"Put it on net and good things happen" they say, or at least good things happen about 10.83% of the time for forwards who played at least 20 games in the 2010-2011 season. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there is a strong correlation between shots and goals - it's hard to score without shooting the puck now that Toskala has been laughed out of the NHL.
Following up from a previous fanpost about Kulemin, I wanted to use the factors there to see what 2011/2012 has in store for the Leafs Top 9 (10 if you include Lombardi). Read on to see why I think Grabovski has a shot at 30 goals next season but Kulemin doesn't. And yes, there's math involved - but also graphs!
Essentially what I realized after my previous post is that goal predictions can be hard. There are too many variables in play during the course of a hockey season to compensate for all of them - powerplays drawn/taken, unforeseeable injuries, linemate changes, mid-season trades, wild shooting %s, too many to count.
That's why for the purposes of this work, I'm going to stick to 2 factors (Shots and Ice-time) and hold everything else constant (including shooting % as career sh%). Shots and ice-time seem to be easier to predict as, generally speaking, a player's shooting style and ice-time follow a pattern that doesn't dramatically change unless a player is traded, a coaching change is made, or a player is injured. It will become clear what I mean below.
Regardless of what you think of using shots as a predictor for goalscoring, the charts are interesting to see the pattern of behavior our players exhibit while on the ice.
Line 1A: Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel (or the "LuCK" line)
I won't waste words on long-winded descriptions of what are obvious patterns to the naked eye. Simply speaking, plotted below are the 30-game moving averages of each players' career average TOI and shots/game. The coloured dotted lines represent the career averages for each, and the dotted black line represents
a logarithmic trend line of their shots/game for no other purpose other than showing the player's general shot pattern the linear shooting trend per season.
Phil Kessel loves to shoot, and ever since he's come to Toronto, he's done just that. Ranked 3rd in the league in terms of absolute # of shots, Kessel is getting every opportunity to score with regard to TOI and shooting the hell out of the ice when he's on it. What's good about this is that it is relatively easy to predict the range of total shots and apply his career sh% to come up with an estimation for his goal output.
Joffrey Lupul has been the victim of a number of trades over the years, with of course the running joke being that you need to have him on your team if you want to acquire Pronger. Health issues aside, Lupul has been fairly consistent from a shots perspective given his ice-time. The chart above shows how most times that he was traded, he was given more ice-time and as a result, his shot count per game went up, and we can see the initial workings of the same thing happening in Toronto. However, it always seems that he gets bumped down the depth chart due to injuries or other players outplaying him.
Overall his shot count seems to move proportionally to his ice-time, so his final output may have as much to do with how Ron Wilson plays him as anything else.
Now the above graph seems a bit unfair to Connolly as he is generally regarded as a playmaker, not a shooter, and that shines through with the relatively low # of shots compared to his ice-time. The shot trend is positive but I wouldn't be pencilling Connolly in for 25+ goals anytime soon - he's more likely to get 50 assists with Kessel as the finisher.
Line 1B: Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin (or the "MaGK" (magic) line)
Clarke MacArthur, T.O.'s diamond-in-the-rough UFA signing in the summer of 09/10, is showing he can play with the big boys. You can see above how underutilized he was in Buffalo, playing on average 13.7 per game, and finally flourished when given the opportunity to play with some great linemates in Kulemin and Grabovski, earning 16.9 minutes per night. His shot count has gone up proportionally with his ice-time, but much like Connolly, MacArthur is getting most of his points in assists as a playmaker for Kule-Aid and Grabbo.
If there's another player on the Leafs that can hit 30+ Goals next year, it's Grabovski. The trend above is almost beautiful to see how he's developed his shooting game. Grabbo is earning his ice-time by being a legitimate scoring threat every time he steps on the ice. If he keeps this up or - dare I ask too much - continues to take his game to the next level, the Leafs could have something really special in Grabbo.
Based on commentary from the other Leafs above, you may already be able to guess why I don't think Kulemin will repeat 30 goals next season. Yes, Kulemin's shot count increased in 2010/2011, but it increased proportionally with extra TOI. In fact, his shots/60 minutes was only slightly above his career average last season, suggesting that for the amount of time he was on the ice, he wasn't shooting any more than he always has, but instead shooting BETTER at 17.3%. I don't think we need to reopen the debate on whether a previously career 11% shooter repeating 17.3% in back to back seasons is a likely outcome.
