Discussing the recent road trip on the CBC Edmonton News (TV)

cbc edmonton logoI joined Alicia Asquith on the CBC Edmonton News prior to the game against the Predators last night to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts around the 14:40 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2017, December 14).

We talked about the recent road trip, the defence core and how things might look once Larsson is back.

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Milan Lucic: Bouncing back or dropping off?

Milan-Lucic-Oilers-2017Expectations have been understandably high for Milan Lucic since he signed with the Edmonton Oilers in the summer of 2016. The team invested significant, long-term cap-space for a player that would provide a blend of talent, physicality and experience – key elements identified by management as being critical for success.

After a less-than-stellar showing in 2016-2017, the Oilers appear to have the forward that they had envisioned. Over the first 28 games, Lucic has been a regular in the top six and has been far more productive at even-strength (5v5) compared to last season. He currently ranks third on the team in points per hour with 2.39, a significant improvement from the 1.22 points per hour, a career low, that he posted the year before.

Lucic-P60

This is extremely encouraging consdering the cost of the player and the amount of ice time he consistently receives. The question now is if Lucic’s productivity is sustainable. The team is in desperate need of offence and needs production from every corner of the roster, especially those that are paid as highly as Lucic.

Looking at his on-ice shooting and save percentages, as well as the team’s shot-share numbers with him on the ice, it doesn’t appear that Lucic will be able to maintain his productivity.

2017/18 (5v5) On-Ice Shooting% On-Ice Save% PDO
Milan Lucic 10.88 93.27 104.6
Team 7.50 91.39 98.90

Lucic currently ranks first on the team in PDO with 104.6, with his on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentages well above the normal ranges. And it’s likely that over the course of the season these percentages will regress towards the mean. But even if that did occur, it wouldn’t be the end of the world as long as his on-ice shot share numbers were fine.

The problem is, those numbers are poor.

With Lucic on the ice this season, the Oilers have posted a 48.87% Corsi For%. That’s one of the worst on the team, only ahead of Zach Kassian and Iiro Pakarinen, and is a sizable drop from his career norms. The Oilers in general are one of the better possession teams in the league (52.55% CF), making Lucic’s numbers stand out like a sore thumb.

Now this should be of concern for two reasons.

First off, a player that the Oilers invested heavily in to be a difference-maker might already be declining in his overall play. You would hope that this season is an anomaly, but considering his age and style of play, it’s a strong possibility.

Lucic-CFRel

Secondly, he’s become a possession drag to the Oilers franchise player who’s expected to drive offence. In the 113 minutes that Lucic has played with McDavid this season, the team has posted a 50.5% Corsi For. Away from Lucic, McDavid’s on-ice Corsi For% shoots up to 55.4% – which aligns closer to what we expect from McDavid. While they are currently posting an incredible goal-share of 70% (7 GF, 3 GA), it’ll be hard to maintain with such mediocre possession numbers.

Definitely something to keep an eye on this season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

 

 

 

Discussing the loss against the Flyers, goaltending and upcoming games on the CBC Edmonton News (TV)

cbc edmonton logoI joined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News this evening to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 19:10 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2017, December 7)

Topics we covered:

  • The 4-2 loss against the Flyers and the recurring issues this season.
  • Goaltending and what options the Oilers have. I also wrote a piece on the Oilers goaltending over at The Copper & Blue.
  • The return of Brandon Davidson and how he can help the team.
  • Upcoming games against the Leafs, Habs and Blue Jackets.
  • The Pacific division

 

Assessing the Oilers’ Goaltending Situation

coppernblue.com.full.54273The Edmonton Oilers are in an interesting spot right now with their goaltending.

With Cam Talbot expected to be out of action for another week or so, the team will be relying on two goalies with less than 22 NHL games between them. Both Laurent Brossoit and Nick Ellis are reasonable NHL prospects, but the Oilers are taking a risk with so much inexperience between the pipes. And it doesn’t come at a great time either – the Oilers are second last in the Pacific division and desperately need to be winning games to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.

So what’s the best approach for management to take?

The first option they have is to stick with their young guys, and give them a chance to establish themselves as legitimate NHL options. The Oilers made a commitment to Brossoit in February of 2016, signing him to a two-year deal following his entry-level contract. And at last year’s trade deadline when the Oilers were making their push for a playoff spot, management reaffirmed their commitment, electing to stick with Brossoit rather than find a more experienced goalie for the post-season. Ellis was signed to a two-year entry level deal out of college in 2016, and has since started 45 games for the Bakersfield Condors. Considering the dollars and development time invested in both goalies, the team may feel compelled to give them their reps at the NHL level. But it is the riskiest course of action at such a critical point of the season.

A second option for the Oilers, which is probably the most conservative (and therefore most acceptable) approach, is to acquire a more proven, veteran goaltender that has experience as a starter in the league. The team likely won’t want to spend too many assets to acquire this level of goaltending, as it would be more of a stop-gap while Brossoit and Ellis continue developing. The assumption here is that the Oilers want to retain one or both of their prospects long-term and sign them to new deals when they become restricted free agents at the end of the season.

Both of these options are fine, but it would be in the Oilers’ best interest if they approached their goalie situation a little differently and took a more aggressive approach with a long-term vision for the roster.

