Photo: Geoff Burke
A couple weeks back, I looked at how the Caps are doing a great job of limiting their opponents’ shots under Barry Trotz. While shot suppression is crucial, if a team prioritizes it too much it can come at the expense of generating their own shots. In other words, being a great defensive team is important, but getting a good balance of offense and defense is imperative.
Coming into last weekend, the Capitals were generating 52.87 shot attempts per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, which ranks 20th in the league. If you look back over the past 5 season (2009-10 through 2013-14), this would place the Caps in the bottom 40% of teams in terms of generating shot attempts. A look back at teams over the past five seasons shows that this is cause for concern.
I’ve divided the 150 teams from the past five season into five tiers, ranked by shot attempts generated per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. Tier I is 1-30, tier I is 31-60, tier III is 61-90 and so on.
NHL Team Results (2009-2014) Via Shot Attempts/60
|Made Playoffs||Made Conference Finals||Won Cup||Average Points|
(I excluded the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season from the point averages.)
The current Caps team falls in Tier IV. More on this in a minute.
As you can see, the higher the tier, the better chance the team has of making the playoffs and advancing to the conference finals. A team’s point totals also correlate with the tier they finish in. Four of the five Cup winners come from Tier I, with the other coming from Tier III, which was in the lockout shortened, 2012-13 season.
All in all, the most successful teams generate more shots. As teams shot generation declines, so do their results.
The Caps are in Tier IV, where just 47 percent of teams make the playoffs, 7 percent advance to the conference finals, none have won a Cup, and on average finish with 89 standings points.
Coming into last weekend, the Caps were towards the near the top of Tier IV. However, there isn’t a huge difference, in terms of success, between Tier III and IV teams. The big jump in results is between Tiers II and III. The cutoff at the low end of Tier II is 55.33 shot attempts per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play.
Barry Trotz’s Nashville teams were known more for their defensive play than their offensive exploits, so maybe he is a coach who employs a style of play that allows a team to find more success than the average team in their tier.
Nashville’s Results With Barry Trotz as Head Coach
|Tier||Made Playoffs||Made Conference Finals||Won Cup||Points|
The only way in which Trotz’s Nashville teams buck the trends of the first chart is in their point totals in 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12. Those three teams finished about ten points above average for that tier. Those teams didn’t carry that success into the playoffs, however, and none of them made the conference finals.
So, while for three of the five years Trotz was able to squeeze above-average results out of his teams’ meager offense, it never meant postseason success, Trotz’s two most recent Nashville teams were about what we’d expect given their offensive tier: both missed the playoffs.
This shouldn’t be taken as any sort of grand conclusion about the relationship between shot generation and a team’s success. However, teams that have generated shots near the rate of this current Caps team have traditionally been a coin flip to make the playoffs and have a really narrow chance of making a deep playoff run.
If this current Caps team hopes to play well into the spring, they’ll need to start generating more shots.
All stats from War on Ice
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