The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 37 – Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The Athletic

Joined by Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBSports) from The Athletic to talk Oilers, the results this season and what the major on-ice issues have been. We covered the roster construction issues that Holland is facing, the team’s goaltending, and what needs to be addressed before the club can become a championship contender. Daniel also shared some great insight on his approach to covering the Oilers beat and his experiences dealing with people in the game.

Full segment below:

Podcast channels:

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

The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 36 – Brian King (@Kinger999)

Joined by Brian King (@kinger999) on the show to talk about the Edmonton Oiler’s major issues this season, the problems with Ken Holland’s roster construction and how Dave Tippett has performed as head coach. Brian also shared the background on the PDO metric and how he discovered it – you can read more about it here.

Full segment below:

Podcast channels:

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

Oilers management is to blame for the issues in net

Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen: That Blue Paint

Quick query using publicly available data and an understanding of the salary cap and player aging curves could have prevented this fiasco.

If Oilers management isn’t happy with their goaltending, they have only themselves to blame. When you consider each netminders recent history at even-strength and the penalty kill, Ken Holland and his group really shouldn’t be surprised with their poor results this season. How often the Oilers goalies have stopped the puck has actually been similar to their previous seasons.

Even-strength (5v5)

Let’s start with even-strength (5v5), where the Oilers goalies have allowed a total of 80 goals on 876 shots against – ranking 29th in the league with a 0.909% team save percentage. The average save percentage at the team level and individual level for regular netminders is typically around 0.920%.

Below is a table showing how each Oilers goalie has performed this season including their time on ice, shots faced, goals allowed and save percentage. Among the 67 goalies who have played at least 250 minutes this season, Stuart Skinner ranks 43rd in terms of save percentage with 0.913, while Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen rank 51st and 57th respectively. Again, league average save percentage is around 0.920 – and all three have been below that mark this season.

Now to see if these numers are within an expected range, let’s look at how each Oilers goalie has performed in their previous three seasons – between 2018/19 and 2020/21. Same as above, I’ve included time on ice, shots faced, goals allowed and save percentage.

In 113 games between 2018 and 2021, Smith posted a 0.910 save percentage, which is identical to the save percentage he’s posted this season. In those previous three seasons, Smith ranked 54th among 60 goalies who played at least 2,000 minutes – demonstrating clearly that despite a career year last season, he’s a below-average goalie at even-strength. And it’s really not surprising considering he’s at an age when goaltenders drop-off significantly (Source: Hockey Graphs).

In the same three-year period, Koskinen didn’t fare much better posting a 0.916 save percentage in 119 games, sitting just below league average and ranking 42nd among the same group of 60 goalies. He’s definitely been worse this season posting a 0.906 save percentage, which is somewhat expected considering he’s now 33 years old and taking on a larger workload with Smith being injured. Skinner had only played one NHL game in that three-year period, but it’s good to know that his 0.913 save percentage this season would rank 48th among those 60 goalies.

Since Smith is posting the same save percentage this season as he has in the previous three seasons, he’s allowed about the same number of goals we could expect him to allow – approximately 14 . Koskinen on the other hand, is allowing about five more goals than expected. If he was posting a save percentage of 0.916 this season like he had in the previous three seasons, he would have allowed 40 goals instead of 45. The good news is that Skinner is performing better than we expected. Had he posted a 0.903 save percentage, the team would have allowed an extra two goals.

So based on some quick and dirty math – had the Oilers goalies performed at the same levels they had in the previous three seasons, the team would have allowed 77 goals instead of 80 at even-strength (5v5). Using the same number of shots against, that would be a team save percentage of 0.912 and would rank 26th in the league instead of 29th. So as much as the Oilers would like their goalies to be closer to league average levels at even-strength, it’s really not a realistic expectation considering how Smith and Koskinen have performed below league average over the last three seasons. Holland and his group should have known this heading into such an important season.

Penalty kill

Looking at the penalty kill this season, the Oilers have allowed 20 goals on 174 shots against – ranking 17th in the league in terms of goals against per hour (7.08) and 10th overall in team save percentage with 0.885. The average penalty kill save percentage at the team level and individual level is typically around 0.865 with all three Oilers goalies posting numbers above that this season.

