Friday Quick Graph: Season Stories Using % of Team Shots, Gretzky, Lemieux, Sheppard, and Simpson in 1987-88

This takes the progressive, cumulative percentage of team shots from the graphs below and compares them to one another (to view the original charts: Simpson, Sheppard, Lemieux, Gretzky). It really establishes how greatly Lemieux mattered to the Penguins…Gretzky had plenty of teammates taking over the shots, especially as he was dinged up during the season and players like Messier and Kurri were helping carry the load (not to mention Simpson and his 43 goals in 59 games). Any surprise Lemieux was one season away from 85 goals and nearly 200 points? Any surprise Simpson was already coming down from what would prove to be a career year? Any surprise that Sheppard was moving towards a quality career? These %TSh charts can really lend to interesting seasonal and career narratives.

Part of the reason I like doing graph work is because a good graph (with a little bit of contextual knowledge) can tell a really interesting story. In the past, I’ve been a proponent of digging deeper into the historical data, and noted that even though we have less data of the pre-BTN era it doesn’t mean we can’t make some intriguing graphs. %TSh, or % of team shots (in the games a player participated), provides a great opportunity to do just that, not just in a player’s career (as I’ve done before) but also over the course of a season. In the graph above, I took two well-known players, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, and matched them to two (to the younger readers) lesser-known players from 1987-88, Ray Sheppard and Craig Simpson; I expressed their %TSh cumulatively, game-by-game. Craig Simpson, at the tender age of 20, was having the best year of his career (56 goals on an incredible 31.6% shooting percentage), but a trade to the Oilers mid-season would alter his offensive role for that season and into the future. Ray Sheppard, like Simpson very young (21), over the course of the season earned Ted Sator’s trust and responded with a 38-goal rookie season. Sheppard would go on to be a very good offensive player for about a decade.

Yet their lines relative to Gretzky and Lemieux also remind us that, for as good as they were, neither were driving the boat to the level of those legends (and probably wouldn’t). So you do get some perspective on what some of the best-of-the-best were doing. Lemieux, who was entering his prime, was literally carrying a middling Penguins team on his shoulders, and his ability to do that would bring him, in 1988-89, to convince people that Dan Quinn and Rob Brown were really good.

For frame of reference, in the BTN Era (2007-08 to present) only Ovechkin has been able to come close to the kind of shot volume Lemieux was demonstrating in 1987-88.

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