Ignorance, knowledge and shooting percentage

Jonathan Willis
December 19 2012 03:48PM

When looking at the impact of hockey blogs on discussion of the sport, shooting percentage is a decent example of how untrained amateurs have moved the puck forward.

For ages – and by ages I mean the dawn of hockey right down into the 2000’s – things like “really high shooting percentages are uncommon” were not obvious. Not to players, not to general managers, and really not to the guys hammering out reports for media publications or the fans reading them.

Fernando Pisani

This is something that should be painfully clear to anyone who has covered the Oilers at all since the last lockout. Consider, for example, Fernando Pisani’s 2006 playoff run, where he scored 14 goals in 24 games on 49 shots, good for a 28.6 shooting percentage.

The management of the Edmonton Oilers gave him a raise to $2.5 million per season against a salary cap of $44 million. The equivalent total against today’s $70.2 million cap is $4 million. Guys signed to that equivalent amount this off-season included Jiri Hudler (25 goals, 50 points), P-A Parenteau (18 goals, 67 points) and David Jones (20 goals, 37 points).

Optics may well have been involved; after all, the best word to describe the Oilers’ off-season that year was “exodus.” But Pisani was handed a four-year contract in the hopes that he would score enough to earn it. He started 2006-07 on the Oilers’ top line, with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth. Smyth had scored 36 goals the year before; Horcoff was coming off a 73-point season. Both general manager Kevin Lowe and head coach Craig MacTavish talked about additional opportunities and additional minutes.

This is before we get into what the media and what the fans thought about Fernando Pisani. Suffice to say that optimism was widespread. The Hockey News said Pisani “should be good for 20-plus [goals]” and after mentioning him, Ales Hemsky and Joffrey Lupul proclaimed the Oilers “as skilled, young and dynamic as they’ve been in 20 years.” McKeen’s Hockey predicted 24 goals and 50 points. Pisani played 77 games, scoring 14 goals and failing to clear the 30-point plateau. It was his most productive season on that four-year contract.

The arguments in his favour at the time were pretty clear. He was going to shoot more. He was going to play more minutes, including on the power play. None of it happened, because as it turns out a 28.6 shooting percentage wasn’t sustainable. Pisani ultimately managed to score at just over one-third of that clip in his first year under the new deal.

Gilbert Brule

A more recent example is Gilbert Brule, a guy who jumped from being a sub-seven percent shooter with Columbus to a 14 percent plus shooter in Edmonton. I’m glossing over some other things, but suffice to say that when the argument was made that there were serious concerns, the guys who made it were laughed out of the building. Oilers management handed him a shiny new contract, to the approval of the majority of punditry and fandom alike.

Reasons for confidence were many and varied. Some argued that because Brule was a close range shooter his shooting percentage would be consistently high. Others argued his shot totals would increase because he was young and hadn’t been given enough time on top lines and the power play.

The bottom promptly fell out, for a number of reasons including health issues. Interestingly, even at the AHL level Brule failed to match his NHL shooting percentage from the previous year; in the majors he failed to crack double digits in shooting percentage.

The Point

In hindsight, the unsustainability of Pisani’s playoff goal-scoring seems painfully obvious. At the time, everybody – including the experienced hockey men making multi-million dollar decisions for the team – missed the boat. Much the same can be said about Brule. Neither was an isolated incident; hockey men around the league have made and continue to make those mistakes, whether it was Toronto signing Jason Blake in 2007 or Buffalo signing Ville Leino in 2011.

Between those four guys alone, NHL teams spent more than $60 million on contracts immediately following a shooting percentage bubble. The vast majority of that money was wasted.

I bring this stuff up because people wonder why the online hockey stats crowd continues to talk about shooting percentage and other items. An Oilers Nation piece pondered that very question as recently as this Monday. The answer is this: it matters, a lot, and it’s something that still has not been accepted by many.

The reason for that lack of acceptance is obvious. The presence of shooting percentage-based analysis in hockey media started online. It wasn’t something that NHL insiders were leaking to journalists; by their actions it’s clear that an alarming number of NHL insiders had no idea it mattered as recently as the last few years. It wasn’t something that was generated by the professional media, either, and propagated in a mainstream publication.

