Grand Theft Roto: Shooters
Sometimes you eat the bear. And sometimes, well, he eats you.
NHL players are not exempt from having just plain old bad luck. They can fire shots all day long, and for one reason or another, the puck just doesn't go in. With the absence of a "luck" category we can evaluate, we'll have to look for another way to assess whether a player should be doing better on the score sheet if not for his lack of horseshoes and rabbit feet.
One NHL cliché is "if you don't shoot, you won't score." As tired as the saying may be, it has quite a bit of truth to it. In the spirit of that cliché and the topic of "luck," let's have a look at shots on goal and shooting percentages for some of our fantasy commodities.
The first type of player who comes to mind when you talk about discrepancies in shooting percentage is the one who has been firing away on net with little to show for it. These are the guys among the top 50 for shots on goal but who have a shooting percentage well below most everyone else.
Jason Blake, LW, Maple Leafs (3 goals, 118 shots, .025 shooting percentage): Blake's ridiculously low shooting percentage is quite reflective of hard times. He has dialed up games with eight shots on net and come away with nothing to show for it. I figured he had a pretty good chance of approaching 35 goals this season, and with the amount he is shooting, he would actually be pretty close to that pace if his shooting percentage were similar to his past four seasons (dating back to his first 20-goal season) -- he'd have a dozen by now. Consider him a strong player to target, but make sure you are paying for a player who has only three goals.
Viktor Kozlov, C, Capitals (3, 78, .038): I don't expect a sudden breakout from Kozlov, like I do from Blake, but I think he'll end up with a much better shooting percentage than he has now. Now that he isn't with Alexander Ovechkin, his shots on goal should actually go down while his per-game goal-scoring pace remains the same. He actually doesn't represent someone you want to target.
Michael Ryder, RW, Canadiens (3, 74, .041): With Ryder being moved off the top line, you might even be able to pick him up for free. His shooting percentage is much lower than it should be, and there is still talent to work with on Montreal, even if he doesn't play with Saku Koivu.
Patrik Elias, LW, Devils (4, 79, .051): Elias was not himself last season, and it's actually quite encouraging to see him shooting on net so much. He makes a good player to target because you know the skill is there and his wicked wrist shot should make more of his attempts get past the goaltender.
Shane Doan, RW, Coyotes (5, 77, .065): Now that the Coyotes have Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes, I am much more optimistic about owning any of their forwards. Doan has been firing on net a healthy amount, with little to show for it thus far. I wouldn't go after him hard, but if you can get your hands on him as a throw-in, do it.
Bill Guerin, RW, Islanders (5, 74, .068): I like Guerin as a solid target for anyone who needs power-play points. He has been shooting enough to have about twice as many goals as he does, and has traditionally been a sniper. Guerin also represents the best the Isles have on offense and he plays a ton on the man advantage.
Brendan Shanahan, LW Rangers (9, 122, .074): Unlike most of the other players in this section, I think Shanahan has just been shooting too much. He has just been firing haphazardly at the net. I fully expect Shanny to end up with a low shooting percentage this season, although he has picked up his scoring pace of late.
Brian Rolston, RW, Wild (8, 101, .079): Packing one of the more powerful snap shots in the game, it's always good to see Rolston firing away at the net. I think that with how good his shot can be and how improved linemate Pierre-Marc Bouchard looks this season, Rolston will start to see more of his blasts finding the mesh. He has lofty numbers already, but would be a worthy buy-low as someone who could improve upon his numbers in the short term.
Good Luck Shooters
Where there are hard-luck shooters, there also are players who seem to have the magic touch. An unusual number of their shots find a way to beat the goaltender. Some pick their spots well, but others are just getting lucky. These are guys among the top 50 in shooting percentage who have found their way onto many fantasy teams. You may want to trade them in before they hit a cold stretch.
Mike Ribeiro, C, Stars (11, 30, .367): More than one out of every three shots Ribeiro has taken has been a goal. That is just too much to maintain. I still think Ribeiro is a solid No. 2 center, but you may be able to use him to upgrade somewhere else by trying to pass him off as a borderline No. 1. He is bound to cool down, as his career shooting percentage is .158.
Josef Vasicek, C, Islanders (9, 33, .273): I'm not sure you'll get too much for him in most fantasy leagues, but if you can ditch him for a No. 4 defenseman in deep leagues, do it. Vasicek is connecting on way too many shots, especially noteworthy since he has never had a season with a shooting percentage higher than .120.
Brad Boyes, RW, Blues (15, 59, .254): Boyes' outlandish shooting percentage has been noted before, but I'll go on record as saying it's not too far off the mark. Post-All-Star break in his breakout 2005-06 campaign (when he and Patrice Bergeron really hit it off) Boyes had a .147 shooting percentage. That isn't quite as ridiculous as his current pace but it's a lot higher than most players maintain over a season. I think he'll slip, but not so much that you want to trade him away for anything less than a No. 1 right winger.
Radek Bonk, C, Predators (10, 40, .250): Bonk has actually kept a fairly tidy shooting percentage through his career by not shooting the puck all that often. He has several seasons where he didn't hit triple digits for shots on goal. Nevertheless, his 10 goals are a pretty empty statistic considering he is minus-2 with just two assists. If you can get anything at all for Bonk in trade, take it.
Patrick Sharp, RW, Blackhawks (12, 53, .226): Sharp has been darn good and very clutch (four game-winning goals) but just too lucky to maintain his career high-shattering pace. With a quarter of his shots lighting the lamp, he is due to go into a funk. He is also one of the Hawks who will be hurt by all the ice time Martin Havlat will take up, now that he is back. Deal Sharp for what you can get.
Cory Stillman, LW, Hurricanes (13, 58, 0.224): I'm including Stillman as an example of how a high shooting percentage doesn't necessarily mean a slump is coming. Stillman has the role of "finisher" for the Canes' potent power play. He'll be in a prime position to score on plenty of his shots because of his position down low with the man advantage. While I don't think he stays near the .225 mark, I think he can have a percentage better than .175 thanks to his role.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can E-mail him here.