There are several players on the Islanders who are on goal-scoring slumps lately. Some of these players have actually been pretty solid, but they simply have been unable to get on the scoresheet. What's going on here?
To figure out what's been the problem for these players, I took a look at BehindTheNet's shot distance and shooting % numbers for the Islanders this year, which can be found here. These numbers are only at even strength, which has been the real achilles heel for the Islanders this year.
|Player||Shooting % (Including Missed Shots)||Average Shot Distance||Shots on Goal||Missed Shots||Goals|
Table 1: The basic shooting % numbers of Islanders forwards.
Average Shot Distance: The average distance in feet of each shot taken by a player.
Two things to note here:
First, in general, the closer one takes a shot, the better chance that shot goes in. This should be fairly intuitive, really...the closer you are, the more likely you are to not miss and the less time a goalie has to block the shot. So Shot distance is fairly important (Sidney Crosby, for example, scores extremely frequently due to shooting really close to the net). Of course, there is skill involved in shooting itself, so simply getting closer to a goal won't necessarily result in a player being better than a guy who shoots from farther away. However, if a player is shooting really poorly from really close, we'd expect it to regress a bit so that that player's numbers improve.
Second, Shooting Percentage includes missed shots, but not blocked shots.
Anyhow, the table shows some fairly counterintuitive results: the most efficient Islanders' shooter is Rob Schremp?! John Taveres is second to last in shooting % of relevant Islanders? Well first, remember that this is NOT including power plays (or shorthanded situations) or 4 on 4 (overtime) situations, where Tavares has scored most of his goals this year. By converse, Schremp has only scored 1 of his 7 goals outside of 5 on 5 play, so he basically gets full credit for his goals in these numbers. Still, that doesn't explain it completely.
Another explanation is Tavares' low shooting percentage is that it's hidden due to the sheer amount of shots JT takes each game. Tavares has a total of 133 taken shots on 5 on 5 (2.9 shots per game). Schremp for comparison's sake has taken a total of 48 shots (1.4 shots per game) and is thus shooting half as often as Tavares.* This accounts for the difference in goals.
*Much of this is opportunity; while Tavares is on the Ice the Isles shot differential is +9.3/60 better than it is with him off the ice, while Schremp's his only 0.9 better than with him off the ice. Some of that is skill but most is simply how each player is used: Tavares gets on the ice for faceoffs in the offensive zone at the 2nd best rate on the team, while Schremp gets opportunities like that much less often, and this would account for about 7-8 shots of the difference.
Now it should be noted that it's been discovered that shooting % fluctuates wildly at times, due to random luck....a player may spend half a season, or even a whole season on a tear....caused purely by luck. Note that luck here is derived from the fact that whether a shot goes in depends not just upon the shooter, but also a goalie....players do have good or bad shooting %s often solely because weak shots do/don't go in, or really good shots get robbed/don't get robbed. Remember, goals are sparse in the league...if a player has just 5 weak shots go in due to bad goalies, his shooting % goes way up. So what ends up happening is that shooting %s regress to the mean for a particular player over a longer time...and if a player is frequently shooting from close distance and is not scoring, he'll eventually start getting goals. This needs to be remembered.
So lets look at these numbers more in depth for certain players:
So for John Tavares: He had a shooting % of 7.9% last year at even strength, with an average shot distance of 23.6 feet. Tavares is basically still shooting from really close this year, so we shouldn't have expected a change. In other words, Tavares' results should increase till his shooting % is closer to last year's number, meaning an increase in scoring wouldn't be surprising from him (Though he's getting a greater number of shots ON NET than last year). Moreover, the composition of his shots hasn't changed from last year: while most of his shots are wristers (though the number has slipped slightly), around a third of his shots appears not to be a wrister, snap shot or slap shots - i.e. a backhand (most likely), a deflection, or a wrap-around. In other words, a look at shooting % and the shot distance would suggest an increase in goals as the season progresses.