Instead, the importance of shooting percentage in analyzing goal scoring has only been emphasized publicly because of the work of a group of talented amateurs, guys writing on websites. It is those places where people like me have learned basic principles and contributed what we could in turn.

The value has been an increased understanding of the game, and not just by the diehards with the spreadsheets. And every time someone breaks out a project studying zone entries or analyzes translations from the AHL to NHL or evaluates how penalty-killing save percentage fluctuates from year to year, they’re furthering everyone’s knowledge.

That’s why they don’t “just sit back and enjoy” the show. The stats guys could just shut up and watch the games. But we’d all be less informed if they did.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 They're $hittie
December 19 2012, 09:00PM
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@DSF

its a totally different game, and he was playing as an under ager.

also he scored a decent amount of goals despite his percentage in that league.

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#52 DSF
December 19 2012, 09:09PM
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They're $hittie wrote:

its a totally different game, and he was playing as an under ager.

also he scored a decent amount of goals despite his percentage in that league.

Shooting percentage is shooting percentage in any league.

In his final SEL season, he scored 12 goals in 49 games with a shooting percentage around 6%.

For comparison, Canucks prospect Niklas Jensen has already scored 12 goals in the SEL in 30 games and he is only 19.

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#53 K_Mart
December 19 2012, 09:24PM
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I think you're bang on J.W. but you come off as arrogant when you finish your article by reaffirming your value to the analysis of the game. Let your work do the talking. No need to always tell us peasants how uninformed we'd be without you. I know those aren't your exact words, but that's how you sound to me.

Good article otherwise... as usual. I think you may even be a little generous by suggesting Ebs can sustain a 14%+ sht %. 12-14 is probably more accurate. A career avg between 55-75 pts a season with maybe one or two 85-90 pt seasons would be plenty good.

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#54 Time Travelling Sean
December 19 2012, 09:26PM
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You know DSF, it's really annoying when you compare players playing in the NHL, or have played, and done moderately well, to some guy, usually a year or two older, who hasn't even laced for his NHL team yet, and say he's the better prospect.

MPS is a good pick, he has had 2 years of NHL experience. He had 15 goals as a 19 year old, had a really rough year after that, and so now he is a dead beat, busted prospect and we should have taken Peter Holland? Who hasn't even played a game in the NHL yet. Oh, he's played in 4, he has a nice SH% too, what a pretty pick.

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#55 Jason Gregor
December 19 2012, 09:35PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Alex Tanguay is an *extremely* selective shooter - and prior to Stamkos the league's most accurate.

Sidney Crosby's a more talented guy than Tanguay (and Eberle, for that matter) but he's only a career 15% shooter despite the cerebral nature of his game and his high level of skill.

But you're right - what is an anomaly now will be a trend if it continues. But then again, at the same point in his career Andrew Cogliano had a better statistical argument for being a high percentage shooter than Eberle does.

JW,

You are misleading bringing up Cogliano. He had an 18.4% in his first season and he did it on 18 goals.

Eberle did his on 34 goals which is hard to do, since with more shots there is more chance of not scoring.

Comparing him to Cogliano doesn't help your case, in fact it makes it look like you are choosing the worst case scenario.

No one needs to look at goals, points or SH% to see that Eberle is a much better scorer than Cogliano.

And I might suggest some caution when ripping people for their smarts or lack there of. Remember it wasn't long ago that you stated the Oilers should stay away from drafting Nugent-Hopkins.

http://oilersnation.com/2011/2/5/the-first-overall-pick-avoid-nugent-hopkins/score

Stats don't always lead one to the correct evaluation.

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#56 DSF
December 19 2012, 09:39PM
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Time Travelling Sean wrote:

You know DSF, it's really annoying when you compare players playing in the NHL, or have played, and done moderately well, to some guy, usually a year or two older, who hasn't even laced for his NHL team yet, and say he's the better prospect.

MPS is a good pick, he has had 2 years of NHL experience. He had 15 goals as a 19 year old, had a really rough year after that, and so now he is a dead beat, busted prospect and we should have taken Peter Holland? Who hasn't even played a game in the NHL yet. Oh, he's played in 4, he has a nice SH% too, what a pretty pick.

No, I was merely responding to the assertion that Paajarvi was great in the SEL.

He wasn't.