Here’s how each Oilers goalie has performed this season with Skinner ranking 5th among 65 goalies who have played at least 25 minutes shorthanded this season, with Koskinen and Smith ranking 28th and 32nd respectively.

When you compare this season’s numbers with their previous three seasons, Smith and Koskinen are posting numbers fairly close to their historical levels. Over the last three seasons, Smith has a save percentage of 0.883 on the penalty kill, while Koskinen has posted a save percentage of 0.876 – both of which are above league average.
The number of goals allowed by Smith and Koskinen this season are pretty close to what we would expect from them as their save percentages are nearly identical. The issue for the Oilers is that they’re allowing a higher rate of shots against this season (about 61 per hour), while in previous seasons they’ve allowed about 55 shots against per hour. Skinner is performing above league average levels and has saved about three more goals than expected. Had he put up only league average numbers this season, the team would have allowed 23 goals instead of 20 and the Oilers would have a team save percentage of 0.867, which would rank around 16th in the league instead of 10th. Really, the difference has been marginal with all three goalies performing around expected levels.

Thoughts

While the Oilers goaltending overall hasn’t been great this season, the netminders are performing within their expected ranges. All three goalies are league average or below at this point, so expecting anything more from them was unrealistic from the get go.

Had the Oilers conducted a basic analysis using publicly available data and took time to understand salary cap management and player aging curves, they could have made smarter, more sensible bets and be in a better spot in the standings. Instead they chose to – or you could argue they were forced to – take on a lot of risk at such an important position and are getting pretty much what they should have expected.

What’s especially baffling is that despite the red flags, Ken Holland and his group have not once or twice, but three times chosen to start a regular season with Smith and Koskinen as their goalie tandem. And yes, the Oilers did try to upgrade their goaltending in previous off-seasons. But they failed because they didn’t have enough quality assets to part with due to their own mismanagement of the roster construction and their poor draft capital.

Rather that the goaltending performance, the focus really should be on Ken Holland and his management group and their very obviously-flawed decision-making process. And try as they may to improve the roster now and to make a run at a playoff spot, it’s hard to have faith in a management group that got them into this awful mess in the first place.

Related: Evaluating the evaluation – The Copper & Blue (2020, August 14)

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Tracking the Pacific division – As of December 23, 2021

Quick check-in on the Pacific division with the NHL regular season currently suspended due to the pandemic.

Based on points percentage, the Edmonton Oilers have fallen to fourth in the Pacific division now trailing Calgary, Vegas and Anaheim. And they’re holding the second wild-card spot in the NHL’s official standings – only three points ahead of Los Angeles and Winnipeg.

The table above contains the even-strength (5v5) numbers for each team in the Pacific division (sorted by points percentage) including goal-share results as well as the shot-share metrics that gives us a sense of which teams have the right processes in place and if the results are sustainable or not. I’ve also applied a basic heat-map to show which teams are doing well or struggling relative to their division foes. You can find a description of each metric at the end of this article. Also note that the shot-share metrics are score and venue adjusted based on Natural Stat Trick’s methodology.

Goal-differential (5v5)

What’s been apparent all season has been the Oilers poor goal-differential (i.e., Goal +/-) during five-on-five play, due in large part to their mediocre shot-share numbers combined with below average goaltending. Right now the Oilers are only better than Seattle when it comes to goal-differential and are being propped up by their excellent results on the powerplay and penalty kill.

While the other teams in the Pacific division like Vegas and Los Angeles are gradually figuring things out at five-on-five and trying to keep up with Calgary, the Oilers are continuing to flounder. Below is a graph showing each team’s cumulative goal-differential over the course of this season.

