The Edmonton Oilers have been trailing a lot in games this season.
After their first seven games, the team has spent close to 56% of their total even-strength time trailing, one of the highest proportions in the league. The good news is that the Oilers are controlling the play when behind, posting a 60.8% Corsi For%, good for 8th in the league. We know teams that trail tend to start pressing and often get a higher share of the shots, so it’s a positive sign that the Oilers are at least putting themselves in a good position to succeed.
The Oilers ability to control play when trailing this season is similar to what happened last year. While the team didn’t trail as often, they posted similar possession numbers as this season (57.78% Corsi For%, 6th in the league).
The difference between this season and last season? Shooting percentage.
Last year when the Oilers trailed, their shooting percentage was one of the highest in the league at 9.08%. You could look at this and consider their success to be all luck, but when you see that their Corsi For% was 57.78%, it’s safe to assume their success when trailing was real.
This season, their shooting percentage is an abysmal 3.94%, one of the lowest in the league. I’d consider this to be bad luck, as the process is right (i.e., the possession numbers are solid), but the goals just aren’t coming.
Now instead of just chalking this all up to bad luck, it’s worth exploring why the shooting percentage might be low.
Below is a graph of the Oiler forwards from last year, and what percentage of the team’s total time trailing they were on the ice for. McDavid was on for 35% of the team’s total time, with Maroon, Draisaitl, Eberle and Lucic each on the ice for at least 25% of the team’s time. Pretty much what you would expect, and the Oilers were fortunate to have their top players healthy for the whole season.
This year, the distribution of ice time is a lot different.
The Oilers still have McDavid, Maroon, Lucic and RNH getting ice time when trailing and looking for a goal. But then not far behind them is rookie Kailer Yamamoto, Zack Kassian and Ryan Strome. That’s a pretty sizable drop off in talent compared to last season and it’s obvious the team is lacking some high-end skilled players who can finish.
Currently, Strome and Yamamoto are near the top among Oilers when it comes to total shots at even-strength when the team is trailing. Not exactly the players you would want shooting considering one is a raw rookie and the other has 33 career goals.
Taking a glance at the individual shooting percentages at 5v5 heading into this season, we see that Strome over his 258 career games has converted 8.31% of his shots into goals. That’s right around league average. Compare that to Eberle’s numbers and even Pouliot’s.
This isn’t to say that having Eberle on the team would have solved all of the Oilers problems. But it does highlight the fact that the Oilers failed to replace Eberle’s offence this past off-season, and really lack scoring depth. Draisaitl should be back in the lineup soon, but the team needs to shore up their secondary offence if they want to have any success in the future.
I still expect the Oilers shooting percentage to gradually improve. I just wish the team did a better job building a capable roster and provided themselves some certainty.
Data: Natural Stat Trick