Squad goals


After such a dreadful season there’ll be plenty to dissect, with the end goal being to determine what happened and what the potential course of action should be this offseason.

The most important thing to do is look at the goals for and against, the end results, and how the team did in different situations. Goals and winning are after all the most important things, and it’s pretty remarkable to see what kind of insight you can get from such simple stats. From there, we can look at the underlying shot-share numbers and our proxy for possession (i.e., Corsi), as well as the on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage to see if the results were real or not.

Starting from a very high level, the Edmonton Oilers scored 229 goals this season in all situations, and alllowed 262, giving them a goal-differential of -33. Taking a peek at the NHL standings from this season and previous seasons, we know that you’re at risk of missing the playoffs with a negative goal differential, with the best teams often above a +25 goal differential. That was the case for Edmonton last season when they finished with a +36 goal differential (243 goals for, 207 against) and second in the Pacific.

What really should be bothering the Oilers management group this offseason is the drop in goals, from a +36 goal differential last season to -33 this season.

But let’s dig in a little deeper.

Here’s a comparison of their 2017/18 season to the season prior when it came to the goals for and against at even-strength (5v5), as well as the goals scored on the powerplay and the goals allowed on the penalty kill.

Situation 2016/17 2017/18 Difference
5v5 Goals For 166 163 -3
5v5 Goals Against 140 176 36
5v4 Goals For 51 30 -21
4v5 Goals Against 38 56 18

In a nutshell, the Oilers scored slightly fewer goals at even-strength, but allowed a ton more this season, 36 to be exact. They also scored 21 fewer goals on the powerplay and allowed 18 more on the penalty kill compared to last season.

Now for the issues with the Oilers special teams, I recently did a couple posts on the penalty kill and powerplay.

My key takeaway was that it’s largely on the coaching staff’s shoulders for (1) not adjusting the penalty kill sooner when it was struggling and (2) tinkering with a powerplay that was effective last season. Injuries to Klefbom and Sekera didn’t help, and neither did Talbot’s struggles under a heavy workload – so management should be held accountable as well for not addressing these depth issues on defence and with goaltending when they had the chance last offseason.

As for even-strength, a big reason why their numbers took a hit this season was because of how poorly the team produced without McDavid on the ice. In 2017/18, when McDavid was on the ice, the Oilers outscored opponents 81 to 61, a goal differential of +20. Without him, the Oilers had a goal differential of -33, scoring 82 goals and allowing 115. Secondary scoring was a major issue.

You may recall there were similar issues at even-strength last season, but not nearly as bad. The Oilers finished the 2016/17 season with a +30 goal differential with McDavid on the ice (77 goals for, 47 against) and a -4 goal differential when he was on the bench. That -4 goal differential should have raised red flags in the offseason, as we know and expect the best teams to often have a positive goal differential even when their best players aren’t on the ice. What made things worse for the Oilers was how often the team would get out-shot and out-chanced without their best player.

But instead of addressing the issue and looking for more offence to add to their depth, the Oilers went the opposite direction, removing the players who actually had success away from McDavid, including Eberle, Pouliot and Maroon, and betting on younger players like Strome, Caggiula and Slepyshev to generate offence.

Here’s how the Oiler forwards did in 2017/18 without McDavid on the ice with them. I’ve included each players time on ice, the team’s share of shot attempts as a proxy for possession (CF%), the team’s goal share, including the goal differential, the on-ice shooting percentage, the on-ice save percentage and the PDO as a measure of luck. The table is ranked by Goals For% (GF%).