Couple notes:

  • Calgary had a great start to the year, but have tapered off slightly – somewhat expected considering their goal-share was at 66% at the end of November with a PDO above 102. But we can expect the Flames to continue getting strong results considering their Corsi For% and Expected Goals For% have been excellent all season. That combined with strong goaltending, good special teams and a healthy roster should have them comfortably in a playoff spot.
  • Vegas has really turned things around, due in large part to their improved shot-share numbers. When I last checked in November, they were posting a 48.88% Corsi For percentage and a 47.84% Expected Goals percentage. They’re now posting a 51.36% Corsi For pecentage and a 50.96% Expected Goals percentage – levels that we can expect to grow with their roster getting healthy and with one Jack Eichel expected to be in the lineup by season’s end.
  • Los Angeles continues to do well at five-on-five, doing well when it comes to controlling the flow of play and posting the third best goal-share in the division. The problem is their penalty kill, which is allowing the 11th highest rate of goals against in the league and the powerplay which is scoring the eighth lowest rate of goals. Worth noting that Trent Yawney is the assistant coach running the penalty kill in Los Angeles, as his results in Edmonton weren’t great and he relied heavily on goaltending when running the penalty kill in Anaheim.
  • Anaheim is very similar to Edmonton in that they’re also relying heavily on their powerplay, which ranks fifth in the league, and their penalty kill, which ranks third. But as I found in my last review, they’re not great at generating chances on the powerplay or preventing shots on the penalty kill, so I’m expecting their special teams to slip a bit. Regardless, they’re just breaking even at five-on-five for now but should see an uptick considering their Corsi For percentage had gradually been improving this season.

Depth

As we’re all well aware, the Oilers depth players have posted very poor five-on-five results and shot-share metrics this season with the team getting badly outshot and outscored when the star players haven’t been on the ice. For my own interest, and because we know how important depth is to playoff and championship aspirations, I also wanted to see how the Oilers roster compares against their division rivals.

For this exercise, I kept things simple and wanted to know how each team’s top lines have performed at five-on-five (using each team’s top forward in terms of total ice time as a proxy) and how well the team performed without their top line. On average, the top line plays about 30% of the team’s total even-strength (5v5) time. The top forwards from each team that I’ve identified are below, along with the percentage of their teams total 5v5 time that they’ve been on the ice for:

  • C. McDavid (Edmonton) – 34.4%
  • J. Gaudreau (Calgary) – 30.2%
  • C. Stephenson (Vegas) – 28.2%
  • A. Kopitar (Los Angeles) – 30.2%
  • T. Hertl (San Jose) – 28.8%
  • B. Horvat (Vancouver) – 30.5%
  • A. Wennberg (Seattle) – 29.4%
  • T. Terry (Anaheim) – 27.6%

Here’s how each team has done this season without their top line on the ice, sorted by goal differential (i.e., Goals +/-). I’ve included shot-share metrics and also applied a basic heat-map to show which teams are doing well or struggling relative to their division foes.

No surprise the Oilers results (i.e., goal-share) without McDavid are poor relative to the other Pacific division teams. But it’s especially concerning to see how poor the Oilers shot-share metrics are as well. They currently rank last in the Pacific when it comes to Expected Goals For percentage and Fenwick For percentage, both of which give us a proxy for scoring chances.

What’s also interesting to see is how the Oilers top line compares with the top lines of the other Pacific division teams. The Oilers results have been good, no doubt. But it’s nothing outstanding considering they’ve only posted a +3 goal differential with the top line on the ice, and their goal-share is nearly tied with Vegas and Vancouver.

The good news is that the Oilers top line is posting some of the best shot-share metrics in the division with a Corsi For percentage and Expected Goals For percentage above 56% – so we should expect their results to improve. But that’s only if the goaltending gets better. Right now the Oilers have the third lowest team save percentage in the league at even-strength – something that’s probably a spot of bother for the current management group. They’re tried to improve goaltending every off-season but failed to land their targets. They were in on Markstrom two seasons ago (Source: Oilersnation) and had reportedly tried to acquire Darcy Kuemper this previous off-season (Source: Oilersnation). No doubt the team will try to address goaltending during the season to salvage the year, but it’s also worth addressing their depth and figuring out why they’re getting outshot so badly.

