Vibe check

Connor McDavid scores as Jets fall to Oilers 4-2 | CTV News

With the Edmonton Oilers about to kick-off their third season under the current management group and coaching staff, it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in the team’s ability to break through and become one of those top teams in the league.

This off-season was a major disappointment as management failed to build a championship contender, spending lots of assets in the form of players and cap space but still having so many question marks across the roster.

For things to go right this upcoming season, the star players need to be healthy, young prospects like Evan Bouchard will need to establish themselves as regular NHL players and some of the veteran players need to perform above what we’d expect from aging defencemen and goalies. That’s a lot of uncertainty and risk, most of which could have mitigated had management applied basic principles of talent evaluation and salary cap management.

The lack of success over the last two seasons, including the many, many red flags, doesn’t really breed a lot of confidence in the team either. While it was encouraging to see them make the playoffs twice, they failed to get out of the qualifying round in 2020 and were swept by the Jets in 2021 – with the Oilers getting out-coached in both series.

What was especially troubling is the Oilers poor performance in the regular seasons at even-strength (5v5), a direct indictment on the management group that assembled the roster and the coaching staff that handled the on-ice deployment. In both seasons, the Oilers posted a negative goal-differential, often being out-shot and out-chanced by opponents, as reflected by their Corsi For% (a proxy for puck possession or flow-of-play) and the Fenwick For% (a proxy for scoring chances). Compared to the on-ice numbers of previous top teams, the true contenders, who have had playoff success, the Oilers haven’t even been close.

It’s been well established that the Oilers even-strength failures have largely been driven by the depth players – players that Holland has acquired or re-signed – and how badly the team has been outplayed without their superstar on the ice.

Over the past two seasons, the Oilers have a goal-differential of +20 with McDavid on the ice at even-strength (5v5), and a -37 goal-differential without him. The team has spent far more time without the puck and in their own zone when McDavid is on the bench, posting a Corsi For% of 47.08% and a Fenwick For% of 47.55%.

In the all-Canadian North division last season, the Oilers only out-scored two teams at even-strength – Ottawa and Winnipeg. They were outscored by everyone else including the Canucks and Flames – neither of which made the playoffs. But because of McDavid’s production at even-strength and the team’s potent powerplay (mostly against non-playoff teams), the Oilers were able to finish second in the North and these underlying issues were largely ignored. (Related: North division review)

With results like this, again because of the roster that the current management group acquired or re-assembled, it’s hard to have confidence in their talent evaluation and cap management capabilities going forward. And if management does get something right, like hopefully the Hyman signing, it’s hard to have confidence in the coaching staff to deploy them correctly just based on how they’ve mishandled things and what kind of players they value in the past two seasons.

Being in a relatively weak Pacific division and having McDavid on the roster with a potent powerplay, the hope is that things work out and the team solidifies itself as a championship contender. The biggest concern will be preventing goals with a weak defence core assembled, replacement-level forwards in the bottom six, two aging goalies sharing the crease, and a coaching staff that appears to be applying some flawed, outdated logic. Whatever happens, the Oilers need a lot of off-ice help to figure their mess out, make the necessary roster moves, and hopefully head into next season with a lot more certainty.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

8 thoughts on “Vibe check

  1. Plenty of problems identified but how about offering up some potential solutions or recommendations. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem…

  2. How can you call the last 2 seasons disappointing when the team as been steadily improving? I feel bad for you, it must be horrible going through life searching for the negative. Please do this City a favor and move on, you and so many rating chasers like yourself, who thrive on lowering the spirits and hopes of the general populous are a cancer on our society, Seriously, you should be ashamed, try spreading some optimism, hope and gratitude occasionally; you may find that it will actually be gratifying to put a smile on someone’s face.

    • Here’s what I wrote on December 13, 2016, which still holds true today. (Source:

      I know my work can be perceived as being too negative, as the Oilers are a competitive team this year and yet my work, and the work of others, tends to highlight the flaws. The issue for me personally is that while winning today is awesome, I like looking at ways that the winning can remain sustainable. The end goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and to do that the team needs to establish an extended window, at least a five year term, where they can be legitimate, championship contenders. And while the pieces for success are coming together, there remains plenty of things that I think the team needs to do better to be a real contender going forward. This includes player acquisitions, player deployment, cap management, roster construction, line combinations, special teams, as well as the actual outputs including goals and shots.

      I try my best to include as much information as possible into my analysis, and do place a critical lens on all facets of this team. My main objective is to raise questions that I think are important to evaluate this team and uncover aspects of the game that I think the Oilers should focus on for long-term success.

      If that makes me a lousy, negative fan, so be it. I’ll create my own fan experience, and everyone else can create their own.

  3. “That’s a lot of uncertainty and risk, most of which could have mitigated had management applied basic principles of talent evaluation and salary cap management.”

    Can you please elaborate on what you would have done different than KH?

