Getting ready for the Rundle Summit

icefields-parkway-road-conditions-in-winterJust putting together my presentation for the Rundle Summit, which takes place in Banff, Alberta this coming weekend. Details for the event can be found on the Rundle Summit web site.

Lots to check out at the event co-hosted by the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, with things kicking off on Friday afternoon. I’ll be providing the keynote address on Friday evening with panel sessions scheduled for Saturday. Full program details are here.

It’s been a lot of fun putting my thoughts together as I’ve tried to weave the research I completed in grad school with my experiences from blogging. I’ve had to dig deep to uncover how/why I went down the path I did, uncovering some old stuff along the way.

Couple notable items:

Plenty more to share on Friday, the focus being on hockey fans and how their active participation in the coverage of the game has forced the league and the media to adapt.

Looking forward to the conference. 😉

Related: Speaking at the Rundle Summit – The SuperFan (2017, December 4)


CBC Edmonton News (TV): Trade deadline, Lucic’s struggles and upcoming games

cbc edmonton logoJoined Sandra Batson on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 23:20 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2018, February 15)

Topics we discussed:

  • How the Oilers should approach the trade deadline, and the importance of building for next season.
  • Lucic’s struggles and how it’s been an ongoing issue all season.
  • Draisaitl, some of the discussion around trading him, and his importance to the team.
  • Upcoming games against Vegas, Arizona and Colorado.

Can’t let you go


It was a significant milestone for the Edmonton Oilers when they signed Leon Draisaitl to a long term contract last summer. The club was convinced by his performance over the previous two seasons that he was going to fill an important role for the team and that he’d be a very productive NHL player.

But to justify the significant dollars invested by the team two things had to happen, and happen very soon: (1) Draisaitl had to continue producing points at a top-line rate, and (2) he had to do that while predominantly playing center. If the Oilers were to have any success, they needed secondary offence behind Connor McDavid. And Draisaitl, at that price point, had to be a big part of the solution going forward.

General manager Peter Chiarelli also made it pretty clear in the off-season what he envisioned for Draisaitl and his role on the team.

“As a manager, I like Leon in the middle because he’s strong and he’s heavy and he’s good on faceoffs. He’s more than that, but that’s why I like him in the middle. That doesn’t mean that Connor and Leon won’t play together because you saw them playing together last year. Leon will take some draws and Connor will be on the wing, and they trade coverage down low sometimes. But as a manager, I think you’re winning a Cup, at the end of the day, on the average, with both of those guys in the middle.” (Source: TSN)

Even with management’s endorsement, there were reasons to be skeptical of Draisaitl’s ability to score while playing center, and away from McDavid. The biggest reason being the fact that Draisaitl hadn’t proven his ability to drive offence over the previous two seasons, as he often played alongside high-end talent.

In 2016/17, when Draisaitl and McDavid were on the ice together at even-strength (5v5), the club posted a 53.7% Corsi For percentage, which was expected considering their talent level. Not only were they regularly out-shooting opponents when deployed together, but they were getting outstanding results as well. The Oilers goal-share at even-strength was 59.4% (+13 goal differential) when Draisaitl and McDavid were on the ice together, ranking them near the top of the league with a rate of 3.65 goals per hour.

When the two were away from each other last season, well that’s when things got interesting.

2016/17 (5v5) TOI CF% GF% (Goal-differential) GF/60
McDavid + Draisaitl 674.0 53.68 59.42 (+13) 3.65
McDavid w/o Draisaitl 636.9 52.54 65.45 (+17) 3.39
Draisaitl w/o McDavid 500.0 48.45 44.19 (-5) 2.28
Neither McDavid or Draisaitl 2183.6 49.03 50.36 (+1) 1.92

Without McDavid with him, Draisaitl’s on-ice Corsi For% dropped to 48.5%, a fairly common trend across the roster last season when their generational talent was on the bench. What made matters worse is the team’s ability to score goals took a hit when Draisaitl was without McDavid, with the team posting a rate of 2.28 goals per hour, and a goal-share of 44.19%. Meanwhile, McDavid continued at around the same rate both with and without Draisaitl, making it obvious who the  primary offensive driver was. This is really what made the Draisatl’s contract all the more perplexing as Draisaitl hadn’t exactly proven he could generate offence on his own line.

The success that McDavid and Draisaitl had together last season is a big reason why head coach Todd McLellan continues to play them together this season. Rather than spread the top-end talent across the line-up like successful teams often do, the Oilers have continued to load up their top line leaving the rest of the roster vulnerable to being out shot and out scored. Even without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the lineup, the head coach is adamant McDavid and Draisaitl have to play together.

