One of the great things about media starting to pay attention to what’s going on in the seamier corners of the blogosphere is that stuff that, five years ago, was discussed only by single men writing in their mother’s basements, has now become a bit more mainstream. Jason Gregor interviewed Jordan Eberle recently and, of all things, Eberle’s shooting percentage came up:
JG: I know that this is a very serious topic for you, have you thought about how you’re going to be able to improve your shooting percentage for next season?
JE: (laughs) I love when I hear these questions, but you know what, it’s such a funny stat. I remember coming in last year and hearing that my shooting percentage was going to drop and so were my goals. Well if you shoot the puck more it will drop. For me, it’s just about the quality of shots you take and where you put it. This year was kind of tough. I went through a few games where it was tough to even shoot the puck. But to have a high shooting percentage, you’ve got to be a good shooter.
I take pride in the way that I shoot the puck and I want to put it in. But there are different times too where you are coming down the wing, that sometimes you want to shoot for rebounds, you’re not even thinking about scoring really, you’re trying to just set up another guy.
So there are stats like that that you’ve kind of got to laugh at and put it aside, and not worry about it. There are a million stats that people look at, and I guess it is just a way of keeping them busy.
As a refresher for people who maybe aren’t entirely clear on this stuff: stats guys talk about two kinds of shooting percentage (and then break that down further into game states). There’s the traditional shooting percentage, which is just a player’s goals divided by his shots. Then there’s his on-ice shooting percentage, which is all the goals scored while he’s on the ice divided by all the shots taken when he’s on the ice.
It’s a bit more subtle but on-ice shooting percentage will have a big impact on a player’s numbers too. Assists aren’t awarded for making a good offensive play that leads to a goal; they’re effectively awarded for being one of the last two players to touch a puck before the goal scorer. Sometimes that’s a useful play, sometimes it’s not.
In 2011-12, Eberle had a 18.8% S% at 5v5 and a 12.8% on-ice shooting percentage. In 2012-13, those numbers were 12.1% and 8.8%. A 12.1% S% at 5v5 is actually a pretty good S% – 285 guys took at least 50 shots this year and Eberle’s 12.1% was good for 69th in the NHL. He’s got good hands. It’s just that it’s not 1983 anymore and Super Snipers are a much rarer breed than people think and you can’t wish a guy into being one.
Eberle’s S% took a hit at 5v4 as well – from 17.5% to 13%. Interesting thing though – his shot rate at 5v4 dropped significantly as well, from 12.5/60 to 8.7/60. So I’m not entirely sure about this point that if you shoot more your shooting percentage will drop (although, obviously, in a small sample you’re more likely to see a crazy number.)
There was another quote from Eberle, early in February, that caught my eye:
The disturbing team statistic is the minuscule 5-on-5 offensive production. Just nine even-strength goals (two by Gagner, two by Hall, two by Nail Yakupov, and one each by Eberle, Ales Hemsky and Lennart Petrell). They Oilers are tied for the league lead with 13 power-play goals, but have scored just nine at while playing 5-on-5, which clearly isn’t enough, especially if the power play ever goes cold.
So why can’t they get anything going at even strength?
“I’d like to say it’s a lack of chances,” said Eberle. “But it’s not.
I wonder sometimes how much knowing this stuff would help an athlete. On the one hand, I suspect that there’s some value to having a certain bloody-mindedness, a belief that absolutely everything is within your control. If you just work harder and make fewer mistakes, things will go right for you. Truthfully, in the long run, if you work harder and make fewer mistakes than you have in the past, things will probably get better for you.
But there’s a big thread of randomness that runs through hockey and sometimes it helps you and sometimes it hurts you. That’s the game. Eberle’s quote about wishing it was a lack of chances struck me as funny because a lack of chances would be a far worse long term indicator than what was actually going on – pucks just weren’t going in. The hockey gods are capricious sons of bitches.
Truth is, Jordan Eberle had himself a pretty good season. He may not ever repeat what he did in his 74 point year but he’ll be a better hockey player (and he was this year). There’s no shame in that. Even if the guys talking about shooting percentage last summer were right.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org