Trading a star player is never easy, especially when the return fails to meet expectations. Adam Larsson is a good player, someone who can play in your top four, and be reliable in his own zone. He fills a need on the right side, and gives the team more options when it comes to line matching and deployment. But the fact is, the Oilers lost an elite winger, someone who has put up very impressive numbers, despite never having a legitimate defence core behind him.
One thing I do wonder is if Hall’s decline in powerplay productivity had any influence on the team trading him away. One metric that I look to to determine a player’s value on the powerplay is Fenwick For/60 (the rate at which the team generate shots that are unblocked with the man advantage – check out Objective NHL for more ). Hall typically leads the team in FF/60 RelTM by a far margin every year, but this past season, for whatever reason, his numbers took a hit (Source: Hockey Analysis)
I only came across this a few months ago when I was digging into the team’s powerplay struggles. My guess is that because there are so many left handed shots, and, as pointed out in the comments section, Hall and Draisaitl set up around the same area of the ice. I’m not 100% sure what was going on, but I’m hoping this isn’t one of the reasons Hall got dealt.
As for Larsson, the Oilers are getting a defensive defenceman, who I think has been limited offensively because of the Devils style of play. A good review of the trade, including a profile of Hall and Larsson can be found over at All About the Jersey. An excerpt:
According to Corsica, Greene and Larsson had the highest time on ice quality of competition, or the weighted average of the time on ice percentage of their opponents. They also started in their own end of the rink around 44% of the time, also the most among Devils defensemen at 5-on-5. Who led the penalty kill on defense? You guessed it, Greene-Larsson. They both got wrecked from a possession standpoint, also according to Corsica. From this past season. Larsson’s CF% (44.59%) and relative CF% (-2.45%) does not look good at all. However, those figures should not have surprised anyone since the Devils only bested Colorado in CF% last season. #5 (and #6) had to play a lot of defense in 2015-16 and did their best from getting entirely overwhelmed. To me, it is more of the fault of the team and its systems as opposed to Larsson or Greene being porous. If nothing else, Larsson showed he could handle it for twenty-two and a half minutes per game, per NHL.com. For less than $4.2 million per year on the salary cap, I think Larsson provided good value.
We can also get a quick snapshot ofusing the HERO charts.
Here we see again an offensively challenged defenceman, but someone who plays the tougher minutes (more defensive zone starts against the oppositions top lines) and actually comes out okay. The team does better when it comes to xGF% (a measure of shot quality) with Larsson on the bench, but that might be because of how he’s deployed.
David Johnson from HockeyAnalysis.com also did a deep dive into Larsson’s numbers and came away with this:
To conclude, I believe the Oilers may have picked up a real good defensive defenseman, maybe one the leagues best (still a bit early to say that yet). I look at a guy like Hjalmarsson in Chicago. He doesn’t get all the accolades of Toews, Kane, Keith or even Seabrook but he is an incredibly valuable players on that team an done of the best defensive defensemen in the league. If the Oilers get this in Larsson they will be filling a much needed and an incredibly important role. Is that worth Taylor Hall? Almost certainly not but Larsson could be an incredibly important player for them for the next decade and guys like him don’t grow on trees either.
I’m of the sense that the Oilers defence improved today, but it was for a very high cost. I understand the current situation of the team and the lack of right shot options out there. It just should not cost you an elite winger like Hall. What is most frustrating is how the Oilers got themselves in this situation. A complete disregard for player development, especially defencemen, started in 2006 with Pronger’s departure and continued on for a decade. The club operated at one point without a proper farm team before finally realizing that their prospects need a place to develop and mature into proper NHL players. It was under Tambellini that the Oilers committed themselves to the idea of a development system and actually churned out some good players through Oklahoma City. And when these players were ready (i.e., Petry, Marincin), the club traded them away, for reasons I still don’t completely understand.
What should be alarming is the fact that the same mindset and strategy that got us in this mess of trading Hall is still lingering in the organization. We saw last year how the club had to dress Nurse and watch him struggle on a regular basis. We saw Reinhart get developed at the NHL level last season rather than spend a full season, or two, in Bakersfield before moving up. Really, the Oilers should have enough NHL calibre defencemen in the lineup so that the prospects can develop at the right levels. If the team does not change their approach to defenceman development and deployment, we’ll for sure be trading away another highly touted player in a few years to fill a hole.
One last thing that’s been on my mind with Hall being traded away is that 2009/10 season that got us Hall in the first place. It was the year that the Oilers truly tanked to ensure that they got the top pick. It was a season where the team genuinely did not care about winning and did everything it possibly could to sewer the season. Fans had to sit through Ryan Potulny and Sam Gagner as centers. Jeff Deslauriers dressed in 48 games. And the defence was barely AHL calibre with Souray being cast away. The club finished 27-47-8, good for a 0.378 points percentage). Source: Hockey Reference.
Bigger than the actual Hall trade is how we got to this point and what the many warning signs were that something like this would happen. The poor drafting record outside of the first round (Mitch Moroz, David Musil), the poor player development (Sam Gagner, every defencemen drafted), the poor personnel and contract management (Jeff Petry, Sheldon Souray)…these are all the things that have lead to Hall’s departure. Without recognizing these cases from the past 10 years and changing their approach on how they operate, the Oilers are bound to repeat these mistakes and soon.