NHL

Cullen: Shot differentials can support change in production

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Scott Cullen
12/16/2013 6:17:13 PM
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Part of handling fantasy advice, when it comes to the NHL, is answering inevitable questions about whether a certain player will bounce back or keep up his current pace.

One of the first things I want to do is find out whether or not a player is getting chances and one of the first places I'll look is to shots on goal per game. For some players, this can be revealing of a change in role -- more ice time, better linemates, power play time, whatever -- and an indication that, indeed, that offensive breakout is supported by underlying stats or, on the other hand, that there is jusfication for lowering expectations.

Comparing last season to the current season, I picked out 114 players that have played at least 10 games in each season and had more than a half-shot-per-game difference, either positively or negatively. Some of these players played little bits in either season, which present sample size issues (for example, Erik Karlsson's 4.65 shots on goal per game in 17 games last year was going to be crazy difficult to maintain over a larger sample of games), but the indicator is the objective here -- finding out whether the change in production might be supported by taking a step further back to gauge shots generated.

Among those recording the largest per-game increases, David Perron, Chris Kreider and Ryan Kesler have been tremendous contributors to their teams, but scanning through the list, players like Mike Santorelli, Jaden Schwartz, Andrej Sekera, Jason Garrison and Alex Ovechkin are among those whose improved production is supported by their increased shot output.

Perron has been even better than expected for the Oilers, and has been one of their leaders lately, but he's generating far more than he ever did in St. Louis. Santorelli and Schwartz are playing more significant roles this season (Schwartz in part because of Perron's departure), while Sekera has been asked to handle more puckhandling responsibility on Carolina's shallow blueline. Ovechkin is back to launching shots at the rate that made him the game's premier goal-scorer.

On the other hand, there are players that have struggled to this point in the year and their shot numbers suggest that's to be expected. David Clarkson, Matt Moulson, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty are among those forwards to see the biggest declines in their shots per game compared to last season. No surprise, then, that their goal and point production is down too.

The move to Buffalo has not been kind to Matt Moulson and David Clarkson's decision to sign in Toronto has come with some pains as he has been suspended for a dozen games and, due to injuries, hasn't established a steady combination of linemates. Semin and Tlusty were part of one of the league's best lines last season, with Eric Staal, but Staal's production has improved this year only once they were no longer playing together.

There are some surprises on these respective ends of the shooting spectrum, because their production hasn't been dramatically affected. Matt D'Agostini has been getting an opportunity to play in a scoring role since he was picked up by the Buffalo Sabres, but is sitting on one point in 15 games this season, despite a respectable shot total. Anaheim's Matt Beleskey is generating more shots than ever before, but has just one goal thanks to scoring on just 2.9% of his shots thus far.

The Blues' T.J. Oshie has been rolling along for much of the season, racking up points alongside Alexander Steen and David Backes, but Oshie also has just four goals in 31 games, thanks to both a career-low shooting percentage (7.8%) and career-low in shots per game (1.65).

I cite these examples to show that changes in shot production don't automatically mean a player's point production is automatically destined to follow. Nevertheless, I like shots on goal as an indicator, a first place to look before digging deeper, if necessary.

The players with the widest shot-per-game differences from last season (minimum 10 games played in both seasons):

