With the draft still a few days away, it's a good time to look at a favorite topic of mine, even strength shooting. On average, nearly 80% of the game is played at even strength, so the ability to get shots on goal in this situation is of paramount importance. To illustrate that point, over the past four seasons, three of the Stanley Cup champions have finished 1st or 2nd in the league in SF/60, while three of the runners-up finished in the top 10. (The Pittsburgh Penguins are the exception in both cases, finishing in the bottom half of the league in both years)
As I showed last year, league wide the talent distribution does not change very much from year to year. From 2007-08 to 2009-10, forwards got approximately 7.5 SOG for every 60 minutes, while defensemen got on average 3.5 SOG per 60. On top of that, the forward group shoots about 9.6%, while the defensemen convert about 4.3% of their shots. Let's compare that to this year's data (as usual, stats courtesy of the venerable Gabe Desjardins of behindthenet.ca)
While shooting overall continued to trend up, shooting percentage took a dip from the last few years. This is very likely due to the increase in shots from the defense, which are obviously of a lower quality than those coming from the forwards. So how did the 2010-11 NY Rangers measure up? Data after the jump.
I start with the forwards:
*Note Wolski's total includes data with PHX
I once again have included the previous years numbers to see for comparison's sake. The column 'Thru 29G' is exactly, that, it's the data I had when I looked at these numbers in December.
The name that immediately jumps out is also the name at the top of the list. Brian Boyle's amazing turnaround has been discussed at length all season, and this is just more evidence of how much he has grown. While he has always been above average by this metric, his well documented skating lessons translated to a brilliant season in getting shots. This increase helped make up for the fact that he had a below average (by league standards) shooting percentage. If he finds a way to improve that mark, he may just be able to sustain his 20 goal seasons.
As a whole, the Rangers team showed remarkable progress in this metric. While last year only four players managed an above average total, this year eight regular contributors were clear of the mark, not including half-season players Mats Zuccarello, Vinny Prospal and Wojtek Wolski. Unfortunately, this did not translate to goals, as the Rangers increased from 149 goals at 5v5 last year, to 150 this year.
Moving on to the defense:
The Rangers' defense has a lot of strengths, putting the puck on net at even strength is not one of them. They were all as a group better than they had been at the 1/3 point of the season, but still considerably below average. The exception to that, as you see, was Matt Gilroy. Gilroy takes a lot of heat from fans, but he is really the best offensive threat that they have from the blueline. Not only was he the most frequent shooter this past year, but his shooting percentage was also the highest aside from Steve Eminger's 2 goals on 21 shots. If the team does not plan on adding a veteran puck mover, they would be wise to keep Matt around, as even a 'head on straight' Michael Del Zotto has yet to show a consistent ability to put the puck on net.
At this point, I must remind everyone that this is just one metric. Among the league leaders like Jeff Carter (12.92) and Rick Nash (12.66) also exists Ales Kotalik (12.02) and Jack Skille (12.55). Guys well below average include Henrik Sedin (5.66) and David Krejci (6.02). It's merely a reminder that if you believe the team needs more scoring, having guys that can get shots on goal is a good place to start.