Trending Upwards

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The Oilers have been an absolute disaster over their last 10 games, winning only twice and getting outscored 21-13 at even-strength (the second lowest goal-share in the league with 38.24%). For a team desperate to make the playoffs, the results have not been there, likely making them sellers at the trade deadline.

What’s interesting is that even though the results haven’t been there, the team is playing considerably better than they were earlier in the season. And it’s reflected in their various shot-share metrics at even-strength (5v5).

Corsi For% 50.77%
Fenwick For% 51.33%
Shots For% 50.36%
Scoring Chances For% 53.38%
High Danger Scoring Chances For% 47.87%

The Oilers for the most part have been a poor shot-share team this season, taking a significant drop since Hitchcock replaced McLellan as head coach, so seeing their numbers above 50% is a positive sign.

One of the main drivers for this has been the return of Klefbom to the line-up. He’s only been back for eight games, but he’s already leading the team in average ice time per game at even-strength. Klefbom is also posting some outstanding on-ice numbers since his return to the line-up, leading all the Oilers regular defencemen when it comes to shot-share metrics: 55.69% Corsi For%, 57.30% Fenwick For%. His return also means a slight decrease in ice time for Nurse and Russell, both of which have struggled this season when it comes to on-ice shot differential at even-strength.

Another factor in these improved on-ice shot shares is the Oilers performance with and without McDavid on the ice over their last 10 games. As you may recall, the entire team, including McDavid of all people, saw their numbers take a significant hit since Hitchcock arrived.

Last 10 Games (5v5) CF% FF% SF% SCF% HDCF%
With McDavid 54.17 52.58 51.24 60.27 48.33
Without McDavid 49.02 50.63 49.84 49.72 47.44

What’s worth noting is that while the Oilers overall shot-share numbers have improved, it’s largely driven by their declining rate of shots against. The team is still struggling mightily to generate offence.

Below is a graph displaying the Oilers rate of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick, a proxy for scoring chances) for and against, broken out into rolling 10-game segments. I’ve included a black line to represent the league-wide average rate of unblocked shot attempts.

20190222 - Rolling Fenwick Rates - 10

While it’s encouraging to see the rate of unblocked shot attempts against gradually decrease at even-strength, the team continues to fall below the league average when it comes to generating offence. We’re definitely seeing an uptick as we might have expected with Klefbom returning to the line-up, but it remains obvious that the team lacks the talent and depth to compete in the modern NHL. It’s also worth reiterating that the upcoming trade deadline is not the time to find a solution for this significant problem. Better deals can be had in the summer and at the draft, so it’s wiser to acquire picks and prospects for now that can be converted into other, more impactful assets down the road.

Quick note about the special teams: The Oilers powerplay continues to produce, ranking 9th in the league with 8.08 goals per hour. What’s especially encouraging is that they’ve seen an uptick in their rate of unblocked shot attempts for. Over the full season, they rank 18th in the league with 69.43 Fenwicks per hour. However over their last 10 games, they’ve been generating 83.83 Fenwicks per hour. Maintain that level, and we can expect the Oilers to finish the season as one of the top powerplays in the league.

Penalty kill has been a different story. The Oilers are third worst in the league, allowing 8.95 goals against per hour. What’s troubling is that they’re allowing more and more unblocked shot attempts against. Over the season, they’ve been alright ranking 9th in the league with 67.15 Fenwicks against per hour. However in their last 10, they’ve allowed 81.34 per hour – one of the worst in the league.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Appendix:

  • 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.
  • Shots For% (SF%) – The proportion of all the shots on goal that the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Shots For/(Shots For + Shots Against).
  • Scoring Chances For% (SCF%) – The proportion of all the scoring chances (as defined by Natural Stat Trick) that the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Scoring Chances For/(Scoring Chances For + Scoring Chances Against),
  • High Danger Scoring Chances For% (HDCF%) – The proportion of all the high danger scoring chances (as defined by Natural Stat Trick) that the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., High Danger Scoring Chances For/(High Danger Scoring Chances For + High Danger Scoring Chances Against),
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CBC Edmonton News (TV): The Oilers GM search and the upcoming trade deadline + radio spot

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Tanara McLean on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly television segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 16:40 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2019, February 21)

Topics we covered:

  • The Oilers last 10 games and the areas that they’re starting to improve on.
  • The general manager search, and what type of leadership the Oilers need in the front office. Touched on a few things from my recent article. 
  • The recent acquisition of Sam Gagner and some of the benefits he brings to the roster.
  • The upcoming trade deadline, and why the Oilers need to be acquiring assets for next season.
  • Upcoming games against New York and Anaheim, and what to expect from each club.

