Top 10 Players With Declining Shot Rates

Tom Collins

2020-05-25

In one-year leagues, one of the categories that I specifically aim to win is shots.

My thinking on this is pretty basic. A player who takes plenty of shots is more likely to score, more likely to be getting lots of ice time and power-play time and more likely to be playing with other elite players. So, players with high shot totals are more likely to help in numerous other categories.

However, looking at total shots doesn't always paint the clearest picture. Injuries or suspensions can make it seem like a player had a decrease in shots when the opposite may have been true. Just look at Brendan Gallagher. His 226 shots this year was his lowest total since 2016-17, but his shots per game was a career-high 3.83 and eighth highest in the league.

One thing that sometimes jumps out at fantasy general managers is when they notice a player has a reduction in shot rate one season compared to the next. The bigger concern for those GMs should be noticing players who have consistently seen a shot rate decrease over several years. One bad season could be attributed to many things. A few declining years is more of a trend and cause for concern.

Below are 10 players that have seen a declining shot rate in every season since the 2016-17 campaign. This gives us four years to look at, which leans more toward a trend. Keep in mind this doesn't guarantee the players on this list will continue to see a decrease next season (Patrice Bergeron, for example, saw his shot rate bounce back this year after a few bad years), but it is something to keep in mind.

By looking at a few years, it also takes away players such as Ryan O'Reilly, whose shot rate plummeted from 2.85 a year ago to 1.66 this season. That is concerning, but O'Reilly had four straight seasons of increases before this year's drop.

For this list, I looked at forwards who scored at least 10 goals a season and defensemen who have taken at least 100 shots. Anything lower, and you're not drafting those guys for shots or offense anyway.

10. Justin Faulk

A few seasons ago, Faulk was averaging three shots per game while posting a 40-point pace, playing 23 minutes a night and was always a threat on the first-unit power play. While his production dropped slightly over the next couple of years, his shot rate also decreased to 2.78 and then 2.65 last season. This year, he wound up in St. Louis, where his power-play time dropped by almost two-thirds and his shot rate dropped to 2.13 per game. It appears the days of him getting 200 shots per season seems to be over.

9. Aaron Ekblad

If you compare Ekblad's drop from four years ago to now, it seems like a massive decline. However, his decrease in shot rate is not as bad as it first seems. Four years ago, he was at 3.31 shots per game, which then dropped to 2.30 to 2.20 to 2.19 over the next few seasons. However, let's put that 3.31 number into context. That was easily a career high, and in his five other seasons, his shots-per-game number ranged from 2.1 to 2.33.

8. Jakub Voracek

Voracek was averaging 3.09 shots per game in 2016-17, and that cratered to 1.91 shots per game this season. That's almost 100 fewer shots over an 82-game season. Some of this could be chalked up to lower ice time (he's averaging two fewer minutes a game this year than he did four seasons ago). This season may be a blip on the radar, so to speak. He did average 2.78 shots three years ago and 2.69 two years ago. While he'll probably rebound somewhat next season, the fact that he's been dropping over the last few years should be concerning.

7. Mats Zuccarello

Zuccarello's shot rate had dropped slightly during the three seasons from 2016-17 to 2018-19 (from 2.36 to 2.17), but there was no real reason to be concerned. Then he signed in Minnesota, and things fell apart for the 32-year-old. His ice time dropped three minutes a game from a year ago, and was never a staple on the top power-play unit. His shot rate dropped to 1.48 shots per game this season. That's only 121 shots over an 82-game season. Like Voracek, this might only be a blip, but Voracek is at least getting lots of ice time on the top line. Zuccarello isn't getting that luxury.

6. Joe Pavelski

While there was some concern that we would see a drop in production from Pavelski this season in Dallas after 13 years in San Jose, we never expected it would be that this bad. He saw a significant decrease in ice time (more than two minutes less per game this year compared to a season ago) and his shooting percentage was cut almost in half from last year to his normal percentage this season. He was also removed from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn at five-on-five after the first quarter of the season. His shot per game mark also nosedived, going from 2.88 in 2016-17 to 2.73 to 2.51 last year to 1.87 this season.

5. Jeff Skinner

Much has been written about Skinner's production drop, but while his shot rate is down almost half a shot per game from a few years ago, he's still averaging more than three shots per game. That's pretty good considering everything that went against him: The hit to his shooting percentage (almost half of what it was last year and the lowest of his career), a major decrease in ice time and shifting away from Jack Eichel for most of the season. I wouldn't bank on Skinner rebounding to 40 goals next year, but as long as he takes three shots a game, he's worth a gamble.

4. David Krejci

Krejci's never been a heavy-volume shooter, only reaching an average of two shots a game twice over his 13 seasons. His numbers have declined over five years, going from 1.99 shots per game in 2015-16 to 1.36 this year. Part of this has to do with a reduction in ice time and power-play time, plus lesser quality linemates. We haven't noticed because his shooting percentage has also been at least 14.3 per cent over the last few years, up to 15.7 per cent this season.

3. Ryan Suter

I'm a big proponent of Suter, especially considering my stance of acquiring older players (you can get the same production for much cheaper than a similar player 10 years younger). However, I'm not liking his shot declination. Going from two shots per game (my cutoff for whether a player is a useful contributor or not) a few years ago to 1.66 last year and 1.61 this season is concerning. Part of that has to do with a decline in ice time. He averaged 24:38 this season, ninth highest in the league, but it's still two fewer minutes than a year ago, and four minutes per night fewer than four and five years back. Much of this has been hidden as he has become more productive with fewer minutes. This year, he had 48 points when the season was suspended (which would have put him on pace for a career-high 57 points).

2. Blake Wheeler

I'm sure there could be many reasons why Wheeler's shot per game mark has dropped from 3.16 to 3.04 to 2.82 to 2.54 over the past four seasons (this comes after six straight seasons of increases in shot rate). Maybe his constant shifting from wing to centre and back has him looking to pass more instead of shooting or he's finding himself in different spots on the ice. Maybe playing with young snipers such as Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele means Wheeler is letting them shoot more (Laine and Connor were both on pace for 250-plus shots this year, while Scheifele was around 200).

1. Sidney Crosby

Crosby had always taken at least three shots a game until the last two seasons, so it's maybe a sign that age and injuries are catching up to him. Back in 2016-17, Crosby was averaging 3.4 shots per game, but that dropped steadily every season until this year's 2.66 shots per game (for the record, he's gone from 3.4 to 3.01 to 2.78 to 2.66). It's a surprising number, considering he's started in the offensive zone on 64.8 per cent of his shifts, easily a career high. Throw in the fact that he's one of the best faceoff men in the league, he should be able to get more shot opportunities right off the faceoff.

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