A closer look at Cogs

Jonathan Willis
August 06 2008 02:04PM

There’s a good discussion on-going at Lowetide’s site about what constitutes reasonable expectations for Andrew Cogliano in 2008-09. Given that the topic is the closest thing to a dead horse on my website, I’ve been following the discussion with quite a bit of interest.

The discussion has two sides, and the arguments (grossly simplified) generally go like this:

  1. Cogliano scored at the same rate as Kovalchuk. It won’t happen again.
  2. Cogliano’s shooting percentage may drop, but it won’t be by much because of the kind of player he is, and in any case he didn’t shoot much last year, so his increased shot total in 2008–09 will mean a net increase in goals even if his shooting percentage drops.

There’s merit to both points, although I’m generally arguing the first one.

I thought that it might be helpful to look at rookies since the lockout that put up high shooting percentages (15+ per cent) in their first year, and see what generally happened in their sophomore season. I’ve also tracked goals per game. I chose the 15 per cent number because a) it’s nice and round, and b) after adding all of the players together, we get an average number that looks like Cogliano’s this past season.

Here are the players, split by season, and showing both their rookie numbers and their second-year numbers.

2006–07

Jordan Staal – 22.1 SH%, .358 GPG; 6.6 SH%, .146 GPG Alexander Radulov – 18.8 SH%, .281 GPG; 14.2 SH%, .321 GPG Ryan Clowe – 17.2 SH%, .276 GPG; 13.6 SH%, .200 GPG Paul Stastny – 15.1 SH%, .341 GPG; 17.4 SH%, .363 GPG

2005–06

Petr Prucha – 23.1 SH%, .441 GPG, 16.2 SH%, .278 GPG Patrick Eaves – 20.0 SH%, .345 GPG; 10.8 SH%, .192 GPG Marek Svatos – 19.4 SH%, .525 GPG; 8.4 SH%, .227 GPG Colby Armstrong – 18.6 SH%, .340 GPG; 8.3 SH%, .150 GPG Michel Ouellet – 18.4 SH%, .320 GPG; 12.8 SH%, .260 GPG Jussi Jokinen – 15.9 SH%, .210 GPG; 11.6 SH%, .170 GPG Chris Higgins – 15.5 SH%, .286 GPG; 13.8 SH%, .361 GPG

It’s a small sample, I know, but I thought going back pre-lockout might skew the numbers. For what it’s worth, here’s what the average player performance looked like in their rookie season:

18.6 shooting percentage, .338 goals per game

Andrew Cogliano in 2007–08: 18.4 shooting percentage, .219 goals per game. While the shooting percentage is within range, the goals per game number is a little out, likely indicating ice time and assignments, in particular on the powerplay. Those who point out that Cogliano didn’t shoot very much are completely correct, so in all likelihood he will compensate for the inevitable drop in shooting percentage, at least to some degree, by firing more shots. In any case, here’s what the same group of rookies looked like as sophomores:

12.2 shooting percentage, .243 goals per game

That represents a drop of 6.4 per cent, or just over one-third. A similar drop occurred in goals per game, 28 per cent. It’s worth noting that only Paul Stastny increased his shooting percentage into the next season, the other ten players did not. Similarly, only three players scored more goals per game then they had the season prior: Stastny, Alexander Radulov and Chris Higgins.

I’d suggest, as I have up until now, that Andrew Cogliano is going to see a slight drop. His shooting percentage will drop off by a large margin, while his goal production will fall slightly but be insulated because of a) increased ice-time and responsibility and b) increased shots on goal.

As for the argument that Cogliano generates so many in-close and breakaway scoring chances, and can thus sustain his shooting percentage, it’s ridiculous. Cogliano was tied for fifth in the league in shooting percentage with Ilya Kovalchuk, behind snipers Daniel Alfredsson and Marek Svatos, and the soon-to-come-back-to-Earth pair of Brad Boyes and Mike Ribiero. He’s a good player, but he simply isn’t a good enough player to sustain that scoring rate.

That said, I don’t think he’s Todd Marchant either. Marchant, whose career shooting percentage is 8.7 per cent, twice hit 13.7 per cent—n his rookie year, where he scored 13 goals in 45 games (that’s more goals per game than Cogliano) and immediately before being grossly overpaid by Columbus, the year he scored a career-high 20 goals and 60 points. The fact that Cogliano’s shooting percentage last year was almost a full 5 per cent better than Marchant’s career high would seem to indicate that wherever his offensive ceiling is, it’s higher than Marchant’s.

One last fun point (a point I made at Lowetide’s site): Andrew Cogliano had the third highest rate of secondary assists on the Edmonton Oilers. It may not seem like a big deal, but I think an argument could be made that his assists last season (27) overstated how much he was actually contributing to goals being scored.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 RobinB
August 06 2008, 02:41PM
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Jonathan: As you know, I'm not of the mind to dissect statistics -- in this case, shooting percentage -- until I'm blue in the face and I don't put a lot of weight in some of the breakdowns or comparisons you've used in your item.

