What’s going on with Leon?

The star forward is among the league leaders in points, but his production and on-ice numbers at even-strength are lower that expected. It’s critical for the coaching staff and management to figure out what’s going on with Draisaitl if they want their 5v5 numbers to improve.

There’s obviously a lot of team-wide issues right now for the Edmonton Oilers, as the club ranks fifth in the Pacific with a 0.526 points percentage and ninth in the western conference. Defensive play has been poor, the offence has dried up, and there’s plenty of questions about the roster construction and the potential internal solutions. It’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff and management navigate things in such a high pressure season.

Even-strength (5v5) play is the biggest point of weakness for the club as they’re getting out-shot, out-chanced and out-scored regularly – ranking in the bottom third of the league when it comes to performance indicators that drive positive results. And it’ll need to improve if the Oilers want to keep up with the top teams in the league.

One player in particular that is currently struggling playing even-strength minutes is Leon Draisaitl. He’s a proven star in the league and can improve the team’s odds of winning games. And he’s among the league leader in points this season because of his dominance on the powerplay. But his even-strength numbers this season, including his personal numbers and his on-ice numbers, have been poor compared to his previous three seasons – and it’s part of the reason why the Oilers are struggling to win games.

Starting with his personal numbers, Draisaitl currently has nine even-strength points which ranks fourth on the Oilers – a points per hour rate of 1.85. That’s a drop from the 2.68 points per hour from his previous three seasons – a level that top line, star forwards typically produce at. Heading into this current season, Draisaitl’s rate of points ranked 17th among over 500 forwards who played at least 1,000 minutes since 2019, a period in which he’s accumulated the third highest number of points in the league. His current rate of 1.85 ranks 131st among 324 players who have played at least 200 minutes this year – not anywhere near where he should be considering his history.

What’s driving his drop in production is his individual rate of shots per hour which has decreased from 6.43 per hour over the last three seasons to 5.56. And his shooting percentage is also lower than expected, currently sitting at 14.81%. Considering his age and his talent, you would expect to see his rate of shots and his shooting percentage to gradually improve, resulting in better productivity over the course of the season. But there’s a couple other issues to consider.

One reason for his lower rate of shots per hour this season is the fact that the Oilers are spending a significant amount of time without the puck when he’s on the ice, as reflected by the team’s Corsi For percentage (a proxy for puck possession) of 42.83%. The team is also getting out-chanced more regularly when Draisaitl is on the ice with, as reflected by their 43.19% share of expected goals (a proxy for scoring chances and shot quality) – which again is a drop from the levels we’ve seen with him on the ice over the last three seasons. All of Draisaitl’s on-ice shot-share numbers (i.e., Corsi For%, Fenwick For%, Expected Goals For%) are some of the lowest on the team, only ahead of Holloway and Shore. And it’s on the defensive side of things where the Oilers are really struggling with Draisaitl, as they see more than a 17% increase in the rate of shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts and shots on goal against with their star forward on the ice. The rate of expected goals against this season – which factors in shot quality and scoring chances against – increases by 26% with Draisaitl on the ice, going from 2.78 per hour to 3.51.

Draisaitl’s poor on ice numbers at even-strength is pretty significant considering the expectations on him as a player and the team this season. The Oilers top six is supposed to be one of the best in the league, but it’s hard to accomplish anything when a star forward is struggling and the team is failing to control the flow of play and total scoring chances with him on the ice.

What’s worth noting is that Draisaitl is struggling with pretty much every linemate and defenceman on the Oilers, unable to post shot-share numbers like Corsi For% and Expected Goals For% above the 50% break-even mark, regardless of the player he’s with.

The one player that Draisaitl is having success with this season is Bouchard, as they’ve played 90 minutes together and posted a Corsi For percentage of 51.71% and an Expected Goals For percentage of 52.26 – both numbers being well above the team’s current averages. With Nurse having his own issues and posting some of his worst on-ice numbers in his career this season, it might be beneficial to the team, and especially for Draisaitl, if Bouchard saw an increase in his even-strength minutes and more time with the top lines.

Whatever the coaching staff and management decide to do to improve the team, whether it’s internal or external solutions, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the real issues plaguing the team and implementing changes that help improve the odds of winning games. Considering their poor results and underlying numbers at even-strength – where 80% of the game is played – it’s critical they focus here first and find tactical and deployment solutions as soon as possible.

Data and glossary: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

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One thought on “What’s going on with Leon?

  1. Pingback: Tracking the Pacific division – As of November 30, 2022 | The SuperFan

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