Player TOI CF% GF% (goal diff) On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
Maroon 318.82 49.85 53.85 (+2) 7.45 93.68 1.011
RNH 634.03 49.92 46.94 (-3) 6.76 92.12 0.989
Strome 917.27 50.28 45.31 (-6) 6.11 92.72 0.988
Slepyshev 469.55 51.13 43.33 (-4) 5.1 93.68 0.988
Khaira 699.48 50.24 42.86 (-7) 6.23 91.64 0.979
Draisaitl 620.97 50.42 42.42 (-10) 8.28 88.27 0.966
Lucic 680.13 50.04 41.82 (-9) 6.44 91.33 0.978
Puljujarvi 549.70 49.03 41.46 (-7) 5.96 92.48 0.984
Kassian 685.07 48.41 38 (-12) 5.88 91.32 0.972
Caggiula 621.58 49.33 37.78 (-11) 5.31 91.38 0.967
Cammalleri 527.17 47.49 37.5 (-10) 5.68 91.1 0.968
Letestu 497.35 50.68 32.5 (-14) 5.37 88.89 0.943

One thing we really need to emphasize first is the team’s PDO of 97.8 without McDavid on the ice this season. Even though the team did alright in regards to their Corsi For% (49.59%) without McDavid, they had a fairly low team shooting percentage of 6.02%.

That might explain why Draisaitl struggled without McDavid on the ice with him, as the team was outscored 38 to 28 (-10 goal differential) even though the possession numbers were just above 50%. Same goes for Khaira and maybe even Lucic, who we know struggled mightily this season. But it’s at least somewhat encouraging that the team’s possession numbers were respectable without McDavid on the ice with him. I suspect that the team will have a better goal differential without McDavid next season just based on the low on-ice shooting percentages for guys like Draisaitl and Lucic. But it’d also help if the team brought in players with a history of strong individual shooting percentages to improve their chances of scoring goals.

It’s also worth knowing how the defencemen did without McDavid. The results are similar to the forwards in that pretty much everyone, except Auvitu, posted a poor goal-share and goal-differential, which appears to have been impacted by some poor on-ice shooting percentages, and in some cases a poor on-ice save percentage.

Player TOI CF% GF% (goal diff) On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
Auvitu 306.03 50.85 58.06 (+5) 10.91 92.17 1.031
Nurse 987.97 49.74 46.25 (-6) 7.09 91.7 0.988
Benning 764.28 50.43 45.10 (-5) 5.60 93.14 0.987
Russell 853.25 47.63 42.19 (-10) 6.51 91.9 0.984
Larsson 735.45 48.98 42 (-8) 5.77 92.64 0.984
Klefbom 692.37 50.15 31.25 (-18) 4.21 90.78 0.950
Bear 196.57 42.93 26.67 (-7) 4.88 91.2 0.961
Sekera 350.07 48.59 10.53 (-15) 1.17 90.66 0.918

One player that stands out for me in the list above is Klefbom. Despite playing hurt for most of the season and continuing to play top pairing minutes against the best competition, Klefbom still posted a respectable on-ice Corsi For% of 50.15. He finished with the second lowest PDO without McDavid, which I would expect to correct itself next season. Definitely a player worth keeping long-term when you consider how well he played the season before and the value-contract he’s carrying.


Goal-scoring was a major problem this season thanks in large part to the decisions made by Oilers management and the coaching staff. Make no mistake – the poor results were completely self-inflicted.

The fact that the team posted a goal differential of -33 at even-strength when McDavid wasn’t on the ice should make it obvious that the team needs help with secondary scoring. As mentioned above, the possession numbers were okay over the full 82 game season. But over the last 25 games, the Oilers had a 46.96% adjusted Corsi For% without McDavid on the ice, a number that had been steadily declining for some time. It’s a very obvious issue that needs to be addressed by the team this offseason.

The penalty kill was another area that had red flags from the season prior but were ignored by the Oilers. The rate of scoring chances were finally reduced this season, but it was far too late. And goaltending, which has been good for the most part, was bound to take a hit considering the workload Talbot was under and the lack of short-term and long-term options behind him.

The Oilers missed the warning signs when it came to secondary scoring. They missed the warning signs from their previous results on special teams. And they missed the warning signs when it came to goaltending. All of this would’ve been avoided if they had done the proper research and analysis, even just looking at simple shot and goal metrics and at what other successful teams have done, and took action on them to construct their team. Instead, the Oilers made poor decisions building their roster, failing to secure depth to handle injuries, and failed to optimize their line combinations and deployment for success.

