Nik Kulemin and the 30 goal plateau

Nikolai Kulemin scored 30 goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, a figure that was good enough for twenty-ninth in the NHL. The young Russian was even better at even strength, finishing twelfth in the NHL with 24 5v5 goals. It should go without saying that those are excellent numbers, especially for a twenty-four year old in only his third NHL season. Kulemin's 2010-2011 season was fantastic. He's going to be a very good hockey player for years to come. And it's incredibly unlikely that he'll repeat last season's statistical performance.

Some of you already know why Kulemin is facing an uphill battle. For those who don't, it all comes back to last season's shooting percentage (the percentage of shots taken which result in goals). This statistic is not what the hockey community would consider an "advanced stat". Every major website, including NHL.com, keeps track of this figure for each player (referred to as "SH%" from here on). So if you're reading this and thinking to yourself "this is why I hate advanced stats", then you really have no clue as to what you're talking about.

 

Continued after the jump...

Kulemin's numbers were great last season. His SH% was 17.3% in all, including an incredible 17.8% at even strength.  Among players who scored at least 20 5v5 goals last year (thirty-three players qualify), Kulemin had the fourth best SH%.  In fact, only eight players in the league had at least 20 5v5 goals and a SH% of 15%.  These types of performances are what I would label a "super efficient" season from a player.

But how would Kulemin's season compare to other performances over the past four NHL seasons? To find out, Gabe Desjardins' wonderful Behind the Net site was used to create a list of comparable seasons. The only restrictions were that players had to have scored at least 20 5v5 goals, played in at least 40 games, and scored on at least 15% of their shots. Using these conditions, the following player performances came up:

 

Season Player Name Team GP G SV shots S%
2010-2011 Stamkos, Steven T.B 82 27 150 15.3
2010-2011 Skinner, Jeff CAR 82 25 134 15.7
2010-2011 Lucic, Milan BOS 79 25 109 18.7
2010-2011 Backes, David STL 82 25 139 15.2
2010-2011 Kulemin, Nik TOR 82 24 111 17.8
2010-2011 Burrows, Alex VAN 72 24 106 18.5
2010-2011 Morrow, Brendan DAL 82 22 114 16.2
2010-2011 Crosby, Sidney PIT 41 20 86 18.9
2009-2010 Crosby, Sidney PIT 81 34 168 16.8
2009-2010 Kovalchuk, Ilya N.J 76 29 153 15.9
2009-2010 Knuble, Mike WSH 69 23 101 18.5
2009-2010 Penner, Dustin EDM 82 23 121 16.0
2009-2010 Sedin, Henrik VAN 82 22 103 17.6
2009-2010 Jokinen, Jussi CAR 81 20 87 18.7
2008-2009 Kovalchuk, Ilya ATL 79 29 128 18.5
2008-2009 Arnott, Jason NSH 65 24 95 20.2
2008-2009 Heatley, Dany OTT 82 24 129 15.7
2008-2009 Eriksson, Louie DAL 82 24 105 18.6
2008-2009 Backes, David STL 82 23 129 15.1
2008-2009 Burrows, Alex VAN 82 22 125 15.0
2008-2009 Toews, Jonathan CHI 82 21 105 16.7
2008-2009 Bourque, Rene CGY 58 20 105 16.0
2008-2009 Staal, Jordan PIT 82 20 98 16.9
2007-2008 Kovalchuk, Ilya ATL 79 32 116 21.6
2007-2008 Boyes, Brad STL 82 30 108 21.7
2007-2008 Malkin, Evgeni PIT 82 30 141 17.5
2007-2008 Heatley, Dany OTT 71 26 124 17.3
2007-2008 Alfredsson, Daniel OTT 70 23 96 19.3
2007-2008 Roy, Derek BUF 78 22 125 15.0
2007-2008 Svatos, Marek COL 62 21 89 19.1
2007-2008 Stastny, Paul COL 66 21 78 21.2







Averages:

76 24 115 17.6

 

As you can see, there's only thirty-one different names over four NHL seasons. Only five of those names are repeated. This suggests that it's incredibly difficult to follow up one of these "super efficient" seasons with another. As it turns out, it's damn near impossible.  Here's a table showing the following season for every one of these players from 2007-08 to 2009-10 (obviously this cannot be done for the most recent group of players):

 

Following Season Player Name Team GP G SV shots S%
2010-2011 Crosby, Sidney PIT 41 20 86 18.9
2010-2011 Kovalchuk, Ilya N.J 81 20 144 12.2
2010-2011 Knuble, Mike WSH 79 15 147 9.3
2010-2011 Penner, Dustin LA/EDM 81 16 116 12.1
2010-2011 Sedin, Henrik VAN 82 10 106 8.6
2010-2011 Jokinen, Jussi CAR 70 10 82 10.9
2009-2010 Kovalchuk, Ilya ATL 76 29 153 15.9
2009-2010 Arnott, Jason NSH 63 13 137 8.7
2009-2010 Heatley, Dany OTT 82 17 162 9.5
2009-2010 Eriksson, Louie DAL 82 20 134 13.0
2009-2010 Backes, David STL 79 11 106 9.4
2009-2010 Burrows, Alex VAN 82 25 150 14.3
2009-2010 Toews, Jonathan CHI 76 14 116 10.8
2009-2010 Bourque, Rene CGY 73 17 139 10.9
2009-2010 Staal, Jordan PIT 82 17 131 11.5
2008-2009 Kovalchuk, Ilya ATL 79 29 128 18.5
2008-2009 Boyes, Brad STL 82 15 122 10.9
2008-2009 Malkin, Evgeni PIT 82 16 138 10.4
2008-2009 Heatley, Dany OTT 82 24 129 15.7
2008-2009 Alfredsson, Daniel OTT 79 14 106 11.7
2008-2009 Roy, Derek BUF 82 16 119 11.9
2008-2009 Svatos, Marek COL 69 8 95 7.8
2008-2009 Stastny, Paul COL 45 4 73 5.2







Averages:

75 17 123 11.6

 

Ouch.  Only three players were able to produce back to back results.  The 20 goal plateau was only reached seven times.  Follow-up seasons average seven less 5v5 goals, eight more saved shots, and a 34% decrease in SH%.  Applying these numbers to Nik Kulemin's 2010-2011 season doesn't paint a wondrous picture for the fall.  Kulemin's projected numbers, based upon comparable players from 2007 to 2010, yield a significant drop from 2010-2011: 17 G, 119 saved shots, and 11.8 SH%.  When you consider he's likely to score an addition 6-8 times on special teams, the Leafs will still have a solid, young 25 goal scorer.  But his numbers last season were not solely a result of Nik Kulemin becoming a better hockey player.  There was a significant amount of luck involved in his scoring success rate, a trend that's not likely to continue when you consider the historical comparisons.

 

Let's be clear: these numbers are not binding.  It is possible to repeat a "super efficient" performance.  I doubt there's a Leaf fan reading this story who doesn't hope Kulemin pots 30 again.  Just remember that when someone talks about expected regression from Kulemin, they're not saying he's going to become a worse hockey player.  They're saying that his numbers were so special last season that it's going be extremely tough to reproduce them.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Pension Plan Puppets

You must be a member of Pension Plan Puppets to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Pension Plan Puppets. You should read them.

Join Pension Plan Puppets

You must be a member of Pension Plan Puppets to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Pension Plan Puppets. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker