Spread of NHL Team Shooting Performances, Year-to-Year 1952-53 through 2013-14

Sort of a mid-week quick graph…I’ve been compiling data for a different project and curiosity got the best of me to see what the spread in team shooting percentages was in NHL history. We all know that shooting percentage in the NHL went up substantially during the 1980s, but what you’re seeing above is one of the reasons why we theorize that shot quality and team shooting talent might have figured more greatly in outcomes in the 1980s than it does today. With some exceptions, the standard deviation seems to have settled from about 1996-97 to the present at just under 1%, which suggests our expectations from one year to the next should only allow a team that much of a bump above or below league-average. It’s worth noting that sample will affect this measure, hence why our line is so spiky during the Original Six era, and why 1994-95 and 2012-13 might have not been as characteristic of a trend. Incidentally, this is shooting percentage for all situations.

Note: As mentioned by a reader, increased scoring is going to work together with this standard deviation to accentuate the differences between teams. League-wide, the shooting percentage and standard deviation move well enough together to cause this effect, usually portrayed by coefficient of variance, to regress heavily from 1965 to the present. The exceptions, though muted, would be the early 1980s and the more recent years of Dead Puck, so the standard deviation fairly accurately represents our variance above. CoV data:
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Gordie Howe vs. Bobby Orr vs. Wayne Gretzky vs. Sidney Crosby: Not Your Typical WOWY

Photo by "Djcz", via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by “Djcz”, via Wikimedia Commons

With or Without You analysis, often referred to as WOWY, frequently involves either comparing the performance of a team or particular players when a single player is and isn’t playing. While the approach is a risky one (sample size is a pretty big issue), it can actually be quite telling when you collect enough data.

The value of modern WOWY is that you can definitely get data from precisely the seconds a player played apart from the seconds they weren’t on the ice. Historical WOWY, on the other hand, cannot do much better than taking data from games a player played versus games they didn’t. To this end, then, I wanted to see if historical WOWY can tell us much of anything, and the best way to do that is to focus on players that are undisputed in their value. In this case, I went for WOWYs of the big guns, four of the best players across the eras of NHL history: Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby.
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