Player Pos. Team '12-'13 Sh/GP '13-'14 Sh/GP Differential
David Perron Edmonton LW 1.75 3.45 1.70
Chris Kreider N.Y. Rangers LW 0.83 2.44 1.61
Ryan Kesler Vancouver C 2.12 3.66 1.54
Nathan Gerbe Carolina LW 1.52 3.03 1.51
Tyler Johnson Tampa Bay C 0.79 2.18 1.39
Chris Higgins Vancouver LW 1.88 3.17 1.29
Jeff Carter Los Angeles RW 2.77 3.83 1.06
Mike Santorelli Vancouver C 1.03 1.97 0.94
Matt D'Agostini Buffalo RW 1.14 2.07 0.93
Jamie Benn Dallas LW 2.68 3.61 0.93
Andrej Sekera Carolina D 0.89 1.81 0.92
Jaden Schwartz St. Louis LW 1.11 2.03 0.92
Lee Stempniak Calgary RW 2.40 3.31 0.91
Matt Beleskey Anaheim LW 1.45 2.33 0.88
Brad Richards N.Y. Rangers C 2.39 3.26 0.87
Philip Larsen Edmonton D 0.94 1.79 0.85
Mark Giordano Calgary D 1.23 2.07 0.84
Mathieu Perreault Anaheim C 1.21 2.03 0.82
Ryan Smyth Edmonton LW 1.47 2.28 0.81
Ryan Garbutt Dallas LW 1.64 2.44 0.80
Eric Nystrom Nashville LW 1.00 1.80 0.80
Jason Garrison Vancouver D 2.00 2.80 0.80
John Carlson Washington D 2.02 2.82 0.80
Matt Gilroy Florida D 0.93 1.69 0.76
Phil Kessel Toronto RW 3.35 4.09 0.74
Matt Read Philadelphia RW 1.72 2.44 0.72
Brandon Dubinsky Columbus C 1.72 2.44 0.72
Corey Perry Anaheim RW 2.91 3.63 0.72
Alex Ovechkin Washington RW 4.58 5.29 0.71
Patrick Sharp Chicago LW 3.14 3.83 0.69
Logan Couture San Jose C 3.15 3.82 0.67
Dan Hamhuis Vancouver D 1.30 1.97 0.67
James Neal Pittsburgh RW 3.40 4.06 0.66
Adam Pardy Winnipeg D 0.35 1.00 0.65
Marian Hossa Chicago RW 2.90 3.55 0.65
Chris Kunitz Pittsburgh LW 2.35 3.00 0.65
Kris Russell Calgary D 1.24 1.88 0.64
Reilly Smith Boston RW 0.92 1.55 0.63
Ryan Johansen Columbus C 2.10 2.73 0.63
Patrick Marleau San Jose LW 3.13 3.76 0.63
Martin Hanzal Phoenix C 2.38 3.00 0.62
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit C 2.28 2.89 0.61
Craig Smith Nashville RW 1.89 2.50 0.61
Mike Cammalleri Calgary LW 2.32 2.92 0.60
John Moore N.Y. Rangers D 0.97 1.56 0.59
Dan Boyle San Jose D 2.11 2.69 0.58
David Schlemko Phoenix D 1.17 1.75 0.58
Clarke MacArthur Ottawa  LW 1.55 2.12 0.57
Mason Raymond Toronto LW 1.72 2.29 0.57
Jonathan Ericsson Detroit D 0.76 1.32 0.56
Andrew Shaw Chicago RW 1.33 1.88 0.55
Matt Irwin San Jose D 2.08 2.62 0.54
Duncan Keith Chicago D 1.94 2.47 0.53
Ryan O'Reilly Colorado LW 2.28 2.81 0.53
Anze Kopitar Los Angeles C 2.09 2.62 0.53
Kyle Turris Ottawa  C 2.46 2.97 0.51
Tom Gilbert Florida D 0.84 1.35 0.51
Alex Tanguay Colorado RW 1.11 1.62 0.51
Brent Seabrook Chicago D 1.38 1.89 0.51
Ryan Malone Tampa Bay LW 1.54 2.04 0.50
Stephane Robidas Dallas D 0.96 1.46 0.50
Nazem Kadri Toronto C 2.23 1.73 -0.50
Tim Kennedy Phoenix LW 1.85 1.35 -0.50
Brad Marchand Boston LW 2.02 1.52 -0.50
T.J. Oshie St. Louis RW 2.17 1.65 -0.52
Luke Schenn Philadelphia D 1.72 1.20 -0.52
Peter Harrold New Jersey D 1.57 1.05 -0.52
Damien Brunner New Jersey RW 2.80 2.27 -0.53
Erik Johnson Colorado D 2.06 1.52 -0.54
Paul Gaustad Nashville C 1.52 0.97 -0.55
David Booth Vanouver LW 2.25 1.70 -0.55
Shawn Matthias Florida C 2.21 1.65 -0.56
Kyle Brodziak Minnesota C 1.84 1.26 -0.58
Troy Brouwer Washington RW 2.36 1.76 -0.60
Jack Johnson Columbus D 2.18 1.58 -0.60
Dany Heatley Minnesota RW 2.31 1.71 -0.60
Patrik Elias New Jersey LW 2.46 1.85 -0.61
Daniel Girardi N.Y. Rangers D 1.76 1.15 -0.61
Jannik Hansen Vancouver RW 2.11 1.48 -0.63
Patric Hornqvist Nashville RW 3.63 3.00 -0.63
Richard Clune Nashville RW 0.98 0.35 -0.63
Andrei Loktionov New Jersey C 1.68 1.03 -0.65
Dan Cleary Detroit LW 1.94 1.29 -0.65
Brian Flynn Buffalo RW 1.88 1.23 -0.65
Jonathan Huberdeau Florida LW 2.33 1.67 -0.66
Drayson Bowman Carolina LW 1.84 1.16 -0.68
Shane O'Brien Calgary D 1.00 0.31 -0.69
Pierre-Cedric Labrie Tampa Bay LW 0.84 0.15 -0.69
Lauri Korpikoski Phoenix LW 2.31 1.61 -0.70
Scott Gomez Florida C 1.49 0.79 -0.70
Francois Beauchemin Anaheim D 1.54 0.84 -0.70
Ryan Callahan N.Y. Rangers RW 3.20 2.50 -0.70
Josh Bailey N.Y. Islanders LW 2.00 1.27 -0.73
Marian Gaborik Columbus RW 3.21 2.47 -0.74
Brad Richardson Vancouver C 1.68 0.94 -0.74
Trevor Lewis Los Angeles RW 1.92 1.16 -0.76
Cody McLeod Colorado LW 1.65 0.88 -0.77
Jiri Tlusty Carolina LW 2.44 1.65 -0.79
Martin Erat Washington LW 1.53 0.73 -0.80
Martin Havlat San Jose RW 2.23 1.42 -0.81
Alexander Semin Carolina RW 3.41 2.59 -0.82
Daniel Paille Boston LW 1.52 0.67 -0.85
Magnus Paajarvi Edmonton LW 1.79 0.92 -0.87
Daniel Briere Montreal RW 2.56 1.68 -0.88
Mark Letestu Columbus C 2.00 1.06 -0.94
Jamie McGinn Colorado LW 2.72 1.75 -0.97
Matt Moulson Buffalo LW 3.28 2.29 -0.99
Ryan Wilson Colorado D 1.92 0.80 -1.12
Mikael Backlund Calgary C 2.75 1.63 -1.12
Carl Hagelin N.Y. Rangers LW 2.75 1.63 -1.12
Zac Dalpe Vancouver C 1.80 0.63 -1.17
Erik Karlsson Ottawa  D 4.65 3.12 -1.53
David Clarkson Toronto RW 3.75 2.17 -1.58

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

David Perron and Ryan Smyth  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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