Tracking the Western Conference

schwartz-jaden-110619

The west is a mess.

It’s remarkable that the Oilers are currently 14th in the NHL when it comes to points percentage with 58.2%, but 4th in the western conference.

The harsh reality is that there are no powerhouses in the Pacific division and really only two in the western conference – St. Louis and Colorado, both posting a points percentage around 65.0%. Things remain wide open for the Oilers to make the playoffs and even potentially finish first in their division, and it remains to be seen if there’s legitimate competition that could derail those plans.

To get a sense of how the Oilers stack-up against the rest of their division and the conference, I looked into how each team has done so far this season, what their results have looked like at even-strength and how they’ve performed on special teams. I also wanted to know how well each team controlled the flow of play as measure by shot-share metrics like Corsi and Fenwick.

With playoff positioning on the line and the trade deadline coming up, we can start to see which teams are legit and what their strengths and weaknesses are. In my mind, more than half of the teams in the league aren’t good enough to make a real run this season and are banking on a lot going right. These teams should really be leveraging the trade deadline to collect assets and build for next season instead of losing value which most teams end up doing. And when we look at each team’s numbers, you can start to see which of these teams are in need of a tweak and which ones need a massive overhaul, best dealt with in the off-season.

Below is a table of the western conference teams sorted by their points percentage prior to the games on February 10th, 2020. I’ve included each team’s even-strength (5v5) results as reflected by goals for percentage (GF%) and goal differential, as well as the underlying shot-share metrics such as Corsi For%, Fenwick For% and Expected Goals For% to capture how well the team does controlling the flow of play. Team shooting percentage and team save percentage has been included to capture individual drivers that may be impacting the overall results. A glossary can be found at the end of this article.

I’ve also included each team’s special teams (ST) results, combining the goal rates for and against on the powerplay and penalty kill (ST Goals/60). The ST Fenwick/60 metrics captures how teams have been doing at generating and preventing unblocked shot attempts on special teams. This metric gives us a sense of which teams are doing the right things tactically and process-wise, but may be getting sunk by a lack of finishing ability on the powerplay or poor goaltending on the penalty kill.

2020-02-10_16-17-42

Starting from the Oilers perspective, the first thing to note is that their even-strength (5v5) goal-share ranks 12th in the west with 46.38%, a -17 goal differential, only ahead of Calgary, San Jose and Los Angeles. They are getting good production from a second line now, but they still lack talent and scoring depth up front. The other issue is their goaltending, which ranks as one of the worst in the league at even-strength and hasn’t received the criticism it deserves.

The penalty kill is where the goaltending is really driving positive results as the team allows the tenth highest rate of unblocked shot attempts against but are getting bailed out regularly. The powerplay has also been outstanding this season, although the results have begun to slip over the last twenty-five games both in terms of unblocked shot attempts and actual goals. If the Oilers are going to rely on their special teams to make up for their poor even-strength results, they need to get things back on track right away or risk losing ground in the playoff race.

Where to start with the rest of the western conference.

Safe to say that the California teams are not going to make it this season due to their goal-differential at even-strength and their poor results on special teams. Worth noting that all three teams have been doing well when it comes to generating and preventing shot attempts on special teams, but clearly lack the scoring talent and goaltending to remain competitive. It’ll be interesting to see how these three teams approach the off-season as there are foundations to build from, especially with the Kings who have been posting positive shot-share metrics all season but can’t finish or buy a save.

Nashville is really interesting having posted an excellent even-strength goal-share and positive underlying shot-metrics, but can’t get it together on the powerplay or the penalty kill. They have a good roster on paper, but I wonder if the Preds do what the Blues did two trade deadlines in a row and make moves geared towards winning next season. And somehow they’ll manage to remain competitive in the playoff race.

Vegas is the other team that’s done a lot right but hasn’t been able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Similar to Edmonton, goaltending has been a major issue for them and their special teams results cooled off considerably from the start of the season. Still think they’ll figure things out eventually and finish first in the Pacific, even without making a single move at the deadline.