    Klefbom sustains a career ending injury, Larsson elects for a change of scenery. How would you rebuild the defence, the one that clearly didn’t get it done at 5v5? Suspect you don’t trade for Keith, or trade Bear, or sign Ceci or Barrie. That leaves you with the following:

    Nurse – Bear
    Jones – ?
    Russell – Bouchard

    That core certainly wouldn’t achieve a +50 corsi/fenwick. So what would you do? Try to sign Dougie Hamilton ($9M per)? Trade for Seth Jones (would have cost either Broberg or Bouchard, plus two firsts and second)? Sign Oleksiak, Savard, or Poolman? How do you know Holland didn’t try any of those? Players have to want to come here, in some instances still don’t with an overpay. Unlikely, but let’s say you could have got two or three of those things done, d core would look like this and cost just shy of $30M:

    Nurse (5.6M) – Hamilton (9M, 28yrs old on 7yr deal)
    Oleksiak (5M, 29yrs old on 5yr deal) – Savard (4M, 31yrs old on 4yr deal)
    Jones (1M) – Bear (2M)
    Russell (1.3M) – Bouchard (1.6M)

    Do you feel better about that core in both the short and long term? Next year that core would cost $34M with Nurses new deal. Maybe you don’t sign Savard, Bear plays 2RD, and Bouchard is a regular 3RD. Does that get you over 50 corsi? Hamilton contract, risk, certainly long term, does he jive with team, hasn’t appeared to in any other city. Seth Jones, that’s massive prospect capital which would likely gut the team 2-3yrs down the road, also a significant risk.

    Forwards looked something like this on day one of free agency:

    Draisaitl (8.5) – McDavid (12.5M) – Puljujärvi (1.2M)
    ? – ? – Yamamoto (1.2M)
    ? – McLeod (0.8M) – Kassian (3.2M)
    Benson (0.8M) – Turris (1.7) – Archibald

    How do you rebuild lines 2-4? Major overhaul needed, tough to do in one offseason. Nuge wants to here, takes team friendly contract to do so. Would you let him walk, for nothing in return? Bad asset management. The Archibald situation puts another ? on that list. Would you sign Danault ($5.5M) for 2C instead of Hyman, keep Nuge on 2LW? Sign Wennberg (4.5M) for 3C instead of D.Ryan? Running out of cap space and we haven’t talked about goal tending, the 3rd line wings, or 4th line yet. Move Turris over to replace Arch, McLeod drops to 4C. Leaves you 3LW & 4LW to address, unless you’re comfortable with Benson taking one spot. Cap requires you to shop in the Kase, Raffl, Ennis, Dzingel aisle.

    Suspect a big part of your statement regarding “risk” is the goal tenders being two ageing vets. Clearly you wouldn’t have brought Smith back, despite his perceived motivational skills to the rest of the team. So what would you do? Sign Grubauer or Ullmark or Mrazek or Driedger? Now this position costs anywhere from $8M-10.5M. Does nothing for Corsi/Fenwick.

    So after all that, which is not realistic because single GMs can’t just take a pick of the litter, this is what you have:

    Draisaitl (8.5M) – McDavid (12.5M) – Puljujärvi (1.2M)
    Nuge (5.5M) – Danault (5.5M) – Yamamoto (1.2M)
    Dzingel (1.1M) – Wennberg (4.5M) – Kassian (3.2M)
    Benson (0.8M) – McLeod (0.8M) – Turris (1.7)

    Nurse (5.6M) – Hamilton (9M)
    Oleksiak (5M) – Bear (2M)
    Jones (1M) – Bouchard (1.6M)
    Russell (1.3M)

    Driedger (3.5M)
    Koskinen (4.5M)

    Forwards ($46.5M), D ($25.5M), G ($8M) = $80M. Add in 2 more roster players to get to 23 plus the $3.5M in dead cap and you’re over the $81.5M and into LTIR to be compliant. You state “….had management applied basic principles of….salary cap management”. How do you get this team above 50 corsi/fen without maxing out cap? How would you have managed the cap differently?

    Do you think that team gets you over 50 corsi/fen when Drai-McD-Pul & Nurse-Ham aren’t on the ice? 2nd line should, even though it won’t give you a ton of offence, puck should be in the other zone more. The 3rd line can’t kill a penalty. The 4th line is softer than warm butter and likely gets caved.

    1D, one of the best pairings in the league but a substantial drop off to 2D, and 3D with Jones would be an adventure at best.

    Driedger is unproven as starter, heck even 35-40 games in a season unproven. Risk, perhaps as much or more so than Smith.

    Point I’m trying to make here Suni boy is that when you’re writing an article that is so blatantly critical it would behove you to had some context into what options KH had at his disposal. It’s not like he can ice the Canadian Men’s Olympic team, although I’m sure you’d find a way to piss on that team as well. Why don’t you mention what moves you think will help address the underlying deficiencies and which moves may not. Instead of just saying after McDavid it’s shit, it’s all a steaming pile of shit, because it’s not. There’s certainly risk but other moves, as stated above, would also have risk. There was no perfect answer this offseason no matter how you shake it. So why be THAT critical, especially on opening day?

    #notasuperfan #ihopesomeoneinoilersmanagementnoticesmeandIbecomethenexttylerdellow #notwiththatattitudeyouwont

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