Really can’t emphasize enough how much of a drop off there’s been when comparing this season’s results to last season after the coaching change occurred. One of the biggest improvements the Edmonton Oilers made after Jay Woodcroft took over in February 2022 – and what helped drive the overall results – was the team’s possession and scoring chance numbers at even-strength as the club went from around league-average levels to being one of the best in the league.
After the coaching change last season, the Oilers played more aggressively with leads, they spread out their offence across multiple lines and their depth players weren’t getting out-shot and out-chanced as much as they had been in previous seasons. All of these coaching-driven factors played a major role in the overall results at the end of the 2021/22 regular season, and the process behind it all was based on sound logic and reasoning.
Fast forward to this season, and the team isn’t anywhere near where they were in the final thirty-eight games of last season. Their possession numbers and share of scoring chances are currently some of the lowest in the league, with their Corsi For percentage dropping down from 53.71% last season to 47.76% this season. And their share of expected goals is down to 46.29% – which ranks 26th in the league only ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific division.
Now it’s understandable if the Oilers defensive play gets most of the attention as the results are what stands out first. They’re currently allowing the seventh highest rate of goals against at even-strength (2.78), and their penalty kill is allowing 12.04 goals against per hour – the third highest in the league. Management didn’t exactly build a strong, championship caliber defence core either and we’ve seen established players struggle throughout this season and some of the young prospects struggle to gain traction at the NHL level. The team also spent a lot of money on a new starting goalie who is struggling early on this season – which was also somewhat expected.
When we dig into the actual results, we see that they’re somewhat expected as the club is having all sorts of issues preventing shots and scoring chances at even-strength, with their rates all having increased by a significant margin compared to last season. For instance, the rate of expected goals against – which factors in shot quality and the probability of an unblocked shot becoming a goal – has increased by 17.4% this season. The table below shows the other defensive numbers from this season and the thirty eight games under Woodcroft from last season with percentage changes.
What’s further troubling are the issues up front.
With arguably one of the best top-six forward groups in the league, and with the powerplay having a lot of success and McDavid and Draisaitl leading the league in points – it can generally be assumed that the Oilers offence is and will be just fine. But if we take a look at the numbers at even-strength, that’s really not the case. And things have taken a significant hit compared to last season, similar to the levels experienced on the defensive side of things.
The Oilers are only scoring 2.26 goals per hour at even-strength, which ranks 24th in the league and last in the Pacific division. The biggest issue is that they generate some of the lowest rates of shot attempts, shots on goal and scoring chances – all of which have dropped over 10% compared to last season. The Oilers current offensive rates have them in the bottom third in the league for each category – a big drop off from the end of last season where they were closer to the top five in the league after Woodcroft took over.
You’d hope someone in the Oilers management group is aware of this situation and is questioning (a) how the roster was built the way it was, and (b) the coaching tactics and player deployment that is being implemented. There’s a significant problem in Edmonton both offensively and defensively, and it’s critical for the team to get things on track if they want to be considered a championship contender.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
Also posted at The Copper & Blue.