Shoot-outs Aren't Rocket Science - Use Your Best Shooters

Twitter is blowing up tonight, and it's split asunder trying to analyze Brent Sutter's selection of snipers for the shootout versus the Minnesota Wild.

Apparently, people who watch a lot of games believe that the opening lineup of Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak and Blair Jones were the wrong picks to decide a crucial game. And they're partially right.

To begin with, let's acknowledge the shootout for what it is - a game of chance. It's nothing more or nothing less, although some teams are dealt better cards. That said, you still play the hand you're dealt.

There aren't many statistics available to the public that we can analyze, and even the ones we do have are likely to be extremely error-prone, but let's use what we've got.

Here are Brent Sutter's choice shooters, along with their career shootout success rate (before tonight's attempts) and their total goals and attempts in brackets.

Brent's Choices

1. Matt Stajan - 25% (1 for 4 lifetime)

2. Lee Stempniak - 33% (10 for 30 lifetime)

3. Blair Jones - 100% (1 for 1 lifetime)

4. Blake Comeau - 33% (1 for 3 lifetime)

Given Stajan, Jones and Comeau's limited lifetime attempts, we really can't take much from their percentages. Adding in the fact that none of them are particularly skilled with the puck, I'm going to assume that they're likely below league average talent level.

Since the inception of the shootout, the league average has been between 30.59% and 33.71% and I'd guess that none of the aforementioned three are above 20% talent level. But I am just guessing, which is exactly what Sutter had to do. That's fine for an early-season game, but not with the play-offs on the line.

Now take a look at the Flames most proven talent in the shootout over their career.

Flames Best Choices

1. Alex Tanguay - 37.5% (18 for 48 lifetime)

2. Olli Jokinen - 36.7% (18 for 49 lifetime)

3. Lee Stempniak - 32.3% (10 for 31 lifetime)

4. Mike Cammalleri - 26.5% (9 for 34 lifetime)

5. Jarome Iginla - 25.7% (9 for 35 lifetime)

Just comparing Calgary's top guys to the league average tells you one thing about the Flames shoot-out chances, they're league average if they pick their best lineup.

If they don't optimize the lineup, they're doomed. And if you think Kipper is going to save them, he has a career 0.607 Sv % in the shoot-out, so he's much worse than average.

While Stajan, Jones and Comeau were absolutely wrong selections, putting Stempniak in the top 3 was just fine, despite comments I've seen floating around the twitterverse. And anyone screaming that Iggy should have been picked is plain wrong as well.

Which brings me to my last point. Why can't coaches accept that the only strategy that makes sense for a shootout is to pick the guys who have the most demonstrated shooting talent, and put your most successful shooter first. Don't save him for "the clutch third spot" since he may never even see the ice.

Brent definitely screwed up the selections tonight, but I hope somebody in the organization is analytically savvy enough to convince the coaching staff otherwise in the future.

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