Progression to the mean is fun.
Brad Richards is struggling this season. Everyone has seen it, everyone has complained about it, and everyone is waiting for him to rebound. What generally goes unnoticed is that Ricahrds’ shooting percentage is an astonishing low 4.5%. That’s less than most defensemen. Richards has a career average of about 9%, so his shooting percentage right now is half of what it should be.
We spoke about shooting percentages at the end of January and highlighted Carl Hagelin (at that point goalless) and Taylor Pyatt (at that point shooting at 43%). Both have since progressed and regressed to their career averages, and the same theory is going to apply to Richards here. His career worst shooting percentage was in 2002-2003 when he shot at 6%, which is still above his current pace.
Richards has had a career long enough that we can assume progression back to his mean of 9%. Since we are roughly 42% through the season, that means Richards is due for a hot streak of shooting around 13%, which would get him back up to 9% over time. It’s not an exact science, as there’s some flexibility between his career average and what he could finish with this season.
Looking at his numbers for this season, Richards has 2 goals and 44 SOG. To progress back to the 9% career average (assuming the same ratio of shots per game), Richards will take about 60 more SOG this season. If he finishes at the 13% clip mentioned above, he will score about eight more goals this season. That puts Richards at 10 goals on the season, which is 17 for a full 82 game season.
Richards certainly is struggling, but he won’t continue shooting at 4.5%, which seems to be the bigger issue with his offensive numbers. Regression and progression to the mean is something we discussed with Hagelin and Pyatt, and we have seen Hagelin rebound and Pyatt cool down. There’s no reason to believe the same won’t happen to Richards. He’s too good to sit with two goals.