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Phoenix Coyotes in Second Place! (in something, at least...)

One of the pieces I did early last month looked at how often teams and players generated shots off of faceoffs in the opponent's zone. Since we've pretty much hit the quarter-pole of the 2006-07 NHL Regular Season, I thought I'd update those numbers to reflect how things are going so far. Overall, across 296 games played through Sunday night, there have been 10,822 non-neutral zone faceoffs, of which 780 saw the offensive team generate a shot within 5 seconds of the draw (7.2%). So how do the teams rank? Let's take a look...

Shot Generation After FO By Team
Team 2005-6 2006-7 Difference
Ottawa Senators 11.85% 10.14% -1.71%
Phoenix Coyotes 6.89% 10.09% 3.20%
Detroit Red Wings 9.31% 10.08% 0.77%
St. Louis Blues 11.23% 9.97% -1.26%
Dallas Stars 8.79% 9.61% 0.82%
Edmonton Oilers 12.45% 9.12% -3.33%
Toronto Maple Leafs 9.96% 8.89% -1.07%
Colorado Avalanche 9.93% 8.88% -1.05%
Los Angeles Kings 9.49% 8.75% -0.74%
New Jersey Devils 7.18% 8.20% 1.02%
Montreal Canadiens 12.59% 7.94% -4.65%
New York Islanders 10.35% 7.42% -2.93%
Buffalo Sabres 8.27% 7.31% -0.96%
LEAGUE AVERAGE 9.09% 7.21% -1.88%
Washington Capitals 9.48% 7.07% -2.41%
Boston Bruins 10.10% 6.85% -3.25%
Minnesota Wild 9.96% 6.78% -3.18%
Calgary Flames 9.62% 6.71% -2.91%
New York Rangers 8.71% 6.67% -2.04%
Columbus Blue Jackets 10.28% 6.63% -3.65%
Atlanta Thrashers 6.44% 6.01% -0.43%
Chicago Blackhawks 6.40% 5.65% -0.75%
Florida Panthers 9.88% 5.57% -4.31%
Vancouver Canucks 8.57% 5.56% -3.01%
Philadelphia Flyers 8.23% 5.54% -2.69%
Anaheim Ducks 6.77% 5.37% -1.40%
Pittsburgh Penguins 7.22% 5.21% -2.01%
Tampa Bay Lightning 7.31% 5.14% -2.17%
Carolina Hurricanes 10.77% 5.11% -5.66%
Nashville Predators 7.52% 5.08% -2.44%
San Jose Sharks 7.02% 4.95% -2.07%

There you go, Coyotes fans! Coach Gretzky isn't doing a completely awful job, with the wondrous improvement in shot generation from his faceoff men. They've come from the dregs of last year's standings all the way up into second place, behind the Ottawa Senators (get off their backs, already). Now I know what some of you are saying - "well, the Coyotes are always behind, so they're always trying to get a shot off the draw." Maybe so, but they stunk up the Pacific Division cellar last year as well, and that didn't help them in this area. Another point of interest here is how shots off the draw are down as a whole around the league, by 1.88%. This will be worth watching over the rest of the season, to see if the trend continues.

So how significant are these differences between the best and the worst? Basically, each team gets approximately 20 offensive-zone faceoffs each game (18 so far this season). Given a separation of roughly 5% in shot generation between top and bottom, it looks like the best teams would get about one additional shot per game through effective faceoff play. Without going through all the gory details, if we make a further assumption that most of these shots are 40-60 foot slappers, they have about a 5% chance of scoring on average (yes, I'm not taking rebound opportunities into account here). Put it all together, and you get 1 extra shot per game, over an 82 game season, each with 5% chance of scoring, which yields about 4 extra goals. Similar talent on the defensive end in preventing shots by your opponent (which I'll post tomorrow), should also potentially reduce Goals Against by about 4 goals. Not the kind of stuff that makes or breaks a season, but it could result in a marginal victory or two, enough to make the difference down the stretch as teams vie for playoff positioning.