Dallas could use more finishers. They’re doing alright in terms of shot-share metrics and getting great goaltending, but only have a +1 goal differential. Minnesota sitting 12th in the western conference has a better even-strength goal differential but are being let down by their terrible special teams. Goaltending wins playoff rounds, so good luck to whoever faces Dallas.

Calgary and Winnipeg I think are two teams at risk of losing their playoff spots. Both rank in the top eight, but there’s major warning signs starting with their overall goal-differentials. Calgary appears to be sunk by poor finishing, while the Jets are one of the worst in the league in terms of shot-share metrics, consistently getting out-shot and out-chanced. And neither team has a lot going on on special teams.

Hopefully the Edmonton Oilers are aware of their situation, and understand what’s been driving and what’s been dragging their results and their competitions. And it’s especially important in the cap era to keep tabs on the rest of the division and conference in an attempt to find any sort of competitive advantage. We know every Pacific division team has depth issues right now and will look to address their situation either through their draft/development program or via trade and free agency. It’ll be up the Oilers now to use whatever information available to make critical decisions both now and in the off-season to take advantage of a weak division and conference.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Glossary:

  • Points-percentage (Point%) – The total points accumulated divided by the points that were available, including extra time.
  • Corsi For percentage (CF%) – The proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Corsi For/(Corsi For + Corsi Against). This is used as a proxy for possession and can predict a team’s future share of goals (GF%).
  • Fenwick For percentage (FF%) – The proportion of all the unblocked shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Fenwick For/(Fenwick For + Fenwick Against). This is used as a proxy for shot quality and considers shot blocking a repeatable skill. It can also predict a team’s future share of goals, slightly better than Corsi.
  • Shots For percentage (SF%) – The proportion of all the shots on goal that the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Shots For/(Shots For + Shots Against).
  • Expected Goals For percentage (xGF%) – This is a weighting placed on every unblocked shot based on the probability of the shot becoming a goal. This depends on the type of shot, location and uses historical shot and goals data to come up with the probability for each unblocked shot. This has been found to be a better predictor of future goals than Corsi and Fenwick.
  • Goals For percentage (GF%) – The proportion of all the goals that the team scored and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against).
  • Shooting percentage (SH%) – The percentage of the team’s shots on goal that became goals (i.e., total goals divided by the total shots on goal).
  • Save percentage (SV%) – The percentage of the team’s shots on goal against that were saved (i.e., 1-(totals goals allowed divided by the total shots on goal against))

Offence from defence

gettyimages-1180974787-1024x1024

One of the key drivers for the Oilers success in the last month has been their ability to create more offence at even-strength (5v5) than they’ve allowed. In their first ten games of 2020, the Oilers have posted a Fenwick For% (i.e., their total share of unblocked shot attempts for and against) of 52.96% – which has them in the top ten league-wide. Prior to January, they had posted a Fenwick For% of 48.18%, ranking 23rd in the league.

There’s definitely been a gradual uptick in the Oilers ability to control the total share of scoring chances, especially over the last month. Below is a graph showing the Oilers share of unblocked shot attempts over rolling twenty-five game segments this season.

FF25 - 20200204

The Oilers started off okay, but they’ve been poor at out-chancing opponents pretty much all season. The team still hasn’t posted a Fenwick For% above 50% over a twenty-five game segment, but it appears they’re on the right path and should clear the break-even mark soon if they continue to play well. If the Oilers have any hope of having a positive goal-differential at even-strength, they’ll need to have the puck more frequently and be playing in the offensive zone as much as possible.

Based on the recent spike in Fenwick For%, I suspect that the integration of mobile talent like Caleb Jones on the back-end, along with speed and skill up front in Kailer Yamamoto has had the desired impact expected by management and the coaching staff. But it also sounds like the coaching staff made some tactical changes coming out of Christmas break that’s been driving their offensive success.

Following the Oilers win against the Flames in Calgary, defenceman Ethan Bear was asked why the team has been playing well since the end of December. Bear has been excellent this season, playing significant minutes on the top pairing with Nurse and adding mobility and skill to a roster that was in desperate need of it. Bear’s response included the typical player comment about how the team was sticking together and all that good stuff, but he also added this tidbit about where he felt the offensive output was coming from.

