Pacific depth

With the Oilers currently ranking fifth in the Pacific division and trying to gain some ground in the standings, I wanted to get a sense of the competition in the Pacific and how each team’s depth is performing at even-strength (5v5). None of the teams in the Pacific have been overly intimidating, with each having their own issues either at even-strength or on special teams, and enduring inconsistent play throughout the season. So the race is really going to come down to what edge a club could have over their competition and how aggressively their management moves to address their own deficiencies.

To get a snapshot of each Pacific division team’s depth, I took the forward from each roster who has played the most even-strength (5v5) minutes this season and used their on-ice numbers as a proxy for their team’s first line. I then looked at how each team has performed without that player at 5v5 to evaluate the team’s depth. On average, top lines are deployed for about 30% of a team’s total 5v5 time, leaving a lot of minutes for the depth players who can really make or break a team’s season. It’s also a great way to evaluate how well a general manager has constructed their roster.

Below are the forwards for each team who will serve as a proxy for their team’s first line. Included for reference is their proportion of their team’s total even-strength (5v5) time.

Team Top Line Player TOI%
Anaheim Trevor Zegras 32.6%
Calgary Nazem Kadri 28.2%
Edmonton Connor McDavid 33.6%
Los Angeles Anze Kopitar 30.1%
San Jose Timo Meier 31.9%
Seattle Alex Wennberg 29.0%
Vancouver J.T. Miller 28.9%
Vegas Mark Stone 29.7%

The first table below shows how each team’s top line has performed at even-strength this season, sorted by the team’s current ranking in the Pacific division (based on points percentage). I’ve included the team’s actual results (i.e., goal-share and goal-differential) along with the shot-share metrics like Corsi For percentage (CF%, a proxy for puck possession), and Expected Goals For percentage (xGF%, a proxy for scoring chances) to get a sense of which teams have the right processes in place and if the results are sustainable or not. I’ve also included the team’s shooting percentage and save percentage. A basic heat-map has also been applied to show which teams are doing well or struggling relative to their division rivals.

This second table shows how each team has performed at even-strength without their top line, and included the same data points as the previous table. Again keep in mind, this is for about 70% of the team’s total 5v5 ice time, and will have a major impact on the team’s final standings.

Edmonton isn’t looking too hot here, considering the expectations heading into this season. The top line results at 5v5 have been mediocre, struggling to outscore opponents (+3 goal-differential) and just barely controlling the flow of play. Edmonton’s number’s without their top line are similar to how it’s been the last number of years, with the club consistently getting outshot and outscored – and giving back the majority of the goals that the top line has generated. Their 45.36% goal share without their top line is only ahead of San Jose and Anaheim in the Pacific, and barely ahead of Vegas. It’s a clear indication that management has again done a poor job constructing a competitive roster around their superstar player.

At the top of the division, it appears Vegas is a top-heavy team – controlling the flow of play and outchancing and outscoring opponents with their top line, but giving back everything that’s been gained when their other lines are out there. Vegas’ 44.86% goal-share without their top line is currently only better than San Jose and Anaheim’s, and is the reason why Vegas’ overall 5v5 goal differential is only +1. Seattle is the opposite from Vegas as their top line is the one getting outscored – the third worst goal-share in the Pacific – but getting bailed out by their other three lines that have posted a +26 goal differential. Both Vegas and Seattle are doing a decent job creating opportunities with and without their top lines, a good sign that things should gradually improve. It’ll come down to their finishing talent with either individual players bouncing back or if their management starts exploring the trade market.

Los Angeles and Calgary are pretty similar to one another, doing well when it comes to shot-share metrics regardless of which lines are out there, but are getting sunk by their goaltending that currently ranks near the bottom of the league. They’re both hanging in there though, posting positive goal-differentials with and without their top lines and should continue to remain competitive down the stretch. Calgary’s depth especially should be seeing better results considering their 56% Corsi For percentage and Expected Goals For percentage, but it’ll come down to their finishing talent up front and goaltending. Of the other three clubs at the bottom of the Pacific division standing, San Jose is the most noteworthy as their top line is doing well, posting some of the best shot-share metrics in the division and a 52% goal-share. But they’re clearly lacking everywhere else as their other lines spend more time without the puck and getting outscored at a high rate.

It remains to be seen how Edmonton will make ground in the standings, but it doesn’t appear they’ll see much progress at even-strength, especially when other clubs are posting better shot-share numbers with and without their top lines. It’s again going to come down to what McDavid can do and hope that the rest of the roster can somehow break even in terms of shots and goals when he’s not on the ice. And it’ll be up to the coaching staff to first identify the issues and make the necessary tactical and line-up adjustments. The powerplay is likely going to be the reason Edmonton remains in the race, but it could be over quick if they continue to struggle at even-strength and if the penalty kill continues to be poor.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

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