Tracking the top teams

Something I’ve been tracking this season is how close the Oilers are to being a top team in the league.

The good news so far is that their results have them in that range. A 0.600+ points percentage is what the top ten teams in the league often finish their regular season with, and the Oilers are there ranking 12th in the league and 2nd in the North with a 0.633 points percentage.

The issue is that while the results have been great, their underlying numbers – things like goal-share, Corsi For% and Expected Goals For% – are below what top teams have posted on average in the past.

What I had done before the season began was look at the top teams from the past few seasons and determine what the average numbers were for this group (Source). I also looked at what the league average levels were as well as what the lower quality teams had posted. Nothing overly scientific, but I got some basic thresholds to measure the Oilers against, and really get a sense for if the team is real or not. It was also something I wanted to keep in mind around trade deadline time to gauge if the team should be all-in or not for the playoffs.

Metric (5v5)Top TeamsLeague AverageBottom Teams
Goals For%53.5850.0146.72
Corsi For%51.8449.9948.29
Expected Goals For%51.7250.0147.86

Using these thresholds, I found that after the first 25 games, the Oilers were great but they weren’t quite at the levels that top end teams post and they were hovering closer to leave average rates. And they’re still not quite there after 49 games.

But what about the other teams who have a points percentage above 0.600 this season? How well do those clubs compare against these thresholds.

Lets start with goal-share. Below are the twelve teams that currently have a points percentage above 0.600 with their actual numbers in parentheses. I’ve added horizontal lines to represent the average goal-share for the top teams, average teams and bottom teams in the past. Here we see that ten of the twelve teams are where they should be, with Boston just missing the cut. The team that sticks out is Edmonton, who have barely broken even at even-strength (5v5), posting a goal-share of 50.76% and right around league average levels.

Here’s how the top team’s are doing in terms of Corsi For% this season. The Oilers are again rank near the bottom among this group, with Toronto closer to what previous top teams have posted. Not sure what’s happening in New York and Minnesota, but something to watch for in the playoffs.

And finally, here’s how the top teams are doing in terms of Expected Goals For%. The Oilers are closer to league average levels, but again, they rank near near the bottom among this group.

The point of all of this isn’t to ruin your day or diminish the Oilers chances of making a run in the playoffs. It’s really to emphasize that while the results have been great, the Oilers aren’t quite a top team just yet. It’s also information I would want to know as an owner before a manager blows millions of dollars on assets and to evaluate their overall work.

There’s a lot of work to be done in the off-season, a lot of roster issues to be addressed and it would be unfortunate if management fooled itself into thinking that they’re a piece or two away from being a long-term contender. I suspect that management is somewhat aware considering they didn’t make any major moves at the trade deadline. But they should be feeling pressure to get things right this coming off-season and do a better job than they did last off-season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick



4 thoughts on “Tracking the top teams

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