“Letting our offence come from defence. Helping each other out in the backend. And getting those short-share passes. And everyone is working into position.”  – Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear (Source)

Oilers forward Gaetan Haas, who has carved out a nice role for himself as a depth centerman, made a similar comment prior to the game against the Coyotes in Arizona when asked about the Oilers recent success.

“For sure the mindset changed after that game around Christmas. We wanted to do the right things well, and we’re starting to play smarter and easier trying to go out of the d-zone as fast as we can.”  – Oilers forward Gaetan Haas (Source)

Whatever changes the Oilers coaching staff made after the Christmas break to the defensive zone structure and breakouts at even-strength are clearly working with the Oilers posting a Fenwick For% above 52%.

What I’m curious to see is if the Oilers believe in these tactical changes and adjust their approach to the trade deadline accordingly. The changes have made an impact on the team’s ability to generate scoring chances and the results (i.e., goal-share, goal differentials) have been outstanding. The question now is if the Oilers choose to keep the roster as-is or if they do target, say, a third-line center

As I noted in my previous post, all four lines have some positive things to highlight from this recent stretch. The top two lines did really well in terms of goal-share, as well as Haas’ line. There are percentages to be mindful of as Draisaitl’s line can probably expect to see their goal-share decline as their on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage come back down to earth. In terms of shot-shares, the top two lines have been great and doing so against top end competition. Sheahan’s line might not be doing well in terms of possession, but they’re putting up some decent scoring chance percentages. Haas has also done well with the new system changes, posting a Corsi For% just below break-even.

Line TOI GF% CF% FF% SH% SV% PDO
McDavid 148.78 57.14 57.73 56.32 9.20 91.78 1.010
Draisaitl 148.15 81.25 53.82 54.38 14.77 95.89 1.107
Sheahan 98.25 33.33 47.75 49.42 9.52 85.19 0.947
Haas 74.40 57.14 49.07 46.55 11.43 91.89 1.033

If the team believes the tactical changes are sustainable and they believe in the results they’ve posted since the Christmas break, it might be in their best interest to stick with what they have. Instead, the Oilers should focus on adding elsewhere, perhaps even the top six where McDavid could sure use some speed and skill to play with.

Another option would be to focus on moving out expiring contracts or players that may not have a future with the Oilers. Perhaps someone like Kris Russell who is the seventh best defenceman on the roster at this point. He’s also posted a Fenwick For% and Goals For% well below 50% over the last ten games, while the rest of the defenceman done a lot better since the system changes were made.

Player GP TOI FF% GF%
Matthew Benning 3 36.27 67.61 75.01
Oscar Klefbom 10 184.67 54.48 64.16
Ethan Bear 10 195.13 54.07 57.64
Adam Larsson 10 171.92 52.45 61.22
Darnell Nurse 10 205.45 51.35 57.56
Caleb Jones 8 90.03 50.71 67.78
Kris Russell 8 98.97 46.43 37.29

Considering that this was a transition year and that there are glaring holes emerging in the forward prospects chart and elsewhere on the active roster, it’s critical that the Oilers hold on to as many assets as possible, especially draft picks. There appears to be a good program in place at the AHL level, and the Oilers will need a continuous flow of talent and skill on value deals to help ensure long-term success. .

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Appendix A: Edmonton Oilers (2019/20) – Cumulative goal-differential (5v5)

GDIFF - 20200204

 

The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 12 – Rex Codex Libris (@CodexRex)

3000by3000 (1)I was joined by my friend Rex Codex Libris (@CodexRex) to talk all things Oilers, their recent winning streak and what some of the key drivers have been. We touched on the current roster composition, the emergence of prospects this season and how best to approach the trade deadline and the upcoming off-season. Rex also shared his insights on the NHL’s officiating standards and the issues the NHL faces due to their lack of rule enforcement.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Full segment below:

Podcast channels:

Music: Anitek. “Show me.” Anitek Instrumentals Vol. 4, 2010. Jamendo.com

Good times

cut

The Oilers have been outstanding in the month of January having gone 7-1-2 over the ten games, outscoring opponents 45-27. Their overall goal-differential is now at +8, and has them second in the Pacific division behind Vancouver (+18 goal-differential). The Oilers are currently three points out of first and three points ahead of the second wild card spot currently held by Arizona.

