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The Colorado Avalanche have become a victim of shooting percentage regression

The Colorado Avalanche have fallen on hard times and the regulation of their shooting percentage has a lot to do with it

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

For the first two months of the season, the Colorado Avalanche were flying high. The team was near the top of the Western Conference and was producing as one of the best offensive teams in the NHL. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon were leading the league in scoring and the Avalanche as a whole had scored more goals than everyone save for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The problem is that the team was riding an unsustainably high shooting percentage - something that was inevitably going to regulate.

Then came December.

In the past month, Avalanche scoring has dried up significantly. Since December first, Colorado has won only four games and has been producing at a level that puts them in the bottom half of the league. For those paying attention to the underlying numbers, this shouldn’t have been a surprise.

In the month of November, the Avalanche were shooting a league-best 13.8% - a level of production that simply wasn’t going to continue.

This month, the shooting percentage has dropped off significantly. We are seeing a very predictable regression to the mean and it’s causing the Avalanche to lose a lot of games.

Month By Month Shooting Percentage

Month Shots For Goals For SH% SH% Rank
Month Shots For Goals For SH% SH% Rank
October 371 41 11.1 9
November 391 54 13.8 1
December 416 33 7.9 27

Even with the horrible December, the Avalanche still have the fifth best shooting percentage in the NHL - a testament to just how far above average the Avs were shooting early in the year.

This is how hockey works. No team is going to shoot near 14% for an entire season. Tampa Bay had a league high 10.8 sh% last year. A season before that it was the Washington Capitals who led the way at 10.5%. In fact, the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres are the only team to spend a season above 12% since the turn of the century.

Looking at the list of Avalanche forwards, it’s not hard to see who is due for even more regression as the season goes on. We know J.T. Compher isn’t going to sustain anything close to his 23.81%. Gabriel Landeskog has a career shooting percentage of 11.5%, he’s above 20% this season. Carl Soderberg’s 14.67% is well above his career average of 8.5%.

On the other hand, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon are both shooting below their percentage from last season, so we shouldn’t expect any more regression from the team’s two best players.

Avalanche Forwards

Player Sh%
Player Sh%
J.T. Compher 23.81
Gariel Landeskog 21.05
Mikko Rantanen 16.49
Carl Soderberg 14.67
Colin Wilson 14.04
Alex Kerfoot 13.33
Nathan MacKinnon 12.94
Tyson Jost 8.00
Sheldon Dries 7.69
Matt Calvert 7.58
Matt Nieto 6.52
Sven Andrighetto 6.25
Gabriel Bourque 0

Heading into 2019, the Colorado Avalanche are going to be in a fight for third in the division - right about where we all thought they’d be heading into the season. The problem is how they got there. By shooting the lights out in November, this team was putting on a performance that hid a lot of the faults in their game. Now that things are regulating, we see the team many expected - one that simply doesn't score unless it’s the top line carrying the load.

Last year’s team shot 10.5% and that’s right around where the Avalanche sit now (10.8%). Like with the highs of October and November, the production level that we’re seeing in December is not likely to continue.

While these losing streaks are tough for fans to watch, it’s important to remember that a team’s lows aren’t as low as they seem, and that oftentimes they’re simply a regression to the mean.

That’s what’s happened to the Avalanche, so while it’s been a bleak month, there’s reason to believe things will level off soon.