The Outcome of the Shot Quality Prize

Since I announced the Shot Quality prize almost three months ago, a lot of people have offered some very convincing research on the topic, and I have to say that my point of view has come full circle. For example, on the topic of team shot quality. Now I know that I would usually point to the fact that the year-over-year correlation in 5v5 shooting percentage is actually negative as evidence that it didn't exist as a talent. But there are certain teams that do possess this skill, even if the league as a whole doesn't.

Case in point: Washington and Colorado. If we take a two-year average of their shooting percentage so that we don't have small sample size issues, Washington is off the charts good - almost three standard deviations above the mean. That's talent - Colorado is more like two - but you can see that some teams are just so good at this that it brings them a number of wins in the standings. Dallas is another example - their off-season change in personnel really improved their shooting talent, and we should expect them to continue shooting at a high rate next year even if they don't make the playoffs this year.

But that's not all. A few months ago, in a series of pieces, I took a look at Washington's ability to reduce shot quality on the PK (piece 1; piece 2; piece 3). Again, I could point to the fact that the year-to-year correlation in 4v5 shooting percentage is slightly negative as evidence that no talent exists there. But the new PK system had a real impact on what we should expect from their special teams. Not only did they reduce their shots allowed by two (per 60 minutes) with the new system - half a standard deviation - they also managed to significantly improve their save percentage. Like the two teams above them in PK save percentage this season, Ottawa and Florida, the Capitals really have a system that suppresses opponent chance quality.

Even my original claim that Washington didn't possess chance suppression talent when they were two men down is suspect. When I wrote that, Washington had stopped 15 of 16 3v5 shots, and since that day, they stopped 4 of 7. Their total for the season was an 826 save percentage, which is well above the league-wide 768 save percentage.

And I think the biggest thing for me was understanding that Tomas Vokoun's value in goal is actually pretty limited. It's important to compare him to his backups if you want to see his value:

Vokoun Backups
GAA SV% GAA SV%
2010-11 2.6 0.921 2.42 0.918
2009-10 2.55 0.925 2.91 0.912
2008-09 2.49 0.926 2.71 0.924
2007-08 2.68 0.919 2.25 0.935
2.58 0.923 2.57 0.922

Vokoun has a reputation for being a great goaltender, but when you look at the numbers, the reality is different - he's no better than an NHL backup goalie. He's probably going to be looking for a big free agent contract, and teams should be very wary.

I know a lot of people claim that I'm closed-minded and stubborn, but I really want to stress my willingness to go back and look at the evidence that people present. If there's something there - anything that makes a valid point - I'm willing to pay attention to it and incorporate that into how I see the game.

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