Is Patrick Maroon for real?

19-Maroon-3

One commonly cited statistic with regard to Patrick Maroon’s
transformation in Edmonton is his goals total. After scoring 26 goals in 204
games with Anaheim, he now has 26 goals in just 63 games with the Oilers.

The other way of putting that is that after scoring 26 goals
on his first 300 shots (8.7 shooting percentage) he now has 26 goals on his
last 144 shots (18.1 shooting percentage). Normally, this sort of thing does
not end well, but is there reason to think that Maroon could be an exception to
the rule?

The Data

Calculating machine

To answer that question, I decided to go looking for players
who enjoyed a big shooting percentage spike between the ages of 26 and 30. I
set the minimum parameters as 100 shots and a 12.0 shooting percentage between
the years 2005 and 2015, ending up with a list of 322
player-seasons
.

The next step was to eliminate players who had a history of
a high shooting percentage. Maroon’s shooting percentage has spiked by nearly
10 points, so I decided to keep only those players who had improved on their
career numbers by at least five percentage points—meaning anyone with less than
half the improvement Maroon showed was removed from consideration. I also nixed
players with a gradual ramp-up. A young player with terrible numbers early but
strong numbers at 24 or 25 (like Ryan Kesler) also wouldn’t be included,
because he didn’t have the same kind of mid-career outburst that Maroon has.

I’ve also tried to capture cases that exactly reflect Maroon’s,
where a midseason trade prompted the breakout, by lumping the season and a bit
with the new team together rather than waiting until the next year.

This reduced my list of 322 to just 37. As a group, they
fired at a 9.6 percent clip prior to their breakout years, spiked to 16.0
percent in their great season, and then fell back to an average of 11.1 percent
over their next three campaigns.

The group results are exactly in-line with what a reasonable
analyst would predict:

  • Group shot rate, pre-breakout: 2,359 goals on 24,511 shots =
    9.6 SH%
  • Group shot rate, breakout year: 1,000 goals on 6,259 shots =
    16.0 SH%
  • Combined
    breakout/pre-breakout = 3,359 goals on 30,770 shots = 10.9 SH%
  • Three years
    post-breakout = 1,843 goals on 16,616 shots = 11.1 SH%

For the population as a whole, it makes sense to ignore the peaks
and valleys and just focus on career numbers, which almost exactly predicted
what was to follow in the next three seasons.

The Exceptions

97-McDavid-8

That’s the population data as a whole, though, and of course
there were outliers. The thing now is to see whether Maroon looks like an
exception or like one of those players bound to fall back into the pack.

The first thing I did was look at the whole population to
see if there were things that predicted which players would fall harder to
Earth, and the results surprised me a little. There weren’t any spectacular
links, but I was surprised to find that in my group of players older skaters
(r2 = 0.04) and players with a bigger shooting percentage spike (r2 = 0.07)
were more likely to retain their growth. Those things both favour Maroon, who
is older than the group average (28 as opposed to 27.4) and had a bigger
shooting percentage gain (9.4 percent vs. 6.6 percent).

The next thing I did was look at the exceptions. For the
most part the exceptions tended to have a couple of things in common. One was
an increase in role and linemate quality, while the other was often a new or
expanded role on the power play.

Both of these again apply to Maroon. He’s averaged 16
minutes per game in Edmonton, three and a half more than he played with the
Ducks. He’s also played a greater percentage of his time as an Oiler with
Connor McDavid than he did with Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim. His average power play
time has increased by nearly 20 percent and all these indicators continue to
trend upward.

What Does It All
Mean?

19-Maroon-2

There are a range of probable outcomes for Maroon.

The unlikely end of the scale would see him settle in as an
18 percent shooter long-term. Nobody in my study managed that kind of transformation,
though Alex Burrows held his run together for a few years and did most of it at
5-on-5. Burrows was riding shotgun for the Sedins in those years and his
goal-scoring acumen was almost entirely their creation, as his even-strength splits
show:

  • with Henrik Sedin: 67 goals, 410 shots, 16.4 SH%
  • without Henrik Sedin: 15 goals, 179 shots, 8.4 SH%

A more likely result would see a regression to Maroon’s current career average or something slightly north of it. His average now is 12 percent,
taking into account his time with both the Oilers and Ducks, and if that’s all
he is he’d still be a 20-goal man on McDavid’s line. If he were to come in a
little bit better, he’d be in the 25-goal range and that’s a perfectly
respectable number.

A regression all the way back to the nine percent range a la
Matt Beleskey is possible, too, though it seems less probable to me. Most of the
players who tumble that far have either a longer track record than Maroon of
being low percentage shooters or fewer obvious factors (McDavid, increased
role) working in their favour.

This isn’t the kind of player a team should pony
up real money for, since it’s pretty clear who the driving force is on his
line. Nevertheless, the Oilers were comfortable playing Milan Lucic $6.0
million/year for seven years to be a 25-goal man and physical presence on
McDavid’s wing. If Maroon can do that, and he probably can, an extension of moderate term and with a modest raise would be in the best interests of both player and team. 

