Monday, 21 December 2015

An Analysis of Cooper's Simple Stamkos Math

Perhaps the most interesting Tampa Bay Lightning-related story this year has been the sluggish start to the season from Steven Stamkos.  Of course, only when talking about a world-class goal scorer like Stamkos is clicking along at a 30-plus goal pace considered "sluggish," but the fact remains that he hasn't been his usual dominant self for much of the year.

There might be an easy solution to that "problem."  One of the things my dad said to me as a kid has stuck with me to this day: "Don't bring me the problem.  Bring me the solution," he used to say.  Being the well-educated and intelligent man that he is, that's exactly what Lightning head coach Jon Cooper did after Sunday night's win over the Ottawa Senators:
A good chunk of it might just be that simple.


Consider the following chart as evidence of what Cooper is getting at with his seemingly simplistic answer:

His overall shooting percentage this year is basically identical to what it was last season.  He scored 43 goals last season, but is only on pace for ~34 this year.  Shoot more, score more.  Cooper isn't off base with his comments.

For whatever reason, Stamkos has been unwilling or unable to shoot the puck with his usual regularity this season:
When it comes to how often he has shot the puck in 2015-16, the clock has essentially been turned back to his rookie season.  It's a peculiar trend for a player who has always shown such a love of scoring, who has always wanted to put the puck in the net, and who has never had any trouble doing so.

Based on my calculations, Stamkos has averaged 3.18 shots on goal per game in his career, compared to just 2.59 this season.  Multiplied by the 34 games the Lightning have played so far in 2015-16, "average" Stamkos should have 108.12 shots on goal by now instead of the 88 he actually has.  Even if you assume that his current-year, slightly lower, shooting percentage is the new norm, he would have scored 17 goals as of this moment if he had been generating shots on goal at his career average rate to this point in the year (and that's discounting the fact that, if he were to have done that, the average would be higher).  

If instead you use his career average shots per game total *and* his career average shooting percentage (17.1%) as a basis for calculation, you would find that he should have scored 18.5 goals to this point in the year, which would put him on pace for approximately 45 on the year.

Math hurts my brain, so let's just get to the point: The point here is that Cooper is largely right.  The more Stamkos shoots, the more Stamkos will score.  Shooting percentage is a largely variable an unpredictable statistic, so it wouldn't surprise me to see it tick upwards for the Captain if he were to start shooting more.  All we know for sure is that, if there's anyone we should want shooting the puck on this team, it's one of the league's most elite goal scorers.

Listen to your coach, Stamkos.  His wisdom knows no bounds.

Thanks for reading.

(All statistics cited in this piece are courtesy of War on Ice, a premier source for hockey analytics, and NHL.com.)

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