The Edmonton Oilers With and Without McDavid

The Oilers were very fortunate to have won the draft lottery that landed them an elite player like Connor McDavid. In 23 games this season, the 19 year old has scored 29 points, with 20 of those points coming at even-strength. His 3.29 points per hour at 5v5 has him third in the league, behind Kucherov and Stamkos. He consistently drives offence in all three zones, as teammates do better with him than without him when it comes to individual and on-ice metrics.

Without a doubt, McDavid has been the key driver behind the Oilers success so far this season. The club is 12-9-2, securing 26 points, and sits in first place in the Pacific division. And their +9 goal differential (all situations) ranks them second in the western conference. Say what you will about the teams in the west and their struggles, but the Oilers have managed to take advantage and remain competitive.

A quick glance at the underlying numbers, and the Oilers appear to be an average-to-good NHL club. Below is their overall share of shot attempts, scoring chances, expected goals and goals at 5v5 this season. Included for each metric is their ranking in the league.

CORSI FOR% FENWICK FOR% SCORING CHANCES FOR% XGOALS FOR% GOALS FOR% PDO
51.89 (9th) 52.60 (7th) 52.09 (10th) 50.59 (14th) 53.41 (9th) 100.44 (11th)

This is all very positive for the Oilers as the club has historically been below 50% for pretty much every shot and goal metric. The fact that they have close to a 52.0% share of the shot attempts is significant progress and indicates that they should be able to compete for a playoff spot this season. But if we look at how the Oilers do with McDavid on the ice and compare that to how the club does without him, things get a little interesting.

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Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Talking Oilers on the CBC Edmonton News (TV)

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Joined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News prior to the game against the Leafs. We talked about their current skid and the upcoming expansion draft, and also got into some of the Oilers’ numbers. We touched on the impact McDavid has had on the team, which I also wrote about over at The Copper & Blue.

The clip is here (starts around the 19:30 mark): CBC Edmonton

Also a big thank you to the CBC Edmonton team for putting together this graphic for our segment:

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The Driver

Twenty games into the season, it’s fairly obvious that Connor McDavid will be the Oilers prime driver for offence. Using his speed and skill to make quick plays in all three zones, McDavid can generate shots and scoring chances pretty much on his own. What the Oilers appear to be lacking now is consistent secondary offence, and at least one other offensive driver that can do some damage when McDavid is on the bench.

Last season, this role was held by Taylor Hall, who went on to score 65 points , and consistently enhanced the play of his linemates, including Leon Draisaitl. When Hall was on the ice at 5v5, the team got 51% of all of the goals the Oilers and the opponents scored. The vast majority of his teammates last season were below 50%. Losing a driver like Hall meant the Oilers were going to need to  acquire help or hope that one of the young forwards like Draisaitl or Puljujarvi would develop into the role.

On the first day of free agency, the Oilers signed forward Milan Lucic, who does have good underlying numbers, and has a history of contributing to his team’s offence. Last season in Los Angeles, the team had a 61% share of the total goals scored at 5v5 when he was on the ice. In Boston the year prior, the team had a 57% share. He doesn’t have the speed and playmaking ability of Hall, and benefited from having some elite level linemates in the past. But nonetheless, his previous teams scored at a good rate when he was on the ice.

Unfortunately, what Lucic has produced for the Oilers isn’t close to what he’s done in the past. After 20 games, Lucic has two goals and two assists at 5v5, 0.83 points per hour that ranks him last among the 13 forwards who have played at least 100 minutes this season for the Oilers. The team’s share of the total goals at 5v5 when he’s on the ice is below 50%, which is troubling considering he has played a lot with McDavid and Eberle on the top line.

After 20 games, it appears that the driver of the offence outside of McDavid has been 28 year old winger Patrick Maroon, who was acquired by the Oilers from Anaheim at the 2016 trade deadline. Maroon is currently tied for the team lead in goals and sits 6th on the team with 1.77 points per hour. When he’s on the ice at 5v5, the Oilers get a much higher share of the total shot attempts (55.5%) taken by his team and the opponents, +5.3% relative to his teammates. And this has been done playing 125 minutes with Draisaitl, 114 minutes with McDavid, and 36 minutes with RNH. Each of the three centers has done better when it comes to the total share of shot attempts with him than without him.

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Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Couple thoughts on Kris Russell

cuqkyi3viaqdpleAppears that we won’t be going a day without hearing how great defenceman Kris Russell is for the Oilers, or how bad his underlying numbers are.

Couple thoughts.

The original debate over Russell started last season when there was speculation that he and his agent were asking for a big pay day from the Flames. Here’s what TSN’s Bob McKenzie said back in February. (Source: TSN)

Here’s the thing: Russell is currently a fantastic bargain with a cap hit of $2.6 million. More nights than not, he plays well over 20 minutes and, at age 28, with his mobility and puck-moving ability, he’s a heady if undersized blueliner who’s pretty much in his prime and arriving to free agency at a very good time for him. The next deal Russell signs will be the best deal he ever signs; he’s going to more than double his current salary.

