One of the most basic statistical measurements is one of the game’s most important: shots per game.

While we wait for the advanced stat crowd to tinker and refine their numbers to help us grade player A-through-Z, shots-per-game continues to be a page you can click on, understand, and see a list made up of at least 90% all-stars. Great players pour pucks on net.

The tough part with so many fancy stats is determining what they really mean. A lot of people are pretty sure they have it dialed in, but numbers aren’t always what they seem. For example:

Our junior hockey coach used to bag us for 10 minutes for everyone one of nine goals we didn’t meet in our previous game. He had the scratches record what were then considered “deeper” stats. We had to have 75 hits (seriously), 10 blocked shots, 20% PP conversion etc. (….Yes, he liked to skate us.)

The point I’m making is we’re learning more about our raw numbers – common sense implies that if you got a lot of hits, you didn’t have the puck a lot, and that’s not a good thing. If you’re blocking a lot of shots, the other team is pushing the play too often, and has the puck too often. Also not a good thing.

But shots-per-game is pretty cut and dried – if one guy gets more shots per game because he gets more ice time than the next guy, guess why? It’s because he’s a better player. If one guy has more shots per game because he gets more powerplay time than the next guy, guess why? It’s because he’s a better player (or at least his coach thinks so). If a guy puts up a good number in this statistical category and doesn’t get a lot of minutes or PP time, guess what? He deserves more.

The advanced stat “shots-for-per-60-minutes” is also extremely valuable, and should help coaches have some idea who the players getting the most ice time and powerplay time (that I referenced above) should be.

But enough song and dance – let’s look at the top 30 NHL players in shots-per-game, and see what it can teach us:

(A couple clicks will clear up the image for ya.)

The list reads like a virtual All-Star team. And if you extend the list to 36 (the amount of skaters in the All-Star Game), you add Jarome Iginla, Claude Giroux, Patrick Kane, Tyler Seguin and Marian Hossa to the list, who are also fairly high-ranking NHLers.

Sometimes you talk to a player who says “I’m getting shots, and seeing some good chances, it’s just not going in right now.” When you hear that (and they’re right), calling their play a “slump” is ridiculous.

Take Sidney Crosby’s goal drought - he’s 10th in the NHL in shots-per-game right now (if he had enough games played to be on that list), averaging 3.6. He’s also staring down a 4.7% shooting percentage, less than half of your average NHLer’s, and wayyyy below his career average. Which is a nice way to say, teams should be scared of the day/week/playoff-series that things start to average out the other way.

Another takeaway from that list is Tyler Kennedy’s name. He currently sits 20th in the NHL with an average of 3.3 shots per game, which is nothing to sneeze at. It’s not enough that teams deal with Malkin, Crosby and James Neal, but now you’ve got the Penguins depth players on the front page of the S/G leaderboard too. No wonder the Pens out-shot the Devils by 30 the other night.

So when you’re trying to determine how an offensive forward has been playing, check their shots-per-game and how it’s been trending – this is a valuable metric for gauging play. If they’re finding ways to get pucks on the net, the pucks will eventually find a way to get themselves into it.