Love it or hate it, the shootout is a part of the NHL and it's not likely to be going away anytime soon. So, is it worth it for a team to carry a "shootout specialist," even if he has potentially no other value as an NHL player?
Acquired in a trade from Tampa Bay last season, Jokinen has scored nearly as many goals in shootouts (six) as he has during actual games with Carolina (seven). Throughout his five-year career his point production has been what you would expect from a fringe second- or third-liner: he averages about 14 goals and 46 points per 82 games played. Hardly an impact player, or a guy that would make general managers get into a bidding war for his services. But in the new NHL he certainly has some value beyond what he does during his typical 15 minutes of ice-time per game.
But how much value?
First, let's take a quick look at how many times per season an NHL team actually needs players to take part in a shootout. The chart below shows how many shootouts each team has been in, and averaged, between 2005-06 and 2008-09.
As you can see, teams average just over 10 shootouts per season, or one every eight games. Obviously, that number can vary from team to team and season to season; the 2007-08 Edmonton Oilers, for example, took part in a league-high 19 shootouts (winning an incredible 15 of them), while the 2008-09 Calgary Flames were involved in just five.
Here are the top five shooters in terms of shooting percentage (with a minimum 20 shots) since the shootout was implemented.
Petteri Nummelin, previously of the Minnesota Wild, had the best shooting percentage with a minimum of 10 attempts, going 8-for-10 between 2006 and 2007 (and scored just five regulation goals in 78 games over that stretch).
Not exactly a list of the NHL's elite. But is it worth carrying a player like an Erik Christensen, an otherwise borderline NHL player, on your roster to do nothing but serve as an insurance policy in case your team is still tied after 65 minutes of hockey once every eight games?
I can hear the critics now: what does it say about the shootout that it makes a player like Christensen a potentially valuable asset? My only response to that would be; is he any less valuable to a team than say, a Riley Cote, Andrew Peters or Cam Janssen that logs four minutes of ice-time per game and provides nothing to a hockey team other than the ability drop the gloves and fight once a week?
Let's take a quick look at the shootout career of Christensen, a player that has suited up for three teams in the last three years. Of his 31 attempts with Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Anaheim, 17 have resulted in goals, which has led to a 15-2 record for his teams in those games (in the games where his attempts were stopped, they were 1-13).
There are not many players around the NHL that fit this profile. After you get past the top-five shooters shown above, the list contains the likes of Paul Kariya, Daniel Briere, Pavel Datsyuk. Mike Ribeiro, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, players that are already in high demand because they're excellent hockey players.
But in the rare example of a Christensen or a Jokinen -- players that have been available on waivers the past two years -- it might be worth considering them for a roster spot should you have the opportunity to claim them.