• Realists Gonna Be Realistic

    by  • August 2, 2012 • Hockey • 11 Comments

    Talking about Jordan Eberle seems to be The Thing To Do this week, so I figured I’d chime in with something. Some of you may recall that I’m skeptical of the idea that Jordan Eberle’s point totals last season are a fair representation of his offensive ability at present. High shooting percentage blah blah blah high individual points percentage blah blah blah…if you don’t believe in this stuff by now, I’m not going to suddenly convince you. I’m sick of writing that argument, you’re sick of reading it.

    That being said, the numbers form the base of the discussion so let’s have a look at what Eberle did at ES and on the PP last year. So here are the ones I’m going to touch on.

    There was a lot of moaning about Eberle’s ice time last year. It was, I think, a little misguided. Eberle was 104th in 5v5 TOI amongst F who played at least 40 games. The difference between 104th and 45th (the middle of the first line guys) was 0.82 minutes a night. In Eberle’s case, that works out to 63.96 extra minutes if he was getting 45th in the league minutes.

    His PP TOI put him 72nd in the league. He played about 56.7% of the 5v4 minutes in games in which he was dressed. This is only slightly below the average played by the top 72 forwards, who averaged about 59% of their team’s 5v4 TOI. The Oilers weren’t particularly hard done by in terms of PP opportunities – they were eight out of 15th. Pretty middle of the road. If Eberle bumps up to 60% of the PP TOI, we’re still only talking about him playing an extra 12.95 minutes a night, all other things being equal.

    The ice time is probably worth a few points but it’s important to remember that there was a reason that he didn’t get as much ice time as many Oilers fans wanted: the coach was matching lines pretty closely. Any increase in his ice time would likely come at a price.

    I don’t want to go down the S% road again but I just want to make a quick point about it. Eberle’s 5v5 on-ice S% last year was 12.9%. If you look at things over a five year window, you find that only one guy (min. 2000 minutes) has managed to top 11% over the past five years (Sidney Crosby) and that 10.8% looks to have been a ceiling for other guys, even notorious on-ice S% guys like Alex Tanguay. Eberle’s not Crosby – this, I assume, will be uncontroversial. We don’t yet know whether or not he’s Tanguay in terms of on-ice S%. Even if he is a Tanguay type – and the smart money would be that he isn’t, for the simple reason that most guys who have one year like that aren’t – you’d still expect his 5v5 on-ice S% to be dramatically lower than what it was last year, by about 20%.

    I mentioned this in the post linked above but Eberle was having a hellacious season in terms of individual points percentage (IPP) as well – the percentage of Oiler 5v5 goals he got points on. He ended the year at about 85%. I’ve written before about how this tends to regress strongly. Until Eberle’s consistently put up numbers in that range, I’d be inclined to bet that he gets points on about 72% of goals scored at 5v5 while he’s on the ice going forward.

    If you assume a TOI increase to bring him to 45th amongst NHL forwards, that he is a Tanguay when it comes to on-ice S% and average IPP and that he plays all 82 games, you come up with 82 games * 14.82 minutes * 10.8% on-ice S% * 28.23 S/60 * points on 72% of goals = 44.46 5v5 points. He had 56 5v5 points last year. I’m not at all sold that he is a Tanguay – everyone looks like a Tanguay when the pucks are going in – so I sort of suspect that that’s a pretty generous expectation for him at 5v5. It also knocks 12 points off his season from last year.

    At 5v4, Eberle was part of a group that was lights out in terms of S% and not so good in terms of generating shots. We’ve been down this road before in Edmonton. This is me on October 30, 2008:

    We’re eight games into the season right now and the PP is scoring a respectable 7.0 PPG/60. The same old problems are in place though – they’re getting just 33.9 PPS/60. They’re currently shooting 20.6%. As long as the shooting percentage is through the roof, the good times will roll. When the shooting percentage dries up – and it will – they’re going to be in a world of hurt if they haven’t figured out a way to start getting the shots into at least the high forties.

