Goals and assists are the most tangible forms of offensive contribution, but there are others. What about the player screening the goalie, the player throwing the big hit that causes the offensive zone turnover, and other forms of equally important offensive contributions that don't show up in the score sheet? On average, forwards will get either a goal or an assist for roughly 72% of the even-strength goals that are scored while they're on the ice. Some players contribute a far greater percentage, and some players contribute far less. What insight can we gain by identifying and studying such players?
Let's define the Offensive Contribution Percentage (OC%) as the percentage of all goals scored while a player is on the ice for which he was awarded either a goal or an assist. Players who personally score or set up most of the scoring that occurs while they're on the ice will have a very high percentage, and those who contribute in other ways (or not at all) will have a lower percentage. First, let's examine the latter group, the players with the lowest OC%.
ESPPG: Even-Strength Points per Game (60 minutes)
ESGFA: Even-Strength Goals For Average
OC%: Percent of goals scored on the ice for which this player was awarded either the goal or an assist
Player Team ESPPG ESGFA OC%
Bryan Little Atlanta 1.83 3.48 52.5%
Mike Richards Philadelphia 2.09 3.83 54.5%
Blake Wheeler Boston 2.37 4.10 57.8%
Mikko Koivu Minnesota 1.76 3.01 58.3%
Shawn Horcoff Edmonton 1.68 2.83 59.3%
Kris Versteeg Chicago 1.83 2.99 61.2%
Stephen Weiss Florida 2.22 3.58 61.9%
Todd White Atlanta 1.76 2.83 62.3%
Travis Zajac New Jersey 2.35 3.78 62.3%
Nicklas Backstrom Washington 2.21 3.51 63.0%
(Forwards Only, Minimum 30 Even-strength points)
Certain players are awarded goals or assists on a significantly lower than average percentage of the goals scored while they're on the ice, and this tendency is actually quite consistent. Of the ten players with the lowest OC% last season there are two rookies (Wheeler and Versteeg), and five of the remaining eight had OC% just as low in the preceding season: Mike Richards (64.4%), Stephen Weiss (56.9%), Todd White (56.8%), Travis Zajac (62.5%) and Nicklas Backstrom (63.8%). Other players who have fit this profile recently are Michael Ryder, Dominic Moore, Nathan Horton, Ville Peltonen and Joe Pavelski. These are players that are both fortunate enough to play with talented linemates, and yet are capable of contributing to that offense in ways that go beyond what you'll see in the score sheet.
For these players, their scoring is highly dependent on their linemates. For example, Zajac's scoring, and to a lesser extent Moore's and Ryder's, went up noticeably last season, but also in almost direct relation to the increase in scoring of those with whom they played. Zajac and Moore both show up on the list of players who had the largest gap between the change in their own scoring, and the over-all change in scoring while they were on the ice from 2007-08.
ESPPG+: Difference in ESPPG from 2007-08
ESGFA+: Difference in ESGFA from 2007-08
GAP: Difference between ESGFA+ and ESPPG+
Player Team ESPPG+ ESGFA+ GAP
Bryan Little Atlanta 0.41 1.56 1.15
Rich Peverley Atlanta 0.74 1.58 0.84
Matthew Lombardi Phoenix 0.80 1.62 0.82
Travis Zajac New Jersey 1.26 2.03 0.77
Patrick Marleau San Jose 1.23 1.96 0.73
Mikko Koivu Minnesota -0.26 0.43 0.69
Shawn Horcoff Edmonton -0.84 -0.21 0.63
Curtis Glencross Calgary 0.16 0.75 0.59
Dominic Moore Buffalo 0.79 1.34 0.55
Marian Hossa Detroit 0.75 1.30 0.55
Most of these players enjoyed improvements in their scoring this season, but in most cases they couldn't have done it without their linemates. While other types of players might make this list, it's not surprising to see players like Zajac and Moore benefit the most from the improved scoring of their linemates.
Who are those forwards who are consistently involved in the scoring more directly, by actually scoring the goal or setting it up? Let's examine those with the highest OC% this season.
Player Team ESPPG ESGFA OFF%
Mark Recchi Boston 2.11 2.42 87.2%
Daniel Sedin Vancouver 2.88 3.33 86.6%
Zach Parise New Jersey 3.03 3.63 83.6%
Chuck Kobasew Boston 2.23 2.70 82.5%
Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh 3.09 3.79 81.6%
David Perron St. Louis 2.30 2.82 81.4%
Henrik Sedin Vancouver 2.85 3.51 81.2%
Mike Ribeiro Dallas 2.60 3.22 80.9%
Phil Kessel Boston 2.77 3.44 80.4%
Ray Whitney Carolina 2.39 3.01 79.7%
(Minimum 30 Even-strength points)
This top ten also has five players that did equally well in the preceding season, Daniel Sedin (82.4%), Sidney Crosby (83.0%), Henrik Sedin (79.3%), Mike Ribeiro (86.7%) and Ray Whitney (77.5%) . These are the players that are consistently directly involved in most of the scoring while on the ice, and it also includes players like Evgeni Malkin, Nikolai Zherdev, Jason Pominville, Joe Thornton and Rick Nash.
David Perron may look like the odd man on the list, but it shows that the increase in his scoring this season was largely from his own play. The Blues' even-strength goals-for-average while he was on the ice dropped from 3.13 in 2007-08 to 2.82 despite Perron increasing his own scoring from 2.02 to 2.30. As such, he makes the list of players who either managed to match or increase their scoring from the previous season despite weaker play from their linemates or, at the very least, managed to preserve as much of their scoring as possible while overall scoring decreased.
Player Team ESPPG+ ESGFA+ GAP
Ryan Malone Tampa Bay 0.47 -0.71 -1.18
Jonathan Toews Chicago 0.37 -0.64 -1.01
Rene Bourque Calgary 1.79 0.86 -0.93
Dany Heatley Ottawa -0.72 -1.62 -0.90
Derek Roy Buffalo -0.87 -1.76 -0.89
Ryan Getzlaf Anaheim 0.17 -0.59 -0.76
Erik Cole Carolina -0.14 -0.75 -0.61
Jason Spezza Ottawa -0.93 -1.54 -0.61
Daymond Langkow Calgary 0.00 -0.61 -0.61
Chuck Kobasew Boston 0.68 0.09 -0.59
David Perron St. Louis 0.28 -0.31 -0.59
In most cases these are players that found themselves on lines that were struggling offensively, and yet managed to preserve as much of their own scoring as possible and, in half the cases, actually increase it. The fact that we see both Spezza and Heatley on this list must be from the lack of high-scoring defensemen. All of these players are probably the ones that would have benefited most from playing with greater offensive contributors last season.
Players contribute offensively in a variety of different ways, and not all of the contributions are directly recorded on the score sheet. For some of these players, like Travis Zajac, Dominic Moore and Michael Ryder, their own scoring is more sensitive to who they're playing with, whereas others, like Daniel Sedin and Mike Ribeiro, take the scoring into their own hands. Studying the percentage of scoring for which each player is directly responsible with either a goal or an assist, and studying their reaction to changes in the even-strength scoring of their linemates are two excellent ways of predicting how they'll react to changing circumstances in the future.
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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