You don’t have to look very hard to find the guys Russell would view as open-market comparables: Montreal’s Jeff Petry got five years at $5.5 million. Edmonton’s Andrej Sekera got six years at $5.5 million. Similarly under-sized blueliner Jared Spurgeoncollected $5.2 million per year on a three-year term in Minnesota.

Were Russell to go to July 1, is there any doubt he’s going to get a five-year offer for between $5 million and $5.5 million? And he may well be looking for more than that, both in term and dollars.

Having watched him play in Calgary and reviewing some of the shot metrics, I thought this was absurd. But knowing how teams operate around free agency, it wouldn’t have surprised me if Russell and his agent were successful. Plenty was written about Russell leading up to the trade deadline and free agency as the player’s on-ice performance didn’t quite jive with the narrative of him being an effective defenceman. (TSN, FlamesNation, Hockey PDOcast, Stanley Cup of Chowder).

When the trade deadline rolled around, the Stars paid big to land Russell, which really gave those that dislike advanced stats some ammunition as a good general manager like Jim Nill acquired him. Russell found himself in a depth role with the Stars, who eventually lost in the second round against the Blues.

Following the playoffs, the Stars did not sign Russell and not a single team traded for his rights. Free agency rolled around, plenty of chatter, plenty of speculation about which NHL club would sign him. But then silence the rest of the off-season.

Three days before the season started, and after training camp, the Oilers signed Russell to a one-year, $3 million contract. In my opinion, it was an okay move as the team added an experienced defenceman that I hoped would push young defenceman like Nurse and Reinhart further down the depth chart. What’s frusrating is that the team failed to address a need on the right-side who could contribute to the offence and add an effective right-shot on the powerplay. What also became apparent is the fact that all 30 NHL teams figured Russell out and determined his value isn’t near what his agent had thought.

Fast forward to today, Kris Russell has played 13 games, mainly paired with Sekera, averaging 20 minutes per game and has three assists. He’s also last on the team when it comes to the team’s share of Corsi For and Expected Goals. He had a good start to the season, struggled in the games leading up to his injury, and has been alright since returning to the lineup. He’s an NHL defenceman who can provide a team with depth and experience. But he doesn’t drive offence or supress shots against and needs to be sheltered to be effective. Where he ranks on the current depth chart and what the defence pairings should be is worth discussing. But I don’t quite get why Russell has so much support when he plays one good game. It’s pretty pointless to use Russell to discredit shot metrics, as team managers and scouts came to the same concensus as the stats when he was available in free agency.

Really, the big question should be how much Russell is worth to the Oilers in terms dollars and term. I suspect most would agree that he’s not a $5 million per year player. But that to me is a more interesting discussion rather than the Russell-proving-advanced-stats-wrong narrative.

 

Letestu to the Rescue

The Oilers powerplay currently ranks 19th in the league, converting on 16% of their opportunities this season. One of the big reasons why they haven’t done so well is because of the poor shot production with the man advantage. This is an issue that’s lingered since last season, with the coaching staff often preaching the importance of getting shots through and finding second chances around the net (Source: Inside Sports, 630 CHED). As of today, the Oilers rank 20th in the league when it comes to the rate of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick For per 60 minutes), sitting at 62.15. This is slightly down from last season when the club generated just over 63 unblocked shot attempts per hour.

What I found last season when looking at the powerplay, was that the Oilers generated more shots when veteran Mark Letestu was on the ice. He finished the 2015/16 season with the fifth highest ice time on the powerplay, behind Hall, Sekera, Draisaitl and Eberle. This was in large part because of injuries to Klefbom and McDavid, but nevertheless, Letestu was effective in driving the team’s overall shot rates.

This season, Letestu has only played 17 minutes on the powerplay through 18 games, which ranks him 10th on the team among the regular skaters just ahead of rookie Jesse Puljujarvi. (Source: NHL)

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Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Talking Oilers on CBC News in Edmonton (TV) and CBC Radioactive

sunilcbc20161115Had the opportunity to chat about the Oilers on the CBC News in Edmonton with Adrienne Pan this evening. We covered the current losing streak, what the potential solutions might be, and what to expect going forward.

Link: CBC Edmonton News, November 15, 2016

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Also made my first appearance on CBC’s Radioactive this afternoon, to chat with Rod Kurtz about the Oilers. We chatted about a number of things including the team’s progress, the lack of secondary scoring and the impact of Kris Russell’s absence. Clip starts about 9:40 in.

Link: CBC Radioactive, November 15, 2016