  • Keepyourstickontheice

    Even if he doesn’t score again this year, he’s still been absolute money so far. I’m hoping he clips along at his new pace he will hit 30.

    He might even be in the running for most economical goals/cap hit by the end of the season.

    • I always want to know whether a positive trend is a one-off or a sign of a real improvement.

      In this case, it looks like there’s some sustain to it, and that strikes me as being a far greater positive than “don’t look too closely just in case it’s a soap bubble.”

  • Big Jacks Meat

    BIG RIG ! has become the new Georges Laraque , Semenko , as a fan favorite just because of his demeanor , appreciation for being in the NHL and our CITY for what it is. its us , its who we are.
    Love our Superstars as we like our gritty loveable hard working boys.

    We salute you Patrick ! keep it up , we are with you.

    Now can you play RH D on the powerplay is my question. lol probably.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Oilers under Chiarelli: Other teams pay us to take their players and we turn them into useful assets a la Maroon and Kassian.

    Oilers under the nitwits of 2006-2015: we pay other teams good assets to take their garbage a la Nikitin.

    So this is what competent management feels like.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Maroon is solid. Since that hat trick, he’s looked really confident and has even pulled some sick dangles. He also worked pretty hard this summer so he has the work ethic.

    Even if he drops down to 20 goals and 40 points next year, he’s still a solid utility player.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    We need a Big rig goal horn at rogers when this guys scores honestly. a big rig goal horn.
    We all know what it sounds like. Make Rogers more personable…easy to do. different goal horn sound for specific players. Like the sound of a supersonic jet when Mcdavid scores. Pretty simple but rogers staff has noooo imagination. I’m sure we can agree if you have attended a game.

  • ziyan94

    Seeing him shed those pounds over the summer showed that he’s willing to work hard to improve himself. That attitude and mindset is what we need from every one of our players, and I agree that a slight raise is needed on his next contract.

  • Looch#27

    If you need to ask the question in the headline you haven’t been watching the Big Rig since we acquired him!! He played awesome at the end of the year and rumour has it TM challenged him to show up in shape and low and behold we have Maroooon!!! He’s for real and the best deal in the NHL bar none thank you Ducks!!!!

  • Free Bird

    The big advantage to building a team around a solid core of centres is that you can bring in cheaper wingers, plug them onto the lines with quality centres, and get production that exceeds the commensurate value of their cap hit. I hope they extend Maroon at a value deal but if he wants to get paid as if he’s driving his own production then the reality of a salary cap world means that the team will have to let him go. (Remember Anson Carter playing with the Sedins and then demanding a huge pay raise; see how that worked out for him.)

    Let me say again that I really hope he stays. Big Rig looks like Kevin Stevens 2.0

  • OriginalPouzar

    I don’t know any Oiler fan that hasn’t fallen for the Big Rig – his “play” on and off the ice – seems like a great guy with a great personality.

    I don’t think any reasonable Oiler fan thinks his current pace as and Oiler is sustainable over the long term but we sure are enjoying it while he’s performing.

    Some regression is almost a surety and the question is, how much?

    We’ll find out but, even if the regression is back to just bit better than his norms with the Ducks, he bring physicality, smarts, board work and some of that swagger we are talking about.

    Great player for this team.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    One thing I do agree with is that the Oilers shouldn’t be breaking the bank for him.

    A four year deal in $4-4.75M range signed and sealed this summer should be acceptable. For a guy who has bounced around the league to end up here and find a perfect fit should be self aware enough to know that he might not find another spot this befitting of his skills elsewhere in the league.

    And his agent should be aware that there are plenty of guys who have left teams they’ve tasted success with to get a few bucks more who find themselves to be ill-suited for their new team, and ultimately sent to the minors (Wade Redden, Alex Mogilny to quickly name two).

    Love his success, and hope Chiarelli does his homework this summer resigning some of these guys but they all better not be hoping to break the bank.

    • Keepyourstickontheice

      He’ll need to hit 30 goals to get that sort of contract. I think if you offered him 5 years at 3.25M AAV today he’d sign.

      He wants to hitch his wagon to McDavid, he’s not going to do anything crazy to jeopardize that.

      • OriginalPouzar

        He can’t be re-signed until he’s in the last year of his current contract – not until July 1.

        Patty is one of my favorite players and I hope he returns for another 3-4 years, however, he isn’t the type of player that will generally sign an extension with a full year left on his contract.

        I wouldn’t think any serious talks about another contract would happen until about a year from now – next January.

  • Foximus

    Maroon is certainly a recipient of playing with McDavid – but he’s still a huge, menacing linemate with skill. He’s earned everything he’s gotten. I agree with earlier comments he knows it’s due to chemistry with McDavid and he won’t want to jeopardize that.
    Good on Chia for seeing this possibility and making the trade – and then seeing it go off like this. Good news story all around.
    Good article for sure. I agree with Willis this is somewhat sustainable. Maybe not 18% but 12-15% is super solid.

  • FISTO Siltanen wrote:

    A four year deal in $4-4.75M range signed and sealed this summer should be acceptable. For a guy who has bounced around the league to end up here and find a perfect fit should be self aware enough to know that he might not find another spot this befitting of his skills elsewhere in the league.