    The shooting percentage dried up, the shots didn’t start to come and Edmonton ended up in the mid-20s in terms of PPG/60. How did the Oilers finish third in GF/60 at 5v4 despite finishing 26th in 5v4 S/60? If you guessed “Because they had a high shooting percentage,” congratulations: you have been paying attention.

    The Charlie Browns of Oiler fandom (about 90% of the population) seem to believe that this time is different, Lucy won’t pull the ball away and the Oilers PP will be awesome because RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov and Schultz. Everything I’ve seen says that S% on the PP predicts nothing and that regression will kill you.

    Assume, for the sake of discussion, that the Oilers shoot 14% with Eberle on the ice at 5v4 this year. That’s still a really good figure – only three teams topped that last year. Only 39/149 forwards who played at least 40 games and two minutes a night of PP time managed to hit that. If we assume that Eberle plays 82 games, the Oilers get the same amount of 5v4 TOI, Eberle plays 60% of it, that they shoot 14% with him on-ice and that he’s in on the same amount of goals, you come up with the following: 4.18 PP hours * points on 58% of goals * 6.57 5v4 G/60 = 15.93 5v4 points. Last year he had 18 5v4 points. A loss of two.

    You add that all up and you come up with Eberle losing 14 points off his total last year. I think I’ve made a lot of favourable assumptions here – I’ve said elsewhere that I expect Eberle to get somewhere between 55 and 60 points and that still seems like a pretty decent projection to me. I wouldn’t be stunned if played a full year or close to it, and didn’t break 50 points though. I’d be a lot more surprised if he broke 70 points without a significant improvement in his Corsi or shot numbers. That seems kind of unlikely to me though, given Eberle’s excellent ZoneStart – life’s going to get harder for him, I would think. Assuming he’s a better player next year, the context will make it more difficult to see.

    Speaking of shot numbers…the best argument I’ve heard in favour of Eberle being able to sustain his points numbers is that he’ll shoot more at EV. Young player, getting stronger…the idea is that he’ll get better, shoot more and that this will help cover for the percentages. I hadn’t seen anyone actually dig into that yet, so I put together a table with all of the forwards in the BTN era who played at least 40 games at age 21 and how their shooting numbers changed going forward. The list is sorted by the percentage of age 21 shooting rate that they posted at age 22.

