Saturday, August 02, 2008

Shooting percentages, Gerry Meehan and that other kind of promotion

Shooting percentage is a cool thing. It turns out that if you look at the NHL leader board for this stat, and scroll back through the years, you hit a bunch of great stories. This is the stuff that out-of-nowhere seasons are made of.

In 87/88 Mikko Makela of the New York Islanders finishes 3rd in the league at shooting%, surrounded on the leaderboard mostly by excellent players having good years (Simpson, Stastny, Loob, Nieuwendyk, Verbeek, Robitaille) as well as guys who played a lot with Gretzky or Hawerchuk. For the life of me, I can't remember this player. His stats show that he had a couple of decent offensive seasons prior to this one, but 87/88 saw a big jump, what the kids call a breakout year, 36 goals and 76 points coming largely on the back of shooting percentage. They went in for Mikko that year, but never again.

Then in 89/90 Lou Franceschetti, a 31 year old journeyman winger in his first year with the Leafs, he leads the entire league in shooting percentage (70+ games played) during a 21 goal career year, and this without a single PP goal to his credit. He would score only two more goals in the NHL.

These two guys have something else in common, they were acquired by the Buffalo Sabres in 90/91 and, quite predictably, didn't live up to expectations. This would be Makela's last year in the NHL save an 11 game comeback attempt with the Bruins in 94/95. Franceschetti would play just one more NHL game, this for the Sabres in 91/92. Which begs the question - Who the hell was the GM of Buffalo in 1990?

The correct answer is Gerry Meehan, shown below in his playing days as the young captain of the Buffalo Sabres.

This photo has been knicked from Seriously, I'm not making this up, it is a surprisingly cool site. About the blog author, Mark:
I am a lifelong Washington Capitals fan, or at least lifelong beginning in the late 1970s, when Gerry Meehan and his family moved next door to mine in Bowie, Md. That started years of playing hockey, collecting hockey cards, and amassing probably the most comprehensive collection of Gerry Meehan memorabilia anywhere.
By all accounts I've stumbled across on the web, Gerry Meehan was an honest player and is a good guy. After retiring he went back to school and earned his law degree from University at Buffalo School of Law, started working on contracts for then-Buffalo-GM Scotty Bowman, and would eventually succeed him as GM in 1986.

During his seven years as GM the Sabres were largely mediocre, and managed only one playoff series win. Meehan's best trade, and it was a belter; Hasek for Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round draft pick. Unfortunately for Meehan, Hasek wouldn't get the starting job until the following season, when he was no longer GM.

Why was he no longer GM? Because he had been promoted, of course. From Wikipedia:
In 1993, Meehan was named executive vice president of sports operations, taking a more active role in the organization's business and legal affairs.

He resigned his position in December 1994.
That's it, just a stream of consciousness. I don't really have a point, other than maybe 'the internet is groovy'. Carry on as you were.


Blogger mike w said...

I love that Gerry Meehan blog, especially the pencil drawings and dog-earred Hockey World magazines from 1972.

And I'm surprised you don't remember Mikko Makela, back in the 80s my ears always perked up whenever I heard his funny name on TV.

8/02/2008 12:08 pm  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Nice post Vic. I love that shooting percentage statistics- Dave Lowry is a recent (albeit modest example) of that same phenomenon.

A little too early to tell exactly what Lowe's role will be going forward - I think Katz has him figured as the new spin master for the team, given his credibility and near-universal love in Edmonton.

8/02/2008 12:34 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Meehan was captain of the Sabres when he was traded iirc. He was used as bait to get a fine defender (Jocelyn Guevremont) for the Buffalo Sabres. They had the French connection line and the heavy lifting line (Luce-Ramsay-Gare) and then the season Meehan got dealt Jim Lorentz teamed up with Spinner Spencer and Rick Dudley.

That was a helluva team.