I also joined host Tara McCarthy on CBC Radio Active to talk all things Oilers. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2019, February 21)

 

Strategic planning

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In case you missed it, CBC Radio’s Mark Connolly had a great interview with Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Bob Nicholson on Edmonton AM. A lot of topics were covered,  including the Oilers’ current state and the general manager search, making it well worth a listen: CBC Edmonton AM (2019, February 19)

Mark was kind enough to ask Nicholson a question I had sent in:

Below was Nicholson’s response:

Yeah, definitely. You know, you look back four years ago in the analytics side, we were using it a lot. I think when Peter came in there was a decision to use it but not as much. But it’s certainly something that we’ll be going over again with our search with the general manager. How we’ll use analytics in a decision making process for making trades or doing our drafts.

A couple things.

It’s been fairly obvious that the Edmonton Oilers hadn’t been making evidence-based decisions during Peter Chiarelli’s tenure as general manager. The team made countless moves that either downgraded the talent on the roster or created salary cap problems – sometimes a transaction would even do both. Had the Oilers relied on even the simplest pieces of publicly available information, a lot of the mistakes that have lead them to where they currently are could have been avoided. Make no mistake, this was completely preventable had management been willing to think critically, digging deeper into the on-ice product and if Nicholson was properly evaluating the transactions being made by Chiarelli and the management group.

All of this has been well documented on this blog and elsewhere.

For example, if the Oilers knew and understood the on-ice impact of Taylor Hall and his true value to the team, they may have held on to him or asked for more in a trade return. Had the Oilers looked at player aging-curves, they might have avoided signing Milan Lucic to a heavy, long-term contract. If they knew about Jordan Eberle’s on-ice shot-share numbers and concepts like statistical variance (i.e., PDO), they may have waited for his value to improve or just held on to him. Or if they were paying attention to the Oilers goal-share and shot-share with and without Connor McDavid early in the 2016/17 season, they might have recognized their eroding talent early on and did something about it. If they relied on simple shot-share metrics and avoided using only goal-metrics to predict future results, so much damage to the roster and salary cap problems could have been avoided.

With so much money and assets involved, and the importance of finding roster efficiencies, it’s baffling that the Oilers would make a decision early in Chiarelli’s managerial reign to use less information (i.e., analytics, sports science, etc) to inform their decision-making process. Building and managing an NHL roster involves so much risk – so many short-term and long-term implications – it would behoove any executive to implement sound, mitigation strategies.

I also found it odd that the Oilers left it to the previous general manager to determine how much information would be involved with the decision-making processes for roster construction and salary cap management. And it appears they’ll be relying on the new general manager to determine how much information is involved going forward.

If there is one lesson to takeaway from the Oilers previous management regime, it should be that information (including analytics, sports science, etc) and evidence-based decision-making should be a core part of the Oilers larger organizational strategy. When it comes to evaluating talent, the roster and the team’s salary cap, the team needs to use as much relevant information as possible and build a front office that supports the process. It should be something that has the support from the owner and is implemented by the CEO so that every corner of the organization – from the general manager’s office to the scouting staff to the rest of the hockey operations – is aligned and supports one another.

There should only be one end goal of winning a championship – and it’s really up to the CEO, whose job it is to maximize the value of an entity, to develop a strategy that will help the Edmonton Oilers achieve that goal.

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CBC Edmonton News (TV): Loss to Pittsburgh, progress in Bakersfield and approaching the trade deadline

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Alicia Asquith on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 16:00 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2019, February 14)

Topics we covered:

  • The loss against the Penguins and where the Oilers actually did well.
  • The Oilers current goaltending situation, which was driven by the Oilers hockey operations’ lack of foresight.
  • The success Bakersfield is having right now, the young prospects getting ice time and what impact they could have for the big club in a few years.
  • The upcoming trade deadline and how, because of their current state, they should be working to shed salary and recouping the skill and assets they’ve lost over the last few seasons.
  • Upcoming games against Carolina and Long Island, and what to expect against a couple of good teams on back-to-back nights.

 

Reality Check

coppernblue.com.full.54273The Edmonton Oilers are a professional hockey team in the National Hockey League. And as of this moment, they lack the talent, depth and cap space to compete for a championship this season and going forward.

After 55 games, the Oilers rank 13th in the western conference and 6th in the Pacific division with 53 points (24-26-5). They’ve been outscored 184-159, a goal differential of -25, which ranks them 25th in the league. At even-strength, they have scored 2.44 goals per hour and allowed 2.94 per hour – both rates being the seventh-worst in the league in their categories. And while the Oilers  have the 7th best powerplay in the league, scoring 8.49 goals per hour, it’s all wiped out by their penalty kill that ranks 30th overall, allowing 8.92 goals against per hour.

