Since the Canucks’ defeat in the Stanley Cup Finals at the hands of the rough and tumble Boston Bruins, the acquisition of size and grit has become an obsession within the Canucks fanbase. (Obsession might even be under-selling it; the word “fetish” may well be more accurate). According to many, the team needs more of both, especially in the bottom six.
To this end, Travis Moen, who made up one third of the best checking line in recent memory alongside Rob Niedermayer and Sami Pahlsson on the 2007 Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks, has become a favoured object of desire for fans of the team.
Yesterday morning on the team 1040, TSN’s Pierre Lebrun indicated that the Canucks were likely to take a long, hard look at the winger, now with the Montreal Canadiens. “When I look at the Canucks,” Lebrun said, “I think they’d like to add some grit in their bottom-six forward group. I look at a guy like Travis Moen… that’s the kind of guy they have their eye on. He’s a UFA July 1, so he’s your typical rental. A lot of teams like him. But I think Vancouver will be in that mix.”
Canuck fans got excited. As I’ve taken to saying, the Vancouver fanbase at the moment has a raging collective Moener.
Now, a potential Moen trade would be a departure from Mike Gillis’s usual deadline strategy. The Canucks’ GM has already gone on record as saying that he’s not a fan of rentals. Furthermore, according to NHLnumbers.com, the Canucks are right up against the salary cap so the team’s front-office would need to move a contract out to fit Moen’s 1.5 million dollar salary under it. In previous seasons, we’ve never seen Gillis ship salary out at the deadline.
But Moen looks like he’d be a reasonably good fit in the bottom six. He’s a big body and he plays the toughest minutes of any Habs winger. While his possession numbers are ugly, that’s only a qualified drawback seeing as how the Habs, as a team, haven’t been good at possession this season. Moen has scored a percentage-driven 9 goals, two off of his career high, and by all accounts is on a short list of Habs players who can hold their heads high, despite a thoroughly miserable campaign from the league’s most storied franchise.
Something that particularly interests me about Travis Moen is that his on-ice shooting percentage, both ways, is extremely unique. In general, on-ice shooting percentage is extremely stable at the NHL level, and well over 90% of NHL players fall between 7-8.5% on-ice shooting over a large enough sample. Moen, however, is on a short list of “outliers” who buck this overwhelming trend. Not including this season, Moen’s on-ice shooting percentage since 2007 is 5.5%, and his opponents on-ice shooting percentage is 6.3%.
To give you an idea of how rare this is, there are 481 NHL players who’ve been on the ice for more than 1000 shots between the 2006-07 and 2010-11 season and only 46 of them have an on-ice shooting percentage outside the 7-8.5% range in that time. Tyler Dellow produced a list of these players in the comments section of this post in case you’re curious (both Sedins and Burrows make the list).
On ice save% (which is the same as opponents’ shooting percentage) is somewhat less stable, but 72% of NHLers who played at least 2500 even-strength minutes between 2006-07 and 2010-11 still fall within the 7-8.5% range over a large sample.
Now here’s the rub: looking over these numbers at David Johnson’s hockeanalysis site yesterday, I was struck by a couple of things. The first and most obvious one is that the guys who play in front of the best goaltenders have the lowest on-ice opponent shooting percentage. Well, duh.
The second, however, is that a number of the players who have the lowest on-ice opponent shooting percentage are guys whom Mike Gillis has targeted during his tenure in Vancouver. Here are the 25 guys with the lowest on-ice shooting% over that 4-season sample (over 2490 minutes played):
|Player||On-Ice Opponent Shooting %|
So of the top-10 players, 3 of them (Wellwood, Sturm and now Moen) are guys who linked to Gillis’s term as General Manager. It goes without saying that Gillis went after Malhotra and Ballard with gusto in the summer of the 2010, and I’d suggest that perhaps Morrison’s camp invite later that fall may have been about more than simply his familiarity with the organization. And might this be part of the reason the team loves Sami Salo so much?
If you’re the type that believes that Gillis makes an offer to Teemu Selanne every offseason, then we can say that Gillis has “gone after” nearly a third of the guys on this list. We can’t know for sure, but there looks to be a suggestive correlation between players the Canucks pursue and players who arguably “suppress shooting percentage.”
For the record, I’m not sure I believe that players can “suppress shooting percentage” (though I do believe they can drive it). But I’d at least be curious to hear one of Gillis, Gilman or Henning asked the question, “Do you pay attention to players who can suppress opponent shooting percentage?” Because if they do, that would put the Canucks on the other side of conventional wisdom in a pretty big way.
Not that it would be the first example of the Canucks management team swearing by something that most people consider hocus pocus.Tags: drance numbers, travis moen, using tables to prove things