“Puck hogs” on the Carolina Hurricanes

If you haven’t been keeping up with NHL Numbers over the past week, then you missed a fantastic post from Benjamin Wendorf where he examined which players in the NHL could be labelled as “puck hogs.” A puck hog being a player who takes an unproportionally high amount of shots compared to his linemates. Whether or not a player being a “puck hog” is a good or a bad thing is up to you. On one hand, a player that is shooting the puck more often than his teammates is creating more scoring opportunities for himself and the team but on the flip-side, he could be aimlessly shooting from everywhere instead of waiting for a better opportunity to score. These kinds of players are usually labelled as “selfish” and whatnot by the media.

To find out which players are “puck hogs,” Wendorf looked at the total number of shots on goal and missed shots every player in the NHL was on-ice for and how many of those shots came from each player. He explains it in more detail in the article, but the main idea is that a player who takes a high percentage of shots he is on-ice for is a “puck hog” by this definition. Wendorf also lists the top and bottom-25 “puck hogs” in the NHL from 2007 through 2012 and you may notice that there are no Carolina Hurricanes players on either list, at least during those years.

This leaves the door open for a lot of questions about the Hurricanes and whether or not they have housed any “puck hogs” over the last five seasons. Carolina fans have always voiced their opinions about players such as Joni Pitkanen not shoot as often as they would like, while others such as Chad LaRose tend to shoot from everywhere instead of waiting for a better scoring opportunity. Do these perceptions match up with reality, though? To find out, I applied the same method as Wendorf to every Carolina Hurricanes player from 2008 to 2012 to see who was hogging the puck the most during those seasons.

Top 10

Player Shot Attempts Total Fen ShAtt%
Jerome Samson 100 293 34.1%
Jeff Skinner 441 1431 30.8%
Eric Staal 1134 3835 29.6%
Chad LaRose 820 2778 29.5%
Patrick Eaves 141 497 28.4%
Scott Walker 169 621 27.2%
Andreas Nodl 99 368 26.9%
Brandon Sutter 594 2279 26.1%
Drayson Bowman 138 531 26.0%
Erik Cole 491 1920 25.6%

I did a quick poll on Twitter asking Hurricanes fans who they thought the biggest puck hog on the team was and many people answered Jeff Skinner. They weren’t too far off with that assumption because Skinner took the highest percentage of shot attempts at even strength that he was on-ice for among regular Hurricanes players. I’ve mentioned before that Skinner shoots the puck more often than anyone else on the team, so it’s easy to see why some people might consider him a puck hog. He has a shoot-first mentality and is always one of the first players to take advantage of a scoring opportunity when he sees one. Skinner didn’t make Wendorf’s Top 25 list, but he definitely wasn’t too far off from making the cut and he might find himself there in a couple of years.

Out of the players who spent at least 40 games with the Hurricanes from 2008-2012, Jerome Samson took the highest percentage of the 5v5 shots that he was on-ice for. This isn’t too surprising because he is always among the AHL’s leaders in shots on goal and usually maintains a high shots per game rate on top of that. His style of play with the Checkers and River Rats has always been to take advantage of every opportunity he sees and it appears he carried that strategy over to the NHL. Even with limited ice-time in the NHL, Samson has been able to register at least two shots on goal per game and a career shot rate of over 11 shots on goal per 60 minutes. This hasn’t always given him good results, though as he has only 2 goals over a 46 game career. This is still a very small sample size we’re looking at here, so no conclusions can be made out of it but it’s easy to see why some might label him a puck hog.

As far as Chad LaRose being a “puck hog” is concerned, he shoots the puck a lot but according to this, he is no more of a “puck hog” than Eric Staal. They both attempted a little under 30% of the shots they were on-ice for the last few seasons, which would put them somewhere in the upper-half of the standings I would imagine. Although, an interesting fact regarding Staal is that he actually shot the puck less often over the last two seasons.

Year Shots Attempted Fen Total ShAtt%
2008-09 351 1101 31.9%
2009-10 266 765 34.8%
2010-11 275 998 27.6%
2011-12 242 971 24.9%

One might think that with the quality of Staal’s linemates decreasing over the years that he would be shooting the puck more but that hasn’t been the case. He did spend a good amount of time on a line with Skinner and LaRose last season, so I guess I can see why his shot rate would decrease, but he also spent a considerable amount of time with the likes of Jiri Tlusty and Tuomo Ruutu, who had less than 25% of the 5v5 shot attempts they were on-ice for with the Hurricanes during the last five years. Last season was kind of a down year for him all-around, so maybe it’s not too big of a shocker to see him with fewer shot attempts even if he usually leads the team in that category.

One thing that might stick out to you in the first table is that quite a few players with high shot attempt percentages are either fringe NHL-ers or players who spend the majority of their time in Carolina in the bottom-six (Walker, Eaves, Nodl, etc.). Consider that along with Erik Cole also being on the list, and it’s easy to see why the Canes had a lot of trouble finding suitable wingers for the top-six last season. Cole’s ability to play against tough minutes was deteriorating in his last two years with Carolina, but he always seemed to be one of the few players who took advantage of his time in the top-six when it came to creating scoring chances. That was something the Hurricanes missed a lot last year and it’s a good thing they had Skinner to help make up for it. Hopefully Alex Semin can have a similar impact once the season starts.

As for the forwards who shot the puck less often, there are a few surprising names.

Player Shots Attempted Total Fen ShAtt%
Stephane Yelle 46 288 16.0%
Rod Brind’Amour 221 1288 17.2%
Jussi Jokinen 496 2591 19.1%
Sergei Samsonov 416 2104 19.8%
Tim Brent 74 374 19.8%
Troy Bodie 57 280 20.4%
Tom Kostopoulos 223 1072 20.8%
Jiri Tlusty 250 1182 21.2%
Ray Whitney 363 1652 22.0%
Zach Boychuk 102 461 22.1%
Matt Cullen 298 1328 22.4%

The one thing that should be flashing in neon lights on this list is that half of these players spent a considerable amount of time in the top-six during their stay in Carolina. Brind’Amour, Jokinen, Whitney and Cullen were obviously more known for their play-making skills but it’s a little surprising to see some of these players contribute less than 20% of the shot attempts they were on-ice for. Jussi Jokinen is probably the one player Carolina fans should want shooting the puck more because he has displayed good finishing skills in the past but he seems to be more content with passing the puck to one of his teammates instead of taking a scoring opportunity for himself.

Samsonov was another player someone on Twitter brought up when I asked who on the Hurricanes was a “puck hog” but it appears that isn’t the case as he didn’t shoot the puck that much compared to his linemates while he was with the Canes. In fact, Samsonov may have been one of the players that Canes fans should have been wanting to shoot the puck more often because the was one of the few Carolina players from 2008-12 who was able to record scoring chances on a high amount of the shots he took at even strength.