Due to injury, Paajarvi was granted the second most TOI among Oilers forwards in his rookie season and only managed to score 15 goals.

He will NEVER have that opportunity again.

MPS is a BAD pick at 10th overall.

He's trending like Jannik Hansen who was picked in the 9th round.

The Oilers should have taken Dimitri Kulikov who has scored 70 points in the NHL compared to Paajarvi's 42.

Kulikov is a DEFENSEMAN.

And, yes, I did say so at the time.

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#57 Robin Brownlee
December 19 2012, 10:23PM
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From the item that prompted Willis to write this:

"I know this is a bizarre concept, but is there any chance fans – Wanye prancing around in his No. 14 jersey naked from the waist down in some California rooming house doesn't count -- can just sit back and enjoy the display Eberle is putting on right now without endlessly dissecting what we're seeing?"

AND . . ,.

"For those so inclined, there'll be lots of time for I-told-you-so when the NHL eventually gets up and running again."

I don't recall suggesting Monday that shooting percentage is a statistic without merit. The point, for those who missed it, is that with all the analysis being done today, there's nothing wrong with putting down the calculator long enough to sit back and just say, "Wow, this is really something." Relax. Enjoy it. There'll be lots of time for slicing and dicing the numbers later. It was directed at fans (thus my reference to "fans").

Apparently, that's a vote for ignorance and a take that cannot go unchallenged by those, like Willis, in quest of knowledge.

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#58 Johe
December 19 2012, 10:59PM
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DSF wrote:

No, I was merely responding to the assertion that Paajarvi was great in the SEL.

He wasn't.

Due to injury, Paajarvi was granted the second most TOI among Oilers forwards in his rookie season and only managed to score 15 goals.

He will NEVER have that opportunity again.

MPS is a BAD pick at 10th overall.

He's trending like Jannik Hansen who was picked in the 9th round.

The Oilers should have taken Dimitri Kulikov who has scored 70 points in the NHL compared to Paajarvi's 42.

Kulikov is a DEFENSEMAN.

And, yes, I did say so at the time.

We get it. You smrt. We dum.

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#59 FastOil
December 19 2012, 11:09PM
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As I read through this, I wonder why is it so hard to understand the principle here? Being a great shooter is only known in hindsight, if it was different teams would draft predictably great shooters, right?

Eberle has had some success. The vast majority of good players don't sustain at the same level over time. The NHL site will tell you this if you look at seasons.

The team is lucky to have Eberle. Do you gamble? The numbers say he likely will regress to a closer to normal shooting percentage. All in? If he doesn't, all the better.

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#60 Pension Plan Puppets
December 19 2012, 11:21PM
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K_Mart wrote:

I think you're bang on J.W. but you come off as arrogant when you finish your article by reaffirming your value to the analysis of the game. Let your work do the talking. No need to always tell us peasants how uninformed we'd be without you. I know those aren't your exact words, but that's how you sound to me.

Good article otherwise... as usual. I think you may even be a little generous by suggesting Ebs can sustain a 14%+ sht %. 12-14 is probably more accurate. A career avg between 55-75 pts a season with maybe one or two 85-90 pt seasons would be plenty good.

It would be a lot easier to not remind people that statistical analysis is valid and advances understanding of hockey if major media and the average fan didn't keep insisting that it doesn't.

Here's a deal: those people stop saying this stuff is useless and we'll stop reminding them just how wrong they are.

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#61 K_Mart
December 19 2012, 11:57PM
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@Pension Plan Puppets

Stats are extremely useful, but if your reason for constantly reminding people how dumb they are is because " they started it" than I'd suggest you be the first to man up and let the stats do the talking. No need for the "I'll stop when they stop nonsense."

Stats are useful whether you call people stupid or not. So save your breath next time.

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#62 Jesse
December 20 2012, 12:01AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

JW,

You are misleading bringing up Cogliano. He had an 18.4% in his first season and he did it on 18 goals.

Eberle did his on 34 goals which is hard to do, since with more shots there is more chance of not scoring.

Comparing him to Cogliano doesn't help your case, in fact it makes it look like you are choosing the worst case scenario.

No one needs to look at goals, points or SH% to see that Eberle is a much better scorer than Cogliano.

