Life line


The Oilers even-strength (5v5) results have been very poor thus far, as the Oilers rank 27th in the league in terms of goal-share with 45.21% – scoring 66 goals and allowing 80. Thankfully their powerplay and penalty kill, which has posted a net goal differential of +12, has offset their poor even-strength results and helped them secure 42 points after 36 games.

While it remains to be seen if their special teams can continue bailing the team out (the powerplay doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon, while the penalty kill has begun to slip) the Oilers desperately need help, either in the form of on-ice personnel or possibly new coaching tactics to bring their even-strength results up to respectable levels.

The other factor that can drive results is of course McDavid who has the talent and track record now of being a true difference maker. Below is the Edmonton Oilers even-strength goal-share  since 2015/16 with McDavid on the ice, compared to their goal-share without him, along with the difference.

Season Goal-share with McDavid Goal-share without McDavid Difference
2015/16 50.70% 40.00% +10.70
2016/17 62.10% 48.90% +13.20
2017/18 57.04% 41.62% +15.42
2018/19 50.66% 40.74% +9.92

This season, it’s been no different. The Oilers have so far posted a goal-share of 55.07% with their captain on the ice, and a goal-share of 36.36% without him. Remarkably, their depth has posted results even worse than years past, posting a goal-differential of -21 without McDavid. And it doesn’t look like even McDavid can save them, as his  on-ice results have gradually been tapering off.

Below is the team’s cumulative goal-differential with McDavid on the ice (blue line), compared to the team’s cumulative goal-differential without him (red line).

20191217 - Goal differential.jpg

The first thing that jumps out is how quickly the results without McDavid have declined, and the amount of work now required to dig out of this mess. A big reason why the Oilers have struggled is their inability to control the flow of play and generate scoring chances. Over the last 15 games, which is where we’ve seen the sharpest decline, the Oilers have posted a 46.81% Corsi For% (a proxy for possession) and a 48.14% Fenwick For% (a proxy for possession) without McDavid on the ice. It was obvious in the summer and it’s been made very clear now that the moves the team made to shore up the depth aren’t good enough and are now costing the team wins in the standings.

The second thing that jumps out is McDavid’s goal-differential, which has stagnated around the +10-mark for quite sometime now and currently sits at +7. While that isn’t bad, keep in mind he finished the 2016/17 season with a +30 on-ice goal-differential at even-strength, and followed that up with a +20 on-ice goal-differential in 2017/18; goal-shares were above 55% in both of those seasons. Last season appeared to be an anomaly for him as he only finished with a +2 on-ice goal-differential, which can probably be attributed to being overplayed and the coaching tactics that season. He wasn’t able to make up for the goals scored against when he was on the bench, and unfortunately it looks like the same thing will happen this season.

One reason for that is the team’s inability to control play even with McDavid on the ice, as the Oilers often get out-chanced even with him on the ice. What’s especially troubling is the fact that the Oilers on-ice share of scoring chances (i.e., Fenwick) have been gradually declining, making me wonder if the injury McDavid sustained at the end of last season hasn’t healed or if he’s feeling fatigued. Note that the Oilers on-ice shot-share metrics with McDavid on the ice over the course of the 2019/20 season are well below his career norms (i.e. seasons prior to 2019/20).

McDavid on-ice (5v5) Career prior to 2019/20 2019/20
Corsi For% 51.28 47.21
Fenwick For% 51.81 47.05
xGoals For% 53.05 47.89

Below is the Oilers share of scoring chances with McDavid on the ice, over rolling ten game segments. It’s mind-blowing to see the best player in the world in his prime post such poor on-ice shot-share numbers, spending more and more of his ice-time without the puck.

McDavid FF.jpg

While McDavid has the ability to carry a team and make up for his teammates mistakes, it doesn’t appear he alone will be able to secure the Oilers a playoff spot this season. The Oilers desperately need skill and talent to remain competitive, contributing offensively and to potentially take some of the workload off of McDavid who clearly hasn’t been himself. The other frustrating part in all of this is that the lack of talent and effective coaching tactics to control the flow of play is really holding back McDavid’s offensive potential, as he could be scoring more often if the Oilers had the puck more frequently.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


One thought on “Life line

  1. My guess is that other teams no that success comes with frustrating McDavid. They make it hard for him to skate, they commit fouls the refs ignore because this is the NHL, they make it hard for others to pass it to him on the fly. The other teams are ready for the top line knowing that they are young enough to pressure in their own zone.
    I love Bear and Klefbom for the reason that they make sound passing plays that start the team out of the D-zone. Early on the team was winning with D-corps scoring chances it seemed to me. This was secondary scoring.
    The goalies were playing brilliantly because they has hope. Now the Edmonton fan grind begins.
    Please watch Burkie’s Tim&Sid rant about journalist white noise and exciting Oiler team.

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