I thought it’d be interesting to compare the past five seasons to assess how the team has done under different head coaches. I’ve learned more about War On Ice’s “score-adjusted” filter recently and think this’ll be how I analyze possession stats from now on. If you’re looking to understand how score adjusted is calculated, definitely check out Micah’s article Adjusted Possession Measures.
Basically, it factors in the score throughout the game. Teams play differently when they’re leading or trailing, and their possession stats (Corsi/Fenwick) reflect that. Trail, and your game plan changes to attack more. Lead, and you might shut down a bit.
Just to give a sense of how often the Oilers were tied, trailing or leading over the past five seasons, see below. Source: Puck on Net. One quick note: I consider Nelson’s coaching reign to have started on December 30th, 2014. That was his first game without MacTavish with him behind the bench.
|Down 2||Down 1||Tied||Up 1||Up 2|
|Time Spent||Corsi||Time Spent||Corsi||Time Spent||Corsi||Time Spent||Corsi||Time Spent||Corsi|
Here we see that Eakins’ club was trailing more this year, so they might have been playing more aggressively, thus inflating their overall possession metrics. He still did a good job suppressing shots, which we’ll get to in a minute, but we should apply the score-adjusted filter to get a true sense of his team’s performance.
Below is a high-level breakdown for each coach at even strength. Consider this a starting point, since there are some obvious factors such as the actual roster and individual player performance.
|Number of games||82||82||48||82||31||46|
|On ice shooting %||7.8||8.2||8.3||8.0||6.7||7.4|
|On ice save %||91.3||92.0||92.4||91.4||90.4||90.6|
|Offensive Zone Starts||49.8||50.4||47.4||44.3||50.8||49.6|
|Corsi For %||45.1||47.0||44.2||43.2||49.1||46.4|
|Goals For %||42.1||47.6||47.1||41.8||39.3||41.1|
|Shots For %||44.8||47.0||44.9||43.6||48.0||47.1|
|Scoring Chances For %||44.2||46.4||44.2||44.9||49.0||43.7|
|Scoring Chances +/-||-396||-246||-252||-360||-26||-280|
|Scoring Chances For/60||23.8||24.7||25.8||24.5||24.4||24.9|
|Scoring Chances Against/60||30||28.6||32.5||30.1||25.4||32.2|
Source: War on Ice
- Tom Renney made some very nice improvements in his second year as head coach. At the time, I thought he was going to be back for a third year, but Tambo had other plans. I thought he would’ve made a good long-term coach considering what he was able to accomplish with such a brutal roster.
- I know there’s this perception that Ralph Krueger was a great head coach and should not have been fired to make way for Eakins. I think people tend to forget about some of the losing streaks that year, including the brutal April they had. I really think the hiring of Eakins, who wasn’t liked very much by the local media, increased Krueger’s popularity.
- Eakins somehow managed some decent possession stats this season and had a way of suppressing shots and scoring chances. I’d be interested in how he did it and where the weaknesses were from his point of view.
- Nelson did an okay job given the roster he had and the lack of experience on the blueline. He’s done an excellent job with guys like Lander and the other OKC grads. Based on his past experience at the minor league level, he should definitely be considered for a head coaching spot somewhere in the NHL, if not in Edmonton.
- That goaltending this year. Just. Brutal. Worst save percentage at even strength in the NHL.
Something to consider when reviewing these stats is how poorly the rosters were built each year. This year, for instance, it was obvious that the Oilers were going to struggle as they didn’t have enough centermen to start the season and the lack of experience on defence. Each coach hired came to the team with decent resumes and experience. Eakins and Nelson both coached for a few years in the AHL and had assistant coaching experience at the NHL level. Krueger was the head coach of Swiss Hockey and played a key role in the national teams growth. And Renney had just finished four seasons as head coach of the Rangers, making the playoffs each year. Unfortunately for all of these coaches, the management failed to provide them with a complete and balanced roster.
Here’s hoping the next coach of the Oilers will be put in a situation to succeed by management. That means adding experience to the blue line, adding a centermen or two, and finding good goaltending this summer.