8/02/2008 2:36 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

Thanks for the mention of my site! Pretty obscure stuff, I know, but I noticed thse things weren't available anywhere else, so I decided to share them through the magic of the Internet. If anyone has anything I don't, please let me know -- mmiller20910[at]

8/03/2008 12:55 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

I will definitely LOL at the potentially unintentional parallel between Meehan's failurs + promotion and Lowe's. Lowe experienced more success it seems and maybe you're just teasing with your lack of point but it would make me smile if that's what you were suggesting.

8/03/2008 1:16 pm  
Blogger PunjabiOil said...

For what it's worth, a fellow on Mirtle's had this to say:

Lowe sent his kids to school in US because Edmonton was too tough for them (daddy is always getting hammered).

He also is looking real estate possibilities in Arizona so the way I see this is that Lowe wanted to get rid of GMs daily routines.

If he got same salary this was a brilliant move from his side. Tambellini will take the heat, do the work and Lowe takes credit if Oil happens to have success.


8/05/2008 1:10 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Good stuff Vic.

I remember Mikko Makela and I also remember Lou Franceschetti, another in a long line of journeymen Leafs fans adored in the 80s and 90s.

If you're a Leafs fan you take what you can get. I guess.

8/05/2008 7:31 am  
Blogger Matt said...

I hadn't heard of Makela for years, then he turned up here in Lethbridge as the coach (asst, then head) of the Hurricanes for a few years. No idea where he is now.

8/07/2008 11:14 am  
Blogger Oilman said...

Gary Leeman had a 20% season once and scored 51 times - he regressed back to his 12%ish career number after that and (combined with injury) managed to score 65 goals over the next 8 seasons....who else stands out as having the one big year? Warren Young maybe...although he had a really short career?

8/07/2008 8:38 pm  
Blogger offensivhockey said...


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8/09/2008 5:30 am  
Blogger Doogie2K said...

Where does Rob "630 CHED Hockey Insider" Brown fit into this discussion?

8/09/2008 1:08 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Rob Brown had a couple of ridiculous years when he played with Mario (29% and 30%), granted a lot of that surely came on the PP. By the numbers, he looked to have been a guy who could finish even when he played elsewhere though.

He never brought much else to the table though, a Kovalenko type. Still, he did seem to fade away fast though, was it injuries?

BTW: All this stuff is just from the stats machine, though how in the hell it was scraped off of there is beyond me.

8/10/2008 8:21 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I was just drifting through this stuff, then checked on Meehan because of the oddness of him grabbing these two guys, and saw how he had been promoted. Just seemed too timely to go unmentioned.

I can't come up with a good guess on what is happening with the Oilers restructuring. If it was a year ago at this time I'd just assume it was a creative demotion. But he had a good summer, and I think lots of the stink from past decisions has been left on the EIG. Maybe he really does want to step back a bit, wouldn't surprise me.

8/10/2008 8:24 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Yeah, Lowry is another one. When you look down the list, you get the feeling that every 10 goal vet in this league has a twenty goal season in them if the bounces go right, especially if they go right early so they get better icetime later on as the 'hot hand'.

Bucky's 20 goal year was a shooting% one-off, but Selivanov's 27 goal season probably stands out more (granted he had the benefit of playing quite a bit with Doug Weight).

Scott Fraser (19.7% over the back part of a season), he's probably the Oilers poster boy for this, and he cashed in big time. Good for him.

8/10/2008 8:28 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Ya, that really was a big year for Leeman, he wasn't ever likely to repeat that.

As well as injuries, there was a popular rumour (unsubstantiated as far as i know) about him being involved with another player's wife and being on the outs with his teammates. Whether that was true, or more excuse than reason, I don't know.

Mostly I just think he was a cherrypicker who was only allowed to play that Bure-style game if they were going in. When he hit a shooting slump .. maybe he got reined in and the slump just snowballed, I dunno.

8/10/2008 8:32 pm  

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