Impact statement

Sixteen games into the 2022/23 season and the Oilers haven’t established a whole lot. They have some points in the banks, have had some big wins, namely two on the road in Tampa and Florida. And their two superstars are leading the league in points. But the team hasn’t rounded themselves into proper form or made any sort of statement that they’re contending for a title.

So far at even-strength (5v5), they have a -6 goal differential, a goal-share of 45.31% that ranks 24th in the league and only ahead of Anaheim and San Jose in the Pacific division. The big issue right now is that they spend more time without the puck as reflected by their 47.32% Corsi For percentage, that ranks 24th in the league. And they allow the fifth highest rate of shots and scoring chances against leaguewide – currently giving up 47 unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick) per hour and allowing 34 shots on goal against per hour. Important to note that the Oilers are getting league-average goaltending at even-strength with their team save percentage of 91.61% ranking 16th in the league. And the team is posting a shooting percentage also around league average (7.78%). The struggles appear to be a system and deployment issue, something the coaching staff has a strong influence on, so the focus for now really should be there.

Below is a summary of the Oiler’s numbers ar even-strength (5v5), with the shot-share metrics being score and venue adjusted according to Natural Stat Trick’s method. I’ve also included the Oiler’s even-strength numbers from the 38 regular season games from last season that Woodcroft coached. That’s really the baseline that the Oilers should be working towards as we know the team is capable of playing at that level for an extended period of time.

SeasonGPPoint %CF%FF%xGF%Goal diff.GF%SH%SV%PDO
2021/22380.72453.7153.2953.25+2056.028.7891.981.008
2022/23160.56347.3246.5346.45-645.317.7891.610.994

Comparing the two periods, there’s been a pretty clear drop-off from last season, something we saw as early as five games into this season. We know the coaching staff is capable of applying some basic principles and getting stronger underlying shot-share metrics than they have right now – and improving the team’s odds of winning games. But it remains to be seen if the coaching staff can revert back to some of their tactics that gave them so much success at the end of last season.

One tactic in particular is their aggressiveness at even-strength when protecting a lead. While most teams tend to play more conservatively with a lead – more often dumping the puck rather than making a play to create a scoring chance – the Oilers appeared to be bucking that trend last season under Woodcroft when they would continue to generate offence as a way to protect a lead.

When team’s are leading in a game, they on average post a Corsi For% around 45% at even-strength. The Oilers last season under Woodcroft posted a Corsi For percentage of 57% with a lead – one of the highest in the league, behind only Calgary and Florida. This was much higher than the Oilers have ever posted with the lead under various coaches, so there was some hope that this new coaching staff was willing to try different things to have success.

Unfortunately however, the Oilers coaching staff has been far less aggressive with the lead this season, only posting a Corsi For% of 50.0%, which ranks 18th in the league. More teams are currently playing more aggressively with the lead compared to previous season, so  it’d be interesting to see if the Oilers have purposely played more conservatively thus far or if there’s some other issues the coaching staff is dealing with. Definitely something to monitor. Either way, the team will need to explore every option, including what worked for them last season, to improve their odds of winning games and banking some more points.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

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