Line 3: Nazem Kadri - Tyler Bozak/Matthew Lombardi - Colby Armstrong (or the "BLAK" line?)
By this point in the forward depth chart, these charts become less informative from a prediction standpoint. Clearly Colby's shot chart screams 3rd liner if I ever saw one, which is fine - he knows his role and plays it well (when healthy). Mediocre ice time, low # of shots, and doesn't look like that's going to pick up in the near future. But his role isn't to be shooting the lights out or putting up hat tricks, he's there to be a hard-checking forward making the opposition's job hard, and maybe drawing a few penalties.
I mostly included this for completeness sake more than anything, as I don't think we can reasonably expect Lombardi to be the same player the next time he steps back on the ice. It is interesting to see that he had all the makings from a shots and TOI standpoint to be a legit top 6 forward. Obviously concussions are scary things - we have no idea what kind of player he will be if & when he ever returns from injury.
Truthfully I just wanted to include another reminder of the Lombardi+Franson for Lebda trade.
Note: Due to limited # of games played, I used a 10-game Moving Average for Bozak and Kadri.
As if I needed another way to show that Bozak doesn't look like Top 6 material, here it is. Lots of ice time, low shots, no clear indication that anything is changing in that department. And yes, yes I know he's more of a playmaker than a shooter, but even playmakers shoot a hell of a lot more than this. Based on how he'll probably be slot in next year, we'll probably see a similar or slightly lower shots per game combined with much lower average TOI per game. I hope for Bozak's sake that he manages to find his role on the team - be it 3rd line, PK guy or somehow proving me wrong by making his way back into the top 6. He'll need to do a lot more of this. And this.
While Kadri's chart clearly has the least amount of information because of the small sample size of NHL games, it does show one cool thing that confirms what our eyes saw - he looked and performed MUCH better on his 2nd callup than his 1st. Trending positively, he was shooting more and more as the season went on. The ~14mins of ice-time he was seeing near the end of the year may or may not be an indication of what he'll see in a 3rd line role next year, it's pretty hard to be definitive based on 29 points of data.
Shots per 60 minutes - How do the Leafs compare once ice-time is accounted for?
I debated including this one or not, as it's a bit ugly with so many lines overlapping. And don't ask me about those points that fly off into nowhere or to zero, I couldn't get rid of them. I also just realized I forgot Lombardi.
The key take-away here is the descending order and severity in which our shooters are currently ordered: Kessel by a mile, followed by Lupul, then Grabovski by a nose over Connolly, then Kadri and MacArthur basically neck and neck, and Armstrong then Bozak rounding out the lowest # of shots per 60 minutes.
Connolly and Lupul are interesting cases as they both appear to shoot a fair amount when on the ice - is the Kessel line going to be a shooting gallery next year? Another note: clearly shots aren't the only thing that drives success, as the trio of Grabbo, Kulemin and MacArthur are relatively low on the graph, yet dominated the opposition and almost averaged 60 points each.
Well that was cool - but what does it mean?
Truthfully? Probably not much. The history of how a player has shot doesn't necessarily mean it's how he will in the future - see Grabovski for instance, who has improved his shots/game consistently since he came into the league. Yet it's hard to ignore some basic patterns exist for players that experience goal-scoring success.
Last but not least, predictions using the above data. In general, I used trailing 82-game averages for TOI and Shots/60 minutes combined with their career shooting %s to generate a G/game figure. It should be noted that not all G/82 predictions will hold up because it's unlikely we'll be that lucky again with injuries, and also unlikely 10 players will fit into the top 9 - so if it helps you sleep at night, imagine the 3rd C role being 50% Bozak and 50% Lombardi. Also let's face it, Connolly and Lupul are each going to get hurt for a good 1/3rd of the season.
- Due to Bozak's role change from 1st line to 3rd line and the likelihood that if and when Lombardi returns it will be with reduced minutes, I used fellow 3rd liner Colby Armstrong's trailing 82-game TOI average.
- With Lupul and Connolly joining the 1st line, it seems logical to set their ice-time equal to Kessel's rather than their trailing 82 game TOI, as mostly that was affected by being in a different role on a different team most/all of last year.
- Oh I also doubled Kadri's Sh% because 5.88% is ridiculous.
Expected G/Game Output (as well as projected for 82):
Glove tab to the always-awesome Hockey-Reference for their spectacular hockey data library.
Lastly, I dedicate this post to Chaim Weisswasser. Congrats on winning that phone.
All Data used in the above analysis here.