Gilbert Brule & The “Kill Floor”

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.

  • Oilbaron, you mentioned luck as part of scoring goals.

    When you score a goal that an NHL goalie should stop almost all of the time, do you not consider that luck? Alot of Brule’s slapshot goals are unscreened from a far distance (and at least 4 of them are from near the boards). Those just aren’t goals you see NHL goalies giving up routinely, but Brule ended up getting a few of them last year.

    3/26/2010 vs ANH
    1/5/2010 vs PHX
    12/30/2009 vs TOR
    11/18/2009 vs COL

    That’s almost 25% of his goals scored on shots that you’d expect an NHL goaltender to stop.

    Don’t get me wrong, even if he misses all 4 of those, it’s still 13G – 20A for 33pts which is a heck of an improvement and a big step up for him, but I think it’s too easy to read into his goal totals and expect it to continue the way it did.

    He may get 20+ goals next year, but he’s probably going to do it with about 100 more shots on net than he had last year. If he can do that, it’s an even bigger step up for him.

    Like JW, I’d rather see a guy get more goals because he shoots more rather than a year he shoots at a higher %. If Brule gets 15 goals on 145 shots next year, I honestly believe it’s a better season for him than this one was. Even though his goal scoring would be down, he’d be generating more in the good end of the ice and keeping it out of the bad.

  • MADJAM rates Oilers Offence No. 1 in the league before season has even started . They are upper eschilon with new additions make no mistake about it . Potential will turn into this years reality . Unfortuneately , same cannot be said for backend problems that will eat away at their overall efficiency and standings by year end .

    Don’t under estimate what the Oiler offence should be capable of this year . The only real rookie will be an outstanding player named Hall that has yet to show his metal in the company of men . Oilers offensively will be as dominant as any other upper eschilon team , if not more so .

    Now if they play a P.M.O. (Perpetual Motiom Offence ) teams will be scrambling to try and defend against the expected offensive on slaught the Oilers will be throwing at them . The skies the limit with their speed and talent .

    • Jason Gregor

      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.

  • Jason Gregor

    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.


    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.

  • Jason Gregor

    @ 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.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    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.

  • GSC

    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.

  • oilerdiehard

    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.

  • @ GSC:

    Do you know another website that provides indexed NHL play-by-play data? Do you have any evidence to suggest that Desjardins’ data at Behind the Net is a misrepresentation of NHL play-by-play data?

    Is there any reasons whatsoever to reject the physical data, other than the fact that you don’t like what it tells you?