What we’re left with now is a team that can’t score enough goals to make the playoffs. If this doesn’t get the team’s attention and forces them to change how they assess their roster and make decisions, I don’t know what will.

Related articles:

Data: Natural Stat Trick


CBC Edmonton News (TV): Factors behind the current slide, importance of a healthy Sekera, off-season moves and preview of final two games

cbc edmonton logoI joined Alicia Asquith on the CBC Edmonton News today to talk all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 17:20 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2018, April 5)

Topics we covered:

  • The Oilers current slide and the factors behind it. Had a hunch the little run they had earlier in March was unsustainable, which I had written about not too long ago.
  • The ice time the younger players have been getting, and the importance of developing Puljujarvi. Matt Henderson wrote a really good piece on him over at OilersNation that’s worth checking out.
  • Andrej Sekera’s injury and how important it is for the Oilers that he be healthy and ready to go for next season.
  • What we can expect this off-season from the Oilers, both on-ice and off-ice.
  • Preview of the Oilers game against Vegas. And the finale against Vancouver on Saturday, including the final NHL game for the Sedin brothers.

Thoughts on the Oilers, their research methods and approaching the off-season

CuBZT8KWgAAW5HSGetting closer to the end of the season and it’s becoming painfully obvious to observers (who may not have been paying attention the whole time) that a big reason why the team is where they are is because of the actions of Peter Chiarelli.

A lot of the moves the general manager made or was going to make were discussed publically  often pointing out at the time of the trade or transaction what the probabilities were like for it to backfire or succeed. Never any guarantees, and I don’t claim to have all of the answers. But there’s enough publically available research and analysis and data that gave us probable outcomes, which were easy to lift and apply to what the Oilers were trying to do.

Take for example the Lucic signing. The rumors of him signing in Edmonton started mid-season when Lucic was doing well in LA and the Oilers were heading to another year out of the playoffs. At first glance you would look where the team was in the standings and determine that yes, absolutely the Oilers need help and bringing in someone of Lucic’s caliber and experience would be beneficial to a young team.

Two things, however. One the Oilers weren’t as bad as their record that season, as they were dealing with significant injuries to Klefbom and McDavid. And Talbot struggled big time in his first season as a starter – something that happens to goalies even when they have a pretty good track record. Secondly, if you look at player aging curves, and how production has been shown to decline as players age – it should’ve raised some red flags around Lucic whose success has been based on playing a physical style. The chances of him remaining productive were low. Wrote about Lucic here and here.

Now as a fan, I’d love to see Lucic bounce back from the terrible season he’s having and play a role in chasing a championship. But he probably won’t live up to the price tag – aging free agents who get paid a grit-tax typically don’t meet expectations – and will be a cap-headache for the team when acquiring and signing players. Again, all of this was foreseeable.

Why the Oilers aren’t using existing research and even the most basic metrics derived from analytics is just perplexing. Considering they have the money, why not invest in collecting information that could supplement the day-to-day work done by scouts and the cap experts? Now this would have to be properly integrated into the business operations of the team – there’s really no use of bringing in one person to be your “analytics consultant”. A proper division, clearly defined roles, with a chain of command that feeds two areas – the coaching staff and the management’s office – would be ideal and aligns with what modern industries have in place. Include a research and development group within the division that could take ideas from the coaching staff and find/suggest innovative on-ice solutions – something that includes input from a former coach or two and scouts – I think you could have something that drives change and better informs  your decision making processes.

The Oilers might be a ways away from taking a step like this, which is unfortunate considering more and more professional sports teams are trying to find every single edge they can in a pursuit of a championship. Not sure what it’ll take for this franchise to push their own boundaries.

