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Has Tyler Toffoli Abandoned His Slap Shot?

I challenge Darryl Sutter's assertion that Tyler Toffoli has to go the net more—and learn what Toffoli is shooting a lot less of this season.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few days ago, Tyler Toffoli was trapped in one of the worst slumps of his career, having scored just two goals in 23 games. Darryl Sutter offered this advice to his young gun:

"You know, most goals are scored around the net," Sutter said. "Not many aren’t, and if somebody else scores it from farther out, somebody’s standing in front of the net. If you’re not getting around the net, you’re not going to score. We’re a team that’s generally a high-volume shot team. That means that there should be rebounds and there should be a lot of loose pucks around the net, and those are where you’ve got to go to score. You’ve got to go get the puck." (LA Kings Insider)

So had Toffoli been straying too far from the front? Considering he's more sniper than net crasher, perhaps not:

GP ATOI 5v5 Avg Shot Distance
2012-2013 10 10.24 36.1
2013-2014 62 11.19 36.4
2014-2015 76 11.84 33.1
2015-2016 65 13.16 29.4

Case closed, right? I mean, you tell any slumping scorer, "Go to the net." And the winger appears to be shooting closer to the net than ever.

Well, let's dig deeper. When we divide Toffoli's career shots in Behind the Net's three tracked typeswrist shot, snap shot, and slap shotwe learn another source for his career-best 29.4 ft average shot distance. This 5v5 figure, by the way, is roughly middle of the pack among LA forwards and includes backhands/tips/deflections/etc.:

Wrist G Wrist Sv Wrist MS Wrist Dist
2012-2013 1 10 6 35.8
2013-2014 9 62 34 37.6
2014-2015 8 67 29 32.8
2015-2016 10 58 29 32
Snap G Snap Sv Snap MS Snap Dist
2012-2013 0 1 0 45
2013-2014 1 14 0 37.5
2014-2015 0 28 5 32.8
2015-2016 2 22 7 33.7

As with most NHL forwards, the wrist shot is Toffoli's weapon of choice. We can see that with experience, he's releasing that shot in tighter. The same can be said for his snap shot.

But it's also worth noting that from this year to last, his average wrist/snap shot distances haven't swung dramatically. So what accounts for the almost four feet closer difference from 2014-15's average shot distance to now?

Slap G Slap Sv Slap MS Slap Dist
2012-2013 0 3 1 48
2013-2014 0 12 6 45.8
2014-2015 0 33 15 44.9
2015-2016 0 10 3 38.7

Last season, Toffoli attempted more slap shots (not counting blocked) than all but three forwards (Jason Pominville, Jeff Skinner, and Corey Perry). He scored on none, which might explain why he's attempted so few this campaign. And perhaps no harm, no foul, as slap shots are usually attempted from a longer distance, and therefore, generally less successful anyway.

Keep in mind too that the kid is just 23. Perhaps taking less slap shots this season is an example of a still-developing sniper learning what works for him and what doesn't at this highest level of play? Or perhaps he'll unleash a re-worked killer slapper next fall?

Another pleasant consequence of taking demonstrably fewer low-percentage shots is that Toffoli's current, still-higher than average shooting %10.9 at 5v5 this year, 9.0 beforeappears just a little closer to sustainable.

As for Sutter's assertion that the young King wasn't in the dangerous areas enough recentlyperhaps he did end up having a point:

GP ATOI iSA/60 iSC iSC/60 iHSC iHSC/60
10/1/15-1/17/16 44 13.3 16.1 110 11.3 43 4.4
1/18-3/13/16 23 12.9 18.2 45 9.1 17 3.4

The uptick in recent shot attempts but decrease in scoring chances suggests as much.

Anyway, all's well with prince and kingdom now! Toffoli rang up a pair this week, including one in tight. That said, let's keep an APB out for his slapper.

GIF courtesy of @Kingsgifs. Stats courtesy of Behind the NetCorsicaHockey AnalysisHockey ReferenceNHL.comOwn the PuckPuckalyticsSporting Charts, and War on Ice. Stats mostly as of 3/13/16 (BTN stats are a little behind this).