    Player 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
    TYLERENNIS 109.2% 100.0% 68.7%
    JORDANSTAAL 94.5% 81.7% 100.0% 74.9% 92.8%
    PATRICKKALETA 100.0% 78.8% 102.2% 116.6% 90.9%
    NICKFOLIGNO 91.3% 100.0% 80.1% 95.2% 111.6%
    BLAKECOMEAU 100.0% 80.5% 136.0% 119.1% 111.5%
    MIKAELBACKLUND 71.0% 94.6% 100.0% 82.2%
    MATTBELESKY 0.0% 100.0% 82.5% 69.7%
    JAMIEMCGINN 63.6% 100.0% 83.4% 110.9%
    GUILLAUMELATENDRESSE 85.6% 100.0% 86.7% 89.5% 88.4%
    DUSTINBOYD 100.0% 86.7% 133.3% 100.0%
    EVGENIMALKIN 100.0% 89.2% 102.0% 124.0% 130.6%
    CLAUDEGIROUX 109.1% 100.0% 89.4% 95.9% 130.2%
    WOJTEKWOLSKI 100.0% 90.2% 97.8% 95.5% 71.6%
    WAYNESIMMONDS 104.2% 100.0% 91.4% 112.6%
    KYLETURRIS 113.2% 63.8% 100.0% 92.3%
    PATRIKBERGLUND 89.8% 100.0% 92.5% 95.7%
    LOGANCOUTURE 95.4% 100.0% 93.8%
    PATRICKKANE 67.9% 96.1% 100.0% 94.5% 94.5%
    CALCLUTTERBUCK 0.0% 100.0% 94.9% 120.8% 92.0%
    SAMGAGNER 90.1% 106.6% 141.1% 100.0% 95.6%
    DAVIDPERRON 66.2% 105.9% 100.0% 97.3% 75.4%
    BOBBYRYAN 86.1% 100.0% 97.9% 99.2% 87.3%
    JAREDBOLL 100.0% 103.4% 109.6% 109.4% 74.0%
    PHILKESSEL 81.9% 100.0% 104.3% 100.2% 89.1%
    BRANDONDUBINSKY 100.0% 104.9% 88.1% 103.5% 94.6%
    ANZEKOPITAR 80.8% 100.0% 105.4% 105.0% 98.4%
    JAMESNEAL 100.0% 105.4% 106.9% 139.9%
    BRYANLITTLE 88.2% 100.0% 105.7% 82.6% 78.5%
    GILBERTBRULE 100.0% 106.2% 111.2% 98.2% 123.2%
    JOSHBAILEY 69.7% 119.3% 100.0% 108.7%
    COLINWILSON 132.2% 100.0% 109.0%
    BRANDONSUTTER 135.7% 119.6% 100.0% 110.4%
    DEVINSETOGUCHI 100.0% 111.1% 90.7% 103.8% 84.3%
    JAKUBVORACEK 83.5% 85.1% 100.0% 114.3%
    KYLEOKPOSO 77.5% 100.0% 115.6% 96.0% 88.7%
    DANATYRELL 100.0% 115.9%
    JAMIEBENN 105.8% 100.0% 116.6%
    T.J.GALIARDI 80.9% 100.0% 116.7% 120.4%
    CHRISSTEWART 100.0% 116.9% 93.0% 92.6%
    TYLERKENNEDY 100.0% 117.1% 133.3% 116.7% 144.1%
    JONATHANTOEWS 101.7% 98.5% 100.0% 118.2% 135.7%
    JAMESVANRIEMSDYK 106.5% 100.0% 118.7%
    MARTINHANZAL 112.5% 100.0% 121.3% 149.5% 146.5%
    ARTEMANISIMOV 92.4% 100.0% 124.5% 93.7%
    MILANLUCIC 95.7% 87.4% 100.0% 124.6% 102.9%
    DAVIDKREJCI 100.0% 124.9% 117.6% 110.4% 104.2%
    SIDNEYCROSBY 128.2% 100.0% 128.4% 132.5% 111.5%
    ANDREWCOGLIANO 91.2% 100.0% 129.7% 89.3% 104.9%
    NICKPALMIERI 119.2% 100.0% 135.1%
    MICHAELFROLIK 89.5% 100.0% 136.8% 98.4%
    NICKLASBACKSTROM 104.9% 100.0% 137.2% 116.5% 118.7%
    SHAWNMATTHIAS 80.8% 64.7% 100.0% 137.5% 116.0%
    SERGEIKOSTITSYN 91.4% 100.0% 147.5% 116.4% 121.3%
    MAXPACIORETTY 112.0% 100.0% 166.6% 181.6%
    MATTMARTIN 109.1% 100.0% 170.4%
    ALEXANDERRADULOV 100.0% 98.3%
    LARSELLER 101.3% 100.0% 112.8%
    PETERMUELLER 109.7% 83.0% 100.0% 130.3%
    JAMESSHEPPARD 84.4% 75.6% 100.0%

    The growth is actually less than I expected. There’s average growth of shooting rate at age 22 of about 7.9%, although the median is considerably lower at about 5.7%. Beyond that, there doesn’t seem to be any growth on average, although the sample is awfully small. I’m not sure that I expect Eberle to really dramatically increase his shot numbers though, unless he continues to get wildly favourable ZoneStarts. If you think about this, your shooting numbers are kind of a function of your proclivity for shooting the puck when you get a chance to do so and the number of opportunities you get to do so. A high ZoneStart number is going to inflate your numbers by inflating the number of opportunities you get to shoot the puck on net.