Looking at the numbers from last season, it’s safe to assume the team wants to get the most out of Draisaitl, with his best numbers coming when paired with McDavid. And this season, it’s been no different. Their possession numbers together are just as strong as they were last season, with their goal-score rate being even better with 4.06 goals per hour.

What’s interesting this season is that McDavid hasn’t been nearly as productive as he was last season without Draisaitl with him. The Oilers possession numbers are still very good with McDavid on the ice (52.95%), but the scoring rate is way down with  team generating 2.74 goals per hour, and the goal-differential actually being even. That’s pretty alarming and should be another flag to management that they have some work to do this summer.


Combination TOI CF% GF% (Goal-differential) GF/60
McDavid + Draisaitl 325.0 54.97 66.67% (+11) 4.06
McDavid w/o Draisaitl 459.1 52.95 50.00% (Even) 2.74
Draisaitl w/o McDavid 323.4 50.92 46.67% (-2) 2.60
Neither McDavid or Draisaitl 1290.1 49.47 42.7% (-13) 1.77


Now a coach could look at this and think that both McDavid and Draisaitl actually need one another to be productive, and it’d be a fair assessment. A rate of over four goals per hour is enough to justify playing them together as often as possible regardless of what the rest of the center depth looks like.

Management on the other hand needs to look at this a little differently. They should still be concerned that Draisaitl is being deployed as a winger and posting medicore numbers away from McDavid. But they really need to assess why McDavid’s on-ice goal-share is just even in 459 minutes away from Draisaitl. Remember, last season the team had a goal-share of over 65% and a rate of 3.39 goals per hour when McDavid was on the ice without Draisaitl. And the drop could be due to the fact that he’s played a lot of minutes with lesser or inexperienced talent including Drake Caggiula, Kailer Yamamoto and Mike Cammalleri.

Teammate (5v5) TOI With 97 CF% GF/60 GA/60 GF%
Drake Caggiula 100.23 40.00 4.19 5.39 43.75
Kailer Yamamoto 61.86 65.10 1.94 1.94 50.00
Mike Cammalleri 59.10 54.87 2.03 2.03 50.00

Of the three, I would consider Drake Caggiula’s numbers with McDavid this season to be the most troubling. He’s had success scoring goals with McDavid – the problem is they allow a high rate as well thanks in large part to some really dreadful possession numbers. As a very raw rookie, Yamamoto posted very good possession numbers earlier in the season, but they just weren’t able to convert on their shot attempts (which Yamamoto got plenty of). You can’t expect a rookie to be able to beat NHL goalies right off the hop, and there’s plenty of promise there, but it impacted McDavid’s on-ice goal-scoring rate away from Draisaitl.

To be clear, I wouldn’t go as far as blaming these three for McDavid’s poor on-ice numbers. It’s really more on management for putting together such a flawed roster and not adding enough NHL-calibre, scoring talent in the off-season.

With the playoffs getting further and further out of reach, the Edmonton Oilers need to start addressing their key underlying issues and position themselves better for next season. I’ve written plenty in the past on how the team has done without McDavid on the ice and the importance of secondary offence. But the fact that the team’s decisions are now negatively impacting McDavid’s on-ice numbers should be major red flag and one that needs to be rectified as soon as possible.

Related: Assessing Chiarelli – The SuperFan (2017, August 14)

Data: Natural Stat Trick


CBC Edmonton News (TV): McDavid with and without Draisaitl, busy February schedule and upcoming game against Colorado

cbc edmonton logoJoined Alicia Asquith on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 21:20 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2018, February 1)

Topics we discussed:

  • The pros and cons of playing McDavid on the same line as Draisaitl.
  • February being a busy month, with three sets of back-to-backs.
  • Tonight’s match-up against the Colorado Avalanche.

Wasn’t able to present this, but some numbers that I found interesting heading into tonight’s game:

Combinations (5v5) Time on ice (mins) Corsi For% Goal differential
McDavid & Draisaitl                      311 55.10% +10
McDavid without Draisaitl                      458 53.00% Even
Draisaitl without McDavid                      322 51.30% -2
Neither McDavid or Draisaitl                   1,256 49.50% -13

Plenty of benefits having McDavid and Draisaitl together. The possession numbers are strong and they have a +10 goal differential this season.

I was pretty surprised to see the goal differential to be even when McDavid is on the ice without Draisaitl, leading me to believe that McLellan might be thinking that McDavid needs Draisaitl to be effective. Even though the possession numbers are quite good.

