Ramblings: Comparing goal rates for non-elite players, part 2

Michael Clifford

2020-03-26

In Tuesday's Ramblings, we discussed players who outscored their expected goals rates by the most significant margin in 2019-20. The reason for that is just to figure out who might be overheating and who is not.

As mentioned a couple times in those Ramblings, just because a player outscores their expected goals does not mean they are merely lucky. Rather, when we see the list of players, we see a lot of the players we consider to be elite. It was the few names we don't consider as such that was of importance to us.

The inverse is true for players at the bottom of the list, or rather, the players who failed to live up to their expected goals rates by the biggest margins. The funny thing is, there aren't a lot of marginal NHLers. There are a lot of people who are or have been very good NHLers but did not perform to expectations in 2019-20.

Here are the bottom-20 players by goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 less expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. All data from Natural Stat Trick:

 

 

Yeah, there aren't a lot of bad players there, so that gives us more players to discuss.

 

Jordan Staal

It's been a while since Staal broke the 50-point mark (he was still in Pittsburgh, actually), so I'm not sure how many people have been paying attention to his production in recent years, or even just this year. Well, he had eight goals in 68 games and that's really not going to cut it, even if he would have flirted with 160 hits. (I guess there are so many fantasy hockey variants that there are leagues where eight goals from a centre is fine, just not something I would target.)

I'm not going to spend a lot of time here because there's not a lot of fantasy relevance, but Staal's days of any fantasy relevance may be numbered. He'll be 32 years old for next season, and as the Hurricanes have improved their team (and their depth), his ice time has declined; his 17:30 in 2019-20 was his lowest mark per game since his rookie 2006-07 season.

 

Dallas's Big Four

Sometimes we have to consider team effects, which would necessarily include, to some degree, coaching effects. There are a handful of teams on this list that appear twice, Dallas being there three times, and Alex Radulov is actually tied for 20th in goals minus expected goals. That means we have four Stars forwards in the top-20 (plus ties). Hockey is a very interconnected game and it starts from the coach and bleeds down to the players. We need to remember that Rick Bowness took over for the Stars early in the year and at that point, became an incredibly boring team to watch. It was like Ken Hitchcock was back in town. How much that plays into it, I don't have an exact impact figure. It's hard to imagine the coaches not sharing some of the blame, though.

That's probably why Pavelski (and Benn, and Radulov) appeared a couple times throughout my Ramblings this season as buy-low options. It was quite frequently because of power-play stats, but the 5-on-5 underperformance also played into that.

It's tough to figure out if this is a one-year blip or something that will continue into 2020-21. Given how the team has played under Bowness, it should continue to some extent, but having so many players perform so poorly is tough to repeat year after year, especially with players of this calibre.

 

Bo Horvat

Just wanted to point out Horvat's appearance on this list, which is kind of funny considering just before Valentine's Day, I had a Ramblings post that discussed, in part, how good a season Horvat was having despite not getting anywhere near the quality of line mates that fellow Canucks centre Elias Pettersson was enjoying. When you consider that his 5-on-5 shooting percentage this year (5.22 percent) is exactly half of his three-year average prior to 2019-20 (10.44 percent), we see just how much better his season could have been. Double his 5-on-5 goals and he's flirting with 30 goals with 14 games to spare. Again, that's without elite line mates (which may be partly why his shooting percentage dropped so much). He's a guy to invest in for 2020-21.

 

Brady Tkachuk

Just wanted to point out that this is one of the cases where I'm not sure the player will live up to the expected goals rate. As I mentioned in my Ramblings post a couple days ago, one of the big drivers of expected goal rates is proximity to the net, and few players crash the net like Tkachuk does. With that said, players that crash the net can sometimes see their goal totals fail to live up to their expected goal marks. A good example of that is Brendan Gallagher, who has been much better in this regard in recent seasons, but once went four straight seasons with a higher xG than actual goals scored. There are others that fit this bill, such as Patric Hornqvist, who went from 2011-2019 having only one season outscoring his expected goals rate. Tyler Toffoli also had three straight years, from 2016-19, failing to outscore his xG rate (though that may have also been line mate-related).

All this is to say just because Brady Tkachuk puts up 1.25 ixG/60 doesn't mean we can expect him to score near that rate every year. It does give him a nice floor, especially with his peripherals, just be wary of assuming he's one of the best goal scorers in the league now. We'll have to give him a couple more years to prove that.

 

Paul Stastny

It's not often you see someone shooting over 10 percent at 5-on-5 and still being among the worst differentials between goals scored and expected goals scored, and yet here we are with Stastny. You'll notice most of the list has players with very low shooting percentages, the next-closest being Warren Foegele at 8.3 percent.

That's why it's worth pointing out Stastny's case, because he's actually enjoying a three-year high in goals scored (17) and had a decent chance of getting to 20 for the first time since 2015. The power-play goals are the difference here, as his five PPGs are also a three-year high, and ties the most for him since that last 20-goal season in 2014-15.

Not that Stastny has much fantasy value in any type of format, but I thought it was worth pointing out that no, we can't just point to one stat and yell LOOK.

 

Gustav Nyquist

Now, shooting 4.1 percent is going to make anyone's goal totals look bad, but it's the expected goals rate that is really of concern here. He's never really been a big goal scorer, at least not since his first couple years in the league, but his expected goals rate/60 this year of 0.44 is by far a career-low (0.55 in 2015-16) and considerably lower than his marks going back three years (0.83, 0.65, 0.75, respectively).

I think there's a good chance there are some team effects here. Even Cam Atkinson, a guy who has posted three seasons above 1.0 ixG/60, was suffering from a three-year low this year. The team as a whole was in the bottom-10 for xG/60 so maybe there is something to the team effects. That John Tortorella had this team playing much more defensively than in seasons prior wouldn't be a surprise to anyone given the exodus of talent they suffered a year ago.

Not that I think Nyquist is a great fantasy asset, but it seems pretty obvious there's more to give here. Maybe if some of the young guns step up more in 2020-21, and they add some talent in the offseason, he can get back to where we expect him to be.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency PIT Players
23.6% PATRIC HORNQVIST EVGENI MALKIN JASON ZUCKER
16.3% ZACH ASTON-REESE TEDDY BLUEGER BRANDON TANEV
15.9% SIDNEY CROSBY JAKE GUENTZEL BRYAN RUST

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