Blake Comeau: Comeau's shooting % is way down from last year where he was second on the team with a 10.9% shooting %. Comeau has increased his distance from the net on average by around a foot - 32.7 feet compared to 31.5 feet - but that shouldn't explain a 4% drop. However, unlike Tavares, there is a clear change in what types of shots he is taking. Last year, Comeau was shooting 29 slap shots (20 on net), 21 snap shots (15 on net), and 53 wristers (46 on net). This is a clear majority of wristers, that he shot from a close distance for an 11.7% shooting percentage. This year, Comeau has taken 41 slap shots (29 on net), 17 snap shots (12 on net), and 40 wristers (28 on net). As you can see, this year, Comeau has fallen in love with the slap shot - a shot that Comeau on average takes from close distance (45.1 feet) and on which he has a lower shooting percentage, just 6.8% (by contrast, Comeau's wrister accuracy has remained more or less steady). Comeau HAS scored on the slap shot....but it's not a high % shot, and really he might want to go back to the wrister and pass up the slap shot opportunities.
Josh Bailey: Josh Bailey last year had a pretty good 9.3% shooting percentage on 97 total shots from an average distance of 34.8 feet away from the net. This year, Bailey's shooting from 4 whole feet closer, and yet his shooting percentage has dropped 2.5% on 41 shots. This is not a big sample size for this year, so it's hard to really make a big conclusion about it. Still it looks like Bailey is shooting the same way as last year....a large majority of his shots are wristers. And it's here that's the problem....despite shooting his average wrister from 4.6 feet closer than last year, his shooting % on those shots is down from 12% to 8.3%. Odds are, this is a fluke (In Bailey's rookie season, the shooting % on his wristers (small sample size again) was 13%. So, we should expect Bailey to start scoring at a higher rate as he takes more shots as the season goes on.
Rob Schremp: Well, last year, Rob Schremp was absolutely dismal at scoring at even strength; while he had 7 goals, 5 of them came on the power play. The end result was a 2.7% shooting percentage on 71 shots, from an average shot distance of 36.3 feet away, which is actually pretty far away compared to other players especially when you consider that a majority of shots were wristers. Still, for a guy known for stickhandling, one would expect his shooting percentage to increase....and it did as we saw above..Schremp leads the team in shooting percentage. Unfortunately, this bounce back is TOO extreme for it to be real...in fact Schremp is shooting wristers from even farther away this year, but has scored 5 goals on 22 wristers (pretty nice). As we discussed above, Schremp doesn't shoot very often, and thus we have small sample sizes both years....which leads me to believe that the improvement in his shot ISN'T completely real...while Schremp should be a better shooter than last year, his real shooting percentage is probably closer to 2.7% than 11.1%.....if we combine the two seasons together, we get a shooting % of 6.8% over the last two seasons, which is not a bad estimate for what we can expect from Schremp going forward. In other words, Rob Schremp, who doesn't score enough for some fans' tastes, is likely to score less frequently going forward (and his current slump may be a manifestation of this regression).
I could of course go further with this examination of players, but I think you get the point, and if you examine the the link above you can do so yourself (Once again, 2010-11 shooting data on 5 on 5 is HERE. Last Season's numbers are HERE.). The conclusions of this post were as follows:
Tavares should heat up and score more frequently. The same should be the case with Josh Bailey.
On the other hand, Blake Comeau's problems scoring will probably continue if he persists in loving the slap shot, while Rob Schremp's shot is going to cool off.
This doesn't bear good news for those who want more scoring from the line of Bailey-Schremp-Comeau. Perhaps the team can score more frequently by splitting up that line so that each member plays with at least one good goal scorer? (Putting Comeau with Tavares and Parenteau for example and Moulson with Bailey and Schremp, leaving Grabner (the third goal score)r with Nielsen and another forward). This would ensure balanced lines, at least.