The big takeaway from this is that last line: without either McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice, the club takes a hit when it comes to possession. And they have a -13 goal differential. With RNH out, it’s imperative that the Oilers deploy McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines. If not, they’re leaving themselves open to being outshot and outscored – something they really can’t afford to do if they want to salvage this season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


CBC Edmonton News (TV ): Upcoming decisions for the Oilers, Paul Coffey and home/away penalty kill + radio spot

cbc edmonton logoJoined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 16:45 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2018, January 26)

Topics we covered:

  • Playoffs being a long shot, what the Oilers should be focused on
  • The addition of Paul Coffey as a skills coach
  • The dreadful penalty kill and how they’ve done at home and on the road
  • Previewing the upcoming game against the Flames

I also joined Portia Clark on CBC Radio Active in the afternoon. The podcast is here and starts around the 8:00 mark: CBC Radio Active (2018, January 26)


CBC Edmonton News (TV): Good streak/Bad streak, Nugent Hopkins’ injury, playoff hopes and the upcoming games

cbc edmonton logoJoined Adrienne Pan on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 17:00 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2018, January 18)

Topics we covered:

  • The wins against Arizona and Vegas.
  • The Oilers record before and after the Christmas break.
  • The pressure Chiarelli and management should be under and their options.
  • The Oilers reluctance to have McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH center their own lines.
  • Nugent-Hopkins’ injury and the impact to the roster.
  • Playoff hopes (heh)
  • Upcoming game against the Canucks.

Danger zone

cut (1)

It’s been an absolute disaster of a season.

Heading into Friday night’s game, The Edmonton Oilers sat third last in the western conference with 39 points in 44 games, only ahead of Vancouver and Arizona. They have a -24 goal differential (all game states), a 47.65% goal-share at even-strength (22nd overall), the worst penalty kill efficiency in the league and the sixth worst powerplay. The Oilers are 11 points out of a wild-card playoff spot, and they’re likely going to be sellers at the trade deadline.

Looking at what the results have been so far this season, you can convince yourself that everything about this team is rotten. The goals aren’t coming because of a lack scoring talent. The goaltending hasn’t been good. The team is bleeding high-danger chances on the penalty kill because of the personnel and the coaching tactics. The powerplay looks disoriented at times and can’t convert on the chances they generate. The wingers aren’t producing at an acceptable rate. And the team lacks depth as they get outshot and outscored when McDavid isn’t on the ice.

When results are this bad, you can expect changes to be made. General managers are under pressure to construct rosters and put together a winning team. So they’ll focus on specific players that might be playing poorly, they’ll look for where the team deficiencies were and they’ll try to give certain aspects of their team a boost. But without careful analysis and a thorough review of what the underlying issues could be, a team could potentially send away important assets to address a perceived need or spend assets on a problem that doesn’t exist.

The Oilers were in fact in a similar situation two seasons ago, and reacted rather irrationally.

Following the 2015/16 regular season, Peter Chiarelli pulled the trigger on two significant moves. First he traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson in an effort to shore up their defence. And then he signed Milan Lucic to a long-term, buyout proof contract. These moves were coming off the heels of a 29th place finish and -42 goal differential, caused in large part by inconsistent goaltending and extended absences of Oscar Klefbom and Connor McDavid. The Oilers chose to ignore these factors, as well as improved possession and expected goal numbers, and took a more drastic approach to improve the team.

Now while both transactions in the summer of 2016 could be justified by the team’s playoff appearance the following season, the team lost scoring talent and cap flexibility – two things that are critical to annually contend for a championship. And neither transaction had a significant influence on the three biggest factors that helped the Oilers reach 103 points – overall team health, excellent goaltending and outstanding play from Connor McDavid.

The hope now is that the Oilers management team takes a much more measured approach than what they did following the 2015/16 season. The onus will be on them to identify the areas for improvement, and gather as much data and information as possible before making any decisions. And that starts by looking at the results but supplemented along with the underlying shot metrics to get a better understanding of where the team is at and where they’re heading.

First, a look at the Oilers cumulative goal differential in all game states.

Oilers - Cumulative goal differential - 20180112

They currently sit at a -24 goal differential, one of the worst in the league, but they were in fact trending upwards in the month of December. Over a 10 game stretch heading into the Christmas break, they had a +14 goal differential and posted a 7-3 record. It’s definitely worth digging into what was going on during this 10-game stretch because not only were they doing well, but based on the underlying shot metrics their results were real and likely sustainable. More on that below.

