Strome at Center

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The Oilers have an interesting player in the fold with Ryan Strome. The 24 year old forward is having a decent season, scoring 13 goals and 33 points in his first year in Edmonton, and will be a restricted free agent this summer. At even-strength, his production of 1.49 points per hour (8 goals, 15 assists) is right around his career norms – a rate that indicates he can score at about a third line level.

Season GP TOI G-A-P Points/60 Shots Shoot%
2013/14 (NYI) 37 436.62 3-8-11 1.51 70 4.29
2014/15 (NYI) 81 936.78 14-26-40 2.56 139 10.07
2015/16 (NYI) 71 932.97 5-16-21 1.35 112 4.46
2016/17 (NYI) 69 796.33 11-10-21 1.58 80 13.75
2017/18 (EDM) 78 925.05 8-15-23 1.49 106 7.55

What’s interesting has been his increased ice time playing as the team’s third line center. I say interesting only because I don’t think he has the skill to be one, and that he’s better suited to be a complementary winger or someone that can play center part-time preferably with another center on his line. I don’t think Strome’s defensive game is strong enough especially when the opposing team is creating chaos.

I took a quick look at every Oiler forward’s on-ice numbers over the last 20 games, including their Corsi For% to gauge puck possession, Fenwick For% to see what proportion of quality chances the Oilers had, and of course the Goals For% to know what the actual results were. I’ve also included the on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage for each, as well as the PDO. I knew going into this that the Oilers on-ice numbers without McDavid had been in steep decline for some time, and that’s across all metrics (shots and goals).

Player GP TOI CF% FF% GF% SH% SV% PDO
Lucic 20 271.05 51.34 53.88 37.50 5.68 89.65 95.3
McDavid 20 340.48 50.08 50.61 58.70 12.95 90.33 103.3
Draisaitl 20 283.12 49.97 52.88 40.63 7.71 87.33 95.0
Aberg 14 191.18 49.06 49.91 56.25 8.55 92.25 100.8
Puljujarvi 20 229.35 48.71 47.60 44.44 6.70 93.06 99.8
RNH 14 212.17 47.85 46.49 65.22 13.93 93.22 107.2
Slepyshev 18 208.68 47.82 45.26 44.44 7.35 92.80 100.2
Rattie 10 137.42 47.29 46.20 57.14 16.66 90.21 106.9
Strome 20 223.33 46.00 44.36 38.89 6.24 92.96 99.2
Kassian 13 137.32 45.74 42.47 30.00 5.08 91.13 96.2
Pakarinen 16 134.48 45.37 44.24 40.00 3.68 96.16 99.8
Cammalleri 12 144.97 45.35 43.33 33.33 4.83 92.98 97.8
Khaira 20 194.63 44.59 43.71 36.36 4.42 94.33 98.7
Caggiula 18 208.85 44.17 42.86 43.48 10.84 89.35 100.2

Note: Table is sorted by Corsi For% (CF%). Both Corsi For% and Fenwick For% have been score and venue adjusted as per Natural Stat Trick’s methods.

Unsurprisingly we see McDavid near the top of the list along with the players who spent a lot of their even-strength ice time with him. The bottom of the list features the usual third and fourth liners, with Strome posting an on-ice Corsi For% of 46.0% and a Fenwick For% of 44.4%. And worst of all, his on-ice goal-share is below 40%, with the Oilers being outscored 11-7 when Strome has been on the ice over the last 20 games. Not great numbers for someone that’s supposed to be the team’s third line center.

Based on some feedback I received, I looked into Strome’s linemates over the last 20 games to see if there was anything there.

Below are the different line combinations Strome has been a part of at even-strength, sorted by ice time (only lines that have played at least 10 minutes together have been listed). Included is each line’s Corsi For%, Fenwick For% and Goals For%. I’ve also included the line’s on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage to get a sense of how lucky or unlucky they’ve been.