While the Edmonton Oilers remain only four points out of a wild card playoff spot, they have shown very little to indicate that they can compete in the western conference. If we look at how the Oilers compare to their counterparts, not only do their results rank poorly, but so do their underlying shot-share metrics, which are used to predict future goal-share.

The table below lists the 15 NHL teams, sorted by their current rankings in the western conference, with their even-strength results over the past 25 games of the season. This includes their overall record, points percentage (i.e., points divided by the total points available – factoring in the three point games) and Goals For percentage (GF%).

Included are each team’s Corsi For percentage (CF%), or shot attempts, which are used as a proxy for possession and Fenwick For percentage (FF%), or unblocked shot attempts, which are used as a proxy for scoring chances. I’ve also included for each team their Scoring Chances For percentage (SCF%) and High-danger Scoring Chances For percentage (HDCF%), as definied by Natural Stat Trick.

Also included are each club’s team shooting percentage (SH%) and team save percentage (SV%), along with PDO to give us a sense of how far off the team’s are from league average numbers.

WestStandings - 20190210.JPG

Some interesting stuff at the top of the standings, with Winnipeg posting a Corsi For% of 47.67% over their last 25 matches, and relying on some excellent goaltending to win games. But the focus here is below the cut-line where the Oilers are posting the worst shot-share numbers in the wild-card race and not exactly giving us any confidence that their future goal-share at even-strength will be above 50.0%. Team’s like St. Louis, Colorado, Minnesota, and even Arizona, can trust their process and tactics, and feel confident that their coaching staff is doing everything they can to influence their team’s goal-share. The Oilers on the other-hand aren’t doing enough to improve their odds of winning hockey games, and their recent results reflect that.

And while you might consider Connor McDavid to be an x-factor in all of this, the fact is that the Oilers can barely get above the 45.0% mark when it comes to shot-share metrics, even with the best player in the world on the ice. Over the last 25 games at even-strength, McDavid’s on-ice Corsi For percentage is 45.33%, and his on-ice Fenwick For percentage is 43.47%. He’ll still definitely produce points in these circumstances, but make no mistake, McDavid’s productivity and his contribution to winning games is being hindered by whatever the Oilers coaching staff is trying to do.

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Over the last three seasons, McDavid’s on-ice rate of unblocked shot attempts for (again, a proxy for scoring chances), has typically been between 45.0 and 55.0 per hour over rolling 25-game segments. These are well above league-wide averages among forwards, making it even more alarming to see how badly McDavid’s numbers have declined this season.

Knowing what we know about this team, their results, their roster construction and their lack of assets, it’s blatantly obvious that the Edmonton Oilers are not in a position to compete for a championship this season or next. The damage done between April 24, 2015 and January 22, 2019 has been significant, and has left the team with no options but to re-coup as quickly as possible the assets and skill they’ve lost.

If the Oilers intend on getting things on track for a championship, they need to leverage and optimize the upcoming trade deadline, which is only two weeks, or six games, away. With a few expiring contracts and a number of roster players who do not provide good value for their production, it’s imperative that management do everything they can to create a market for these players and acquire as many assets as they can for them.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Related:

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Keeping tabs

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Something that the coaching staff is hopefully aware of is the team’s declining shot-share metrics, considering how poorly their results have been this season. Shot-share values like Corsi (shot attempts), used as a proxy for possession, and Fenwick (unblocked shot attempts), used as a proxy for scoring chances, give us a sense of what a team’s future goal-share could be. Shot-shares serve as good predictive metrics and it makes intuitive sense: if you want to out-score opponents, you need to do a decent job out-shooting and out-chancing them. And if you’re in a tight playoff race, it’s in a team’s best interest to find any edge they can to improve their chances of winning hockey games.

Below are the Oilers rolling shot-share numbers this season, including their share of shot attempts (i.e., Corsi For%), unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick For%) and shots on goal (Shots For%). I’ve also included the team’s share of scoring chances and high danger scoring chances, as defined by Natural Stat Trick. All numbers are score adjusted.

ROlling Shot Share - 20190208.jpg

Over their last 25 games, the Oilers are dead last in the league when it comes to Corsi For% (44.13%), Fenwick For% (42.62%) and Shots For% (41.96%). The Oilers are 24th in Scoring Chances For% (45.61%) and 28th in High Danger Scoring Chances For% (42.93%). The Oilers definitely have a flawed roster and they were without Klefbom for an extended period. But the team’s shot-share has to be better than this considering the talent that they do have on the roster and the experience they have behind the bench.