Date Results
2020-01-02 Oilers 2, Sabres 3
2020-01-04 Oilers 4, Bruins 1
2020-01-06 Oilers 6, Maple Leafs 4
2020-01-09 Oilers 4, Canadiens 2
2020-01-11 Oilers 3, Flames 4
2020-01-14 Predators 2, Oilers 4
2020-01-18 Coyotes 3, Oilers 7
2020-01-29 Flames 4, Oilers 3
2020-01-31 Blues 2, Oilers 4
2020-02-01 Oilers 8, Flames 3

So what’s been driving their results over these ten games in January?

  • The Oilers are averaging over four goals per game, running at a team shooting percentage of 13.93%. To put that into context, teams have averaged a shooting percentage of 9.22% over the previous three seasons.
  • At even-strength (5v5), the Oilers are playing a lot more often with the puck, controlling 53.16% of the total shot attempts for and against (i.e., Corsi For%). In the 42 games prior to this month, the Oilers had posted a Corsi For% of 47.25%, one of the worst shot-shares in the league.
  • The Oilers are also getting a higher share of the scoring chances at even-strength, which uses unblocked shot attempts for and against as a proxy (i.e., Fenwick For%). Prior to January, the Oilers had posted a Fenwick For% of 48.18%, ranking 23rd in the league. Over the last ten, they’ve controlled 52.96% of the scoring chances, ninth best in the league.
  • The Oilers are getting plenty of secondary offence, as the second line featuring Nugent-Hopkins, Yamamoto and Draisaitl has been on fire outscoring opponents 13-2 at even-strength in 126 minutes together. They’ve also posted a Corsi For% of 54.95% and a Fenwick For% of 55.68%. They’re not likely to maintain a 86.67% goal-share the rest of the season due in large part to a 113 PDO. But the results should continue being positive as they’re spending a lot of time with the puck and generating chances.

That’s all well and good, but it’s also worth noting there are some issues that are being masked by the overall success in January. If you’re running a team in a league that encounters a lot of randomness and you’re making decisions worth millions of dollars every day, you have to be applying a critical lens as often as possible. Especially with the trade deadline coming up and a potential playoff berth – and not to mention the long-term goal of being a sustainable contender – it’s even more critical to determine your strengths and weaknesses as you go about making decisions that are hopefully geared towards winning.

With that out of the way…

The first issue that’s a little troubling is the Oilers goaltending which has been mediocre pretty much all season long. In the month of January, the tandem of Smith and Koskinen have posted a team save percentage of 91.53% at even-strength, which only ranks 21st in the league but has actually been their best stretch this season. Prior to January, the duo posted a save percentage of 90.64%, which ranked them 27th in the league. League average at even-strength over the last three seasons has been 92.17%. Where the duo has been solid is on the penalty kill, where over the course of the season, they’ve posted a save percentage of 89.58% – second best in the league.

That leads to my next point.

The Oilers special teams have been solid all season, with the powerplay and penalty kill ranking top three league-wide. What’s interesting is that over the last ten games, the powerplay is generating just over 9.00 goals per hour – which is a goal below their scoring rate all season – but have struggled generating chances with the man-advantage ranking bottom ten league-wide with just over 60.0 unblocked shot attempts per hour. Definitely something worth monitoring.

On the penalty kill, the Oilers have slipped a bit in their last ten as well, having allowed over seven goals per hour, which is a couple goals below their season-long rate and are now closer to league average rates. They’ve been struggling with limiting chances against all season, and I think it was only a matter of time before the goaltending started to falter. Not the end of the world, but I’d be curious to know if the system changes they’ve made at even-strength are impacting their special teams play. And if so, what the coaching staff and potentially management might be able to do about it to mitigate any risks. The last thing the Oilers should be doing is re-signing guys like Sheahan and Archibald to long-term deals solely for their penalty kill results, as a lot of it has been driven by goaltending.

