Is the Flames’ shooting percentage sustainable?

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:

scoring-20150312

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
Hudler 0.149 128 19.1 24 4.9
Raymond 0.091 80 7.3 12 4.7
Brodie 0.059 111 6.5 10 3.5
Wideman 0.062 141 8.7 12 3.3
Bouma 0.099 96 9.5 12 2.5
Stajan 0.135 39 5.3 7 1.7
Backlund 0.078 82 6.4 8 1.6
Colborne 0.130 46 6.0 7 1.0
Monahan 0.162 151 24.5 25 0.5
Giordano 0.071 157 11.1 11 −0.1
Diaz 0.034 40 1.4 1 −0.4
Smid 0.034 21 0.7 0 −0.7
Bollig 0.037 56 2.1 1 −1.1
Russel 0.050 84 4.2 3 −1.2
Jones 0.134 93 12.5 11 −1.5
Engelland 0.049 37 1.8 0 −1.8
Byron 0.134 62 8.3 6 −2.3
Glencross 0.146 87 12.7 9 -3.7
Total 148.0 159 11.0

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!

  • DoubleDIon

    Within variances, yes. Hell, even this season Glencross was shooting a BAD percentage for himself. Ferland has been snakebitten. Etc.

    Now, will, say, the arrival of Sam Bennett possibly drop those percentages as he might play more of an actual slow-it-down possession game? Very possible. Or his arrival turns us into next year’s TBL!

    • Colin.S

      How has Ferland been snakebitten?

      As to the article, I don’t think Monohan/Gaudreau/Huddler are going to drop to league average(though they may experience a personal drop). If you go to NHL.com and look at the top 60 scorers most of them have SH%s over 12% if not a little higher. In order to be an above average/first line/elite level forward in the NHL you have to be able to shoot better than league average. That’s the whole point of an average, the bottom tier players/fourth liners etc are going to drag that average down.

      For a guy like Gaudreau, a 13.50 SH% being sustained is entirely not out of the question. Monohan’s and Huddler’s being a little higher may come down, but again, I doubt it drops to 9%.

  • DoubleDIon

    Great info. I’ve wondered to what extent Gaudreau, Monahan and Hudler have driven our shooting percentage as I think all 3 of their percentages may be moderately sustainable. Saved me the work of doing the math, thanks!

    As I suspected, we have been lucky. Just not ridiculously and impossibly lucky like some people suggest.

  • RedMan

    Good coach, high quality of shots. Not falling off the cliff (stopping in front of the net). Traffic, allowing skilled players to create all breeds higher shooting percentage. Drop off is unlikely cause 5 years from now you will be saying well we had Johnny G and Monohan akin to Toews and Kane that make Chicago feel taller.

  • Erico

    I only buy that shooting percentage is a luck metric a little bit. A lot of it has to do with what type of shots you are taking (high quality, low quality) and the skill of the shooters. I think a high shooting percentage is something to be celebrated as they are obviously working their system to the best of their abilities. Don’t get me wrong, some of it is just luck, or being snake bitten, but I think the situation you put yourself in as a shooter has a lot to do with it too. I think I would rather have a player that takes less shots, but from good areas, than have the player that shoots 10 times a game from everywhere.

    Serious question, I am somewhat new to corsi etc. as in the last couple years, and I am wondering if there is a version of corsi that looks only at “scoring chances” or “good opportunities to score.” Don’t get me wrong I love corsi and I think it is a great metric. But I do think that now that the NHL is tracking it more, players, agents, and GM’s will start to use it in negotiation, so I am worried, that players are going to start shooting from everywhere, just to bump up this metric. So I would like to see a scoring chance metric that is driven the same as corsi is. If it is even possible. 3

    HAHA – Maybe it already exists and I just don’t know about it.

    I might be way off base here, but I have always wondered.

    Thanks guys

  • Parallex

    “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.”

    There is something that will neutralize that though… prospect graduation.

    If that seems like a strange answer it comes down to coaching assignments. Take a look at the offensive zone starts last year and this year. Last year Hudler & Monahan 55/56% Ozone starts, this year Hudler and Gaudreau 55/56 Ozone starts (Monahan’s are down significantly, which would be strange since his linemates are so high, but then you remember that he took over the heavy-lifting when Backlund was hurt and it all makes sense).

    If your wondering what that has to with anything the answer becomes Sam Bennett. Hartley has seemingly paired the “Hotshot Rookie” with Hudler and used Backlund, Jones, Bouma, and Stajan as the proverbial government mule to get that line all those Ozone starts. With Bennett (and I wager at least one other young forward) likely to make the team next year I wager the “kid gloves” come off Gaudreau and Monahan full-time because they’ll need Bennett & X to wear them.

    That’s not an indictment of their talent or Hartley’s coaching (it’s exactly what I’d do if I were in his position) but I think it’s more likely we’ll see their numbers plateau if not take a step back for a year or two while still improving. I said the same thing to folk who used to complain about Backlund “not improving” I’d tell them that he’s doing exactly what he did before except that he’s doing it in tougher circumstances against tougher opponents and that is improvement. I expect the same from Monahan and Gaudreau.

    Just food for thought.

  • JMK

    “Players with a positive “Actual-Expected” have been “lucky” this season, while negative numbers indicate players who have been “unlucky”.”

    No

    You inexplicably do not account for any other reasons for variance, positive or negative. Linemates. Skill improvement, injury (disclosed or not). Situational factors (EN goals, e.g.).

    Maybe that’s why you included the scare quotes around ‘luck’.

    The problem with luck is that you can (and lots of people around these parts DO) use it like a skyhook for rescue when you don’t know what’s going on. (The skyhook term is due to a guy by the name of Dan Dennett, who coins the term in talking about God.)

    Not that I’ll ever tell another where to worship, but I for one cannot bring myself to worship at the altar of luck. Peace.

  • Ari Yanover

    This is great. Things become a bit clearer with the top line clearly driving stuff (although I wonder what they were all shooting at before Monahan finally joined that line, and if the three of them are feeding off one another or things just happen to be going super well for these three guys in particular). The continued improvement is a good thing to look at, as well; Monahan’s already passed his shooting totals from last season in fewer games, and as he keeps growing into a first line role, it’s easy to expect him to keep it up.

    I think we can definitely expect someone like Bouma to regress, but I do wonder about Brodie, especially as he’s still growing offensively. His increased powerplay time is also helping: three goals so far this season, as opposed to the two he scored in his entire career prior. I’d say he also falls under that Monahan/Gaudreau umbrella of “we can expect him to shoot more, and therefore, potentially score more”.

  • mk

    It would be interesting to use a more detailed ‘expected goals’ as a team. Rather than using the league-average shooting percentage (in other words, the league average SV%) – break down the expected goals by shots vs. specific goaltenders and their career SV%.

    Similar to breaking our players down individually by their career S%, break down the team’s performance vs. the ‘tenders they’ve faced so far this season. Playing Edmonton & their terrible goalies/system HAS to mean that a slightly higher S% is sustainable.

    Thoughts?

  • Section205

    Great article. Refreshing!

    I would add that we expect power play shooting percentage should be much higher (approx 13%) than 5on5 shooting percentage (approx 8%)

    Our top guys get tons of PP shots and PP goals which boosts their overall shooting percentage.

    Our smaller speedy skill guys (and their linemateslike Monahan) should excel on PP and 4-on-4, which they do.