Whatever they do, there’s no way ownership should be pleased with these current results. They’ve paid a premium to bring in Holland and expectations remain high with McDavid and Draisaitl on the roster, healthy and in their primes. Management has spent considerable assets over the past few seasons now to address issues, but they’ve managed their cap and roster so badly that they’ve also limited their options to improve the roster in the short-term and long-term. The results speak for themselves and now the pressure is once again on the Oilers star players to secure a playoff spot.

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 is the best at predicting a team’s future share of goals (GF%). (Source: Hockey Great Tapes – Draglikepull)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).

The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 34 – Dennis King (@dkingbh)

Joined by Dennis King (@dkingbh) on the show to discuss the current state of the Edmonton Oilers who are on a five-game losing and are struggling at even-strength (5v5). We talked about the impact head coach Dave Tippett has had on the on-ice results and the issues general manager Ken Holland still needs to address to make the Oilers an elite team.

Full segment below:

Related links:

Podcast channels:

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

CBC Radio Active: Oilers lose two in a row for the first time this season

I joined Rod Kurtz on CBC Radio Active to talk about the Oilers and their start to the season. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2021, December 6).

Topcis we covered:

  • Issues at five-on-five, and what they’ll need to address to have sustainable success.
  • The Oilers bottom six forwards and their terrible results.
  • The Oilers poor start to games.
  • Upcoming match against the Minnesota Wild and the importance of turning things around.

Thanks to the team at CBC for putting it all together!

Tracking the Pacific division – As of November 30, 2021

Another month of solid results for the Edmonton Oilers with the club ranking second in the Pacific division with 30 points in their first 20 games. Their 0.750 points percentage is tied with Florida for best in the league, due in large part to their special teams, which continues to be strong and is a key driver for their overall goal-differential of +22.

Below are the even-strength (5v5) numbers for each team in the Pacific division (sorted by the number of points they’ve accumulated) including goal-share results as well as the shot-share metrics that gives us a sense of which teams have the right processes in place and if the results are sustainable or not. I’ve also applied a basic heat-map to show which teams are doing well or struggling relative to their division foes. You can find a description of each metric at the end of this article. Also note that the shot-share metrics are score and venue adjusted based on Natural Stat Trick’s methodology.

The Oilers continue to struggle at even-strength (5v5), with their 48.31% goal-share ranking fifth in the division, which is even slightly behind Vancouver’s. A big reason for that is their goaltending, which ranks 25th in the league in terms of save percentage (91.23%) and it hasn’t shown any signs of progress so far. The other issue continues to be the depth, as the Oilers continue to get outplayed when McDavid isn’t on the ice. Also worth noting that the Oilers Expected Goals For% has gradually come down since the first month of the season – going from 53.13% at the of October to 48.31% – closer aligning with their Fenwick For%, which has been average so far.

The Flames appear to have even-strength figured out, now posting a +22 goal differential at 5v5, due in large part to strong goaltending and the ability to dominate when it comes to controlling the flow of play. The Flames rank second in the league when it comes to unblocked shot attempts, a proxy for scoring chances, and are allowing the third lowest rate of unblocked shot attempts against. Even if their goaltending slips slightly, the team is doing everything they can to maintain a fairly strong pace and finish higher up in the standings.

The one other team to keep an eye on is Anaheim. At the end of the first month, their shot share metrics were poor, which led me to believe their results weren’t going to be sustainable. However in the last 10 games, they’ve done a much better job at controlling the flow of play as reflected by their 51.41% Corsi For percentage – an indication that while the results might wane, their process is improving. Seattle and San Jose on the other hand have really struggled over their last ten games, posting Corsi For percentages closer to 45% – indicating to me that they’ll likely drop in the standings if things don’t improve.

As mentioned above, the Oilers are very dependent on their special teams, with their powerplay ranking first in the league, scoring 15.21 goals per hour (23 goals in 87 minutes of powerplay time) and their penalty kill ranking fourth in the league, having allowed only 8 goals in 108 minutes – a rate of 4.46 goals per hour. Plus the penalty kill has scored three times, which is more than they scored all of last season (2) and matching the number of shorthanded goals they scored in in 2019/20.

