The offseason is upon us and it’s a very dull time for hockey Twitter. Besides #VeseyWatch and horrible attempts at player rankings, there hasn’t been much to talk about in some time. I’ve pretty much been in chill mode because of this, but I’m slowly starting to get back in the swing of things. So I decided I should try to find something interesting to write about. Eventually, I realized a couple posts looking at the long term career trends of core Blackhawks players should make for some informative material.In the first installment, I will take a look at the production of forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa. In a different post on a later date, I will look at defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
For this post, I will take a look at various stats that illustrate production. Most will be in a per 60 minutes format so the playing time is equal for all players. All stats will be even strength or 5-on-5 only numbers meaning no power play or shorthanded time will be included The stats I will use are shot attempts/60, goals/60, player shooting%, primary assists/60, points/60, and average shot distance.
Let’s get started with our first chart looking at shots. This chart will show the average number of individual shot attempts for every 60 minutes the player is on the ice.
First, I’d like to note that for every chart, Toews will be blue, Kane will be green, and Hossa will be yellow. That format will not change. I also should note that Hossa did not join Chicago until the 2009-10 season. Therefore, Hossa did not play for the Blackhawks in the first two seasons shown on these illustrations.
For the most part, Kane and Hossa have been pretty consistent with their shot rate. They have been routinely producing around 16 shot attempts for every 60 minutes they are on the ice. On the other hand, Jonathan Toews’ shot rate resembles an outline of a hill. It consistently rose throughout his career before topping out in the 2012-13 season. Since then, his shot rate has mostly declined and is now on par with the shot rate of his first couple seasons in the league and far less than the likes of Kane & Hossa. To score, one has to shoot the puck. The more a player shoots, the more that player usually scores.
I recently took a look at this past seasons shot rates and found that Andrew Desjardins shot more than Jonathan Toews, and Toews shot on par with Marcus Kruger. For the Blackhawks to excel, they need their superstars to score. Toews is one of those superstars. As a player who can produce offensively, Toews needs to be shooting at a higher rate than the offensively challenged Desjardins & Kruger. Toews needs to start being more selfish and looking for his shot more to have a bounce back season offensively.
We looked at shots, now let’s take a look at when those shots end up in the back of the net.
Above is the average number of goals each player scored per 60 minutes of Icetime. Kane, for the most part, has been pretty consistent (a theme for him in this article). Toews and Hossa have really dropped in their goal scoring production. Again, we see the same career arc with Toews with production rising until 2012-13 and then dropping ever since. Hossa’s goal scoring was recently cut in half as he went from scoring around 1 goal per 60 minutes in 2013-14 to only scoring 0.5 goals per 60 in 2014-15.
With Hossa, guessing on the drop in production isn’t too hard. The man is 37 years old. He can still skate, protect the puck, back-check, get his shot off, and play a high possession game. However, with age, a players hands start to go. His hands cant produce the same quick release, shot power, and shot accuracy. So we start to see a slower shot release giving the goalie more time to react to the play. We see less power on the shot, which allows the goalie more time to get into position. Lastly, we see less accuracy with Hossa not able to snipe as well as he once did. He’s still a great player that provides many valuable skills to the team, but elite goal scoring will likely never be one of them again.
Toews on the hand is only 28 years old. Now at that age he probably isn’t going to get better and his goal production should start slowly declining. However, the decline has been steeper than one would like. Some will blame not having a top line LW option, but he also had a substantial decline in 2014-15 while playing with Saad on his left side. This past season, without Saad, Toews production dropped even more. But I’ll look more into summarizing his decline in the conclusion.
We’ve examined shot attempts and goal production, now let’s see how often a players shot on goal goes in.
Above is each players shooting percentage. Shooting percentage illustrates how often a players shot on goal goes in. For example, if I took 100 shots on goal and scored 10 goals, my shooting% would be 10%. I scored on 10% of my shots on goal. If I took 100 shots but only scored 5 goals, my shooting% would be 5%.
Kane’s season-by-season shooting% has been steadily increasing and is well above the current NHL average of 7.5%. Toews’ decline hasn’t been as steep with shooting% compared to the previous stats we’ve seen except for this past season. Still, Toews has never dropped below the league average of 7.5%. Hossa, on the other hand, has had a big drop off recently. Normally hovering around 10%, Hossa has had recent seasons with a shooting% of 6% and 4%. That’s well below league average. Even though we know Hossa can still get his shot off, he doesn’t have the hands he once did to score at a consistent rate. As I mentioned before, shot release, power, and accuracy have collectively taken a hit with his age resulting in a below league average shooting%. Mostly ever other facet of Hossa’s game is still elite, but for his line to score, he is going to need a sniper at center or left wing to put the puck in the net.