The other area that might be of interest is how well the group of forwards has done in the last ten games. Using the most common centermen as proxies, below are the on-ice results for each line. Note that for the data below, I ensured that the centers did not have any of the other three with them on the ice. Adding each player’s individual ice time together (again, away from the other centers), I was able to capture 95% of the team’s total ice time at even-strength.

Line TOI GF% CF% FF% SH% SV% PDO
McDavid 148.78 57.14 57.73 56.32 9.20 91.78 1.010
Draisaitl 148.15 81.25 53.82 54.38 14.77 95.89 1.107
Sheahan 98.25 33.33 47.75 49.42 9.52 85.19 0.947
Haas 74.40 57.14 49.07 46.55 11.43 91.89 1.033

As mentioned earlier, Draisaitl and his linemates have been outstanding, posting excellent shot-share numbers and giving us confidence in their ability to continue generating offence. And based on the data at PuckIQ (small sample size alert), among Oilers centers over the last ten games, Draisaitl is playing the second highest proportion of ice time against the opposing team’s top players, only behind RNH. And Haas, kinda surprisingly, isn’t that far behind. Haas has also posted some nice numbers for a fourth liner playing tougher minutes, with a 57.14 goal-share and a 49.0% share of shot attempts in the last ten games. Would be nice to see his on-ice proportion of scoring chances improve, but maybe that happens with more skill on his line. Sheahan has played the lowest proportion of ice time against elite players, and his on-ice numbers are also being dragged down by Khaira who has been playing poorly all-season. If the Oilers choose to break-in a prospect forward like Benson in the near-future, getting early reps with Sheahan might be a good idea. More on Benson in a second.

Line TOI Goals For Goals Against GF/60 GA/60
McDavid 148.78 8 6 3.23 2.42
Draisaitl 148.15 13 3 5.26 1.21
Sheahan 98.25 4 8 2.44 4.89
Haas 74.40 4 3 3.23 2.42

What really stands out to me are McDavid’s on-ice numbers over the last ten games, which have been excellent, but I’m wondering what better linemates could do for him offensively. Kassian has only posted a goal and an assist in this recent stretch, while Neal only has two assists, both of which were secondary assists. Defensively, McDavid and his linemates have been fine allowing a rate of shots and scoring chances against similar to the rest of the team. Goaltending, a weakness noted above, appears to be a factor in their rate of goals against per hour. And as I noted in a recent post, McDavid’s goal-share over the season has been great, but it’s not as good as the goal-shares being posted by other star players within the Pacific division. Depending on how well Benson can adjust to NHL play, he should eventually get some reps on the top line to see if he can add an element that might be missing. The Oilers do need to figure out as early as possible what they have in Benson at the NHL level, not only to potentially sign him to a value deal but to also start focusing on re-stocking the prospect pool this coming off-season.

A lot of things to consider heading into the deadline and into a very important off-season, especially when it comes to optimizing the roster and those on entry-level deals. Goaltending, special teams, production from the top lines and the prospect pool are hopefully getting attention from the Oilers management and coaching staff. This season has so far gone a lot better than I expected, and hopefully the long-terms goals haven’t been lost in the recent success. If anything, due to the emergence of young talent like Bear, Jones and Yamamoto, the team can re-calibrate their short-terms goals and continue focusing on building a sustainable winner.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, PuckIQ

Check your depth

image

Things are pretty close in the Pacific division, with the top five teams currently separated by five points. None of the teams have been dominant this season, with the division-leading Canucks ranking tenth overall in the league with a points percentage of 0.608. Seven of the top ten teams are from the Eastern conference.

Below are the Pacific division standings, sorted by points percentage. (Note: Points percentage is the total points accumulated divided by the points that were available, including extra time.)

