Taking notes

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Unfortunate for the NHL that the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin without a couple of premier, 100-point players.

Finding high-end talent is the hardest thing to do when building a championship roster, putting Edmonton in a very enviable position. But due to a lack of foresight and a series of poor decisions, the Oilers are a long, long way from being a contender. Getting out of this hole is going to require some aggressive, ruthless decision-making, and it really should have started at the trade deadline. The Oilers need to continuously look at their situation critically, and not try to convince themselves that they’re only a move or two away from being competitive.

The team’s performance in the month of March is a good test for management. While they are having success, having gone 7-4-2 (a 0.615 points percentage, 8th in the league), it’s not exactly sustainable considering they have one of the worst even-strength (5v5) Corsi For percentages in the league with 47.53% and a Fenwick-for percentage (a proxy for scoring chances) of 47.82%. Hopefully the Oilers management recognizes the team’s deficiencies and doesn’t overlook the fact that even with Connor McDavid on the ice, their on-ice shot shares at even-strength are below 50.0%. And make no mistake, the Oilers have been poor all season, even when they’ve had a healthy roster.

It should go without saying that team’s need to generate shots and scoring chances on a regular basis to have success in this league. And if the Oilers need a little more convincing, they can go back to January 23rd this season when they had a 0.490 points percentage and were tied in points with the St. Louis Blues.

Metric Edmonton St. Louis
Record 23-24-3 22-22-5
Points 49 49
Goals For% 45.92 49.24
Corsi For% 47.77 50.69
Fenwick For% 47.67 51.44
Scoring Chances For% 47.48 50.91
High Danger Scoring Chances For% 45.87 54.28
Shooting% 7.85 8.14
Save% 91.52 90.80

Both clubs were struggling around the all-star break, but for different reasons. The Oilers struggled offensively at even-strength, generating one of the lowest rates of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick) and couldn’t convert on their chances, posting a 7.85% shooting percentage. The Oilers were also one of the worst possession teams, posting a Corsi For percentage of 47.77%, regularly getting out-shot and out-chanced. The Blues on the other hand were doing a lot of things right, often winning the shot-share at even-strength, including high danger chances with a 54.28% share. They were sound defensively, allowing one of the lowest rates of unblocked shot attempts against, but just couldn’t buy a save. The Blues penalty kill results weren’t as bad as the Oilers, who were allowing 8.18 goals against per hour (23rd in the league), but they were still in the bottom third league-wide.

Since January 23rd, the Blues completely turned things around going 21-6-3 (a 0.750 points percentage, third best in the league), shooting up to third in the Central division. Their shot-share numbers have remained strong, posting a 54% share or greater when it comes to Corsi, Fenwick, Scoring Chances and High Danger Scoring Chances. The biggest driver was goaltending, which shot up to 93.87% since the all-star break. The Blues had the right players, the right tactics all season and it showed up in the numbers. It’s a testament to the Blues management and coaching staff that they kept things together and didn’t panic in the face of adversity, knowing full well that they were doing everything they could to succeed.

Hopefully the Oilers have been paying attention and took a few notes about the importance of winning the shot-share battles (and not being below 48%), and how variance works in hockey. It’s an important off-season as the club searches for a new general manager, builds up a front office and alters how they make decisions and do business. And it’ll be important to not only properly assess the franchise’s current state, but also look at how their competitors operate and how they handle things during the highs and lows of a season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

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