Is Jiri Hudler a perimeter player?

If read Pat Steinberg’s piece on Jiri Hudler’s decline last week – and if you didn’t, here’s a link, get to it – you might have had the same question come to mind that I did: “Hey, why is Jiri Hudler’s shooting percentage so much lower than last year?”

The obvious answers are: (a) he got a whole lot worse at shooting or (b) he’s taking worse shots than he was last year. I had some time on my hands, so I did some digging. The short answer is that it’s a bit of both, and a great deal of it comes from the fact that Hudler has become a perimeter player almost overnight. (Or at least over the summer.)

THE EVIDENCE

For the visual learners in the audience, I have a few nifty charts for you.

First, from our friends at Sporting Charts, the heat charts for Hudler’s even-strength shooting this season and last season. Redder and yellower means he shot from there more frequently.

As you can see, he’s barely getting into the slot to shoot this season.

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 3.14.32 PM

And for giggles, here’s something similar from our friends at War-On-Ice. Rather than looking at his own frequency, this is a look at how often Hudler shoots from the various areas of the ice relative to the league average.

THIS SEASON:

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 6.43.17 PM

LAST SEASON:

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 6.51.12 PM

What do these charts tell us? Hudler’s shooting less often from every area of the ice relative to the league than he was last year, but there’s a notable massive correction in how often he shoots from the slot.

And all the charts taken together say that he’s shooting less often and when he does it’s from the lower-percentage parts of the ice. For comparison’s sake, he had 158 shots last season (2.02 per game) in all situations and this season he’s averaging 1.45 per game.

SCORING CHANCES

Before we dive in, some definitions.

  • Scoring Chances: Only some shot attempts from the periphery, most shot attempts from the mid-areas, and all shots attempts from the slot.
  • High-Danger Scoring Chances: Any shot attempt from the slot.

Listed here are the Individual Scoring Chances (and High-Danger Scoring Chances) credited to each player, via War-On-Ice:

Player iSC iHSC
Sean Monahan 98 35
Johnny Gaudreau 89 37
Sam Bennett 86 47
Michael Frolik 73 25
David Jones 68 39
Mikael Backlund 66 25
Micheal Ferland 49 26
Mark Giordano 46 4
Dougie Hamilton 40 7
Matt Stajan 40 23
Joe Colborne 39 23
Jiri Hudler 39 21
Granlund 36 15

This season, Hudler is the 12th-best Flame in terms of all Scoring Chances (behind nine forwards, plus Giordano and Hamilton) and he’s the 10th-best Flame in terms of High-Danger Chances. Last season, by the same measures, he was third in Scoring Chances (behind just Gaudreau and Monahan) and fifth in High-Danger Chances (behind Gaudreau, Monahan, Jones and Bouma).

So not only is he sticking far to the outside in terms of shots and scoring chances relative to the league, he’s doing so relative to the team, too, so any defenses of “Oh, but the whole team is a bit worse!” are flat-out wrong.

SUM IT UP

Why is Jiri Hudler’s shooting percentage so much worse than last season? Because he’s a perimeter player. He’s shooting a lot less than last season, and when he does he’s staying to the outside so the shots are a lot less likely to go in.

  • RedMan

    But the more important question is why? How do you go from what he was last year to this? Many have speculated about the RR hit from game 81 last year, to maybe there is an underlying nagging injury which even further hinders his skill set, to personal issues to who knows what. Maybe the flames need to bring a hypnotist to get him back to playing the way he did last year.

    The other question is how far away is he from his average seasons? Are we expecting too much from him; last year being the exception not the rule for him. Remember Cammi was not exactly lighting it up before the trade deadline 2 years ago and then suddenly he got it going. Also can anyone tell me how Hudler’s season broke down last year, did he not go on a run in the second half last year?

    What we have to hope is that he shows enough between now and the trade deadline that we can move him for prospects or a decent draft pick or part of a meaningful deal.

    • aflame13

      Yea, knowing why he’s a “perimeter player” this year and taken such a huge step back from last year would be most interesting. We all know last year was a career year for him and it had to do with playing with Johnny and Sean, but this isn’t a regression to his mean as far as his shooting goes. It’s below that.

  • Canrock 78

    The beating he took from RR last year showed his weakness then he became ineffective. My thoughts are, he has lost confidence to go into those areas as well as other defence men know how to play him.

    The flames are not under anyone’s radar, teams look to shut down the top line. Hopefully with our second line going good now maybe the focused wont just be on the top line. This might allow Jiri to help the top line out build his confidence up and as CP said maybe we can some value at the TDL. I don’t believe he has the intestinal fortitude to be a key piece going foreward.

  • KACaribou

    This was really good Ryan.

    Jiri never shoots comparatively because he never has the puck this season. As soon as he has it, he’s distributing it.

    Yes it is a quandary.

  • hulkingloooooob

    Actually, the answer is quite simple really, Johnny G! It’s that simple. if you are on a line with that buzzing bee, he runs around and distracts people, then sets you up in front of the net with a tap in. That more then anything will bump your shooting percentage. And that more then anything is the difference with Hudler this year. (though even when he has been on the top line, he hasn’t been as good)

    Brings me to another thought, as others have mentioned. Yes, Johnny is a stats bumper. You are better off playing with him then without, so when do we try Mony without Johnny? Otherwise, do we really know what we are getting into when we go to negotiate that contract? I’d like to see him on a line with Frolik for a good 20 games or so. I think he could learn a lot from that experience and so could we.

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      These are ail good points. I would go as far as to say that Johnny likely built unreasonable expectations for ex college linemates like Hayes in the NHL.

      • hulkingloooooob

        I think you are correct. Furthermore, I think Hudler benefitted from being on Johnny’s line when he was still an unknown commodity. Teams didn’t know what to expect like they do now and as a result it’s become increasingly important that his line have a RW who can cause a little havoc and win some board battles. It actually baffled me how long the top line lasted with Hudler at RW. the line was surprisingly soft along the walls but still got all those points. I don’t think that will happen the same way again now that the NHL knows Johnny Hockey.

  • RedMan

    As I was out walking the dog(intentional play on words) I was thinking about Hudler and I began thinking about Smid injury last year and was wondering if Jiri has an underlying injury that we are unaware of. Maybe like Smid last year he is trying to play through something and might be better off getting it dealt with. I for one thought Smid was done yet I have been happily surprised by his game most nights.

  • hulkingloooooob

    He’s hurting, and he’s playing himself into a KHL contract next season. If the Flames know what’s ailing him they must be hoping it’s nothing permanent and they’re looking for a discount, short term re-sign for next year. If he doesn’t heal up and rebound soon , he’ll be on the outside (KHL)looking in. Darn shame.