Team Games Record Points Point %
Vancouver 51 29-18-4 62 0.608
Edmonton 50 26-18-6 58 0.580
Calgary 52 27-19-6 60 0.577
Vegas 52 25-20-7 57 0.548
Arizona 52 26-21-5 57 0.548
San Jose 52 22-26-4 48 0.462
Anaheim 50 20-25-5 45 0.450
Los Angeles 51 18-28-5 41 0.402

Even-strength (5v5) is a common issue for all of the teams, as Vancouver ranks 16th in the league with a 50.50% goal-share (a goal differential of +2) and Arizona ranks 17th with a 50.50% goal-share. The remaining teams all rank in the bottom ten league-wide, posting negative goal-shares. Special teams has been the difference, especially for the Edmonton Oilers whose powerplay has been dynamite. (Note: Goal-share is the proportion of all the goals that the team scored and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against))

At this rate, the top five Pacific division teams all have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs together, as the Central division teams, outside of St. Louis and Colorado, haven’t been very good either.

Now one of the Oilers biggest issues at even-strength has been their lack of production when McDavid hasn’t been on the ice, as the club has posted a +6 goal differential with him on the ice and a -22 goal differential without him. What’s interesting is that the other four Pacific division teams that are still in the playoff race are having very similar problems, relying a lot on their star player to drive positive results.

For this exercise, I picked who I thought was the star forward on each team based on their total points and total ice-time, and then looked at how their teams have done with and without them at even-strength this season. The star list is as follows:

  • Edmonton – C. McDavid
  • Vancouver – E. Pettersson
  • Calgary – M. Tkachuk
  • Arizona – N. Schmaltz
  • Vegas – M. Stone

Your opinions may vary on who the best player is for each team, but I’m comfortable with this list. Total points captures their actual results and their total ice time reflects what their coaches think of them. I should note that Taylor Hall is definitely the best player for the Coyotes, but he hasn’t spent nearly as much time with the team as Schmaltz, which would skew the with-and-without-you numbers.

Looking at actual results first, below is how each team has done in terms of goal-share with and without their star player this season at even-strength. Keep in mind, star players are typically on the ice for only about 35% of the their team’s total even-strength ice-time. It’s absolutely critical for teams to do as much damage as possible with their star players out there, and at the very least break even in terms of goal-share in the remaining 65.0% of ice time.

Pacific Stars GF

Here we see that while most of the teams have figured things out when their top forward is deployed, all five teams are struggling to get acceptable results from the rest of their roster. For example, the Canucks are getting over 60.0% of the goal-share with Pettersson on the ice, but are below 45.0% without him. They’re ranked 10th in the league now thanks in large part to their young superstar, imagine where they could be if they just broke even without him on the ice.

I wasn’t overly surprised to see this considering that we know all five teams are struggling to win the overall goal-share battle at even-strength. What did stand out, and what might bother the Oilers, is that the stars from other teams are posting better goal-share results than McDavid. We’ve known for quite some time that depth is an issue for the Oilers, and it should be especially alarming when McDavid is starting to get dragged down in comparison to his divisional counterparts.

Seeing the actual results, I also wanted to know what each team’s Corsi For percentage was like with and without their star players to get a sense of how well teams are controlling the flow of play. (Note: Corsi for percentage is the proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Corsi For/(Corsi For + Corsi Against). This is used as a proxy for possession and can predict a team’s future share of goals (GF%))

Pacific Stars CF

Again we see teams are having issues without their star players on the ice, as they’re often getting outshot and outchanced, and playing more defence. If they want to eventually get better at out-scoring opponents, they need to have the puck a lot more often to generate chances. Vegas, thanks to their actual depth, is the only team that has posted a positive Corsi For% (i.e., above 50%) without their top forward on the ice. What should be concerning for Oilers management is that they’re losing the shot-share battle even with their star player on the ice, posting a 48.79% Corsi For percentage when McDavid has been deployed. Imagine what his point totals could be if the Oilers had the puck more often. Something management and the coaching staff needs to figure out, both for this season and next.

