Powerplay expectations

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Quick follow-up to my recent post about the Coyotes penalty kill with Dave Tippett as head coach. Key takeaway from that: the Coyotes penalty kill had poor results for the most part, and the coaching staff did a poor job implementing tactics to limit the rate of scoring chances and shots against. They saw little progress over those eight seasons, leaving me to wonder what metrics they were using (or ignoring) to evaluate their penalty kill success and why the coaching staff couldn’t figure out a solution. Also learned today that it was Jim Playfair who was running the penalty kill in Coyotes, and he’s rumored to be joining the Oilers.

The Oilers made some changes to their coaching staff today, parting ways with Manny Viveiros, who was the eye-in-the-sky and had a history of powerplay success prior to joining the Oilers, as well as Trent Yawney who was responsible for the defenecmen and the penalty kill.

Couple thoughts on this. My expectations of the penalty kill under Yawney were low considering his teams in Anaheim were awful at limiting shots and relied heavily on John Gibson. And his results in Edmonton were poor, so it’s not surprising to see him leave. As for Viveiros, it’s disappointing to see someone who could have given the team a different perspective on the powerplay and possibly share new ideas depart. We don’t know for sure what influence he had on the Oilers powerplay last season, which was solid.

Speaking of powerplays, I went back and looked at how well the Coyotes did with the man-advantage under Tippett. Below are the rates of goals-for per hour (actual results), along with the underlying shot metrics which gives us a sense of (a) if the team’s success or failure was real or not and (b) what impact the coaching staff had. I’m of the belief that you don’t need star talent to generate shots and chances on the powerplay, but rather solid tactics that can drive offensive opportunities. And you can get a good sense of what influence the coaches have by looking at the rate of Fenwick (i.e., unblocked shot attempts, a proxy for scoring chances) per hour and shots per hour.

Season Goals for/60 Fenwick for/60 Shots for/60 Shooting%
2009/10 5.26 – 28th 64.65 – 28 45.77 – 29th 11.50 – 24th
2010/11 5.82 – 21st 68.06 – 21st 48.07 – 24th 12.11 – 19th
2011/12 4.67 – 30th 60.07 – 30th 40.55 – 29th 11.53 – 25th
2012/13 5.41 – 24th 63.45 – 23rd 44.61 – 23rd 12.14 – 21st
2013/14 7.44 – 4th 79.49 – 5th 54.5 – 10th 13.66 – 9th
2014/15 7.16 – 7th 81.06 – 4th 56.79 – 7th 12.60 – 14th
2015/16 6.38 – 19th 71.58 – 19th 51.37 – 16th 12.41 – 14th
2016/17 5.81 – 25th 64.87 – 25th 44.98 – 26th 12.93 – 15th

Looking at the actual results (i.e., the rate goals-for per hour), there were only two seasons of the eight when the Coyotes powerplay ranked top ten league wide – 2013/14 and 2014/15. And in those two seasons, their success was real as they ranked in the top five when it came to the rate of scoring chances, and top ten when it came to shots on goal.

Every other season, they ranked poorly when it came to shots and scoring chances, which played a big role in their actual results (goals-for) You could point to the lack of finishing talent and injuries along the way, but if your tactics aren’t enabling offensive chances, you’re not going to find success.

Worth noting that the Coyotes found success on the powerplay after they hired Newell Brown as an assistant coach. In his first two season with the Coyotes (2013/14-2014/15), the team did well generating shots and scoring chances, but then in his last two seasons with the team (2015/16-2016/17) things dropped off. I’d be curious to know what happened there, which coaches were involved and what influence Tippett had on the decision-making.

The results on special teams weren’t great in Arizona, and it’s especially concerning that the underlying shot metrics that the coaching staff have a bigger influence on were poor for the most part. It begs the question what metrics the new Oilers coach looks at and how he tests his methods over time – a critical component of analytics.

More importantly, Tippett’s past results emphasize the importance of establishing an analytics department that could support the coaching staff’s decision-making process – not only by collecting the data the coaching staff values but also testing the validity and reliability of it. It’ll be imperative that the Oilers invest in a group of people that can support the full hockey operations – including roster construction, drafting, player development and salary cap management. But especially the coaching staff responsible for optimizing the roster and their decision making around tactics and player deployment.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Behind the Benches

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