    Given the way in which Eberle was used, it wouldn’t surprise me if his shooting was flat or decreased next year, even if he personally improves. Say, for the sake of discussion, he gets a 50% ZoneStart. He (and the other players on the ice with him) are going to have to improve just to stand still when it comes to the share of shots that they get on the ice and the number of shots that he gets. Any improvement may well be hidden by a change in the context.

    If someone can explain to me how my rationale/thinking is wrong here, I’m all ears. There’s certainly a possibility that Eberle turns into a possession beast – I think it’s a small one but it’s a possibility. I’ve read the comments of the people who are more bullish on Eberle for next year though and I’m just not sold by their arguments.

    Jason Gregor:

    I know you can’t chart determination, drive, heart, desire or leadership, but Eberle has all of that. I know some stats guys mock the “I saw argument,” but downplaying it is just as idiotic as those who suggest stats have no value. Both have value, and neither is completely accurate.

    When ATB chose Eberle as their spokesperson they did it after lots of research on his character. You’d be surprised how many people they spoke with to try and determine if Eberle was the right guy to use as their frontman. Of course his on -ice ability was a factor, but so was his character.

    Robin Brownlee (comment 22):

    Building and sustaining a real hockey team requires more than running numbers and making moves because those moves can be shown to be statistically reasonable.

    Like Jason, I don’t know Eberle well outside the confines of the ongoing interview process as part of the job, but I know he has elite skill, is competitive as hell and has the respect of everybody I’ve talked to in the Oilers dressing room.

    A drop-off in shooting percentage? I’ll live with that.

    I don’t think even the numbers guys would disagree with the first sentence. I don’t. At the same time, the issue is “What will Eberle do next year?” not “How do you build and sustain a hockey team?”

    As for the other bit, that doesn’t sound entirely dissimilar from this!

    As most of you know, I’ve long been in JDD’s corner, largely because I’ve known him since draft day and seen him battle some pretty long odds to make it this far. I like his jam. I like how stubborn he is. I like that he doesn’t quit. Down the list just a bit, I like his talent.

    So, on the one side, you’ve got “ATB did a lot of work in picking him as their spokesman” and “This guy has the same qualities I saw in JDD.” On the other, what I think is a pretty compelling argument in favour of some regression. If the season happens, it’ll be an interesting one.


    11 Responses to Realists Gonna Be Realistic

    1. Cody
      August 2, 2012 at

      One thing I have not heard anyone mention as of yet is RNH’s FO%
      I would assume that as he gets faster, stronger, and practices face off techniques his FO% will increase.

      Even if they get a few less offensive draws, if RNH is able to increase his FO% they may actually be able to stay consistant or even gain on # of times they gain possesion off the dot in the offensive zone.

    2. Mr DeBakey
      August 2, 2012 at

      “I know you can’t chart determination, drive, heart, desire or leadership, but Eberle has all of that. I know some stats guys mock the “I saw argument,” ”

      I don’t mock the I-Saw Arguments,
      because for the most part that’s not what they are.

      When sports pundits go on [and on] about determination, drive, heart, desire and/or leadership they’re not talking about what they Saw.
      They don’t talk about what they saw, great hand-eye coordination or hard man-marking, they talk about their feelings.

      They talk Psychobabble.

      Its soap opera for boys.

      Jonathan Toews has the Heart of a Winner y’know.
      Bob Stauffer told me so.
      Don’t ask me how he saw it.

    3. Doogie2K
      August 2, 2012 at

      This guy has the same qualities I saw in JDD.

      This might be the most compelling argument against Eberle sustaining that I’ve seen yet.

    4. Pete
      August 2, 2012 at

      Seems pretty valid. I was hoping to find something to pick apart, but alas, it was not to be. One question, though: what makes you think he’s likley get less favourable ZoneStarts? Who else would be handed the prime opportunities?

      • Pete
        August 2, 2012 at

        *likely to

        I wish you had an edit function.

      • MattM
        August 2, 2012 at

        Yakupov, presumably, if they’re not playing together. Plus considering its the last year of his RFA, it makes sense to see how he does with tougher sledding before you extend him. Should save the Oilers some money if it does bring his numbers down.