And I might suggest some caution when ripping people for their smarts or lack there of. Remember it wasn't long ago that you stated the Oilers should stay away from drafting Nugent-Hopkins.

http://oilersnation.com/2011/2/5/the-first-overall-pick-avoid-nugent-hopkins/score

Stats don't always lead one to the correct evaluation.

The argument against drafting RNH in the above link is well supported based on the information available months before the entry draft. I'm curious as to what about this article you consider to be lacking in smarts, as you implied. The fact that you feel as though it's obvious who was the better draft choice so early in these players' careers seems silly, especially after there was so much debate around who was a more complete player in their rookie seasons between RNH and Landeskog.

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#63 GVBlackhawk
December 20 2012, 12:02AM
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DSF wrote:

No, I was merely responding to the assertion that Paajarvi was great in the SEL.

He wasn't.

Due to injury, Paajarvi was granted the second most TOI among Oilers forwards in his rookie season and only managed to score 15 goals.

He will NEVER have that opportunity again.

MPS is a BAD pick at 10th overall.

He's trending like Jannik Hansen who was picked in the 9th round.

The Oilers should have taken Dimitri Kulikov who has scored 70 points in the NHL compared to Paajarvi's 42.

Kulikov is a DEFENSEMAN.

And, yes, I did say so at the time.

The 2009 draft was not a good one for the Oilers. In hindsight, there were better picks available at the 10th position. But if the draft was redone today, MPS would still likely go in the top 15. That's not an outrageous miss.

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#64 Jesse
December 20 2012, 12:03AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

From the item that prompted Willis to write this:

"I know this is a bizarre concept, but is there any chance fans – Wanye prancing around in his No. 14 jersey naked from the waist down in some California rooming house doesn't count -- can just sit back and enjoy the display Eberle is putting on right now without endlessly dissecting what we're seeing?"

AND . . ,.

"For those so inclined, there'll be lots of time for I-told-you-so when the NHL eventually gets up and running again."

I don't recall suggesting Monday that shooting percentage is a statistic without merit. The point, for those who missed it, is that with all the analysis being done today, there's nothing wrong with putting down the calculator long enough to sit back and just say, "Wow, this is really something." Relax. Enjoy it. There'll be lots of time for slicing and dicing the numbers later. It was directed at fans (thus my reference to "fans").

Apparently, that's a vote for ignorance and a take that cannot go unchallenged by those, like Willis, in quest of knowledge.

Are people not entitle to enjoy and appreciate hockey in their own ways?

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#65 stevezie
December 20 2012, 12:10AM
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@DSF

You're telling a true story without telling the whole story. No one who wants to be taken seriously is arguing we were better off taking MPS than Kulikov. If we can go back in time the Russian is ours. That there wre better picks does not make MPS a bad one.

You are right that MPS had a bad Swedish shooting percentage, but he produced offence anyway because he was good at generating shots, which is at least an equal part of the equation.
The kid got picked because he had size, decent stats, a good attitude ("Canada will sh*t themselves..." is a great quote) and the single most important thing a hockey player needs: skating ability. Best wheels in the draft, they said.

No, he is not going to be a great scorer. He is in range for his draft position though. Call me an apologist but other than Kulikov I think it is too early to close the case on any of the 10-20 picks from his year. He'll never be a star, that doesn't make him a bust.

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#66 Sanaa Montana
December 20 2012, 12:15AM
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Jesse wrote:

Are people not entitle to enjoy and appreciate hockey in their own ways?

No! Hockey is only enjoyable if there is stats to prove so, otherwise its just a bunch of stupiders looking at a frozen sheet of water while a bunch of spoiled whinners carve it up back and forth.

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#67 dougtheslug
December 20 2012, 12:20AM
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GVBlackhawk wrote:

The 2009 draft was not a good one for the Oilers. In hindsight, there were better picks available at the 10th position. But if the draft was redone today, MPS would still likely go in the top 15. That's not an outrageous miss.

Truth be told, it wasn't a very strong draft outside of the top 5 or 6. Only 2 players drafted below MPS have more goals - Marcus Johanson for the Caps, taken 24th, and Ryan O'Reilly for the Avs, taken 33rd. I'm not sure if there were a lot of whiffs by GMs, just not a lot of elite talent available Even DSF's much touted Kulikov is averaging .353 points per game in the NHL, .006 more than MPS, at .347ppg. And MPS has doubled that point output in the AHL, averaging .657 ppg this season. By the way, DSF, please provide your 2009 documentation that you touted Kulikov over MPS. Playing woulda coulda shoulda with the draft is the easiest game in the world.