This also leads into the national coverage of the Oilers which has been endless, and rightfully so. There’s plenty of questions around why the team did what they did with guys like Hall and Eberle and trading away draft picks. The bottom line is that the team currently has the best player in the world, which is going to get a lot of attention from fans from other markets who may not care for the Oilers, but want to see a superstar like McDavid do well. So while people from inside and outside the Oilers market are piling on right now and we get an endless dose of Barzal/Eberle/Hall highlights – it’s largely driven by the fact that McDavid has a lot of fans from other markets and, well, the team has made a lot of bad moves that are killing his chances of winning a championship.

Speaking of moves. How the team deals with Strome is going to be a good test for the Oilers management group, whoever it’s made up of this offseason. Strome is 24 and in my opinion shown what he is – a depth winger who can play center part time or with another center with him, and can fill in on special teams as needed. His point totals are right around his career average and his shooting percentage is right around where we expect it to be. What the Oilers might fool themselves into thinking is that Strome could produce more, that he can play center full-time and that he can play a role on special teams. But if they just take a peek at existing research and analysis of the player and trends across the league, they could save themselves a lot of money. He’s still a player worth keeping around – it’s just that a heavy, long term investment in the player can easily backfire and set expectations that the player won’t be able to reach.

The Strome discussion, along with every potential transaction and signing this off-season needs to be taken through an improved, thorough analysis – leveraging every source of relevant information from across their hockey operations. There’s also plenty of underlying issues from this season worth exploring including the lack of secondary offence and the poor special teams. The key for the Oilers now is changing how they do things and making every move geared towards winning a championship. Leveraging the same research methods and information sources, and following the same decision making processes, and we probably won’t be seeing success anytime soon.

The Oilers’ penalty kill was finally addressed


If there’s one thing that will stand out from this season for me, it will be the Edmonton Oiler’s inability to prevent goals against when shorthanded. Including how long it took to finally address it.

It’s been well documented how poor the penalty kill has been this season, ranking as one of the all-time worst in NHL history. But it doesn’t quite settle in until you look at how big of an impact it’s had on the team’s overall goal differential and where they currently sit in the standings.

After 79 games, the Oilers have an overall goal differential of -31. Had the Oilers been around the three-year league average of goals against per hour on the penalty kill (6.39), they would have allowed 40.8 goals shorthanded which is 16 less than what they’ve allowed so far thanks to a 28th ranked goals against rate of 8.77 goals per hour. Combine the 16 fewer goals allowed shorthanded, and the estimated 16 more goals they would’ve scored on the powerplay had they been league average there, and the Oilers have a (barely) positive goal differential. It’s obviously still not good enough to be a championship contender with plenty of work to do at even-strength, especially without McDavid. But they could’ve at least been competing for a wild card spot in the west.

Now the good news is that the Oilers penalty kill has improved over the course of the season. Below is the team’s rate of goals against per hour over rolling 20-game segments this season, which for the most part was over 10.0 and well above the three-year league average of 6.39 (represented by the red line).

OilersPK - GA60

Now a few things could be happening that would be driving down the rate of goals against. Either the Oilers are gradually doing a better job of preventing shots and scoring chances against. Or the team is getting better goaltending.

For the Oilers, it’s actually been all of the above.

Shots on goal

Below is the Oilers rate of shots on goal against per hour over rolling 20 game segments, including a red line representing the three-year league average of 51.24. The team has surprisingly been one of the league’s best at limiting the shots all season and have been trending well recently.

OilersPK - SA60

The Oilers rate of shots on goal against has been pretty decent for the previous two seasons as well, finishing 15th last season with 52.38 shots against per hour and 23rd the year before with 53.56. Both seasons, they’ve been right around the three-year league average.

High danger shot attempts

What has been an issue for the Oilers this season is their rate of high danger shot attempts against, which currently ranks 25th in the league, but has been trending much better since around the mid-point of the season. The three-year league average has been 20.38.

OilersPK - HDCA60

What’s worth noting here is that limiting high danger chances against has been an issue for the Oilers since the arrival of the current coaching staff. Last season, the Oilers had the fourth highest rate of high danger shot attempts against in the league. The year before, they had the third highest. What bailed them out in previous years and kept them around the league average mark for penalty kill sucess was their goaltending, which has been at or above the league average thanks in large part to Cam Talbot.

