The Edmonton Oilers have been very good so far under Jay Woodcroft, with strong on-ice results supported by excellent underlying numbers. The Oilers have outscored opponents 36-25 in all situations, and have been exceptional at even-strength (5v5), posting a +10 goal differential and shot-share metrics that would be in line with the top teams in the league.
At even-strength, the Oilers have been posting a slightly higher team shooting percentage, converting on 9.35% of their shots, and getting better goaltending over the last ten games, posting a team save percentage of 93.30%. I’d expect both numbers to regress towards league average levels, especially the goaltending which is always at risk of falling off completely considering the age of the goaltenders and managament’s inability to properly address their issues. Regardless, because the Oilers are controlling the flow of play as indicated by their 55% Corsi For% and their ability to create higher-quality chances more frequently they may be able to overcome some of their roster deficiencies.
One thing I’ve wondered about over these ten games is how ice-time is being distributed among forwards with Woodcroft going with an eleven-forwards and seven-defencemen (11F/7D) approach. Specifically, I wanted to know how the depth forwards would be impacted because of the coaching change. The table below shows four different scenarios of player deployment this season and what percentage of the team’s total ice time it has occurred with Tippett behind the bench running the standard 12F/6D structure and with Woodcroft running the 11F/7D.
What we see here is that the percentage of the team’s ice time without one of the top two star players has dropped 8.1%, meaning the depth players are getting deployed less often and the top two lines getting a higher proportion. Considering the lack of depth talent and the need to give the young defencemen more ice-time, it’s understandable that Woodcroft would go with an 11F/7D format and give his star players a higher share of ice time. The main concern with this of course is burning out McDavid or Draisaitl and putting them at risk for injury, which would put any sort of deep playoff run at risk. We know how critical forward depth is for teams, so it would not surprise me if the Oilers try to address this at the trade deadline.
It’s worth noting too that a lot of the team’s recent success under Woodcroft has been driven by McDavid and Draisaitl (shocking, I know), although the latter could see his on-ice success diminish eventually.
In these last ten games, the Oilers have been outshot and outchanced quite regularly with Draisaitl on the ice but the goaltending has been excellent, stopping everything. Hopefully when the goaltending does come back to expected levels, which could be below average, the team can make up for it on the other end of the ice and go on a shooting percentage heater – something we’ve seen happen with Draisaitl in the past.
The other player who might be of concern to the coaching staff is Evander Kane, Draisaitl’s regular line-mate that could be dragging down Draisaitl’s on-ice shot-share numbers at even-strength. Below is a snap shot of the Oiler forwards from the last ten games, sorted by their on-ice goal-differential and includes their on-ice shot differential and expected goal differential.
With Kane on the ice, the Oilers allow more shots and scoring chances, but he’s also been the beneficiary of the team’s goaltending heater. And when Draisaitl has been away from Kane, his on-ice shot-share numbers improve from a Corsi For% of 45.32% in 123 minutes together, to a Corsi For% of 61.64% in 33 minutes. Kane also sees his Corsi For% increase when playing without Draisaitl as well, so it’s more likely just a bad line-pairing for both players. Regardless, it’d be wise of the coaching staff to tinker with the line combinations sooner rather than later and figure out what will improve the odds of out-scoring opponents, especially when their on-ice PDO’s come back down to earth.
Data: Natural Stat Trick