Coming into the 2018-19 season, one of my biggest questions about the Dallas Stars’ roster was, “Are there enough goals in this lineup?” Anyone can go to NHL.com and see that the lovely, once fire-powered Stars are ranked 27th in goals per game; but I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to know why. Is the depth scoring dead last in the league and weighing the team down? Is Tyler Seguin single-handedly anchoring the roster with his 7.8% shooting percentage? Are Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov not pitching in enough goals? I wanted to look into core scoring (and maybe depth scoring next) around the league and how they all compare.
In between ski runs on my vacation in Colorado, I sat by the fire with my hot chocolate (no, I did not watch an Avalanche game) and spreadsheets and dove into the numbers. Here is what the data says about core scoring (as determined by each team’s top three goal scorers) and how they compare to the league.
The Big Three
It is probably not a surprise to anyone that the Stars’ top three scorers are Benn, Seguin and Radulov. Their goals are as follows: Benn (15), Seguin (11), and Radulov (11). The first question I wanted to answer was how the top line compares to every other team’s big three. Here’s the data:
First of all, let’s take a moment to admire Colorado’s top line — what a season they are having. The Stars’ top scorers rank 22nd out of 31 teams. I initially thought they would be a little more in the middle of the pack. Being so would be an extra seven goals (give or take) which could very easily translate into two to three more points in the standings (something they could really use).
Benn, Seguin, and Radulov have been a force, so to see them competing against teams like the Detroit Red Wings and New York Islanders made me question if there were any outliers in explaining their lack of goals. The Stars, as a team, are struggling immensely to generate shooting chances. So that is what I first wanted to look into.
Shots or Lack Thereof
One of the challenges with the new system this season has been shot production. The Stars are ranked 26th in shots/60, so I wanted to explore the thought, “Well, maybe the top guys just aren’t shooting enough.” Would you believe me if I said the Stars’ core is ranked seventh in total shots with 378? I’ve been messing around with data vizzes and generated the following:
You’ll find Dallas near the bottom right of the chart, which is to say Benn, Seguin, and Radulov are shooting plenty, but are not converting enough. Despite a team that overall doesn’t shoot much, they are surprisingly getting their chances. However, for the amount of shots on goal they are getting, they aren’t scoring at rates other teams are. See Boston, Columbus, and Calgary — teams that are close to total shots but score at much better rates. Another factor is that there aren’t any depth players in their top three. Imagine if Devin Shore had seven more goals, putting him at 12 for the season so far. His low shot count would move the Stars closer to the trend line and much less as an outlier. A real example would be a team like the Edmonton Oilers getting help from Alex Chiasson. They, as a core, are over-performing due to his high goal/low shot count metric. This led me to my next question: “Which cores get help from inflated shooting and vice versa?”
The last thing I wanted to look at was combined shooting percentages from each team’s core scorers. This would tell us who is scoring at crazy paces (I’m looking at you, Chiasson), who is getting unlucky so far (moment of silence for Seguin), and who is just performing at career average. You’ll see Dallas in the cluster near the bottom. For funsies, I added “DAL :)” which is where the Stars would be if Seguin was shooting at his career average, instead of just below it.
The Dallas Stars are ranked 24th in total shooting percentage. Seguin’s 7.8% current shooting percentage doesn’t help. Also note that Benn and Radulov are shooting exactly their career shooting average this season — 15% for Benn and 16% for Radulov.
This graph tells us, compared to the rest of the league, that the Stars’ top three are just shooting average. Not terrible but nowhere near great. Even with Seguin shooting at a hypothetical career average (as shown by “DAL :)”), the Stars’ core scorers are still in the “average cluster.” It also tells us that the Stars aren’t over-performing, or has a depth player that is scoring at a rapid pace enough to inflate the shooting percentage number. (See Edmonton being a heavy outlier due to Chiasson’s 16 goals on 50 shots for a 32% shooting percentage.)
The Dallas Stars’ core are getting plenty of pucks to the net and are shooting career average. They aren’t over-performing and that’s fine. Sure, Seguin shooting just 8% hurts. However, he’s only an 11% career shooter. To translate, if he was having just an “average” Seguin season, it’d be an extra four goals. The Stars core aren’t having a “bad” season so far; they’re just okay.
Go back up and look at Nashville’s stats. The Nashville Predators are a very strong team, yet their core scoring isn’t good at all. If we went in and broke down depth scoring league-wide, I think it’s safe to say they would lead the charts. Which makes a last point — core scoring is just half the story. If you have a depth core that can add goals, you don’t have to rely on your top three to have above-average seasons. This is one of my biggest worries with the depth of the current Stars’ roster — I don’t see anyone who can hit the 20-goal mark by the end of the season. There are not a lot of goals in the depth which, in return, puts a lot of pressure on Benn, Seguin, and Radulov to over-perform.
When a team doesn’t have any hot scorers and the core is shooting near or at career average, they really need the depth to pitch in and help fill the void. Depth scoring can be saved for another article, but it is safe to say the Dallas Stars aren’t currently getting any help in the goal department from their depth. When the core is shooting a little below average and the depth appears non-existent, this is simply what happens — a 27th ranked G/GP team.
There is hope for Stars’ fans, though. As of writing this, the Dallas Stars are in a playoff position, despite Seguin shooting a career-low, John Klingberg and Radulov missing prominent time, and a depth that has not yet made a dent in the goalscoring charts.