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Mitch Marner shoots, he scores

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Everyone is talking about Mitch Marner’s shooting.

NHL: JAN 26 Maple Leafs at Flames Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We start here:

This was fun. Not only was it fun, it sealed a win that seemed in danger of slipping away.

And now, everyone is talking about Marner shooting more. It’s weird how multiple media outlets all latch onto the same little factoid and run with it. It’s almost like... no, never mind that, I’m sure it’s coincidence. Here’s something more interesting.

We can thank Norman Mailer for the word factoid; he coined the term in his 1973 book Marilyn, about Marilyn Monroe. In the book, Mailer explains that factoids are “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority.” In creating his coinage, Mailer relied on “-oid,” a suffix that traces back to the ancient Greek word eidos, meaning “appearance” or “form.” Mailer followed in a long tradition when he chose “-oid”; English speakers have been making words from “-oid” since at least the late 16th century.

Over the years, factoid has come to mean small or trivial fact. But it started out meaning something that didn’t even need to be true, but was there to make you feel the way the media wanted you to feel.

You need to feel good about Mitch Marner shooting, and not just when you watch that video. But is he? Shooting more or better? Let’s find out.

We begin our journey into Marner’s shooting with how often he chooses to let go of the puck in a way that isn’t a pass. The puck is on his stick and he shoots it in the direction of the net. This is Individual Corsi For (iCF). Over his career his rate per 60 minutes at all-situations is:

  • 16-17 - 15.07
  • 17-18 - 17.81
  • 18-19 - 16.61
  • 19-20 - 13.07
  • 20-21 - 11.15

All numbers are from Evolving Hockey.

All-situations going to be impacted by power play strategy. So, his five-on-five might mean more:

  • 16-17 - 13.44
  • 17-18 - 14.55
  • 18-19 - 15.29
  • 19-20 - 12.11
  • 20-21 - 10.9

That is very much not more shooting.

But what if in a very few games, the Leafs as a whole are shooting less? This is a good question, and the answer is, they are. At all-situations, their average Corsi For per 60 minutes for the years 2016 through to last season’s end is: 61.91. This year so far it is 57.37.

The team’s all-situation’s shooting is 7% below average, and Marner’s is 29% lower than his own average of four prior seasons. That’s not a way to call it more either.

Okay, what if he’s taking a bigger percentage of the shots when he’s on the ice?

The easiest way to find that is here:

You see Marner there at something less than 15%. You can look up all the rest, but last year he was at about 18%, and in 2018-2019, he was over 20%.

He’s not shooting more.

Let’s try focusing on shooting better, and see if that puts some fact in this factoid. If you are the sort that thinks goals are the pure marker of skill, then you’ll like this next part:

His all-situations career shooting percentage (% of SOG that are goals) is:

  • 16-17 - 10.8
  • 17-18 - 11.34
  • 18-19 - 11.26
  • 19-20 - 10.39
  • 20-21 - 31.25

Wow! He’s got way better. The interesting thing about Marner is his uncharacteristic consistency in shooting percentage over his career. It hovers around 11, which is very good for a forward, but not elite. Auston Matthews’ shooting percentage fluctuates between 13 and 18. He’s at 13 this season so far. That’s elite. His shot rate fluctuates between 17 and 21 iCF/60, and that’s also elite. He’s at 21 so far this year.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but 31% on 16 total SOG so far is not something that will persist. Nor is it a sign of improvement.

A glance at the expected shooting percentage shows Marner’s is at 11% this year (measured on Fenwick as all xG values are) but his actual Fenwick shooting percentage (% of all unblocked shots that are goals) is 22.73%. His expected number is usually around 6-8, and his actual fluctuates between the expected to a little bit higher. In other words, Mitch Marner takes better than average shots for a forward by a bit, and shoots better than an average shooter by a bit. He’s a good forward whose shooting is a really good top-up to his other skills. It’s not the point of his game, however.

When there’s a lot more than 16 shots on goal to judge from, we can tell if he’s having a good shooting year or not. But beware when the talk turns to a guy shooting better when he’s just scored a fun goal and happens to have a gigantic early season shooting percentage. (While the team’s overall offence is struggling in places.)

This is a factoid, not a fact, and its purpose is to make you feel like Marner is trying hard to be a better forward than he was last year.

This is also fun: