Tracking the Western conference – As of January 31, 2023

Since the Oilers are going to be in a competitive playoff race following the all-star break, I’m switching over from a monthly division review to a western conference review. The Oilers are currently sitting in fourth place in the Pacific with 60 points, trailing Seattle, Vegas and Los Angeles. And they’re holding on to the first wild card spot in the west, three points ahead of Colorado. The Oilers have made significant progress recently, which has helped them get out of the hole they had themselves in earlier in the season.

Below is a summary of the western conference, sorted by each team’s points percentage. Included in the table is each team’s even-strength performance numbers (i.e., shot-share metrics that measure how well a team controls the flow of play and the total chances) as well as each team’s goal-share and goal-differential. I’ve also included each team’s shooting percentage and save percentage to get a sense of what might be driving their overall results. And I’ve applied a simple heat map to each metric to show how each club compares to the rest of the conference.

The Oilers currently have the third best points percentage in their division and sixth highest in the conference. Based on how well they’ve been performing since mid/late November, they should be able to maintain their position and compete for a top-three finish in their division. They’ve had a fairly healthy roster, and their goaltending has been steady – both are going to be factors over the last thirty-two games of the season.

From an Edmonton perspective, there’s a few teams to keep an eye on.

Calgary, whose points percentage ranks ninth in the west and fifth in the Pacific, continues to perform well at even-strength, controlling the flow of play, out-shooting and out-chancing opponents. But because of some pretty shoddy goaltending, which ranks 27th in the league, and a forward group that has struggled to score, they’re tied in points with Colorado for the second wild card spot in the west.  The other issue, as we’ll see below, is their powerplay which ranks 25th in the league in terms of goals per hour.

Los Angeles is the other interesting club. They’re performing well at even-strength, but appear to have the same issues they’ve had in the past, which is converting their chances into actual goals. Their goaltending has been poor as well, which has to be frustrating considering the Kings (similar to Calgary) are one of the best teams in the league at suppressing shots and scoring chances.

The rest of the western conference isn’t very impressive. Dallas is the one club that looks legit. Colorado is getting healthy again up front, so their shooting percentage and overall results should gradually improve. Vegas is dealing with injury issues now and are having trouble outscoring opponents. Winnipeg is going to be relying on it’s goaltending to have any success. Seattle is doing well, but they can be brought down by the own goaltending and special teams. Even Minnesota who was having success earlier in the year has come back down to earth, and is having trouble scoring goals. Will be interesting to see if any of these clubs can separate themselves from the rest of the group, similar to what some of the top end teams in the east have already done.

With the western conference feeling so wide open, and the success the Oilers have had in their last month or so, I think the club should have some confidence in their ability to move up in the standings and have some success in the playoffs. The trade deadline and the gossip around the Oilers will give us an indication of what management’s confidence level is like.

For additional context, I’ve also put together a quick summary of each team’s powerplay and penalty kill numbers. Sorted by each team’s points percentage again, I’ve included the rate of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick for, FF/60) on the powerplay as well as the actual rate of goals per hour (GF/60). And the rate of unblocked shot attempts and goals against on the penalty kill. Again, I’ve applied a simple heat map to each metric to see how each club compares in the conference.

Lastly, below is how each team has performed at 5v5 over their last twenty five games heading into the all-star break. We know Edmonton has done well in terms of shot-share numbers, but so has Dallas, Colorado, Calgary and San Jose. Vegas looks like they’re slipping, and while teams like St. Louis are fading out of the playoff race quickly.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


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