    5. Slopitch
      August 2, 2012 at

      I think your right. I have Eberle around 65 because I think playing with Hall more will drive his Corsi and Nuge should be more able to drive results.

      I think it was 3 years ago in my keeper league, I moved Stamkos early in his 2nd year. I believe his shooting percentage was 27%. I bet against a player on the rise. I did land Malkin but overall still feel I lost the trade. The Oilers, not just Eberle, should be on the rise as a collective group.

      I’d bet 65 allowing for a regression that slightly out weighs overall improvement. 15% maybe isn’t so slight but a 65 point season is also great in today’s NHL

    6. August 3, 2012 at

      For your shooting rate table, is that even strength shots per 60? Overall shots per 60? Overall shots per game?

      For what it’s worth, I looked at this for ES shots per 60 and found something similar. Overview and details.

    7. Ray
      August 9, 2012 at

      This is where statistical analysis in hockey throws me for a loop. What was his S% playing with RNH for approximately 50 games, versus playing with another centre? Even if RNH were to not improve his play significantly from Year 1 to Year 2, but were to play an extra 25 games as Eberle’s centre, wouldn’t that create an upswing in Eberle’s stats? For most of last season, particularly in the later half of the season, the Oilers didn’t have a strong second line. With a strong season from Yak, Gagner and Hemsky, wouldn’t that draw some defensive focus away from Eberle’s line? I saw on either this site or on OilerNation a stat showing that J. Schultz could be a solid offensive defenceman, which seems an improvement over existing defencemen, particularly on the powerplay. And add in the plan to use a European style system of practices and mandatory rest periods which should show dividends later on in the season. Even if he were to take a step back in some areas, doesn’t he gain a few steps based on improvements around him?

    8. Lee
      August 31, 2012 at

      Personally, the thing I don’t like about this assessment is the inherent cynicism and hubris inherent in a conclusion that believes all human accomplishment can be so easily quantified and then predicted down to the last decimal.

      I guess the great thing about being a pessimist/realist is that you are right any time a human is average or an outright failure, but it seems a fairly joyless ride, particularly when the optimists around you are celebrating what they perceive as welcome news. And when athletes accomplish the unexpected, is it not fair to assume your enjoyment is somewhat blunted because they exceeded your dire prognostications?

      It’s easy to bet against someone like Stephen Jobs when Microsoft is buying a stake in his company. It’s easy to bet against someone like Wayne Gretzky or Joe Montana as they enter the professional ranks, because they didn’t fit the template of the protypical athlete. It’s easy to bet against anyone doing something that is unexpected. But the beauty of sports (and life in general) is that human beings can so often surprise and surpass our expectations.

      Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I believe there are a number of factors that will ultimately reveal your skepticism about Jordan Eberle as unfounded.

      1) Jordan Eberle is not Shawn Horcoff. It’s such a ludicrous comparision that this one bears repeating. Jordan Eberle is NOT Shawn Horcoff.

      2) You base this prediction on expected shooting % regression while assuming minimal to no growth in shots/chances. This despite the fact that the team has added two superior complimentary talents (Yakupov, Schultz) to an already potent powerplay.

      A player finishes 103rd overall in shots taken and 16th in points and you see no case for improved (or even retained production) with an improved team around him as well as another year of experience?

      3) You’re convinced that Eberle is not a shooting savant who will sustain high % (ala Tanguay). Ultimately, I believe this is where your talent evaluation will be found lacking. Eberle has all the attributes of a premier sniper. Yes, he may experience a nominal regression in shooting % but that will be more than compensated for by an increase in chances.

      Will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I know one thing, if he posts similar or better boxcars this season – possibly even against improved QoC, the Oilers would find themselves in a situation very similar to what the Jets are dealing with right now with Evander Kane. Far from optimal.

      You hit a homerun with your criticism of the Khabi contract. But there’s a big difference btw an aging goaltender and an emerging sniper. The next 7 years are not going to be kind to this bleak assessment, and that’s a good thing for Oiler fans.

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