Shooting Percentages and How They Play Folks For Fools

Eric Staal's a fine example of how a player's playoff hot streak can take on a life of its own.  He has nine goals in twelve playoff games so far with a 19.1 shooting percentage, inspiring Jason Gregor to laud him in his latest bit at OilersNation.

We had a bit of an argument after that, where I attempted to point out that had Staal maintained that average over the course of this past season he would have scored 71 goals rather than 45, or 238 goals since the lockout rather than the (very respectable) 153 he did score.  Thus, I argued, while Staal is a fine hockey player it seems likely that he's getting lucky to some extent.

Gregor disagreed, contending that Staal was simply a "clutch" player and we went back and forth a bit in the comments section of the article linked above.  I wasn't prepared for this comment:

Who cares what [Staal's] shooting % is?

Crosby is at 19.2, Zetterberg 19.4, Franzen 24.1 Kane 28.6, Savard 31.3. Are their shooting percentages making them look better than they are, or are they just dominant players.


Obviously, all of them are good players.  Just as obviously, all of them are on a bit of a lucky streak right now.  Here are the career averages for each player, with their current playoff pace in bold:

  • Staal: 11.6 average, 19.1 current 
  • Crosby: 14.1 average, 19.2 current
  • Zetterberg: 12.8 average, 19.4 current
  • Franzen: 11.6 average, 24.1 current
  • Kane: 10.3 average, 28.6 current
  • Savard: 10.9 average, 31.3 current

Savard is the most obvious example; if he could triple his ability to make his shots simply of his own volition (without external factors), do you think he'd do it?  Is it just a result of him being more focused (as Gregor has contended)?  Obviously not.

The short, ugly way of stating this is that it's a fluke; he's a good player but everything's going in for him - and that applies to a lesser degree to every player on this list.

Tyler's shown the two-thirds regression at his site, but these examples are so obvious that simple common sense should kick in.  Apparently though it isn't that obvious to everyone.

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