In his recent relaunch of the Shot Quality Contest, Gabe asked the following questions (among others):
Are there players or teams with the ability to drive or suppress on-ice shooting percentage? What are their characteristics?
Looking at this from the player level, I searched the last four seasons of data on Behind the Net, and looked at the even-strength on-ice save percentage of every player who played at least 20 games, to try to find someone who was consistently higher than average.
Who did I find? George Parros!
The average even-strength on-ice save percentage is .9172, with a standard deviation of .0172. George Parros even-strength on-ice save percentages has been .962, .940, .974 and .966. One of them was one standard deviation over average, the other three were at least two.
The only others to beat the average by at least one standard deviation in at least three of the past four seasons are Kent Huskins, Kyle Wellwood and Taylor Pyatt.
What do George Parros, Kent Huskins, Kyle Wellwood and Taylor Pyatt all have in common? Other than a fondness for cheeseburgers, not a darn thing!
• Parros is a goon, and consistently had among the league’s lowest Quality of Competitions
• Huskins is a stay-at-home depth defenseman who saw his first NHL game at age 27, and has yet to have a Relative Corsi-based Quality of Competition above zero.
• Wellwood, other than one magical 2006-07 season, plays 13 minutes a game against average competition, is penalized extremely rarely, and tries to generate secondary offense, mostly on the power play.
• Pyatt is your very typical veteran third-line winger, scoring between 20-40 points every year, and generally against above-average competition.
Let’s expand our net and see if we can find anyone who fits any of these three patterns. Of those playing at least 3 seasons, Parros also tops the list when you make an average of their even-strength on-ice percentage, and by a longshot:
Email me if you want my spreadsheet, but you can work it out for yourself on Behind the Net. Here is everyone else whose average even-strength on-ice save percentage over the past four seasons (minimum three seasons played) is at least one standard deviation above average:
.937: Benoit Pouliot, Sean O’Donnell, Travis Moen
.936: Kyle Chipchura
.935: Manny Malhotra, Mark Stuart, Tanner Glass, Taylor Pyatt
.934: Eric Boulton, Jeff Woywitka, Michael Ryder, Mike Weaver, Torrey Mitchell, Tyler Kennedy
Once again, there you have it: Cheeseburgers. I’d probably have won the prize if only Guillaume Latendresse had made the list. Sadly, that counter-example forces me to continue.
Basically these players seem to break down into the following categories:
1. Tough guys who play a handful of minutes a game against the fourth line, taking a lot of penalties. Examples: Parros, Staubitz, Thornton, Glass and Boulton. Moustaches optional.
2. Depth, stay-at-home defensemen. Examples: Huskins, O’Donnell, Stuart, Woywitka and Weaver.
3. Secondary offensive players, at even-strength and the power play, generally small and light-hitting. Examples: Wellwood, Pouliot, Ryder and maybe Kennedy
4. Trusted third-liners who are relied upon to shut down above-average competition at both even-strength and the penalty kill. Examples: Pyatt, Moen, Malhotra and maybe Chipchura
5. Fourth liners whose roles aren’t really well-defined. Examples: Jones and Mitchell.
6. Marco Sturm. If Marcel Goc showed up, I could have won the prize.
Let’s talk about quality of competition, because I think that’s the common theme. Categories 1, 3 and 5 can be explained by the reduced level of competition they face. For different reasons, their good on-ice save percentages is more a function of facing below-average shooters than any particular ability to suppress shots.
At first glance, categories 2 and 4 appear more interesting, because these are players in defensive roles. But none of them are facing their team’s toughest minutes. If they truly had the ability to suppress shooting percentage, why would Kesler and Burrows hop out against Ovechkin instead of Malhotra? Why would Pronger keep an eye on Crosby instead of O’Donnell? Kudos to each of them for playing their roles very well, but the explanation still appears grounded in Quality of Competition.
And cheeseburgers. Lots and lots of cheeseburgers.