Can Nathan Horton boost line mates shooting %

Nathan Horton has been one of the stars of these NHL playoffs as will be an integral component of the Stanley Cup finals if the Bruins are going to beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Nathan Horton is also set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer so his good playoff performance is good timing. One of the things I have noticed about Horton while looking through the statistics is that he has one of the highest on-ice 5v5 shooting percentages over the past 6 seasons of any NHL forward (ranks 16th among forwards with >300 minutes of ice time).

Part of the reason for this is that he is a fairly good shooter himself (ranks 30th with a 5v5 shooting percentage of 12.25%) but this in no way is the main reason.  Let’s take a look at how Horton’s line mates shooting percentage have been over the past 6 seasons when playing with Horton and when not playing with Horton.

Sh% w/o Horton Sh% w/ Horton Difference
Weiss 11.28% 12.84% 1.56%
Lucic 13.03% 16.98% 3.95%
Krejci 11.41% 12.10% 0.68%
Booth 8.44% 11.26% 2.82%
Frolik 6.58% 10.84% 4.26%
Stillman 10.03% 15.38% 5.35%
Zednik 8.81% 13.56% 4.75%
Average 9.94% 13.28% 3.34%

Included are all forwards Horton has played at least 400 minutes of 5v5 ice time with over the past 6 seasons along with their individual shooting percentage when with Horton and when not with Horton. Every single one of them has an individual shooting percentage higher with Horton than when not with Horton and generally speaking significantly higher.  I have previously looked at how much players can influence their line mates shooting percentages and found that Horton was among the league leaders so the above table agrees with that assessment.

It is still possible that Horton is just really lucky but that argument starts to lose steam when it seems he is getting lucky each and every year over the past 6 years (he has never had a 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage at or below league average). Whatever Horton is doing while on the ice seems to be allowing his line mates to boost their own individual shooting percentages and the result of this is that he has the 9th highest on-ice goals for rate over the past 6 seasons. He is a massively under rated player and is this summers Alexander Semin of the UFA market.


This article has 8 Comments

  1. He won’t be settling for a one-year deal like Semin had to. Someone will give him 4-5 years for 4-5 million per, at least.

    1. No, he won’t have to do a one year deal but he will probably be under valued and teams may have questions about his health meaning he could be had for a relative bargain price. If healthy it is an easy argument to make that he is worth $5.5-6.5M/year on a longer term deal even with the salary cap declining.

  2. I understand that you believe in SH% being more than just luck (I’ve read some of the epic discussions between you and Gabe), but you can’t prove that with just one example. You need a far bigger sample size than one player.

    I’m in between you and Gabe. I don’t agree with your use of goal rates over Corsi, but I do recognize that there is some inherent talent in SH% that we should be able to figure out.

    1. There are a bunch of articles on here that I have written that show that shooting percentage is a talent and cannot be ignored as one does when one relies on shot based statistics in player or team analysis. There are even a bunch of articles written elsewhere that shows it as well.

      The truth is, there is actually little or no evidence to prove that shooting percentage isn’t a talent. The only articles against it simply show that over small sample sizes (many of these studies only use a full seasons worth of data and include players with as few as 40 games played and who are only on the ice for a handful of goals) we can’t conclude that it does exist with a high level of statistical confidence. I have never denied that over small sample sizes it is difficult if not impossible to determine what is luck and what is actual talent with respect to a players on-ice shooting percentage. That said, every article that uses a sufficiently large sample size (either by using multiple years of data or by grouping similar player players, for example by ice time, and studying in aggregate) concludes that on-ice shooting percentage is not random.

      For me, the greatest evidence that on-ice shooting percentage is not random is to simply look at long term on-ice shooting percentage and observe how players we believe are offensive players rise to the top and players who we believe lack offensive ability fall to the bottom. Order is the enemy of randomness so unless you want to suggest that offensive players are only offensive players because they are lucky all the time you have to accept that on-ice shooting percentage isn’t random.

      You know, it really amazes me that we are still having the shot quality argument.

      1. David, what would you say has more influence in winning games, Shot% or Save%. All the articles I have read at various websites usually have Save% as being much more important in the long-term than Shot%.

        By the way, here are the Shot% differences from the best Shot% team and the worst Shot% team:

        2008: Ottawa (9.03%); Columbus (6.52%); 2.51% difference
        2009: Pittsburgh (9.76%); NY Rangers (6.48%); 3.28% difference
        2010: Washington (10.39%); Boston (6.53%); 3.86% difference
        2011: Dallas (8.76%); New Jersey (6.31%); 2.45% difference
        2012: Tampa Bay (9.73%); Los Angeles (6.07%); 3.67% difference
        2013: Toronto (10.56%); Florida (5.94%); 4.62% difference (lockout season)

        Not including the lockout season, the Shot% difference between the best Shot% team and the worst Shot% team is about 3.15% over 82 games. With over 2000 shots on goal a season, there is definitely some sort of predictor when it comes to Shot%, although it might not be as stable as Save%. I would assume it is like baseball, where Pitcher FIP/xFIP is more stable than batter BABIP, and while BABIP has some fluctuations, the better offensive teams usually have a higher BABIP than the worst offensive teams.

        1. Generally speaking, I think it is better to have good defense than have good offense so in that respect it is probably better to have good save % than good shooting %. It just seems to me that good defensive teams with moderate scoring are better than good offensive teams with moderate defensive ability but I could be wrong. It’s rare that a bad defensive team makes the playoffs. It seems bad offensive teams do make the playoffs more frequently.

      2. I agree that there is a certain degree of talent in SH%, but using goal rates exclusively (which you commonly do) gives too much weight IMO to SH%.

      3. Clearly the fact that Stamkos shoots at 17% or so every year is not luck. But random flucuations in shooting percentage for every player year in and year out show that luck has a lot to do with SH%. There is definitely some skill, but a decent amount of luck as well. That’s why goal rates by themsleves don’t tell the whole story, since they are giving the player too much credit for random fluctuations in SH% based on luck.

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