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#68 stevezie
December 20 2012, 12:29AM
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@dougtheslug

I can't speak for DSF, but a lot of people were bully on Kulikov. He fell because of the Russian factor.

I think you're making the same mistake DSF is, Doug. You're treating the draft like a finished story. I think there are a lot of good prospects in the 10-20. No one has cemented their reputation yet (other than Kulikov), but I think any one of the 10-20 picks would be greedily snapped up if made available. (Earlier someone mocked Holland- he is lighting up the AHL at the same level Nuge was with lesser teammates.)

GVBlackhawk was right.

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#69 K_Mart
December 20 2012, 12:31AM
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Jesse wrote:

The argument against drafting RNH in the above link is well supported based on the information available months before the entry draft. I'm curious as to what about this article you consider to be lacking in smarts, as you implied. The fact that you feel as though it's obvious who was the better draft choice so early in these players' careers seems silly, especially after there was so much debate around who was a more complete player in their rookie seasons between RNH and Landeskog.

First off, I believe Gregor's point was merely that even CORRECT statistical analysis can lead to the wrong decision. Secondly, hindsight shows us one MAJOR flaw in JW's article... accounting for how much PP time RNH might see should he don Oilers silks. He automatically reduces the value of RNH's PP points to zero based on the assumption he will see zero PP time. He should've at least dissected the odds that a first overall pick and power play specialist might get a good look on the PP of the thirtieth placed team. Just sayin'

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#70 @Oilanderp
December 20 2012, 12:57AM
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Statistics are a quantified history of the game. Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it. Keep handing out those big fat stupid contracts, GMs!

No offense intended to those of us who are big fat and stupid or any combination thereof.

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#71 Old Retired Guy
December 20 2012, 01:12AM
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#56 DSF Regarding Pajaarvi

Pajaarvi at 10 is not looking great at this point ( Still young with time to turn things around)

Also, Kadri and Glennie went 7 and 8 and not looking so good either...

7. Nazem Kadri, Toronto, c, London (OHL)

8. Scott Glennie, Dallas, rw, Brandon (WHL)

10. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Edmonton, lw, Timra (Sweden).

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#72 dougtheslug
December 20 2012, 01:50AM
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stevezie wrote:

I can't speak for DSF, but a lot of people were bully on Kulikov. He fell because of the Russian factor.

I think you're making the same mistake DSF is, Doug. You're treating the draft like a finished story. I think there are a lot of good prospects in the 10-20. No one has cemented their reputation yet (other than Kulikov), but I think any one of the 10-20 picks would be greedily snapped up if made available. (Earlier someone mocked Holland- he is lighting up the AHL at the same level Nuge was with lesser teammates.)

GVBlackhawk was right.

You are totally right, it is premature to write off the top 10-20 (or more), and I fully agree there are stories to be written yet. Including MPS. Still, I think, when you scroll down the list, that there are going to have to be a lot of late bloomers to rescue that particular draft year.

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#73 dessert1111
December 20 2012, 08:06AM
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I think we may all be a little irritable from talking about the same things repeatedly without any new games. Remember all, we're all just discussing a sport we love :)

I appreciate the article very much, but I would like to add this: stats certainly have their place as a way to understand the game on another level, but that should not come at the expense of enjoying the game. We talk a lot about things like cautious optimism, which is, statistically speaking, a good thing to have, but if we never let ourselves really enjoy the fun of the game and Eberle scoring 34 goals, whether he's likely to repeat it or not, then there really is no point in discussing it. Enjoyment first -- it's entertainment.

I would like to make one point about stats in general that doesn't seem to be made much around here: stats can be extremely misleading. You can win an argument with stats, but it doesn't mean you are right. But you absolutely can look more credible with statistical insight. Understanding how to use stats (and research in general) is imperative to draw proper conclusions.

