Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gorging On Shooting Stats

The other day I read that Josh Gorges better look out at arbitration, because he is in fact the worst defenceman in the entire league at putting shots on net – or at least he was last season.

The stats compiled by Scott Cullen at TSN rely on two statistics – shots on goal and missed shots. Add them together and one can get an idea of how many shots released by a player actually hit the net. Josh Gorges was the worst Dman in the league with a meager 51.3% of his shots actually hitting the net. I’m not sure this will really be the breaking point for Gorges, however, as he only directed 39 shots on or off the net anyway.

Still, the article did inspire me to delve a little deeper into the stats I collected this past season. For your summertime pleasure, then, I present a look into chances, shots and attempts for the 2010-11 Montreal Canadiens (regular season).

Shots on net

Credit to Scott Cullen for a good topical subject. To go further, however, I am going to look at all shots (not just the ones recorded on the NHL’s main page) from the season, including those that were blocked by defenders.
Sadly for Josh Gorges, the news gets worse. When we factor in his 23 blocked attempts, we actually find that he only got 32% of the shots released from his stick on net. I don’t know how the NHL stacks up in this regard, but I can tell you only Andreas Engqvist was worse on the Habs, and he only had 4 attempts.

% shots/attempt

Top tier (>60%): Moen (72%), Lapierre, White, Desharnais, Pouliot

Second tier (51-60%): Dawes, O’Byrne, Pacioretty, Mara, Darche, Gionta, Plekanec, Gomez, Cammalleri, Halpern, Pyatt, Markov, Kostitsyn, Subban

Third tier (41-50%): Palushaj, Nash, Wisniewski, Hamrlik, Eller, Gill, Picard, Boyd

Bottom tier (<40%): Weber, Spacek, Sopel, Gorges, Engqvist (25%)

From this data, I think we can infer a few things. First, forwards have clearer sightlines and so generally convert more of their attempts into shots on net. Second, getting shots on net is not really a great measure of player quality (sorry, Scott Cullen). I think we all watched enough of Travis Moen, Maxim Lapierre and Ryan White to know we’d rather see a few missed shots if it means a player who is actually capable of beating a goalie can have the puck on his stick once in a while.

Chances on net

Just as a blocked shot or a missed shot may be a waste, so too could an ill-advised shot from a bad angle, a low percentage shot.
Thanks to Olivier at En Attendant les Nordiques we now have two seasons worth of analysis on which shots came from dangerous positions.

% chances/attempt

Outlier (>50%): Palushaj (67%)

Top tier (41-50%): Kostitsyn, Cammalleri, Moen, Lapierre, Plekanec, Darche, Desharnais, Eller, Gionta, Pouliot

Second tier (31-40%): Dawes, Halpern, Pacioretty, Gomez, Boyd

Third tier (21-30%): White, Pyatt, Engqvist, Markov

Fourth tier (11-20%): Wisniewski, Subban, Picard

Bottom tier (1-10%): Hamrlik, Gorges, Weber, Gill, Spacek

No chances (0%) Sopel, Mara, Nash, O’Byrne

Kostitsyn and Cammalleri’s presence at second and third is telling because most think of those two as the best pure shooters on the team. Given that a scoring chance in Olivier’s analysis is defined as an attempt (on net, missed or blocked) from a dangerous area, this data shows how these two guys excel at getting in position (or at least in not shooting from bad positions).

Defencemen don’t have the same opportunity to get into “chance” territory. But consider that 22% of Andrei Markov’s attempts were scoring chances … positioning again, and we can just see the PP pinch.

Chances needed to score

A common exclamation in my household is: “How many chances does this guy need to be fed to put one in?” The mark of a scorer is reliability in good positions. But like shooting percentage, this stat gives insight into the luck (good or bad) that was at play as well.


Top tier (<5): Jeff Halpern (3.73), Subban, Wisniewski, Desharnais, Picard, Gill, Pacioretty

Second tier (5-10): Gorges, Darche, Hamrlik, Boyd, White, Pouliot, Gionta, Plekanec, Markov, Cammalleri, Kostitsyn, Lapierre, Eller

Bottom tier (>10): Moen, Spacek, Gomez, Weber, Pyatt (17.00)

Conspicuous in these lists are players at the top and bottom that are no longer around: Pyatt for his utter futility around the net given good chances and Halpern, Picard and Wisniewski based on the bet they might never replicate this form. Gomez too should be ashamed of his presence on this list, as it’s hard to blame everyone else for one’s poor stats when one take nearly 13 chances to score a goal.

Chance creation while on ice

In fairness to Josh Gorges, his job when he’s on the ice is not shot or chance creation. In fact, when he’s on the ice as part of a 5-man unit, he is usually the 5th (sometimes the 4th) player responsible for that aspect of the game.

To evaluate Gorges contribution to offense is difficult. Really it is about how he creates space for his teammates through quick and crisp defensive play and transition. Of course, there’s not one measure of this. If there were, we wouldn’t need to waste our time with things like Corsi.

One measure that comes close to this is zone shift. Unfortunately, I don’t track that. So my proxy for this activity today will be percentage of attempts that are scored as scoring chances while a player is on the ice – the idea being that each player is ultimately driving to create scoring with his team unit and avoid non-chances, so this percentage gives one look into the quest.


Top tier (>50%): Cammalleri (54%)

Second tier (41-50%): Plekanec, Wisniewski, Kostitsyn, Gionta, Subban, Markov

Third tier (31-40%): Desharnais, Gomez, Hamrlik, Darche, Pacioretty, Weber, Gorges, Spacek, Gill, Picard, Moen, Sopel, Lapierre

Fourth tier (21-30%): Boyd, Halpern, Mara, Pouliot, Pyatt, Eller, White, Palushaj

Bottom tier (<20%): O’Byrne, Nash, Dawes, Engqvist (8%)

Maybe it’s the way we watch the game, but it’s uncanny how this list pans out. I think of Cammalleri as really the only undisputed star on the Habs, and there I he is, miles ahead. The next tier lists the guys I would say have better than average offensive instincts. That fourth tier has a lot of “steer clears”.

The big surprise (though obviously not to Habs management) is Pouliot. While he ranked highly in converting his own attempts into scoring chances, it seems those he played with were simply bad. Apparently management didn’t think his hands were clean in this debacle.

This look into shots is no more definitive than Scott Cullen's work, but it does at least give Josh Gorges a little bit of hope. It appears from this at least that shots/attempt is the area in which he performed worst last season. In fact, in some of the other areas he did quite well. And to vindicate management decisions here, he does appear to be better than Mara, Sopel and some of the other former Habs.

Apart from Gorges, there's more insights, I'm sure. Cammalleri looks good in most lists and Markov looks the class at the back end. So at least logic isn't defied. Further than this, I'll leave the conclusions to you all.

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