Just for context, I also wanted to know what each team’s PDO was like with and without their star player to see if team’s might regress either positively or negatively over this last stretch of thirty-something games. (Note:  PDO is the sum of a team’s shooting percentage (SH%) and its save percentage (SV%). It’s based on the theory that most teams will ultimately regress toward a sum of 100, and is often viewed as a proxy for how lucky a team is. (Source))

Team With Star Player Without Star Player
On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
Vancouver 11.55 91.08 1.026 7.06 92.57 0.996
Edmonton 11.16 90.85 1.020 6.81 90.87 0.977
Calgary 7.60 91.78 0.994 6.40 92.47 0.989
Vegas 7.55 91.35 0.989 7.34 90.91 0.982
Arizona 9.83 92.69 1.025 6.62 92.76 0.994

I think Vegas is the team to watch the rest of the way, as they have some excellent underlying numbers, both with and without their star player, but are being sunk by a below-average shooting and save percentage. Remains to be seen if the new coaching staff might impact things, but the club does have the skill and depth to take over the division if their shooting percentage improves. Calgary is also interesting as they’ve got okay shot-share numbers, but appear to be a little snake-bitten with and without their star player. I’m also curious to see if the Oilers without McDavid will see their goal share gradually improve from 40.0%, especially if the second line featuring Draisaitl, RNH and Yamamoto can continue to click.

Hopefully the Oilers management is aware of not only their own weaknesses, but also of their competition. The Pacific division is truly wide open this season, with one of these teams potentially having an easier track to the western conference finals. The other thing to watch for is how these teams go about enhancing their depth for a playoff run and for next season as the Oilers have to be able to keep up and position themselves for playoff, and hopefully championship, contention.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

CBC Radio Active: Oilers, the Pacific division and previewing the upcoming game against the Flames

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Adrienne Pan on CBC Radio Active to talk all things Oilers. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2020, January 28)

Topics we covered:

  • Thoughts on the Kassian/Tkachuk incident.
  • What to expect from the Oilers in their match against the Flames.
  • The Pacific division.
  • The emergence of Kailer Yamamoto.
  • Upcoming trade deadline.
  • Areas the Oilers need to focus on to make the playoffs.

Big thank you to everyone at CBC for putting it all together!

Looking into the potential reasons why the Oilers are better on the road than at home

LMPBAFKTBRARFGHQV2WYF4VVXA.jpg

The Oilers are playing better on the road than at home this season, which is odd considering that on average over the last three seasons teams collected 60.7% of the available points (i.e., points percentage) when playing at home and 50.7% of the available points when on the road. This year, the Oilers have a 54.8% points percentage at home (21st in the league, fourth in the division) and a 57.7% points percentage on the road (10th in the league and second in the Pacific division). Below are the results for the season thus far, including their overall goal differential.

2019/20 Games Pts% NHL Rank Goal differential
Home 21 54.8% 21st -10 (67 GF, 77 GA)
Away 26 57.7% 10th +5 (75 GF, 70 GA)

When asked at his media availability on Monday about the results at home as compared to on the road, Oilers head coach Dave Tippett provided this comment:

When you play on the road you play a simple direct style. You have to be all in. At home you tend to get fancy a little bit and maybe tend to try to put on a bit of a show for your fans. But the best show you can put on for your fans is for us to win.

On the road we’re generally playing a straight, disciplined game and that’s the kind of game, when we’re at our best, we play. We have to have that type of mindset wherever we play. It doesn’t matter. (Source)

Digging into the results a little deeper we start to see Tippett’s point about playing a more disciplined game on the road. Focusing first on even-strength (5v5) play, we see there’s been a drop off in terms of how well the team does in controlling the flow of play and their share of the shot attempts and scoring chances – metrics that are largely team driven.

HomeAway5v5.png

Starting with goal-share, we see that the Oilers even-strength play hasn’t been good overall, posting a negative goal differential both at home and on the road. Their 43.01% goal-share at home is the second worst in the league this season, while their 47.57% goal-share on the road is ranked 15th overall.

Looking at shot-share metrics, the Oilers do see an increase when they’re on the road, as their Corsi For% (a proxy for possession) and Fenwick For% (a proxy for scoring chances) see an uptick towards league average proportions when they’re on the road. And it’s a little alarming that all of their shot-share metrics at home rank in the bottom-five league-wide. Note that the league average shot-shares at home and on the road are right around 50.0% over the last three seasons. The odd team has seen a difference of 2.00 to 2.50 percentage points between their home shot-share compared to their road shot-share, but the difference for most teams is negligible.