Many of the things we are talking about we don't need stats to reach an intelligent conclusion. When I saw Pisani in the playoffs, it was right before I took my first stats class and I didn't think for a second he was going to score like that again. I loved the guy and had a ball watching that playoff run. Of course I didn't think he was going to be a goal scorer all of a sudden. He was a vet 3rd line winger who had an excellent playoff who provided some secondary scoring, but not even a lot. Why the hell would he suddenly start being a goal-scorer? I didn't need to look at his shooting percentage to figure that out.

With Eberle, yeah his shooting percentage will probably come down. But I don't need stats to tell me he has a wicked shot and is a good goal-scorer, probably one of the best in the league. Anyone who watches hockey can see that. So as long as we're still able to enjoy that without freaking out about sustainable percentages, it's all good.

Happy holidays to everyone at ON!

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#74 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 20 2012, 08:10AM
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I honestly don't know what the deal is with Brule and why he is brought up in this convo. He was young and had potential. It's not like he dropped for 4%. He dropped to a respectable 9.7%, which is a similar number to 30 goal scorer Phil Kessel or numerous 20 goal scorers. His problem was injuries, not his shooting percentage.

Why isn't Jones brought up here? Guys sure like to say I told you so with Brule, but where's Jones in his high shooting percentage and won't score 15+ goals again?

Even Pisani, Lowe had no choice but to sign him. How do you let Pisani go when everyone else is walking away from the team?

You might think that you can put a magically team together on paper Willis, but the fact remains there is a lot more to hockey than stats and trying to prove your point for the 100th time.

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#75 OilClog
December 20 2012, 09:13AM
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Any comparison of Cogliano and Eberle is ridiculous.

Eberle is a pure sniper, he's going to always have a higher then normal sp%, when you're playing with 1st overall talent on a nightly basis I tend to believe its a bit of a shot at them too to suggest a player of Eberle's skill is just going to drop off and not continue to improve.

For years now on different stages, Eberle has proven time and time again he scores and get points.. Stats are great, so is accepting what you see and looking at the glass as its half full instead of half empty. He isn't a fluke, he isn't done becoming the player he will be, the sky is the limits.

Cogliano and Eberle comparisons.. What the hell is happening to us.

Could you imagine a world where RNH is in New Jersey.. Damn you Willis.

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#76 Rick
December 20 2012, 09:22AM
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Yay, another article that comes off as seeking validation and legitimacy.

I have no idea what a Vic Farrari has to offer but Gabe Desjardins' stuff is not without it's flaws. It's a nice feather in his cap if teams or people are using his database as a resource but if they are using ONLY his data base to reach conclusions then they probably aren't really advancing their goal.

I think this article/debate is a great summary why people lose patience with the online stats crowd.

The stats tend to get over emphasized - such as reducing all of the encompassing problems of a career, right through to the managments role, to a single statistic in shooting percentage.

This is followed up with the suggestion that without the new emphasis on statistics - and the subsequent better understanding of what's going on - the game is a lesser experience.

To finally admitting that despite all this knowledge it's not a crystal ball into the future. With that admission you almost have wonder what the point even is.

There is no doubt a place for stats and analysis but I think for the vast majority of fans simply enjoying the ride still trumps all.

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#77 DSF
December 20 2012, 09:30AM
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GVBlackhawk wrote:

The 2009 draft was not a good one for the Oilers. In hindsight, there were better picks available at the 10th position. But if the draft was redone today, MPS would still likely go in the top 15. That's not an outrageous miss.

The 2009 draft is actually looking pretty good.

It needs to be pointed out that the first round featured a lot of D in Hedman, Ellis, OEL, Kulikov, DeHaan, Leddy Rundblad, Moore Erixon etc and we all know they generally take longer to develop.

It should also be noted that in judging drafts, we need to look at the Oilers factor, that being take the early results of Oiler picks with a grain of salt since the team pushes its picks into the NHL much quicker that most other teams.

Normally, I don't think you can accurately judge a draft until 5 years out but at this point I would think there are several forwards picked below Paajarvi who may surpass him in the near future.

