As I’ve been pouring over the NHL CBA in preparation of a blog regarding the next round of CBA discussions, I decided to go a take a break from all that reading and examine the curious case of Martin Erat (who only looks like he gets younger every year). Signed in the 2007 offseason to a 7 year, $31.5 million contract, Erat (and Legwand) were thought to be the future stars for the Nashville Predators. Erat, in particular, looked to the that player with the sniper-like shot and likely capable of posting a few 30 goal seasons given his age at the time (just prior to turning 27). (For a look at the case of David Legwand, Sam has done an excellent analysis over at PredsBlog.com.)
What established those expectations? It begins with Erat’s skills. He has a great shot, great speed, and is fairly difficult to knock off the puck. Combine those skills with the speed and playmaking skills shown by Legwand at that time, and everyone became excited for the potential of those two as they progressed through what should have been their prime years.
In the two years since signing his contract, Erat went from consecutive 57 point seasons (the last of which with 23 goals) to a 50 and then 49 point season this past year. Why has Erat not been able to take the next step? He has all the natural skills of a goal scorer, but has yet to top 30 goals (or get any closer than the 23 he had prior to new contract) while other Predators have. I decided to make an attempt to answer the question by looking at the other 30 goal scorers this past season (which included Patric Hornqvist).
There were 24 players that scored 30 or more goals in the 2009 – 2010 regular season. For comparison efforts, I’ve taken the average of those 24 players in several categories and charted them along with both Patric Hornqvist’s and Erat’s individual numbers/ranking (if you were to include Erat).
|Shots||Shot %||TOI/G||Sft/G||PP G||PP G%||PP TOI/G|
|Erat||168 (24th)||12.5 (20th)||17:59 (20th)||23.3 (14th)||5 (24th)||24.6 (tied 21st)||2:46 (24th)|
|Hornqvist||275 (10th)||10.9 (23rd)||15:41 (25th)||19.7 (25th)||10 (tied 13th)||33.3 (tied 5th)||2:50 (23rd)|
From the chart, I noticed that Erat received 44 seconds less PP time than the average time received by the 30+ goal scorers last season. While that number is significant, along with Erat’s ranking of 24th out of 25 players in that statistic, it’s mitigated by the fact that there were a significant number of players within a very close range to Erat’s 2:46- like Hornqvist’s 2:50 of PP TOI/G or Bobby Ryan’s 2:52 of TOI/G and 11 PP G. (Off topic question- did anyone else other than me not realize that Jarome Iglinia and Rick Nash were not the leading forwards for their respective teams PP TOI/G?)
The most amazing statistic to me from the chart above is the total shots on goal. Erat was more than 100 shots lower than the average number of shots put on net by the 30+ goal scorers. Erat has some of the best goal scoring talents on the team, but greatly trailed Hornqvist (275) , Weber (222), and Arnott (216) last season. Arnott’s departure leaves Erat with the most dangerous shot among the forwards.
Arnott averaged about 3.4 S/G over the 63 games he played. If Erat could average that many shots (just slightly better than 1 S/G per period), with a 12% Sh%, he would be around 250 shots (about 74 games) and hit the 30 goal plateau. With proper attention to detail, and potentially increased PP time, I believe that the 30 goal season is within his reach. More importantly, I believe it’s a necessity for the Predators to once again reach the playoffs. Not to mention that Hornqvist needs all the rebounds he can get.
There’s an old basketball adage (insert “hockey isn’t basketball” comment here) that shooters must be fed the ball and continue to shoot. It’s an adage I believe translates well to hockey. Those players with natural goal scoring talents don’t score unless they shoot.
About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.