Desharnais, Eberle and the Pacific Division + Radio spot (TSN 1260)

Joined Lowetide this morning on TSN 1260 to talk all things Oilers. We touched on David Desharnais’ debut against the Wings, the defence combinations and how things might shape up in the Pacific division. Audio clip is below.

Couple notes I wanted to add.

Desharnais

While I wasn’t fan of the trade, I still think Desharnais can bring value to the team. I’m always of the mindset that a team should load up on as many experienced centers as possible and stack their bottom six with them. The best teams tend to pick up experienced centers on the cheap in the off-season, and have no issues moving them to wing and deploy them on special teams as needed.

My issue with acquiring Desharnais was that I thought it was poor asset management losing a good young defenceman and not getting back a young forward worth protecting in the expansion draft. While it’s true Desharnais could play well enough and be signed by the team, which would slightly off-set the loss of Davidson. It still would’ve been smarter to acquire an asset that you wouldn’t have to overpay until further down the road. A younger  forward under team control for longer would have less of an impact on the cap over the long-run and would give the team more flexibility when constructing their roster.

One thing I want to highlight are some of the positive underlying numbers Desharnais has posted over his career in Montreal. First, a quick glance of his points per hour at even-strength and we do see that it’s been declining. Considering the time he has spent with Pacioretty up until the 2014/15 season, I thought the numbers would’ve been higher.

20170228-desharnais

Looking at the share of shot attempts with Desharnais on the ice, we see that for most of his career, he’s been a positive influence. What I think would catch the Oilers attention is the team goal-share when he’s been on the ice. In 2014/15, arguably his last good season, the Habs had a 63.1% goal-share when Desharnais was on the ice, and a 50.85% share when he was on the bench. In terms of shot-share, the club was just under 50% without him, but it jumped up by 3.50% when he was on the ice. The numbers haven’t been very strong over the last two seasons, but that’s mostly because he’s been playing further down the lineup.

Desharnais - RelStats

Keep in mind as well that a lot of his success has largely been because of Pacioretty. Over the course of his career, Desharnais has played over 3,000 minutes with Pacioretty, with the Habs posting a 57.8% goal-share and a 53.3% Corsi For%. And there’s a bigger drop in the team’s outputs when Desharnais is on the ice without Pacioretty. (Source: Hockey Analysis). Key takeaway here is that while Desharnais isn’t any sort of play driver, he can play with skilled players and has not been any sort of drag.

CF% GF%
Desharnais + Pacioretty 53.3 57.8
Desharnais Away 48.2 52.5
Pacioretty Away 52.8 51.0

Pacific division

One thing Al and I touched on was how the Pacific division might shake out, and who the Oilers might see in the first round.

20170306 - Pacific division

In my mind, if the playoffs started today, the two most dangerous teams would be San Jose and Calgary. Both have posted a Corsi For% (score and venue adjusted) of over 52% over their last 25 games (Source: Corsica Hockey). Edmonton, on the other hand, has posted a 49.7% share and Anaheim has had a 50.8% share over that same stretch. I expect the Oilers numbers to improve in March, and it’ll especially be critical that they post a better Corsi For% when McDavid isn’t on the ice. Right now the Oilers are a 54.0% CF% team with their captain, but that share drops down to 49.1% when he’s not on the ice.

Eberle

It’s nice to see that Eberle’s production is coming around, and that he’s slowly getting back to where we expect him to be. What’s worth mentioning is that his shooting percentage, something that I thought would eventually regress towards his career average, is now around an acceptable level.

20170306 - Eberle Shooting percentage

A big reason why I had remained optimistic about Eberle’s production improving back in December was that his overall shot-share and shots per hour rates were consistent around his career averages. The other issue was that historically his individual shooting percentages typically got worse before they got better as the season wore on, with this season being no different. The other issue for Eberle was that his shooting percentage dipped far below his career norms this season, but we know from past research that a player’s shooting percentage tends to eventually regress towards his career averages. Eberle isn’t old or injured, so I figured we’d see his production get better.

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