Below I’ve graphed out the Oilers even-strength (5v5) Corsi For% into rolling 10-game segments. Now we use Corsi For% to gauge how well a team did possession-wise, and it also serves as a good predictor of future goal-share. Using rolling 10-game segments, we can see how the team has been trending and also highlight any outliers. And knowing how much of a positive impact McDavid has on the team, I’ve also split out the Oilers Corsi For% with and without him to get see how well the rest of the team does generating and suppressing shot attempts.

Oilers - Rolling 10 - CF - 20180112

First off, as a team the Oilers currently sit 10th in the league in adjusted Corsi For percentage with 51.57%, a very encouraging number considering their long history of typically being in the bottom five. However, their play has dropped off since the Christmas break, and it’s largely due to the team’s performance when McDavid isn’t on the ice. This of course was something that became apparent last season – the team typically gets outshot and outscored when their captain isn’t on the ice. Unfortunately, the team not only failed to address the issue, but they in fact made things worse when they parted ways with players that had success away from McDavid including Eberle, Pouliot and Pitlick.

Now while things are trending downwards for the team and there’s a lot of good information to take away from this,  it’s also worth looking into when the team was doing well this season and if there’s any insights we can glean from that.

From the same graph, we see that the team’s best performance, both with and without McDavid, came during that 10-game stretch heading into the Christmas break when they posted a 54.0% Corsi For%. Again, this is when they went 7-3 and beat some good teams including St. Louis, Columbus and San Jose.

Worth noting that in that stretch the Oilers were deploying three centers who for the most part had consistent linemates (Source: Hockey Viz). Here’s what the regular line combinations were heading into the Christmas break, and how they’ve performed over the course of the 2017/18 season:

Line TOI Corsi For% Goals For%
Lucic-McDavid-Puljujaarvi 175.52 56.21 61.90
Khaira-Draisaitl-Strome 104.57 52.43 55.56
Maroon-RNH-Cammalleri 74.67 56.41 42.86

Only the RNH line has a goal-share below 50%, which is why the Oilers, who tend to use goal-metrics for their decisions, likely moved away from that line combination. But all three posted excellent Corsi For percentages, a significant advantage over opposing teams. The coaching staff also shuffled Draisaitl around soon after the break because of his poor play and also had to make tweaks when Maroon was suspended for two games.  Knowing what we know about these combinations, I’d be really curious to know why McLellan hasn’t gone back to running them.

What I really want to emphasize here are a couple things. First off, the Oilers need to look past the goal-differential and goal-shares and use more of the shot-metrics which are better predictors of future success. Secondly, the Oilers need explore the different periods of the season when they were doing well and when they team did poorly and find out what might have been impacting the results. Thirdly, they cannot be blinded by the standings. The Oilers are a better team than their record and should not be making desperation moves. There are positives from this season to build on and it’s important not to downgrade the team in an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Based on this high-level analysis, my takeaways right now are as follows:

  • The team has deficiencies, especially when it comes to scoring goals. The Oilers can bet again on their younger players to step into more prominent roles, but they’re probably better off finding a more proven option.
  • Don’t trade away your good players. These are the ones that have a positive impact on the team’s shot differentials when they’re on the ice and have the ability to contribute.
  • Don’t trade away draft picks. The pipeline isn’t looking great, and the team desperately needs value contracts once McDavid’s contract kicks in.
  • Find better wingers that can generate shots with and without superstar players.
  • Find better depth players that contribute at even-strength but can also play a feature role on either the powerplay or penalty kill.
  • Don’t sweat the blueline. If you have three scoring lines that can control play and outscore opponents, you can get away with a good-to-average defence core. If a player that can improve your team becomes available, you should obviously be in on it. But don’t break the bank for a defenceman or search specifically for powerplay specialists. I also think special teams are coaching driven, not player driven.
  • Find a goalie that can push Talbot for the starting job. Wrote about this earlier this season.
  • Don’t trade away your good players.
  • And if you need to make anyone expendable, either to include in a trade or to make cap space to sign a player – look into moving Russell. His value has never been this high as he’s been putting up points, but he also has a history of being a drag on the team’s offence.


It’s going to be critical that the Oilers move away from their current decision making process and alter their approach to roster construction. The mistakes that have led the Oilers to where they are today were largely avoidable had they conducted more deeper analysis and used more predictive metrics. The team has a good core of players to build around and can be back in the playoff picture next season. But that’s only if the Oilers management team takes a much more measured approach and bases their decisions on the right information.

Data:, Natural Stat Trick, Corsica