in hockey, even more so than PDO. PDO lumps shooting percentage together with save percentage, which can clearly be influenced by good goal-tending. Is the Flames’ luck destined to run out?
NHL teams generally have an average shooting percentage of 9% (it’s 8.99% across the league this season) and outliers tend to regress towards this average. Individual players are often quite different. Jarome Iginla has shot 13.2% over his career and Jaromir Jagr has shot 13.7% over his. There are plenty of players with higher shooting percentages, but the sheer length of these two players’ careers should make a convincing case that, for some players at least, shooting well above 9% is no fluke.
The fact that individuals can buck shooting percentage norms is significant when looking at the Flames because it’s arguable that just three players have goosed the Flames’ shooting percentage so high: Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan.
Who is scoring the Flames’ goals?
Here’s what the Flames’ scoring board looks like right now:
Monahan, Gaudreau, and Hudler are the only forwards currently in the top seven for points and are the top three goal scorers. Together, they have scored 67 of the Flames’ 193 goals so far this season, which is 34.7% of the total. Collectively they have 412 shots and their combined shooting percentage is an unreal 16.3%. The rest of the team combined has 1408 shots and 126 goals, which gives them a shooting percentage of just 8.95%, which is almost bang on the league average.
Can this continue?
Given that the Flames’ high shooting percentage is being driven primarily by just three players, how sustainable are the shooting percentages of these three players?
Jiri Hudler’s career shooting percentage is 14.9%. He’s been luckier than that this season, but he’s also had luckier seasons (he shot 19.7% in 2011/2012). Hudler is clearly capable of sustaining a significantly higher than average shooting percentage. He might regress a little next season, but there’s a small chance he could be even luckier.
Monahan and Gaudreau are tougher to call. Given that Monahan’s shooting percentage was 15.7% last season, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests he may be capable of sustaining a high shooting percentage. Gaudreau shot 25.9% in his last year in the NCAA (Source is here, for what little it’s worth), which is so bonkers that I’m just going to throw that number right out the window. I suspect shooting stats from the NCAA are not reliably collected. That being said, Gaudreau is so insanely slick and creative that I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t continue to shoot above 9% in the NHL. To the eye, Gaudreau is a player with substantially higher than average finishing ability. His aim is excellent and he’s able to get high quality shots off in far less space and time than most players.
What about the rest of the team?
For all players who have played more than one full season, I multiplied their shots from this season by their career shooting percentages to find the number of goals these players would have scored this season if their shooting percentages from this season matched their career averages. (Note: Career sh% includes this season. This allows us to use the largest sample possible.)
|2014/2015 Goal Production based on Career Shooting Percentage|
|Player|| Career Sh%
|| 2014/2015 Shots
|| Goals (expected)
|| Goals (actual)
|| Actual – Expected
Players with a positive “Actual-Expected” have been “lucky” this season, while negative numbers indicate players who have been “unlucky”. In total, the Flames have been “lucky” enough to score 11 more goals than should be expected of this group if they were all converting shots to goals at their career averages. That’s not good, but it’s not nearly as bad as the 29 goal deficit that results from simply comparing the team shooting percentage to the league average.
Note: Jooris, Granlund, and Gaudreau combined for 34 goals out of the team’s total of 193, but none of them played a significant number of games in the NHL before this season. This means a significant portion of this team’s scoring was omitted in order to find the above 11 goal deficit. Whether these three were lucky or unlucky this season has yet to be determined.
Putting it all together.
The Flames are likely going to rely on their top scoring line to an even greater extent next season. If the shooting percentages of players like Wideman, Bouma, and Raymond regress next season, the Monahan/Gaudreau/Hudler line is going to have to pick up the slack. Their shooting percentages are already sky high, but these are all players who might be able to maintain high shooting percentages. Also, Gaudreau and Monahan are currently the youngest players on the team. We shouldn’t expect their shooting percentages to climb, but we can expect them to take more shots as they become better at driving possession. If Gaudreau and Monahan continue to develop at a respectable pace, the Flames may have a shot at the playoffs next season even without the moderately good luck they’ve had this season. This, of course, assumes Treliving does not find a way to improve the team in the off season and neglects the addition of new rookies like Sam Bennett. The former may well prove false, and I’m inclined to think Bennett’s contributions next season will be far from negligible!