Fans and bloggers everywhere are looking for answers as to why the Hurricanes offense has struggled so much in the early portion of the season and so far, there have been a variety of answers. The most common one being that the team lacks any net front presence and take most of their shots from bad locations. Going from just gameday observations and my scoring chance data, this seems like a plausible explanation. The Hurricanes have had a very hard time generating scoring chances this year but the problem goes beyond them not having any "net front presence" that fans speak of. The problem is that they struggle to get the puck up the ice and keep it in the offensive zone once they get it there. They have been a very poor puck possession team this season and you generally aren't going to score a lot if you are stuck in your own end.
That said, there are poor possession teams who have been able to score at even strength despite being at a territorial disadvantage. Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Nashville have all scored at a higher goal-per-game rate than Carolina while being worse clubs at controlling territorial play. Why is this the case? One blogger's opinion would be that it all comes down to luck and that these teams have simply gotten more of it than the Canes have this year. After all, only the New York Rangers have posted a worse shooting percentage than Carolina at even strength this year and only two teams have a worse overall shooting percentage. It's hard to get much worse luck than that and it is hard to see the Hurricanes shooting at only 6.9% for an entire season.
However, this is where the earlier theory that the Hurricanes are taking a lot of "bad shots" comes into play. If the Hurricanes are a team that plays most of their game on the perimeter and doesn't consistently go to scoring areas, then it's easy to believe that their goal production will not improve much, especially if they continue to get outshot every night. Does the actual on-ice data match up with our observations, though?
Thanks to Sporting Charts new shot location heat maps, we can see where the Hurricanes are shooting the puck from this year and whether or not we can expect their goal total to improve.
Without further ado, let's look at where the Canes are shooting the puck from.
So, from the looks of this chart, crashing the net hasn't been a problem for the Hurricanes, as a good majority of their shots are coming from the net-mouth area. This reinforces the theory that bad shooting luck is what is troubling the Hurricanes offense right now. When you compare their shot chart to the St. Louis Blues, you'll notice some similarities in that both teams generate a lot of their shots from right in front of the net. The difference is that the Blues are finishing their chances while the Hurricanes are not. My guess is that that will change as the season goes on.
Although, one difference I'd like to point out with both teams is that the Blues have been taking a good chunk of shots from inside the faceoff circles while the Hurricanes are mainly just crashing the net and playing more of simpler game in the offensive zone. I've noticed that they are playing more of a north/south game this year and this chart sort of reinforces that belief since it suggest that the Hurricanes are taking shots from the point and trying to crash for rebounds. Without Jeff Skinner for most of the year and now Alex Semin on the shelf, this lineup is devoid of some skill so I wouldn't expect this to change much.
In the end, most of this comes down to poor puck luck and that usually improves as more games are played. Jordan Staal's line has been the victim of this for awhile now and it's very frustrating because they are the only unit that is driving possession right now. The goals should come for him, Gerbe & Dwyer eventually as long as they keep doing what they are doing, which is creating chances & pinning opponent's into their own zone. Jiri Tlusty is another player that is going through a shooting percentage slump, but he has also had trouble keeping the puck in the offensive zone, so it will be interesting to see how much he rebounds.
That last sentence can be applied to the rest of the Hurricanes, as well because the team as a whole has had trouble retrieving the puck and sustaining offense so it's very possible that their goal total will stay poor if this keeps up. However, Carolina's offense isn't nearly as bad as what their results currently show and things should improve a little in the coming months.