That said, the debate about what Cogliano might do in 2008-09 is interesting on both sides of the improve/backslide argument.

For the record, if Cogliano stays healthy enough to play 75-plus games, I see him finishing with 18-22 goals and 48-52 points. He'll move up slightly to 15 mins in ice time, with most of that increase coming on special teams.

As for your reference to secondary assists, there are many examples where the player who gets the second assist does as much or more to create the goal as the player credited with the first assist.

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#2 therealdeal
August 06 2008, 02:53PM
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So we should be expecting a 0.125GPG and 11.97% shooting percentage ceteris paribus.

I think your methods are good here Jonathan but I think we need to keep in mind the division LT mentions, his first and second half.

I also don't know what a average shooting percentage would look like in the CCHA (College) but Cogliano's 26.97% has to be above that average, doesn't it? Could he carry an above average shooting % in this league too?

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#3 Jonathan
August 06 2008, 03:08PM
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As you know, I’m not of the mind to dissect statistics — in this case, shooting percentage — until I’m blue in the face and I don’t put a lot of weight in some of the breakdowns or comparisons you’ve used in your item. That said, the debate about what Cogliano might do in 2008-09 is interesting on both sides of the improve/backslide argument. For the record, if Cogliano stays healthy enough to play 75-plus games, I see him finishing with 18-22 goals and 48-52 points. He’ll move up slightly to 15 mins in ice time, with most of that increase coming on special teams.

I've mentioned it before, but I generally only use stats to backup things I've already decided from watching the game. Fact of the matter i that I've seen a lot of players play strong as rookies and then fall back in their second year- and I think there are a number of contributing factors, but shooting percentage is a nice indicator of "luck"; at least when compared to career averages.

Your prediction is in the ballpark with mine; slight improvements as opposed to a slight slide. I think Cogliano will get a bunch of PK time and not much PP time.

As for your reference to secondary assists, there are many examples where the player who gets the second assist does as much or more to create the goal as the player credited with the first assist.

Very true, and I was hesitant to mention it, but of the three guys on the Kid Line, I think Gagner/Nilsson were most responsible for generating offense, and certainly the best playmakers on the line.

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#4 Jonathan
August 06 2008, 03:09PM
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I also don’t know what a average shooting percentage would look like in the CCHA (College) but Cogliano’s 26.97% has to be above that average, doesn’t it? Could he carry an above average shooting % in this league too?

Didn't know he was so lethal in college- that adds a new slant to things. I picture Cogliano as having a good career average, because I think he's got a ton of offensive ability. I just don't see him converting at a Kovalchukian rate his whole career.

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#5 Rick
August 06 2008, 03:29PM
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I think Cogliano will be hard pressed to score twenty for the next few seasons at least.

I don't suggest that because I think he lacks ability but because I think he will be lacking opportunity.

I don't see the "kids" staying together much beyond the first few games and when they are broken up Cogliano is likely moved down a line and when that happens his offensive opportunities will dry up considerably.

No one likes the Marchant comparison but I think it's more appropriate than we tend to give it credit for. Marchant was limited in part by his inability to convert but more so because he was used in more defensive situations.

Cogliano skates well enough to make him an attractive option for the third line and although his plus minus was moderate last year at +1, it was good enough to put him well ahead of most of the other checking options.

Someone needs to step up for the loss of Stoll and right now I am not seeing anyone else that is capable.

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#6 oilman
August 06 2008, 03:39PM
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jonathon - a "Kovalchukian rate" is only impressive if you also shoot as much as Kovalchuk and maintain the scoring rate. Had you said, Mark Parishian. Brendan Morrowian or Andrew Vermetteian rate, it doesn't sound as such a hard feat to accomplish.

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#7 Jonathan
August 06 2008, 04:00PM
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a “Kovalchukian rate” is only impressive if you also shoot as much as Kovalchuk and maintain the scoring rate. Had you said, Mark Parishian. Brendan Morrowian or Andrew Vermetteian rate, it doesn’t sound as such a hard feat to accomplish.

Vermette has a career average of 13.9% and a high of 17.1%. Morrow averages 16.4%. Neither of those players has ever come close to putting up 18.6% on an annual basis.

Mark Parrish, at 17.5%, is traditionally an incredibly efficient shooter; I guess that he has to be, given that his skating looks like Marty Reasoner's. The other thing about Parrish is that while he has one NHL talent (scores goals) he's not terribly useful anywhere else. The final thing to note about him is that a large percentage of his goals (and icetime) come on the powerplay, where shooting percentage is miles better. Cogliano achieved his rate with about 40 seconds of powerplay time a night.

He simply will not hold the rate he's been at.

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#8 charlie
August 06 2008, 05:28PM
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...or maybe he will keep his rate up. Maybe he'll score 10 goals a game all season, and 5 goals per game in the playoffs. Maybe he'll fight Dion Phagoof to the death, and as victor, recieve endless topless lapdances from Elisha Cuthbert for life. Maybe he'll do all of this while wearing a cape.

