Oilers player deployment and on-ice numbers over the course of the season

Couple other items I’ve been tracking is how players are being deployed over the course of the season and what their on-ice performance numbers have been like at even-strength (5v5). Reason being, the Oilers had a fairly poor start to the season, so it’ll be good to know which players have been part of the turnaround and which ones have been less influential.

Quick summary below, separating out forwards from defencemen, comparing games 1-25 with games 26-50. Tables are sorted by average time on ice (TOI/GP) and include each players on-ice Corsi For percentage (CF%) – i.e., the team’s share of shot attempts, for and against, which serves as a proxy for a team’s puck possession capabilities. I’ve also included the changes in average ice time per game and Corsi For percentage, and applied a simple heat map to show how players are doing relative to their teammates.

As I wrote about in my last post, the Oilers on-ice performance numbers have significantly improved over the course of the season with most players seeing a bump in their on-ice Corsi For percentages. Couple players stand out when doing this exercise including Mattias Janmark who continues to post poor on-ice shot-share numbers even when the team as a whole is improving. And Klim Kostin who is the only player whose on-ice numbers declined in the last twenty five games. I’m not sure these two are quite ready for tougher minutes, and are likely better suited as depth, replacement-level options.

On the flip side, Puljujarvi has seen his ice-time gradually diminish. But as he plays more and more against lesser competition, his on-ice numbers have seen a nice bump. Not sure if they’re letting him play more of his game and less concerned with how many hits he throws when in the top six. But it’s clear he should be playing higher up in the rotation. Holloway is the other bright spot among the forwards – he should be playing more regularly with the high end forwards. The team needs to know what they have in this player as soon as possible to start planning out their roster decisions for next season and beyond.

On the back end, we know Broberg has been gradually improving, and he has some nice on-ice numbers over the last twenty five games. It’s important to note though that his minutes have been against lesser competition, with a lot of on-the-fly shifts when the play is going towards the opponents end, so we’ll have to temper our expectations. Similar to Holloway, the Oilers need to determine what Broberg’s ceiling is as soon as possible to start making big-picture roster decisions. If the coaching staff and management is confident he can be a top four defencemen starting this year, great. But if there’s some hesitation, they have to cut ties before other teams figure it out. Being a high draft pick will be appealing, and if you can upgrade him to a defencemen who can help the team win in the next couple years you have to consider it. For now, he’s a great story and showing improvements in his game. Let’s see if the coaching staff thinks he’s ready for tougher assignments.

Speaking of assignments, below is a quick snapshot of how the Oilers coaching staff has been deploying their defencemen, comparing the first twenty give games of the season, to the most recent twenty five games (Source: Puck IQ).

Games 1-25 (up until December 4, 2022)

Games 26-50 (after December 4, 2022)

Nurse and Ceci were regularly getting the bulk of the tougher minutes earlier this season, but the coaching staff has scaled them back slightly which has benefited them and the team. Kulak, who struggled early on in the season, appears to be back in form and has seen a slightly higher share of the tougher defensive assignments. The rest of the roster, including Broberg and Desharnais, continue to play against lesser competition, which is understandable considering their lack of experience and the urgency to win games.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Puck IQ


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