Okay, now let’s look at playmaking ability.
Above is primary assists. A primary assist, also known as first assist, is a pass that directly leads to a goal. In hockey, there are first assists and second assists. Second assists being the pass that led to the pass that led to a goal. Many second assists are rewarded without the player really having much actual impact on the goal. By looking at only primary assists, we can better estimate how often the player directly impacted a goal for his team.
Until this past season, Kane was on a decline and Toews/Hossa were on an incline in this playmaking stat. In 2015-16, each player reversed course, with Kane producing more and Toews/Hossa producing less primary assists. A quick and simple guess on the reasoning behind this would be the revolving door on the left side of Toews/Hossa with players such as, Ryan Garbutt. Viktor Tikhonov, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen, Richard Panik, and eventually Andrew Ladd. With Kane, finally having consistent linemates and an elite scorer on his wing made it easier for him to record primary assists.
Finally, let’s quickly examine point production before we wrap this thing up.
For the most part, except for Toews’ ridiculous 2012-13 season, all player have been pretty consistent with their point production rates until this past season. We see Kane with a bump in the good direction and Toews/Hossa with a bump in the bad direction.
And now it’s that wonderful time where I give a general summation of this post. I’ll do so by discussing each player.
Jonathan Toews – we’ve seen a drop off in production across the board for Captain Serious. Many factors most likely contribute to this. As I’ve said earlier he is 28 years old. Hockey players usually peak in their early-to-mid 20’s. Although this doesn’t mean Toews should have a steep decline right now, it does mean that his production should start to stagnate and slowly work its way down year-by-year. So, the fact that we see a peak in his career trends isn’t that surprising. However, the decline has been much steeper than it should be, so other factors are also in play here. His quality of teammates has slowly declined. Blackhawks have lost their amazing forward depth including recent top line LW Brandon Saad to cap issues. Toews playing with lesser teammates and having to shoulder more and more responsibility could be one factor in the decline. Speaking of responsibility, Toews’ usage is also an area to look at. Q relies on him to be defensive focused and to shut down the opposing top line. Where a player like Kane is put in the best possible position to score. Toews is tasked with making sure the opposing top line doesn’t score. Over time. This bigger responsibility and emphasis on defense might have hampered his offensive production. One thing is for certain. Toews’ needs to be more selfish on offense, look for his shot, and shoot more. Hossa has been shooting the most on the top line, but can’t score like he used to. A top-line of Toews and Hossa will need Captain Serious to transform into Captain Selfish if they are going to produce goals.
Patrick Kane – Kane has been pretty consistent with his production. He performed pretty well this past season on the Russian sandwich line with new additions Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. The big thing for him was playing in all 82-games. He has had injuries in the past that prevented him from being a consistent 80-point scorer. Obviously, the only worry with Kane is staying healthy, because we know he will produce.
Marian Hossa – I mostly hit on this earlier in this article. His hands aren’t what they use to be resulting in a slower shot release, less power, and less accuracy. But he is still an elite player, he just can’t be relied on to score. Like I said, he can dominate possession with his amazing defensive play, and puck control. He’s really good at using his body to shield the defender off while protecting the puck. This doesn’t mean his line can’t produce offense. If Hossa is put with scorers, he can provide them with more opportunities by utilizing his defense and possession game to keep the puck in the offensive zone and allow his teammates to score. He can also be put on a defensive focused line with Marcus Kruger and not focus as much on the scoring aspect of the game. Hossa can still play, it’s just this team lacks forward depth and goal scorers. If one accepts who Hossa is and realize although he won’t score as much, he makes his teammates better, they will appreciate him this season. If one overreacts to Chicago’s lack of forward depth and expect Hossa to shoulder the goal scoring load, then that person is going to be deeply depressed.
And finally, here is a chart just for fun. It’s the average distance away from the net each player takes his shot season-by-season.
Parting wisdom: Thanks for reading and enjoy your day. Remember in sports and life to always take a step back and look at the big picture. Whether it’s a team that played a shitty game or you’re having a shitty day, that’s an extremely small sample size to examine. Instead zoom out, and realize that everything is pretty good. Unless you’re a Canucks fan. Then you’re fucked.
Update: I have a few more charts I’m just going to throw in right here.