Gilbert Brule & The “Kill Floor”

Jonathan Willis
August 05 2010 07:14PM

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 3:  Center Gilbert Brule #67 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrating his goal against the Calgary Flames in the second period during an NHL game on October 3, 2009 at Rexall Arena in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Jimmy Jeong/Getty Images)

The title for today’s post is in reference to David Staples’ comments the other day on Gilbert Brule, a player he expects to continue scoring goals – because he fires the puck from close to the net.

I’ve made my thoughts on Brule clear here before, and I don’t want to re-hash an old debate or beat a dead horse, so I’m not going to re-visit those. Instead, I wanted to address the specific point that Staples made in his post: 

If you look at all of Brule's shooting stats from this past season, there are a few good signs. Some hockey commentators like to focus on the number of shots a player gets in trying to determine how many goals he might score, and while I don't disregard that notion, the more important thing is the quality of those shots.

For instance, was the shot from the kill floor, right in front of the net?

That's the kind of shot that Penner took this past year, which is why he scored so many goals. His shots were from close in, just 26 feet away from the net on average according to Behind the Net, third best on the Oilers. He also screened the goalie and tipped in shots to help score more goals than any other Oiler. Other players fired shots at the Oilers net at a higher rate, including the likes of Patrick O'Sullivan and Ethan Moreau, but while O'Sullivan and Moreau inflated their shooting totals by launching outside shots at the enemy net -- essentially turning over the puck to the other team each time they shot -- Penner made his living crowding and crashing the goalie.

And indeed, a quick check of Behind The Net shows that Staples is correct; Gilbert Brule did fire the puck closer to the net than any other Oiler. Brule narrowly edged out two other goal-scoring forwards: Dustin Penner and Mike Comrie. So this should be regarded as a sign that Brule’s shooting percentage is sustainable, right?

Unfortunately, no. Behind the Net also offers us the ability to break down Brule’s five-on-five shots by type – slap shots, snap shots and wrist shots, and a look at that data is revealing:

Type of Shot Goals Shots Distance SH %
Slap 5 17 39.8 17.9
Snap 3 16 29.0 13.0
Wrist 3 34 24.5 6.4
Total 15 92 25.6 10.7

The shots included in the total but not broken down by category include one back-hand and three deflections, which Desjardins doesn’t track at Behind the Net, and thus aren’t listed above.

It’s an interesting list, because Brule’s most frequent shot (a wrist shot from in close) had the worst shooting percentage. He had good success with snap-shots, and fabulous success with slap shots – despite the fact that those shots came from far out. That suggests to me that Brule is riding at least a slight shooting percentage bubble. Brule was one of only six players to score five or more slap shot goals at even-strength, and none of the other players – Kovalchuk, Semin, Zajac, Modano and Marleau – had a better shooting percentage than him.

The NHL has links to three of those five slap shot goals, and video of a fourth on their Brule player page:

I’m not sure what the standard success rate is for those shots from the far side of the faceoff circle; I’d guess it isn’t good, though. Certainly Brule’s been snake-bit there before; in the only other NHL season we have a record for he went 0-for-16 with his slap-shot.

Now, there’s an argument to be made here that Brule has a high enough calibre of shot that he can score those goals on a continuing basis. As I’ve indicated, I’m sceptical of that but I don’t have evidence either way and so I’m not going to debate it, and if readers are on the other side of the fence from me all I can say is that I hope they're right and we'll get a better idea next season.

The one thing that I think is clear is that last season Brule didn’t goose his shooting percentage by firing from in close.

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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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#51 Jason Gregor
August 06 2010, 08:46AM
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The shots included in the total but not broken down by category include one back-hand and three deflections, which Desjardins doesn’t track at Behind the Net, and thus aren’t listed above.

JW,

If you say the four (one back hand and three deflections) aren't included in the total how do you come up with 15 goals? He only scored 17 last year, so should it be based on 13 goals? Just curious.

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#52 Jonathan Willis
August 06 2010, 09:07AM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Brule scored 15 goals at even-strength last year, and two on the power play.

Behind The Net includes all 15 goals in the total column, but only provides detailed information (i.e. distance, missed shots, etc.) for slap shots, snap shots and wrist shots.

So those deflections and that backhand are included in the total at the bottom of the chart, but I can't tell you how many times Brule attempted a deflection and missed.

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#53 OILERSORDEATH
August 06 2010, 12:56PM
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Bob Cobb wrote:

All it says to me is Brule has to shoot the puck more and be put in situations to succeed like top 6 minutes and some pp time.

Exactly! Can you imagine him on the Left side and T.Hall on the right side ready for one-timers!! He did not get a whole lot of PP time last year and with one of the hardest shots on the team i dont know why. I really think he's a star in the making and I beleive Renney with utilize him and a few others the way they should be.

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#54 Cowbell_Feva
August 06 2010, 02:17PM
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The fact of the matter is that with Hemsky healthy and potentially 3 rookie faces with real offensive talent cracking the line-up, Gilbert Brule isn't a) going to get the same ice-time b)get the same situational playing time on the powerplay and c)Won't be expected to score 25 goals due to the fact that he finishes his checks and can kill penalties.

The whole idea of how many goals he will score, or whether or not his shooting % will drop is rediculous. The Oil signed him because he has grit mixed with some offensive talent, not because they want 20+ goals out of him.

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#55 OilBaron
August 06 2010, 08:09PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ OilBaron:

Hah! The same thing happened from 2008-09 to 2009-10, for both the NHL's best percetnage shooters and the NHL's worst percentage shooters. There's no bias at all; this is a recurring trend year after year.

Regression to the mean is a fact when discussing this particular stat.

And what is your standard deviation? Any statistical analysis worth anything has one.

I'll tell you, you got me. How the difference between 12.2% and either either 10.2% or 9.3% becomes 70% different is truly unexplainable.

What other numbers do you want to make up and claim accurate?

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#56 GSC
August 06 2010, 09:50PM
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Another reference to Behind The Net, just like Lowetide.

Do you have your own method of analysis? Or do you feel the need to constantly mooch off of the work of others? Seems to me that you'd rather us all just accept that if Desjardins says it, it must be true.

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#57 oilerdiehard
August 06 2010, 10:22PM
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I remember a radio interview with Brule a year ago in the Summer. I was thinking with the trade of Brodziak. I hope he has been working on his face off skills and getting ready to try to make a dent as a PKer.

But when he was asked what he has been working on. He mentioned cardio and strength training. Then surprised me a little, saying on the ice I have been working hard on improving my slap shot. I was shaking my head listening, thinking kid you are looking in the wrong direction if you want to get a foot in the door (with your offensive track record as a pro). But apparently maybe from what you say above. Working on his slap shot just might have paid off. I thought of that each time I seen score one with a far out slapper.

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