One thing to note is that while the Oilers were able to score 15 powerplay goals in their first ten games of the season (21.62 goals per hour), they came back down to earth and ‘only’ scored 8 powerplay goals in the second set of ten games (10.51 goals per hour). Scoring over 10 goals per hour on the powerplay is still exceptional, and is probably where the Oilers will finish the season. But I think it’s an important reminder that the Oilers powerplay can be handled and that the team’s even-strength play needs to be addressed quickly to prepare for any lulls the powerplay encounters.

Here’s a quick look at how the rest of the Pacific division teams are doing on their special teams. For the table below, I’ve combined the number of goals scored and allowed on the powerplay and penalty kill, as well as the shots all of the teams have generated across their special teams. The table is sorted by the Special Teams Goals +/-.

Team Special Teams Goals +/- Special Team Shots +/-
Edmonton 18 14
Anaheim 12 -5
Calgary 7 15
San Jose 3 17
Seattle 2 10
Los Angeles -2 27
Vegas -4 -20
Vancouver -14 8

When it comes to special teams goal differential, Edmonton and Anaheim are currently number one and two, respectively, in the league right now followed by Toronto (+8), Calgary (+7) and Colorado (+7). When it comes to shot differential, the Oilers rank 11th in the league with +14, while Toronto (+55), Pittsburgh (+34), Chicago (+27), Los Angeles (+27) and Colorado (+23) are in the top five. It’ll be interesting to see if the Kings can turn things around, especially when you consider their powerplay generates the eighth highest rate of shots, but struggle to finish their chances.

Considering how most of the Pacific division clubs are posting average shot-share numbers at even-strength, I get the sense a lot of their results are going to be driven by special teams. It’s become a pretty competitive division and teams cannot afford to struggle on the powerplay and penalty kill and lose out on a playoff spot because of it. Definitely something to track this season.

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 is the best at predicting a team’s future share of goals (GF%). (Source: Hockey Great Tapes – Draglikepull)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).

Chasing goals

Good question asked by Walter Foddis recently on Twitter, asking people to vote on how many goals they think Leon Draisaitl will finish the 2021/22 season with.

So what is a reasonable expectation for Draisaitl? He has 20 goals so far in the first 19 games of the season – 9 goals at even-strength (5v5, 4v4, 3v3), 10 on the powerplay and one shorthanded. Can he score 40 more over the remaining 63 games and be one of only three players to reach the 60-goal mark since 2005/06? With the powerplay being what it is and generating even more shots and scoring chances than last season, could he push for 65 or even 70 goals? Dare we dream about him scoring 82?
Edmonton Oilers: Where does Leon Draisaitl rank among the European greats  after seven years?

To come up with a best guess, I split my analysis into three parts: one for even-strength, one for the powerplay and one for penalty kill. My main assumption of course is that Draisaitl remains healthy the rest of the year, he continues playing in the top six with skilled players against the other team’s top players, and the team around him doesn’t degrade in overall skill level.

Even-strength

At even-strength this season (5v5, 4v4, 3v3), Draisaitl is averaging 18:21 minutes per game and taking 1.79 shots on goal per game, which is almost exactly the same rate of shots over his previous five seasons. If he continues at this rate, he’ll take about 113 more shots over the remaining 63 games.

Now if he continues to convert 26.5% of his shots into goals like he has so far this season, he’ll score 30 more goals at even-strength over the last 63 games. But considering his career shooting percentage heading into this season has been 15.24%, that likely isn’t going to happen. Let’s say he cools off and regresses closer to his career levels – then we can expect him to score 17 more times at even-strength. My guess is that his shooting percentage by the end of the year is closer to 18.45% – which is what he’s posted over the last three seasons – and he scores 21 more goals at even-strength.

So far, here’s what we have projected for Draisaitl to finish the season with.