    Too much term, too much money in my view. Three years by $3.5 million is more the range I had in mind, though admittedly I haven’t run comparables yet.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      I could see that. You still might need to add that fourth year of term, which with some fancy accounting – get the fourth year as cheap as possible – still allows him to be a moveable asset if his production slips.

      I wouldn’t sit on this guy like Lowe did with Smyth in ’07 though. If the Oilers are happy with him and see a long term fit get sorting the details out as soon as this season ends.

  • Hemi

    Agree with other posters whom realize this guy is a gift and we are both happy and lucky to have him. Fan favourite for sure!

    Every team has a player that the fan base just falls for, Big Rig is ours!

    Our management team has been reset to NHL standards which basicly we haven’t had for years. Compentency, what a concept!

    What is not to like about this guy! He fully understands that he too was gifted with a second chance as a contributing player. I like to think he has worked hard to shed the garbage bin tag.

    Duck’s loss equals Oil’s gain.

    Go OIL!

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Beyond the shooting percentage, he finishes his checks 99% of the time and in a “this might leave a mark” kind of way. He creates space for himself in front of the net 99% of the time and thus creates time and space for others around him. He also plays a great cycle and overall possession game. That has ramifications beyond Maroon’s own play.
    The McDavid effect works both ways with Maroon: McDavid gets him the puck but Maroon gets to places and creates spaces where he can do something with the puck. That makes things a lot better for McDavid. I’m not saying it’s equal, but he’s as effective as any one but Drai with McDavid, and 5V5 he’s more effective than anyone else getting goals.

    Think of it this way: he’s effectively accomplished everything that fans and management hoped that Lucic would accomplish with McDavid. If Lucic had the same year that Maroon is having fans would be saying a) Chiarelli is a genius and b) Lucic is worth every penny of that contract this year. It’ll be interesting to see what happens contract-wise with Maroon. But he’s earned something. If other teams see the same thing (and how can they not?) his contract may be mid-$3M to $4M.

  • Jay (not J)

    Very interested to see how this team looks when they start the first round. A guy like Maroon might be in a position to make himself a rather expensive player. I love the season that Maroon’s having, but the last thing this team can get away with is another Pisani or Horcoff deal. He’s been great, but like the article states, we all know where a lot of that is comming from. He should get some credit though for capitalizing on the opportunity playing with McDavid is. Others have had the same chance and not managed as well.

  • RJ

    There’s a very interesting article at the New York Times a while back on Maroon.
    He wasn’t drafted highly, but after a few years he was considered a top prospect.
    He ended out of pro hockey at 22 because he didn’t know how to train at a pro level.

    He got a second chance with the Ducks, and had some success Getzlaf and Perry for a while but ended up playing fourth line minutes.

    He was getting fourth line minutes but was producing like a borderline first line player (see Coppernblue’s write-up on him when the Oilers acquired him).

    Now instead of getting fourth line minutes he is now getting first line minutes and PP time. So that has to play some factor.

    Add to that he’s gone from fourth line minutes and linemates at the end with the Ducks to the best player in the NHL. Think about that: Getzlaf is an elite centre in the NHL, but Connor McDavid has more assists (39) than Getzlaf has points (34). You don’t think at least some of Maroon’s success could be sustainable playing with McDavid and could get better since Connor is only 20?

    As for his attitude, I think it’s great to read about guys who struggled a bit and end up with a new lease on life and some success down the road. He had to learn to be a pro. He had to get an opportunity, and when he got it, he’s made the most of it. He’s living the dream. No wonder he has such a great attitude.

    At what point do we look past his early struggles to appreciate the player he is now?

  • geeker99

    Play-offs is huge, that would be a true evaluation. Maroon always has huge praise for Conner and I hope he remembers that come contract time. Chris Kunitz comes to mind? 3.85 million this year.

    It was obvious that Lucic was brought here to play with Conner and payed well for it. As of right now there are handful of guys ahead of him. maroon,kass even a healthy Pitlick would be my pick. Last 5 minutes tonight were great need to see more.

  • hockey1099

    Ugh using a population of 37 individuals to try and predict the future performance of one is useless. The population size is to small and cherry picked to have any real value. Further statistical anylasis of this sort is useless when looking at one player. With a large enough population size you could use the data from that group to predict generalizations about another population with similar characteristics. However when it comes down to an individual to many factors are at play. Stats are great at making generalizations about large populations because almost everything plots out on a bell curve. but each individual has his own place on that curve. And thus the generalizations have almost no predictive value on the individual just the population as a whole.

    The big rig is a fantastic player. He has amazing hands for a big man. Goes to the hard areas in front of the net and scores most of his goals in tight. His size, strength and skilll set make him unique. He is better version or ryan smyth.

  • Y’know, Ryan Smyth was also a player that had higher than normal SH% for a couple of years in his late 20s.

    I’m wondering if part of that is where these players are shooting from, ie. within the crease.

    With Smyth’s numbers in mind, it’s not unfathomable that this can be sustained over 2-3 seasons with Maroon as well.