Running operations

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Couple things occurred on Saturday that caught my attention and made me think about  how the Oilers choose to operate in year five of the McDavid era.

First twenty games

Dave Tippett made some comments to the local media about the Oilers current situation and how things compare to the first twenty games of the season.

The way I look at it, the first 20 games we were pretty solid coming out of the gate. We won some games. There were some games we didn’t play as well. But we had a lot of…there was a lot of purpose in what we were doing.

And the next 20 games, what happens is after the first month the league starts to get to know your team and you got two guys driving the offence, like driving it.  Fifty points and all of a sudden if you’re another team coming in here . You’re saying ‘Hey better take those guys [McDavid and Draisaitl] away’. So it gets harder. So when it gets harder for those guys to score then there’s a frustration that comes in and now you start trying to do more, trying to do more, trying to do more. And you’re chasing the game all the time. And that’s where Drai’s been chasing the game for a while. And he’s been chasing the game because he’s trying to win. And it’s gotten harder and harder for him because other team’s are really bearing down on those guys. – Oilers head coach Dave Tippett (Source: Edmonton Oilers)

Couple thoughts.

One, while the results were excellent for the Oilers in their first twenty games (12-6-2, 0.650 points percentage), there were some warning signs that indicated there might be trouble ahead. The biggest issue was their performance at even-strength (5v5), as the team posted only a +3 goal differential and a 52.00% goal-share, which was actually fourth best in their division. The Oilers even-strength deficiencies were clearly being masked by a very good powerplay and penalty kill, both of which continue to rank in the top five league-wide.

The Oilers other issue was their underlying shot-share metrics over those first twenty games, as the club posted a Corsi For% (i.e., a proxy for possession) of 48.62%, 23rd in the league and only ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific division. Their Fenwick For% (i.e., a proxy for scoring chances) wasn’t much better, ranking 20th in the league with 48.93% and again only ahead of Anaheim. Note that these numbers have been score and venue adjusted. What was especially troubling in those first twenty games is how poorly then ranked in terms of generating shot-attempts, unblocked shot attempts and shots on goal, as they ranked in the bottom six in the league – which is where they also sit today.

What the Oilers also should’ve identified in those first twenty games was the team’s sub-par underlying numbers when McDavid and Draisaitl were on the ice. The actual results were excellent, with the Oilers getting 70.59% of the goals when they were together, outscoring opponents 24-10. But they were also spending more time defending and playing in their own zone during those twenty games.

Here’s how the Oilers did when McDavid and Draisaitl played together in the first twenty games. McDavid spent 88% of his total ice time at even-strength playing with Draisaitl. Numbers have been score and venue adjusted.

TOI CF% FF% GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
300.72 47.84 47.22 70.59 15.27 94.21 1.095

While the goal-share was excellent, driven largely by an on-ice PDO of 109.5, the duo posted a Corsi For% of 47.84% and a Fenwick For% of 47.22. While we can expect a top-line’s shot-share to take a hit due to playing against the best competition, I would not expect the Oilers to actually do better without them on the ice. Without McDavid and Draisaitl, the Oilers posted a Corsi For% of 49.40% and a Fenwick For% of 50.03% in those first twenty games.

  • Related: Sliding – The SuperFan (2019, December 12

Seeing this early on, the team should not be surprised that after 41 games they rank 25th in terms of Corsi For% (47.30%) at even-strength and 23rd in terms of Fenwick For% (48.17%). And most importantly, they rank 28th when it comes to goal-share with 43.90%. As for Tippett’s comment, I would argue that the league already knew the Oilers weaknesses before the season started and exploited them even further as the roster didn’t change.

Granlund

Granlund

The second event on Saturday was the demotion of Markus Granlund, which on the surface isn’t a big deal as the player had been healthy-scratched often as of late, and is on a $1.3 million contract that expires this coming summer. What the move does indicate is that the Oilers still lack the ability to gather information, conduct analysis, and make decisions geared towards winning. Issues that really plagued the Oilers hockey operations during the previous manager’s regime and haven’t been addressed since by the owner.

When Granlund was signed this past summer, he was touted as a penalty kill specialist who could help the bottom-six forwards. However if the Oilers had conducted a simple analysis using publicly available data, they would have seen that his on-ice numbers on the penalty kill were actually poor and that his reputation was being bolstered by his previous team’s overall success. In case you missed it, below is what I put together shortly after the Oilers signed Granlund in July.

It really should be no surprise to the Edmonton Oilers that Granlund’s penalty killing numbers were so dreadful, as the Oilers allowed a rate of 10.32 goals against per hour when he was on the ice – the highest rate among the six most regular penalty killing forwards (those that have played at least 40 minutes). To put things into perspective, the Oilers as a team have allowed 5.39 goals against per hour this season, good for fifth best in the league. Over the previous three seasons, teams allow an average of 7.09 goals against per hour on the penalty kill.

Last season in Vancouver, which had one of the penalty kills in the league, Granlund posted an on-ice rate of 9.16 goals against per hour – one of the worst on the team and among forwards across the league who played a similar amount of minutes. The rate of unblocked shot attempts jumped up when Granlund was on the ice both this season in Edmonton and last season in Vancouver.

While the signing of Granlund was a low-risk move, Oilers management could have saved themselves some cap-space and potentially given those minutes to a more productive player had they just done a brief analysis using publicly available data. Instead, they’re paying an NHL salary to an AHL-bound asset and showing little overall progress in terms of building a championship contender.

If the Oilers are serious about competing, management really needs to ramp up their information gathering, analysis and overall decision-making. And that has to occur before and after every transaction they make to ensure they’re leveraging as much value as possible from their roster.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

One thought on “Running operations

  1. Accountability has never been a hallmark of Edmonton Oiler operations. I imagine the organization feels that fans will come to the game to support Mcdavid and to a lesser extent Draisatl. They’re basically usong our fear of losing superstars as leverage~all the while paying salaries to lazy or incompetent analytics staff~

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