PDO and Why The Caps May Be Struggling

Alex Ovechkin, inches away from a potential goal against New Jersey. (Photo credit: Clydeorama)

I know there are some out there that don’t put much faith in statistics and feel it is a small step up from voodoo, but when a metric like PDO is an incredibly strong predictive tool for individual players, it deserves some notice.

First, what is PDO and what does it stand for? PDO, as far as I can tell, is an acronym penned by Vic Ferrari without any explanation as to what the letters mean. It is the summation of a team’s or a player’s on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage during 5v5. For example, last season the Caps shot 12.43% and their goalies had a save percentage of 94.5% when Jeff Schultz was on the ice at even strength. 12.43 + 94.5 = 106.9, which is referred to as a PDO of 1069. Incidentally, Schultz led the league last year in PDO.

What makes the number predictive is twofold:

  1. It is typically unsustainable year to year.
  2. It regresses to a central value of 1000, both up and down.

A recent example of how this works on the team level is the Boston Bruins. In 2008-9 they had 5 players in the Top 10 for PDO, and then NONE in the Top 100 in 2009-10.

What does this have to do with the Caps? They had 6 of the Top 10 last year and 13 of the Top 15 among skaters with 20+ games played. This would indicate that they could have trouble converting shots into goals in 2010-11, or feel “the puck has just been bouncing and hopefully it’s going to bounce our way soon.

Still unconvinced? Take a look at how players do the following year as a group based solely on the previous year’s PDO:

PDO PDO change following year Pts/60 change following year
< 960 4.4% 41.1%
960-979 2.5% 34.5%
980-999 0.8% 18.0%
1000-1019 -0.8% 5.5%
1020-1039 -2.3% -6.8%
> 1040 -4.1% -23.1%

(Data is from Behind the Net. I looked at the year to year change for 946 skaters over the last 3 years where there was paired data available.)

Maybe it is just a slow start keeping this high octane offense on the side of the road. Maybe the puck is going to start bouncing their way soon. Or maybe this is why the only Washington Capital I took in my fantasy league was Alex Ovechkin.

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