This season however, goaltending has been a different story.


Below is the Oilers team save percentage on the penalty kill this season, again displayed as rolling 20-game segments to show the season-long trend. It currently ranks 30th in the league shorthanded, but similar to the rate of shots and chances has been trending much better as of late – recently surpassing the three-year league average mark of 87.51%.

OilersPK - SVP60

Cam Talbot was expected to have better numbers on the penalty kill, considering his career save percentage at 4v5 heading into this season was 89.47% – one of the best among starters. His 83.67% save percentage this season could be considered an anomaly and we may well be seeing his shorthanded numbers regressing towards his career average. But there’s also the possibility that he’s declining as most goalies do with age – a definite problem considering he has one more year left on his deal with no long-term replacement in the Oilers goalie pipeline. And with the workload Talbot has received from McLellan over the past few seasons, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see his numbers eventually take hit. Whatever the case may be, the Oilers need to find a capable back up this off-season that can push for a long-term starting role, and fill-in for Talbot if the same  goaltending issue arises on the penalty kill next season.


The Oilers obviously made some tactical changes that led to this improvement on the penalty kill and it obviously helps that the goaltending has been much better. The question for the coaching staff, as well as management, should be why it took so long for the tactical changes to occur, especially when the warning signs were there not only within the first 40 games this year, but also the previous two seasons.

Again, while the rate of shots on goal against were right around league average, the rate of high danger shot attempts have been some of the league’s worst since McLellan was hired. Rather than look into how or why the team had a league average success on the penalty kill the previous two seasons, the underlying numbers were ignored – pretty much setting themselves up for the 56 goals they’ve allowed this season.

So while it’s admirable that the team addressed the penalty killing problem, there should be questions around what kind of information, if they’re even using any, the coaching staff is relying on as part of their day-to-day operations. It’s critical for anyone that’s managing performance to know if the on-ice success or failures are real or not by first determining which information matters (i.e., correlates to winning), gathering the right data, and then monitoring the performance metrics to properly assess a team and individual players. Considering the Oilers have the best player in the world and should be chasing a championship, they really need to have better decision-making processes in place.

Data: Natural Stat Trick


Strome at Center


The Oilers have an interesting player in the fold with Ryan Strome. The 24 year old forward is having a decent season, scoring 13 goals and 33 points in his first year in Edmonton, and will be a restricted free agent this summer. At even-strength, his production of 1.49 points per hour (8 goals, 15 assists) is right around his career norms – a rate that indicates he can score at about a third line level.

Season GP TOI G-A-P Points/60 Shots Shoot%
2013/14 (NYI) 37 436.62 3-8-11 1.51 70 4.29
2014/15 (NYI) 81 936.78 14-26-40 2.56 139 10.07
2015/16 (NYI) 71 932.97 5-16-21 1.35 112 4.46
2016/17 (NYI) 69 796.33 11-10-21 1.58 80 13.75
2017/18 (EDM) 78 925.05 8-15-23 1.49 106 7.55

What’s interesting has been his increased ice time playing as the team’s third line center. I say interesting only because I don’t think he has the skill to be one, and that he’s better suited to be a complementary winger or someone that can play center part-time preferably with another center on his line. I don’t think Strome’s defensive game is strong enough especially when the opposing team is creating chaos.

I took a quick look at every Oiler forward’s on-ice numbers over the last 20 games, including their Corsi For% to gauge puck possession, Fenwick For% to see what proportion of quality chances the Oilers had, and of course the Goals For% to know what the actual results were. I’ve also included the on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage for each, as well as the PDO. I knew going into this that the Oilers on-ice numbers without McDavid had been in steep decline for some time, and that’s across all metrics (shots and goals).

