Buyer Beware: High Shooting Percentage

            Every season, there are players who post unusually high shooting percentages that aren't true reflections of their shooting talent as hockey players. JLikens of Objective NHL showed that in 08/09 the average NHL team shooting percentage (at even strength - important) was 8.5. Furthermore, QuantHockey.com has the average shooting percentage for each season since the mid-sixties; with 2010-2011 coming in at 8.99 for the regular season. Now, just for the record, Forwards do shoot higher than D-men (10.45% v. 4.85% in 10/11); but this should be expected as they get more (but not necessarily better - shot quality is a debated topic in advanced hockey stats) scoring chances and typically are also better shooters.

            How does this apply to fantasy hockey? Very simple: just know the mean for the league, and trust that the mean does prevail more times than not (but especially over a career - which you can see here). Mix that with making sure his other numbers don't seem to out of whack, and you're golden. I've got a few decent examples for this coming season after the jump of players I doubt will continue their high shooting percentages from last season.

Note: All data taken from behindthenet.ca (specifically this page for this article). Also, there is a poll after the jump, so at least read the last paragraph.

  • Milan Lucic - Career shooting %: 8.935 - 2010/11 %: 10.71

So, Milan had a good year...thirty goals; nothing can bring him down, right? Hang on, because he did the same thing in 08/09 in a breakout, 17 goal season, only to fall back to earth the next (he still played 50 games despite injuries). His career-shooting % puts him below average at all playing conditions, and last season he was just above average for forwards. I'm not saying he wont have a decent season, as all his corsi numbers check out, but 30+ goals? Not quite; I'm saying 18-24.

Now, I'm not trying to be a bitter Ranger fan here, as Lauri had a nice breakout 19-goal and 40-point season for the Yotes. But there is not a chance that he was the 8th best shooter in the league (in terms of SH% - min 30 GP) last season. His first two seasons with NYR and Phoenix saw him shoot under 7% in limited duty but over a full season. Since he was given a shot with solid 3rd line minutes, I wouldn't expect his % to drop that far, but I doubt he'll sustain this fantastic level of shooting (my rule of thumb: over 10% and I'm weary - unless it's a proven elite shooter). While Korpikoski won't be much of an impact in one-year leagues - he's been one to keep an eye on in deeper ones; so if he's got value in your league - ship him while you can because despite the fact he'll get a top-six shot this season, fact is he probably won't take the next step quite yet.

I don't believe that these guys will dip off as much as Lucic or Korpikoski in goals, mostly because of mixed histories and certain numbers looking better than the two above. Hartnell has a similar condition to Lucic with alternating really good shooting years, so a heads up there. Backes turned 27 back in May (players peak around 26) so while he had a great year he really shot up from his previous 3 year average of 8.94% to 11.29% last season - all against top-line competition. Skinner is a wild card - he may be a top 20 shooting talent (12th last season (same min. 30 GP) - 10.97%), but he did that against below-average competition in a somewhat-protected offensive role, so watch out. And finally, Tanguay and Morrow were two vets who played with very good players (Richards and Iginia, respectively) while being the "third wheel" on their lines - so I doubt their sudden surge in SH% indicates they suddenly are improving.

Is this a perfect science? Far from it; but if you click on this link and replace the name in the browser bar with any one of those above (in all-caps); you can see how shooting percentage fluctuates from year to year and how point totals (and more importantly, goals) go right along with it for the most part. Some are really consistent, which is good and bad, but that's why they're not mentioned. In the end, these are NHL players that have honed their shots for years - if suddenly their SH% goes up its not because their talent level went up; its because they got used in a new situation or they just got really lucky for a season. That stuff happens, and that's why it all regresses to the mean over time.

On a side note, I'd like to add a poll and have you guys vote as to whether or not the readers need a manual (so to speak) on the numbers I'm using to describe these guys. I'll let the voting decide that. Thanks and lets hear some feedback.

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