This indicates to me that there’s definitely a team-wide issue that the coaching staff needs to address, as the Oilers are somehow managing to generate a slightly higher rate of scoring chances per hour and preventing more against when on the road.

5v5 FF/60 FA/60 GF/60 GA/60
Home 37.74 43.74 2.24 3.28
Away 40.37 40.12 2.44 2.45

What should be getting more attention is the significant drop in the team’s save percentage when the Oilers play at home. Currently, the Oilers goaltending at even-strength ranks 26th in the league with a save percentage of 90.86%. At home, that number drops to 89.78%, ranking 30th in the league. But on the road, for whatever reason, the Oilers goaltending ranks 14th with a save percentage of 91.76%.

The penalty kill is also where the goaltenders are really costing the Oilers wins at home. On the road, the goaltending has been excellent posting a save percentage of 92.74% – the best in the league. But at home, the save percentage ranks 22nd, with a save percentage of 85.86%. And it’s not like the Oilers penalty kill allows a lot more scoring chances against at home than on the road. In both situations, the Oilers allow close to league average rates.

Penalty Kill FA/60 GA/60 Sv%
Home 75.22 7.52 (23rd) 85.86%
Away 73.86 3.96 (1st) 92.74%

If you look at all situations, the Oilers team save percentages goes from being the 29th ranked team with 88.38% at home to being the 5th ranked team on the road with 91.61%. This is definitely an area worth looking into and assessing how the goaltenders are managing themselves on the road versus at home.

leon-draisaitl.jpg

Another thing to look into is the play of Leon Draisaitl at home versus on the road. Almost every player on the team sees a drop in their on-ice share of shots and scoring chances when the Oilers play at home, but Leon’s numbers are something else.

The Oilers tend to play a lot more without the puck when Draisaitl’s been on the ice this season, as his on-ice Corsi For% has been 45.31% – second worst among Oilers forwards, only ahead of Khaira. The team has also been out-scored 49-42 with Draisaitl on the ice, a goal-share of 46.15%.

It’s on home ice where his biggest struggles are, as the team has posted a goal-share of 41.38% with Draisailt on the ice. Goaltending is definitely a factor as noted above, but the team also controls only 41.98% of the shot-attempts and 41.73% of the scoring chances with him on the ice.

Draisaitl (5v5) CF% FF% xGF% GF% SH% SV% PDO
Home 41.98 41.73 40.7 41.38 12.15 87.63 0.998
Away 48.11 48.28 49.84 51.21 10.27 91.43 1.017

Leon’s numbers improve significantly on the road, with the team posting a Corsi For% of 48.11% and a Fenwick For% of 48.28%. What’s driving the improved shot-share proportions is the team’s inability to suppress scoring chances against when Leon is on the ice, going from 54.15 unblocked shot attempts against at home (one of the worst rates in the league among regular forwards) to 43.45 on the road.

What’s also interesting to see is the negative impact Draisaitl’s been having on McDavid both at home and on the road, as the Oilers appear to be controlling the share of scoring chances just fine when the captain is on the ice with Draisaitl.

Fenwick For% McDavid and Draisaitl McDavid without Draisaitl Neither on the ice
Home 41.45% 55.53% 47.82%
Away 48.96% 56.61% 49.89%

What’s really driving their poor on-ice shot-share numbers is their defensive play when deployed together. At home, they see a rate of 57.86 unblocked shot attempts against per hour – a significant jump from when they’re on the road posting a rate of 42.56 unblocked shot attempts against per hour.

What’s interesting is that it appears to be Draisaitl’s that’s causing the spike, as McDavid’s numbers without Draisaitl and the rest of the team without the two see similar rates of shots against whether at home or on the road.

Fenwick Against/60 McDavid and Draisaitl McDavid without Draisaitl Neither on the ice
Home 57.86 38.99 38.26
Away 42.56 34.05 39.49

There’s definitely more to the Oilers struggles at home, but starting with the team’s overall play at even-strength, the goaltending and Draisaitl’s performance would be a good start. With the playoff race getting tighter in the Pacific, it would behoove the Oilers coaching staff and potentially management to uncover as many weaknesses and try to rectify them as soon as possible.

Data: Natural Stat Trick