Lucic 20 271.05 51.34 53.88 37.50 5.68 89.65 95.3
McDavid 20 340.48 50.08 50.61 58.70 12.95 90.33 103.3
Draisaitl 20 283.12 49.97 52.88 40.63 7.71 87.33 95.0
Aberg 14 191.18 49.06 49.91 56.25 8.55 92.25 100.8
Puljujarvi 20 229.35 48.71 47.60 44.44 6.70 93.06 99.8
RNH 14 212.17 47.85 46.49 65.22 13.93 93.22 107.2
Slepyshev 18 208.68 47.82 45.26 44.44 7.35 92.80 100.2
Rattie 10 137.42 47.29 46.20 57.14 16.66 90.21 106.9
Strome 20 223.33 46.00 44.36 38.89 6.24 92.96 99.2
Kassian 13 137.32 45.74 42.47 30.00 5.08 91.13 96.2
Pakarinen 16 134.48 45.37 44.24 40.00 3.68 96.16 99.8
Cammalleri 12 144.97 45.35 43.33 33.33 4.83 92.98 97.8
Khaira 20 194.63 44.59 43.71 36.36 4.42 94.33 98.7
Caggiula 18 208.85 44.17 42.86 43.48 10.84 89.35 100.2

Note: Table is sorted by Corsi For% (CF%). Both Corsi For% and Fenwick For% have been score and venue adjusted as per Natural Stat Trick’s methods.

Unsurprisingly we see McDavid near the top of the list along with the players who spent a lot of their even-strength ice time with him. The bottom of the list features the usual third and fourth liners, with Strome posting an on-ice Corsi For% of 46.0% and a Fenwick For% of 44.4%. And worst of all, his on-ice goal-share is below 40%, with the Oilers being outscored 11-7 when Strome has been on the ice over the last 20 games. Not great numbers for someone that’s supposed to be the team’s third line center.

Based on some feedback I received, I looked into Strome’s linemates over the last 20 games to see if there was anything there.

Below are the different line combinations Strome has been a part of at even-strength, sorted by ice time (only lines that have played at least 10 minutes together have been listed). Included is each line’s Corsi For%, Fenwick For% and Goals For%. I’ve also included the line’s on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage to get a sense of how lucky or unlucky they’ve been.

Linemates GP TOI CF% FF% GF% SH% SV% PDO
Lucic-Puljujarvi 20 67.60 55.13 55.79 50.00 4.43 95.14 99.6
Slepyshev-Puljujarvi 18 46.43 44.62 41.55 0.00 0.00 94.53 94.5
Slepyshev-Cammalleri 11 23.53 49.24 45.74 51.06 8.58 93.69 102.3
Kassian-Puljujarvi 13 14.65 42.24 33.07 0.00 0.00 83.76 83.8
Aberg-Puljujarvi 14 13.88 43.95 39.63 100.00 20.44 100.00 120.4

Appears that Strome has played the bulk of his time with Lucic and Puljujarvi, as they’ve been a line together for the most recent 10 games. And the results have been pretty good. The Oilers have the puck more often when the trio has been deployed together based on the on-ice Corsi For% of 55.1%, and they got okay results, posting a 50.0% goal-share. So it looks like Strome’s time away from Lucic and Puljujarvi is what’s been dragging his numbers down.

What’s surprising is that Lucic appears to be the one who’s driving Strome’s results.

Ryan Strome TOI CF% FF% GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
w/Lucic 79.75 54.89 55.59 52.39 4.16 95.36 99.5
w/o Lucic 143.58 41.72 38.99 36.16 7.87 92.09 100

In the last 20 games, Strome has played 223 minutes at even-strength, with 79 of those minutes being with Lucic. In that time, the numbers are pretty good – a Corsi For% and Fenwick For% above 55.0%. Away from Lucic, it’s been another story. The Oilers get badly out-shot and out-scored when Strome is out there without Lucic – which is also a good reflection of how poor the depth on this team has been.


I also had to check to see what kind of numbers Strome and Puljujarvi, his most common linemate, have had together at even-strength.