Holland

Kreider

Josefsson

Johanssen (already has)

Caron

Palmieri

O'Reilly (already has)

Clifford

Silfverberg

Orlov

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#78 Craiger
December 20 2012, 01:11PM
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willis…

first let me say that i am a huge fan of oilersnation, and indeed hockey in general. this is a great blog with some talented writers, and as die-hard fans like me scavenge the internets for any tidbits of hockey news that isn't lockout related, the nation has done a fantastic job of creating content in a situation in which there is often little to report.

i've been a fan of the nation since it opened its virtual doors, and have visited the site daily for many years. over that time i've come to find a great respect for some of the contributors, and less for others. sadly, i have to tell you that you have of late fallen into the latter pile.

the nation is a place to share opinions and talk hockey, and any sports fan knows that the passion of the game is not contained solely to the ice/field/court/diamond, but spills over into basements, bars and blogs. i respect that. presenting an opinion and using data or observations to back it up is what the whole thing is about - but when you start acting like a whiny, condescending brat and resorting to name-calling and insults to make your point, the words lose their effectiveness and instead the focus becomes the whiny, condescending brat behind the words.

the readers of the nation are not idiots. just because we don't all keep spreadsheets loaded full of data and run statistical analyses and regression models on left handed face-off winning percentages in third period neutral zone face-offs on the road on odd numbered days in january doesn't mean you are the only person here who understands the game. some of us played it, and can glean as much from watching a sequence as any mathematician can with all the statistics in the world. i appreciate the numbers approach, and appreciate the evidence used to back up your opinions… i just wish you would present those opinions as such rather than with the superfluous superior attitude and patronizing tone. it doesn't make you right. it just makes you a know-it-all asshat.

you're better than that. have some respect for your readers, we're not all the idiots you seem to think.

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#80 nope
December 20 2012, 02:19PM
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@Jonathan Willis

I'm with ya, JW. You bring up a valid point. An in-depth analysis reveals more information, that's all there is to it. No, SH% isn't the be-all-end-all, absolute determiner in a player's success, but I do believe that it is a real and necessary part of a scouting report that can be useful in analyzing a player.

Of course, I'd rather be reading about actual hockey, but given the lack of available content, this will have to suffice. I was actually quite surprised when people took offence. JW wasn't tooting his own horn here. I didn't think any arrogance was present in the article at all.

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#81 Eastern Oil
December 20 2012, 03:47PM
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@ Craiger

Although I respect the tone of your comment I think you have absolutely missed the boat on the article. At no point did Willis comment that he understood, appreciated or loved the game more because he is a stats guy, he only put forth the opinion that stats, as a whole, can further our understanding of the game.

Not our love of the game, how much we appreciate it, or how much value we give back to it. But stats can allow us to see a different picture.

If you just watch the game and read the sports page because you love the game, that's fantastic. But if you want to delve deeper then there are lot of great stats guys, as well as dedicated readers, out there with varying opinions and you can choose to agree or disagree.

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#82 The Oilers Shot Clock
December 20 2012, 04:05PM
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The people-who-took-offense-to-this-article percentage is at 18.5%.Personally I missed the part where we should feel insulted, but Im pretty sure Willis' next article will naturally regress towards the mean. The WJC is about to begin and it will finally provide the Columnists here some easy zone starts and softer minutes. 18.5% is not sustainable over a long period of time. Chin up JW.

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#83 Wax Man Riley
December 20 2012, 05:02PM
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Craiger wrote:

willis…

first let me say that i am a huge fan of oilersnation, and indeed hockey in general. this is a great blog with some talented writers, and as die-hard fans like me scavenge the internets for any tidbits of hockey news that isn't lockout related, the nation has done a fantastic job of creating content in a situation in which there is often little to report.

i've been a fan of the nation since it opened its virtual doors, and have visited the site daily for many years. over that time i've come to find a great respect for some of the contributors, and less for others. sadly, i have to tell you that you have of late fallen into the latter pile.

the nation is a place to share opinions and talk hockey, and any sports fan knows that the passion of the game is not contained solely to the ice/field/court/diamond, but spills over into basements, bars and blogs. i respect that. presenting an opinion and using data or observations to back it up is what the whole thing is about - but when you start acting like a whiny, condescending brat and resorting to name-calling and insults to make your point, the words lose their effectiveness and instead the focus becomes the whiny, condescending brat behind the words.

the readers of the nation are not idiots. just because we don't all keep spreadsheets loaded full of data and run statistical analyses and regression models on left handed face-off winning percentages in third period neutral zone face-offs on the road on odd numbered days in january doesn't mean you are the only person here who understands the game. some of us played it, and can glean as much from watching a sequence as any mathematician can with all the statistics in the world. i appreciate the numbers approach, and appreciate the evidence used to back up your opinions… i just wish you would present those opinions as such rather than with the superfluous superior attitude and patronizing tone. it doesn't make you right. it just makes you a know-it-all asshat.

you're better than that. have some respect for your readers, we're not all the idiots you seem to think.