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Speaking at the Rundle Summit

8af67c_dd2bb23b679b418db1981b3b5abdd416_mv2Happy to announce that I’ll be speaking in Banff at the Rundle Summit in February. It’s a communications conference co-hosted by the University of Alberta’s Communications and Technology Program and the University of Calgary, Communication, Media and Film Program. Full details of the conference can be found here.

I’ll be discussing the research I did as a graduate student at the U of A, which was around online hockey fans and how they use blogs to develop and share new information.

You can access my final research paper here: SuperFan 2.0 : Exploring the produsage qualities of hockey fans

This was done between 2009 and 2012, so there’s a lot that’s happened since then.

Personally, I was able to apply what I learned from the program to my own day job, but also used a lot of the concepts to start my own hockey blog. I’ve been a life-long fan  and like using stats to dig into things, so it’s been fun providing commentary and learning about the different ways to evaluate teams and players. I’ve been very fortunate getting opportunities to write for other web sites, and being on TV and radio. It’s been a fun side-gig, as I’ve been able to do something I really care about and  meet some very good people along the way.

Older post worth reading: Finding the SuperFan – (2014, July 23)

I’ve also got a pretty good perspective on how the media’s role has changed because of the new communication tools available to fans, and will share some of my experiences. The most interesting aspect for me has been the development and growth of hockey analytics and how it’s played out in the public sphere. It’s been largely fan-driven, and it’s impacted how the league and major media networks provide coverage.

I’ll post a few updates as I put my presentation together, and will publish my final work here as well.

 

 

Discussing the loss against the Leafs on the CBC Edmonton News (TV)

cbc edmonton logoI joined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News on Friday night to chat all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts around the 17:45 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2017, December 1)

Topics we covered:

  • The loss against the Leafs. There was the blunder by Russell (still have no idea what he was doing there) but there were some positives.
  • Special teams continues to be an issue.
  • Oilers put Pakarinen on waivers and claim Nathan Walker from Washington.
  • Goaltending.
  • Chances of the Oilers making the playoffs.
  • Upcoming games against Calgary and Philly.

Hanging on to the possession numbers

Jesse Puljujarvi, Ryan Strome, Scott WilsonThroughout the Oilers struggles this season, I’ve looked at the underlying shot-share numbers and held out hope for this team. As long as the even-strength (5v5) possession numbers are good (i.e., Corsi and Fenwick) I’ve figured that the goal-share should eventually turn around. This of course depends on the team’s shooting percentage regressing towards the league averages and the goaltending bouncing back as well. And they’ll also need their special teams to stop costing them games.

Corsi For% Fenwick For% Goals For% Shooting% Save% PDO
53.04% 52.88% 45.56% 6.57 91.19 97.8

After 23 games, the Oilers are fourth in the league when it comes to score-adjusted Corsi For% and fifth in the league when it comes to Fenwick For%. This is all very encouraging until you look at how the team has been trending when it comes to these possession numbers.

Below is a rolling 10-game average of the Oiler’s Corsi For% and Fenwick For%, adjusted for score effects. The team has trailed a lot this year, which skews the shot-rate results. So I’ve applied Natural Stat Trick’s weightings.

RollingCFFF_20171125

  • Corsi For% (CF%) – The proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the Oilers 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.
  • Fenwick For% (FF%) – The proportion of all the unblocked shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the Oilers 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.

While the team started extremely well early on posting close to a 55% shot-share, they’ve dipped down closer to 50% over the most recent 10-game stretch. My first thought was that this was a depth issue which has struggled this season, and that the numbers were probably trending just fine with McDavid on the ice. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s a team-wide problem. With and without their captain, the Oilers have trended downwards, which indicates that this is likely a coaching/deployment issue.

RollingCF w97_20171125

RollingFF w97_20171125

After such a bad start, it’s understandable that McLellan may have changed up his tactics even if the team was posting strong possession numbers. The end-goal is winning games, and I can’t imagine a coaching wanting to wait things out in the hopes that things get better. McLellan also adjusted his deployment, especially on defence as Klefbom was moved away from Larsson on the top pair and saw his overall minutes reduced.

Below is a chart from Hockey Viz showing the ice-time for each Oilers defenceman this season. Note the drop in ice-time for Klefbom who has struggled mightily.

edmonton oilers defence hockey viz

If there’s a single player that can influence play and drive the offence for the team, it’s Klefbom. Reducing his minutes is necessary for the coach, but it might be the biggest factor in the Oilers drop in possession numbers. The team was  doing something right when Klefbom was on the ice earlier in the season, so it’d be interesting to see what the results would be if he was paired with Larsson on the top pair again. The two were very good together last season, regularly playing against the best lines.

For my own interest, I also wanted to see how the rest of the Pacific division was trending when it comes to Corsi For%. Below I’ve split each team’s season into two (first 10 games, and their second set of 10 games).

Pacific Division - trend - 20171125

Edmonton saw a drop over their last 10 or so games, but so did a lot of the other teams. Vancouver and Arizona are where I expected them to be. San Jose and Calgary are playing well. What really stands out are the numbers for Vegas. The Golden Knights were riding a pretty high PDO earlier in the season, but they’re closer to the normal range now. I think a lot of us assumed they were going to coming crashing back down to earth, but I’m not so sure any more. If they continue posting strong possession numbers, they increase their chances of putting more points in the bank.

Data: Natural Stat Trick