Linemates GP TOI CF% FF% GF% SH% SV% PDO
Lucic-Puljujarvi 20 67.60 55.13 55.79 50.00 4.43 95.14 99.6
Slepyshev-Puljujarvi 18 46.43 44.62 41.55 0.00 0.00 94.53 94.5
Slepyshev-Cammalleri 11 23.53 49.24 45.74 51.06 8.58 93.69 102.3
Kassian-Puljujarvi 13 14.65 42.24 33.07 0.00 0.00 83.76 83.8
Aberg-Puljujarvi 14 13.88 43.95 39.63 100.00 20.44 100.00 120.4

Appears that Strome has played the bulk of his time with Lucic and Puljujarvi, as they’ve been a line together for the most recent 10 games. And the results have been pretty good. The Oilers have the puck more often when the trio has been deployed together based on the on-ice Corsi For% of 55.1%, and they got okay results, posting a 50.0% goal-share. So it looks like Strome’s time away from Lucic and Puljujarvi is what’s been dragging his numbers down.

What’s surprising is that Lucic appears to be the one who’s driving Strome’s results.

Ryan Strome TOI CF% FF% GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
w/Lucic 79.75 54.89 55.59 52.39 4.16 95.36 99.5
w/o Lucic 143.58 41.72 38.99 36.16 7.87 92.09 100

In the last 20 games, Strome has played 223 minutes at even-strength, with 79 of those minutes being with Lucic. In that time, the numbers are pretty good – a Corsi For% and Fenwick For% above 55.0%. Away from Lucic, it’s been another story. The Oilers get badly out-shot and out-scored when Strome is out there without Lucic – which is also a good reflection of how poor the depth on this team has been.

 

I also had to check to see what kind of numbers Strome and Puljujarvi, his most common linemate, have had together at even-strength.

Ryan Strome TOI CF% FF% GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
w/ Puljujarvi 149.00 47.87 46.4 46.67 6.18 94.33 100.5
w/o Puljujarvi 74.33 41.92 39.91 28.79 6.41 90.13 96.5

Together, they haven’t been great unless of course Lucic is with them. What’s even worse is that when Strome is away from Puljujarvi, his numbers take a big hit, dropping down to a 41.9% Corsi For percentage and a really bad goal-share.

There’s no doubt that any player would do better with more skilled/experienced players, but in my opinion depth centers who play against the other team’s depth players should be able to at least get close to break-even in terms of shots and goals with whoever they have to play with. And if the Oilers are adamant that Strome is their long-term center, they have to ensure he has highly skilled wingers every minute he’s on the ice. His success as a center is dependent on others.

Couple other things.

In regards to Strome’s goal-scoring (i.e. finishing ability), it’s worth emphasizing that he’s right at his career levels. This season at even-strength, his shooting percentage is at 7.6%, which is below the league average of around 10.0%, but just below his personal career shooting percentage of 8.2%. Put another way, if he was right at his career shooting percentage this season, he would have 8.7 goals this season, which is only 0.7 more than what he actually has right now. Based on his career numbers, Strome is not a good finisher – so really the expectations of his goal-scoring ability need to be tempered.

Also, Strome is getting more time on the Oilers penalty kill, as he should as the team’s depth centerman. He currently ranks 7th among forward in terms of total ice time over the season, and actually leads the team over the last 20 games. What’s troubling is that the team’s rate of shots against is at its highest when Strome is on the ice killing penalties. I’d expect his numbers to be closer to the team average, but since they’re not I’d be weary about labeling him as a reliable centerman. Also – because the team’s penalty kill is doing much better as of late, there’s a good chance guys like Strome and Khaira will be credited for the turnaround. But what should be pointed out is Talbot’s improved play on the penalty kill, as he’s been able to get closer to his career norms when shorthanded. We’ve seen in the past how players, especially goalies on the penalty kill, can mask deficiencies – and that might be what we’re seeing here over this recent stretch.

There’s likely going to be support for Strome being the team’s solution as a reliable depth center going forward, but it’s important to confirm things based on his on-ice performance and the appropriate data. The Oilers have a good player in Strome, but with a new contract on the horizon, the team has to know what the player is capable of, and play him at his established level next season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Viz

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