Situation Optimistic Realistic Pessimistic
Current total goals 20 20 20
Even strength goals (projected) 30 21 17
Powerplay goals (projected)
Shorthanded goals (projected)
Total projected goals 50 41 37

Powerplay

Looking at the powerplay, I would factor in Draisailt’s personal shooting percentage this season and his shooting percentage over the course of his career. But also what proportion of the team’s total shots on the powerplay with him on the ice are coming from his stick to determine how many more shots he’ll get this season. For this exercise, I’m also going to assume that the Oilers will continue to draw the same rate of penalties that they’ve drawn this season – which is the fifth lowest rate in the league.

Let’s start with the shots. So far this season, the Oilers with Draisaitl on the ice have generated 90 shots on goal on the powerplay, averaging 4.74 shots per game. Considering the team’s talent level and how well they are generating shot attempts and scoring chances after 19 games, I’m going to assume they continue at this rate and generate 298 more shots over the last 63 games of the season.

Of those 90 shots the Oilers have taken, 30 of them have come from Draisaitl – so about 33.3% of the team’s total with him on the ice. If Draisaitl continues to get the same on-ice share of the team’s shots, he’ll get another 100 shots over the rest of the season. And if he somehow maintains a 33.3% shooting percentage, then he would score 33 more powerplay goals – crushing a few records along the way.

If we take a more conservative approach and look at his numbers over the last three season with Gulutzan running the powerplay, the number of powerplay goals Draisaitl can expect to score is closer to 18. Since the 2018/19 season, Draisaitl has taken 26.4% of the team’s shots with him on the ice. So if the Oilers generate the same rate of shots, Draisaitl should get another 79 shots over the course of of this season. And if his shooting percentage comes back down to the still-excellent levels he’s posted over the last three seasons, converting on 22.7% of his shots, he should score another 18 powerplay goals.

My thought is that with his success so far this year, the Oilers will continue trying to set him up for goals, so he should get a higher than normal proportion of the team’s shots – so maybe 29% – and taking 87 more shots. And if his shooting percentage ends up hovering around 25%, which he posted in the 2019/20 regular season – he could score about 21 more powerplay goals.

Situation Optimistic Realistic Pessimistic
Current total goals 20 20 20
Even strength goals (projected) 30 21 17
Powerplay goals (projected) 33 21 18
Shorthanded goals (projected)
Total projected goals 83 62 55

Shorthanded

Based on the rate of shots Draisaitl has taken and his shooting percentage this season, and if everything continues as is, we would expect him to score three more shorthanded goals. Although the Oilers are generating the second highest rate of shots per hour on the penalty kill, I’m not entirely convinced that the Oilers are going to continue deploying a more aggressive penalty kill and that we should expect Draisaitl to score maybe one or two more goals shorthanded. He scored once shorthanded last season, and three in 2018/19. Whatever he does on the penalty kill would just be a total bonus.

Situation Optimistic Realistic Pessimistic
Current total goals 20 20 20
Even strength goals (projected) 30 21 17
Powerplay goals (projected) 33 21 18
Shorthanded goals (projected) 3 1 0
Total projected goals 86 63 55

Summary

For Draisaitl to reach 70+ goals, a lot would have to go right. Anything is possible, but with 63 games remaining we can reasonably expect Draisaitl’s outputs to regress closer to his career numbers, especially when we factor in the rate of shots and personal shooting percentages he’s posted over the previous three seasons. Of course, there’s also the factors that are completely outside of his control like his team’s performance, injuries and how games are being called/managed/fixed by the referees.

I think realistically, Draisaitl could target scoring 65 goals, which is what Ovechkin posted in the 2007/08 regular season. It would obviously require a little luck and maintaining good health, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility when you consider his more recent numbers and how great the Oilers powerplay has been at generating chances. Whatever happens, whether Draisaitl scores 70 goals or “only” 50 goals, Oilers management should be relieved that they have a star player who can outscore the club’s other deficiencies.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, Behind the Benches

Oilers defencemen with the bottom six forwards

Edmonton Oilers' Bouchard Exceeding Expectations Early This Season

Can’t help but be astonished by how, once again, the Oilers are getting mediocre results at even-strength (5v5) largely due to their third and fourth line forwards.