I have no idea how someone could take offense to this piece. I did not find it whiny or condescending at all.

Also, looks like someone learned to prop themselves....

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#84 David S
December 20 2012, 05:56PM
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*Props WMR just to screw up the data set*

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#85 Oiler Al
December 20 2012, 06:03PM
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Dessert 1111, says it best.

Craiger ... not sure where you coming from, looks like you didnt get that Prozac bottle opened.

From my point of view, [ and I am not pumping tires here], but nowhere in Willis's column was he condecending or rude etc. I think Willis is one of the hardest working writers here, he certainly churns out the columns for our enjoyment and commentary. He knows his stuff even though I am not a stats geek per say. I remember when the plus/minus was "god" in this game., Thinks change,.. additions, deletions etc. The game has changed.

Keep the cards and letters coming.

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#86 OilLeak
December 20 2012, 06:34PM
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DSF wrote:

Shooting percentage is shooting percentage in any league.

In his final SEL season, he scored 12 goals in 49 games with a shooting percentage around 6%.

For comparison, Canucks prospect Niklas Jensen has already scored 12 goals in the SEL in 30 games and he is only 19.

I may be wrong on this one, maybe Willis can confirm this, but an adjustment to shooting percentage needs to be made when moved from league to league.

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#87 GVBlackhawk
December 20 2012, 06:37PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'm astounded by the notion that I've insulted anybody in this piece. Really I am.

Even in the initial draft, you'll note that I say "we'd all be stupider" - I'm including myself because the only reason I know to look for things like zonestarts is because somebody taught me to look for them.

No offense was intended, and re-reading the piece for the dozenth time I'm at a loss as to why it's being taken.

That's right. You just keep yer fancy edjucatin' to yerself.

Seriously though, you can't open your mouth these days without offending somebody. Reality is, statistics are very useful because nobody can remember all of the nuances that happen throughout a game. Our memories are not that good. There is nothing wrong with trying to educate the masses. People don't like change and all of the advanced stats stuff is pretty new.

In addition, some less intelligent folk get offended simply because they don't understand it.

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#88 Johnny
December 21 2012, 03:04AM
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I appreciate what you guys do, but I don't really like having it thrown in my face as to how great you are.

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#89 gcw_rocks
December 21 2012, 09:19AM
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It does come off as a "i'm right and the rest of you are flirting with ignorance" kind of article, but not horribly so.

I think there are times where you have to stand up and point to shooting percentage and say, "hey, we have an outlier here!" Cogliano and Pisani, neither of whom were expected to be scorers entering the NHL fit the bill. When they light it up, we should be cautious at least, suspicious at worst. By the time Brule hit his high watermark, there was enough history there to include him with Cogs and Pisani.

But, I think we should be more cautious with Eberle. He was drafted because he was a scorer. He has history to back that up, and his 34 goals, as Gregor points out, is in sniper territory.

Therefore, we should recognize that Eberle could regress to the mean, but we should also be open to the possibility that he will exceed it. In other words, a balanced view is probably good, but the longer the debate around Eberle goes on, the more polarized people seem to be becoming.

We've been warned. He could regress. Thanks. I will be wary for the signs. But in the meantime, let me enjoy the show.

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#90 Oiltimer
December 21 2012, 01:29PM
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Skating since I wus 3, hockey since I was 6, I wus from the "saw him good school". I knew Charlie Huddy was a keeper and Jimmy Carson was not. I thought I wus knowlegable re: "our game" until I started following the blogs during the last lockout. The thing about stats. ... they can SHOW you what you think you know. One can go overboard with them, of course, but to the average "Fan"atic they only enhance the experience they do not replace it. Like a glass of good wine to a meal. Baseball is a stat. friendly sport because a lot of the time nothing happens else. Good, civilized debate also enhances the meal.

Keep up the good work JW you're the top.

Keep safe all and seasons best

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