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(GRADED)Deep Dive #1 - Shooting Percentage and Why You Can't Trust It
(This post was last modified: 10-07-2023, 09:15 AM by CptSquall. Edited 1 time in total.)

The numbers don't lie and, for some of the SMJHL's top goalscorers last year, they spell disaster as the league rolls into a fresh new season. As always here at Blueline Media, we're here to drop a heavy dose of reality on the mad hyperbole the preseason always brings and today, we're taking a look at the players who found themselves bitten by an entire reptile enclosure of snakes and those who left melting ice in their wake so hot they were.

A couple of things to note: Firstly, we're only looking at forwards for the purposes of this analysis for obvious reasons; the vast majority of goals are scored and shots taken are by forwards and trying to incorporate defensemen would muddy the waters unnecessarily. With that restriction in place, the league-wide average shooting percentage clocks in at just over 13%, so we'll be using that as the baseline.

Second, this is just going to start by looking at the raw numbers to draw conclusions and not focusing so much on the team composition. While it is certainly going to be the case that a team losing players to graduation will have an effect on a high-scoring player for that team - Shootin Blanks is going to have a lot harder time now he doesn't have Nathan Cormier or Iliket Urtles on the ice, for example - we're just looking at the guys who got hot or stayed cold on their own merits as much as possible.

Third, we've stripped out a few players who didn't make it to the 10-game mark on the simple grounds that they bias the stats.

Shall we?


Going Up: Jae-ik Barron, Great Falls Grizzlies
Last year: 5 goals on 77 shots, 6.5% (-6.7)

Congratulations to Jae-ik - out of everybody in the data set who played a full, 66-game season, you tallied the absolute worst shooting percentage. It seems amazing that the Atlanta Inferno looked at his statline from last year and saw fit not just to pick him but to make him a first-round pick as well. Assuming that the Inferno keep him in the SMJHL, it should be almost impossible for Jae-ik not to markedly improve on those numbers because even as a more defensively-minded player, we know he's not totally incompetent with the puck. Surprisingly, his PDO - the sum of the team's shooting percentage with a player on the ice and the team's save percentage - was reasonably good, so he's clearly not letting the team down, he's just treating the big logo on the goalie's jersey as a target.

Going Down: Xavier Beausoleil, Colorado Raptors
Last year: 30 goals on 139 shots, 21.6% (+8.4)

It's amazing, I can feel the hate mail from the Midwest already. How dare I highlight X, the guy both the Raptors and the Minnesota Monarchs looked on highly enough to make him a podium pick in both drafts he's been involved in so far? Where, exactly, do I get off? Like I'll be saying in reply, I'm just running the numbers folks, and the numbers are what they are. Nobody's going to argue that 30 goals as a pure rookie is not an impressive feat, especially on a team as bad as Colorado was, but stretching the twine on 1 out of every 5 shots you take is unsustainable - even as Beausoleil grows into himself and improves, which he undoubtedly will, anybody banking on him having this rate of return next season is just begging to be disappointed.

Going Up: Mike Badcock, Detroit Falcons
Last year: 10 goals on 131 shots, 7.6% (-5.5)

So much was made about Badcock's capability as a sniper in the classic sense of the word, a player who was never going to be breaking jaws with the power of their shot but could put the puck through the eye of a needle without blinking. Then he put on a Detroit jersey. It would be cruel to imply a lot or even some of the Falcons' woes were down to Badcock's difficulty with the puck, but he's now in a position where in all likelihood he'll be Detroit's starting right winger come the season proper. It's worth noting that this was on 131 shots - unlike a couple of names later on, there is a legitimate argument to be made that Badcock could have pulled himself out of the doldrums with more time on the ice or better quality TOI. He'll most likely get both this coming year.

Going Down: Trevor Lahey, Detroit Falcons
Last year: 27 goals on 121 shots, 22.3% (+9.2)

First of all, ruminate on those numbers: Lahey took 10 shots fewer than Badcock and scored close to triple the goals. Quite astounding. Anyway, to douse the hopes of Detroit that they'll see a glorious resurgence from their starting right-winger, the chances of their starting centre replicating his success from this year are almost zero. Lahey's hot streak gave him one of the highest shooting percentages in the league and even with a game as well-rounded as his, this was the product of a lot of luck. To his credit, it has to be acknowledged that goals count no matter how you score them and Lahey is one of the SMJHL's best at crowding the crease and being in position for ugly tap-ins and goalmouth scrambles - it's very possible that taking those out of the equation brings his numbers down to something more reproducable.

Going Up: Arthur Kaliyev, Kelowna Knights
Last year: 22 goals on 276 shots, 8.0% (-5.2)

Going Up: Marshall Madden, St. Louis Scarecrows
Last year: 20 goals on 258 shots, 7.8% (-5.4)

These two have been grouped together both for the similarity of their numbers and of their games. Neither man is necessarily their team's top option as a goalscorer since both are looked at more as playmakers, but they both log more than 20 minutes a game and not-insignificant powerplay time, and shooting percentages this far below the average suggest something isn't working. For Madden, it clearly wasn't much of a team problem, but going seven games in the playoff finals and not adding a single goal is cause for serious concern; for Kaliyev, perhaps a lack of support was to blame, but the Knights have just added a high-calibre offensive talent in Rodrigo Banes. Either way, pointing fingers won't get anybody on the scoresheet.

Going Down: Joseph Reed, Anchorage Armada
Last year: 43 goals on 227 shots, 18.9% (+5.8)

By itself, 18.9% isn't obviously an outlier - it's high in comparison to the average in the dataset and Reed is another player you'd expect to see as a playmaking threat more than a team's top goalscorer, but it's not totally out of the question. The reason Reed finds his way on this list is that of those 43 goals, 38 were scored at even-strength; as a matter of fact, Reed didn't feature nearly as much on the Anchorage powerplay as you'd expect, averaging just over a minute a game and spending more than double that on the penalty kill. Normally, that many of your goals being from 5 on 5 play rather than the man advantage would be a good thing, but this is a question of sustainability - Reed has a high shooting percentage anyway and it gets even higher taking out his powerplay time. His overall numbers might stay the same, but I suspect he's going to be dropping to the 35 mark unless he gets trusted with more powerplay time.

Good write up! Falcons

[Image: captainLahey.png?width=1000&height=606]
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