After 17 games, the Oilers have a -2 goal differential at 5v5, a goal-share of 48.68% that has them 19th in the league and only ahead of San Jose, Seattle and Arizona in the Pacific division. With their top six on the ice (which would include at least one of McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi), the Oilers have outscored opponents 29-19 (+10) – a goal-share of 60.42%. Without one of those four on the ice, which is about 34.3% of the team’s total playing time, the Oilers have been outscored 8-20 (-12) – a goal-share of 28.57%.

Oilers (5v5) Top Six Bottom Six
Corsi For% 52.44 49.04
Fenwick For% 50.72 48.05
xGoals For% 52.34 43.81
Goals For% 60.42 28.57
Shooting% 9.91 6.10
Save% 93.46 86.95
PDO 103.30 93.10

No question the Oilers bottom six is being cratered by some pretty shoddy goaltending, with club posting a team save percentage of 86.95% with them on the ice. But it’d help if the Oilers third and fourth lines weren’t playing so often without the puck and in their own end and not having enough shooting talent to help make up for the team’s goaltending deficiencies – which ranks 25th in the league with a 91.37 even-strength (5v5) save percentage.

Rather than again pointing to the poor job the Oilers have done at identifying professional-level talent and constructing the bottom end of their roster, I thought it’d be worth looking into how each of the Oilers defencemen have done at even-strength (5v5) with the top six forwards and with the bottom six forwards. Knowing the significant impact McDavid and Draisaitl have had on the team’s overall results, it’s good to know which defencemen are posting positive numbers away form the star players and bringing value to the team.

Included in the tables below are each defencemen’s individual proportion of ice-time with the two groups of forwards along with the team’s 5v5 shot-share metrics like Corsi, Fenwick and Expected Goals with them on the ice.

A few things jump out when seeing the defencemen’s on-ice numbers split this way.

  • While it’s not surprising to see every defencemen have great results playing with the top six, it’s wild that when Barrie has been on the ice, the top six forwards see a drop in their shot-share metrics, getting out-shot and out-chanced when he’s on the ice with them. Barrie’s posting similar numbers with the bottom six and getting terrible results – so that might be the reason why the coaching staff continues to give him lots of ice time with the top lines who have the talent to overcome his deficiencies.
  • Nurse is definitely seeing a higher proportion of his ice time (76.45%) with the top six forwards compared to the other defencemen, posting great shot-share numbers with them and getting excellent results. Prior to his injury, I did wonder if he should get a higher proportion of his ice time with the bottom six forwards as the group does somewhat better with him on the ice with them – posting a Corsi For% and Fenwick For% over 48.0%. Considering how much the Oilers are paying him, you would have hoped the numbers away from the star players would have been better.
  • The one player that really stands out is Evan Bouchard. The bottom six forwards do significantly better with him on the ice with them, posting a Corsi For% and Fenwick For% above 57.0%. He really should be getting more ice-time as the team has a better chance of outscoring opponents when he’s on the ice.
  • Ceci and Keith have been pretty bad playing with the bottom six, posting poor shot-share metrics and getting terrible results. Considering the cost of acquiring the two and Holland’s expectations of them to take on meaningful roles, it’s pretty disappointing to see that they’re so dependent on the top lines.
  • Something worth monitoring is the play of rookie defenceman Philip Broberg and how he fares with the top six forwards and the bottom six. Obviously a lot of pressure on the player to secure a role on the team, but if he can be an even-strength play driver soon, it would solve a lot of the Oilers long-term cap issues.

As much as we want to point to the bottom six forwards and the lack of scoring depth, I think it’s important to add a critical lens to the blueline that Holland has put together. All four of the professional players that Holland signed or acquired this off-season – Barrie, Keith, Ceci, Koekkoek – aren’t strong play drivers and are part of the depth scoring issues for the team. Considering that all of them are on multi-year deals, it’s critical that the Oilers get contributions from their defensive prospects as soon as possible – especially if they want to improve their even-strength (5v5) goal-differential.

Data: Natural Stat Trick