Maybe this, maybe that. Someone send me a link to a 'hawks fan site where they're tearing apart the expectations of Toews, Kane, and every other young player who will be a star, but isn't yet, but could be someday, and here's what we expect of them, and I guarantee no one will predict a cape.

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#9 oilman
August 06 2008, 08:26PM
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jonathon - I was thinking Brunette and wrote Vermette....Brunettes career SP is much higher.....I agree that the players play different styles and diferent situations. Just a hunch, I assume Kovalchuk plays some on the PP too no? Would that not positively influence his ShP? Perhaps we should be asking whether Kovalchuk can keep shooting at a Cogliano-ian clip without Hossa's sweet feeds on the PP?;o)

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#10 Jonathan
August 07 2008, 08:08AM
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I was thinking Brunette and wrote Vermette….Brunettes career SP is much higher…..I agree that the players play different styles and diferent situations. Just a hunch, I assume Kovalchuk plays some on the PP too no? Would that not positively influence his ShP? Perhaps we should be asking whether Kovalchuk can keep shooting at a Cogliano-ian clip without Hossa’s sweet feeds on the PP?;o)

Indeed, those players all get powerplay time- which Cogliano, at least this past season, did not.

I use Kovalchuk as the example; his career shooting percentage is actually only 14.7, and he hit a career high this season. He can't even sustain it, and for my money he's the best pure-offense player in the league.

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#11 oilman
August 07 2008, 09:22AM
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agreed - although ovechkin is pretty good too. That said, if Cogs took 340 shots per season, I wouldn't care if he dropped down to say 10 or 12 percent shooting....not a lot of the great scorers had extremely high shooting percentages (gretzky and bossy excluded of course)- they just take a hell of a lot of shots...which usually means they have the puck a lot (Ovechkin, Kovalchuk) or find a great place to shoot from (Hull, Heatly). Kovalchucks numbers are really interesting, and the difference between him scoring 40 goals or 50 goals all depends on his shooting percentage, because he basically takes 330 shots every year - he just seems more accurate every second year.

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#12 oilman
August 07 2008, 09:31AM
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just another comment....Kovalchuk hasn't been able to sustain a high SP - but guys like Mark Parrish and Brunette have - and the thing that they have in common with Cogliano is that they take fewer shots from higher percentage areas. If that's the player Cogliano is, there's a chance that he is a legit 18% shooter.

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#13 turambar
August 07 2008, 11:08AM
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I think Cog. might be a bit like Briere, whose career SH% is roughly 16%. (Kovalchuk's, BTW, is less than 15%, but that doesn't mean Briere is a better scorer than Kovalchuk. It just means that Briere uses his speed to generate high percentage chances.)

If Cogliano's % only drops two-three points down to 15-16, he'll likely still pot 17-22 goals.

I agree with everything oilman says above.

I would imagine most of the rookie players Jonathon mentions above had their SH% go down because of toughened competition; once you get a reputation as a scorer, or once you move to the first line, teams are going to watch you a little more. It's unlikely that other teams will focus defensively on Cogliano next year, just because the Oilers have better weapons in front of him.

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#14 Jonathan
August 07 2008, 01:27PM
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It’s unlikely that other teams will focus defensively on Cogliano next year, just because the Oilers have better weapons in front of him.

Is it unlikely that Cogliano finds himself in a checking role for decent sized chunks of the year, though?

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#15 Milli
August 07 2008, 01:59PM
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The one thing about Cogs is he went the college route, these guys seem to adjust much faster the the pro game as they tend to be older and more mature. I don't know about shooting percentage, but I will be very surprised if his overall producion tails off this year. I think we are very lucky to have the kids we do, very mature and very driven for thier age.

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#16 turambar
August 07 2008, 02:00PM
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"Is it unlikely that Cogliano finds himself in a checking role for decent sized chunks of the year, though?"

With MacT, who knows? At some point I expect Roloson to play first line right wing while Penner takes a turn in goal.

I actually think Cole-Horcoff-Pisani might be the checking line for the bulk of the year.

I know, Horcoff is a first-line guy, best player on the team, etc.

However, if Horcoff is doing all of the defensive zone faceoffs, and Horcoff lines up with Hemsky, then Hemsky ends up spending most of his time in his own zone, which is a waste of his talents.

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#17 rgib
August 07 2008, 04:22PM
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Hi Jonathan - great article... I found the stats interesting.

You said: "...of the three guys on the Kid Line, I think Gagner/Nilsson were most responsible for generating offense, and certainly the best playmakers on the line."

I think that, although not the playmaker, Cogs was still key to the 'kid' line's success last season. He used his wicked speed to generate chances that otherwise weren't there. He also seems to have an innate ability to read his opponents and force turnovers, thereby generating offense. I would bet that a good portion of his 2nd assist points were generated in this fashion. I also noticed that a number of his goals came at high speed heading down the wing, receiving a beauty pass and shooting at a good portion of empty net.

As to his shooting percentage, I expect a smart, fast player who picks his shots and uses his speed to continue at a similar rate. I guess 23 goals (16 ev, 3 pp, 4 pk) and 130-140 shots.

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