By Chris Boyle
Consistency is a hallmark of valuable players.
Players that come to play every night and provide effort are fan favorites and media darlings. It’s easy to see effort when it involves taking the body. It’s why checking forwards and stay-at-home defensemen can be very easily overrated.
At its base, it is a simple assessment that is open to interpretation because of the varied measurement system applied for this type of label. The difficulty arises when the label is placed on a scorer. Scorers are paid to score and because of this, the measurement system becomes result based and the process is quickly eliminated.
So instead of measuring a player on scoring chances, which have a higher chance of nightly replication, the expectation becomes about producing goals. Goals fluctuate wildly because of the nature of goal production and, with it, fan and media opinion.
If we look at Michael Cammalleri, we see a goal-scorer who has had wildly different results through 19 games even though he has maintained a consistent process. Through his first 10 games, Cammalleri had zero goals, but had an expected goal total of three. Through his next nine games, he produced an expected goal total of three, but produced nine goals.
Consistent locations. Consistent pre-shot movement opportunities. Wildly varying small sample results. Instead of six goals, he ends up with nine. This is how data analysis slips so easily into the term “lucky,” but as the sample increases, his results will seem less extreme.
This is the pattern of elite goal-scorers. As much as we would like to believe shooters are in control of their results, they aren’t. Hot Cammalleri and Cold Cammalleri are essentially the same player. Following this torrid shooting streak, Cammalleri will likely cool down and settle into his typical well-respected 30-goal production.
The thing that makes Cammalleri so interesting is the way he produces his results. Anybody familiar with Cammalleri understands how reliant he is on setting up and delivering one-timers. Because of this, his advanced data can be difficult to assess if using only location data.
Location data shows a player who is slightly above average when it comes to shot production. Using Cammalleri’s 291-shot sample from the last three seasons (phantom shots and empty-net goals are not counted in the analysis), an average player would produce four fewer shots from the High Danger area, five less in the Medium area. Those nine shots would be offset in the Low Danger area. Over three seasons of data, that doesn’t account for the difference in shooting a league average 9 percent vs. the 15 percent Cammalleri produced.
Where Cammalleri makes a difference is his ability to dominate pre-shot movement. Over 25 percent of his shots force the goaltender into difficult situations where they cannot gain clear sight or set depth and angle. Almost 40 percent of all the shots he registers is the result of him setting up in dead space and hiding in clear sight for one-timers. He is especially effective setting up to the left of the goalie and making himself available for slot-line feeds, and quick passes because of his quick release. It is how he manages to produce almost a 9 percent success rate in the Low Danger area, almost four times greater than the 2.2 percent of an average NHL shooter.
If the pass doesn’t come his way, he is also valuable at reading the play and heading to the front of the net for tips and rebound opportunities.
Cammalleri is Stamkos and Ovechkin light. He doesn’t have the same ability to create his own shot as those players do and because of this, his shot rate is lower. His ability to take so many high-quality shots allows him to still be a consistent 30-goal scorer even when he only registers 200 shots.
When Cammalleri is healthy, he is extremely consistent at creating high-quality scoring opportunities. His biggest issue during his career has been durability and that lack of durability hurts his reputation of being consistently good. Can he maintain his current production that is a result of his recent scoring burst? Most likely not. Nothing in his historical performance or advanced shot metrics shows that type of potential, but he will continue to consistently create high-quality opportunities like he always does.