I was a little more interested in how well the Oilers were getting shots through, so I focused on Fenwick, or unblocked shot attempts. As mentioned, Fenwick is a proxy for scoring chances, and does a decent job of predicting future goal-share.

Rolling Fenwick 60 - 20190208

Note that I’ve added a black line to represent the league average rate of Fenwick For per hour and Fenwick Against per hour, which is 42.1. And while the rate of Fenwick Against per hour gradually increased, it’s their rate of Fenwick For per hour over their last 25 games which ranks them dead last in the league. For all the grief that the Oilers deservedly getting for allowing goals, I don’t feel like enough has been written about the team’s lack of offence.

Also worth knowing how individual players have been doing. Below are the Oiler forwards who have played at least 40 minutes at even-strength (5v5) over the last 25 games, including their on-ice Fenwick For% (FF%), Goals For% (GF%), On-ice shooting percentage (SH%), On-ice Save percentage (SV%) and PDO. List is sorted by Fenwick For%.

Player GP TOI FF% GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
Kassian 25 308.9 46.50 54.88 10.26 92.38 1.026
Spooner 15 118.4 45.63 40.96 4.36 95.50 0.999
Brodziak 24 249.2 45.12 30.51 3.80 92.98 0.968
Lucic 25 291.1 44.81 55.78 11.19 92.66 1.038
Cave 6 44.4 43.88 0.00 0.00 88.06 0.881
McDavid 25 435.3 43.41 47.12 13.00 89.44 1.024
Draisaitl 25 410.8 43.41 51.63 13.31 90.81 1.041
Puljujarvi 25 287.3 43.13 31.64 7.64 88.03 0.957
Rieder 22 230.7 42.90 20.90 2.09 94.06 0.961
Caggiula 6 57.9 42.85 43.69 19.27 83.93 1.032
Chiasson 22 287.9 41.25 41.55 10.52 90.88 1.014
Rattie 16 190.1 40.32 42.19 8.59 91.70 1.003
Yamamoto 5 45.7 39.73 14.64 4.73 80.41 0.851
Khaira 23 272.5 38.81 35.92 8.52 89.68 0.982
Nugent-Hopkins 25 333.1 37.85 42.13 14.24 88.35 1.026

Keep these in mind when the coaching staff tries to hype up their players to the media heading into the deadline. And for all the talk we’ve heard from Hitchcock about offensive zone time, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot considering guys like RNH are posting a 37.85% on-ice Fenwick For percentage. Also makes you also wonder how many more points McDavid or Draisaitl could get if their team had the puck more often.

And here’s how the defencemen have fared over the Oilers last 25 games. List is sorted by Fenwick For% (FF%).

Player GP TOI FF% GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
Klefbom 4 64.18 51.36 0.00 0.00 96.08 0.961
Larsson 25 476.62 45.00 35.91 8.73 87.62 0.963
Manning 11 134.75 44.71 45.16 10.83 90.43 1.013
Benning 22 285.40 44.02 57.06 10.49 93.58 1.041
Nurse 25 491.43 42.50 48.11 12.00 90.46 1.025
Jones 17 290.47 42.34 35.01 9.05 87.49 0.965
Gravel 17 247.68 41.36 43.55 6.93 94.02 1.009
Russell 15 266.58 40.85 42.27 9.54 91.13 1.007
Petrovic 6 83.43 32.77 0.00 0.00 88.17 0.882

Definitely a lot of work to do if the Oilers want to secure a playoff spot. With Klefbom back in the line-up and getting into form, the team should see an uptick in their shot-share numbers. But the coaching staff will need to optimize their roster as much as possible, ideally deploying three scoring lines, and find any edge they can to increase their probabilities of winning games.

And if these shot-share numbers are the best the Oilers can do, then it’s in the team’s best interest to start making moves geared towards winning games next season. That means dealing away unrestricted free agents like Chiasson, Talbot and Petrovic at the deadline for prospects and picks. And exploring the market for guys like Kassian, Brodziak and Manning, and even players like Nurse and Russell whose perceived values are higher than their actual values. Rather than standing pat right now knowing the team isn’t competitive enough, the Oilers could get a jump start on getting things on track and start competing for a championship in the near future.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

CBC Edmonton News (TV): Current losing streak, playoff aspirations and getting things back on track

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Emily Fitzpatrick on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 14:10 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2019, February 7)

Topics we covered:

  • The current six-game losing streak and the dire situation the Oilers are in.
  • What the Oilers need to do to stay competitive in the playoff race.
  • How the Oilers need to approach their future to get things on track. Touched on some of the items I wrote about recently.
  • We did a run down of the Canadian teams and where each team is at in the standings.
  • The Oilers goaltending situation.
  • Preview of tonight’s game in Minnesota.

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