This **** is Getting too Complicated!

[With apologies to Barack Obama for the title...]

A lot of the stuff I write about isn't complicated - sometimes I just look for guys who have benefited from a lot of luck (or got none of it) and point out that things are going to go in the opposite direction going forward.  For example:

1/22/2010 - Henrik Sedin's absurdly high shooting percentage through his first 50 games last year:

 

Time Frame Shot%
2000-2009 12.3
Through 1/22/2010 21.2
Since 1/22/2010 11.2

 

I predicted Sedin would score another nine goals over the rest of the season.  He scored 8 - 11.2% shooting percentage.  84% of the voters took the over.

4/11/2010 - Washington's high shooting percentage over the course of the 2009-10 season:

 

5v5 Sh% 5v5 GF/82
2007-08 8.1 157
2008-09 8.2 168
2009-10 11.0 225
2010-11 8.2 161

 

I pointed out that Washington's shooting percentage in 2010-11 was more likely to look like 2007-08 and 2008-09 than like 2009-10.  I didn't ask anyone to vote, but one of the commenters told me: "This short post resounded of mathematical hubris, borderlining on arrogance. Player progression, coaching style/system, and line synergy/cohesion are all potential factors that aren’t accounted for in your model." 

'Hubris', my friend, is sneering at regression to the mean.

There are plenty of other examples, but the response is almost always the same: 'luck' has nothing to do with it - players or teams have suddenly developed a new skill, and it usually involves improving 'shot quality.'  It's like nails on a blackboard, people.  'Shot quality' is not the answer to why teams or players have brief periods of high shooting percentage.  But if you think it is, I invite you to put together a submission for the 2011 Shot Quality Prize - Derek Zona and I have put up $150 for any piece that proves convincingly that shot quality is a more significant true talent at the team level than shot differential.

So if you really think that the Boston Bruins take all of their shots from the slot, while New Jersey does nothing but flip the puck in from center ice, prove it.  Until then, claims of 'shot quality' as an over-arching driver of performance will get called out for what they are: pulled straight from someone's ass.

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