Ryan Strome TOI CF% FF% GF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO
w/ Puljujarvi 149.00 47.87 46.4 46.67 6.18 94.33 100.5
w/o Puljujarvi 74.33 41.92 39.91 28.79 6.41 90.13 96.5

Together, they haven’t been great unless of course Lucic is with them. What’s even worse is that when Strome is away from Puljujarvi, his numbers take a big hit, dropping down to a 41.9% Corsi For percentage and a really bad goal-share.

There’s no doubt that any player would do better with more skilled/experienced players, but in my opinion depth centers who play against the other team’s depth players should be able to at least get close to break-even in terms of shots and goals with whoever they have to play with. And if the Oilers are adamant that Strome is their long-term center, they have to ensure he has highly skilled wingers every minute he’s on the ice. His success as a center is dependent on others.

Couple other things.

In regards to Strome’s goal-scoring (i.e. finishing ability), it’s worth emphasizing that he’s right at his career levels. This season at even-strength, his shooting percentage is at 7.6%, which is below the league average of around 10.0%, but just below his personal career shooting percentage of 8.2%. Put another way, if he was right at his career shooting percentage this season, he would have 8.7 goals this season, which is only 0.7 more than what he actually has right now. Based on his career numbers, Strome is not a good finisher – so really the expectations of his goal-scoring ability need to be tempered.

Also, Strome is getting more time on the Oilers penalty kill, as he should as the team’s depth centerman. He currently ranks 7th among forward in terms of total ice time over the season, and actually leads the team over the last 20 games. What’s troubling is that the team’s rate of shots against is at its highest when Strome is on the ice killing penalties. I’d expect his numbers to be closer to the team average, but since they’re not I’d be weary about labeling him as a reliable centerman. Also – because the team’s penalty kill is doing much better as of late, there’s a good chance guys like Strome and Khaira will be credited for the turnaround. But what should be pointed out is Talbot’s improved play on the penalty kill, as he’s been able to get closer to his career norms when shorthanded. We’ve seen in the past how players, especially goalies on the penalty kill, can mask deficiencies – and that might be what we’re seeing here over this recent stretch.

There’s likely going to be support for Strome being the team’s solution as a reliable depth center going forward, but it’s important to confirm things based on his on-ice performance and the appropriate data. The Oilers have a good player in Strome, but with a new contract on the horizon, the team has to know what the player is capable of, and play him at his established level next season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Viz

CBC Edmonton News (TV): Loss to the Blue Jackets, struggling powerplay, McDavid’s MVP season, Khaira’s performance and upcoming games

cbc edmonton logoI joined Kim Trynacity on the CBC Edmonton News to talk all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 13:20 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2018, March 29)

Topics we covered:

  • That loss against Columbus at home, and why it was bound to happen.
  • Connor McDavid’s recent play and why he should be in the running for the Hart trophy.
  • The Oilers struggling powerplay. More on that here.
  • South Asian night being hosted by the Vancouver Canucks.
  • Khaira’s performance this season and his recent struggles as a depth centerman. Wrote about it recently here.
  • The pipeline from the AHL, and the struggles in Bakersfield.
  • Upcoming games against Vancouver and Calgary.


Addressing the Oilers Powerplay

McLellan Woodcroft

The Oilers powerplay is going to get a lot of attention this coming off-season.

The club currently sits dead last in the NHL, scoring only 29 goals converting on 14.8% of their opportunities. And more accurately, they’ve generated only 5.2 goals per hour at 5v4, which takes into account the time they’ve played on the powerplay to give us their true efficiency.

This is a big drop from last season when the Oilers powerplay generated 7.98 goals per hour at 5v4 and converted on 22.9% of their opportunities, ranking fifth best in the league using both metrics.

What’s interesting is that while the Oilers powerplay hasn’t produced this season, their underlying shot rates have been close to where they were last season. Looking at unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick/60), shots on goal (Shots/60) and high danger shot attempts, there hasn’t been much of a drop off.

Edmonton Oilers Powerplay (5v4) 2016/2017 2017/2018
TOI 383.58 (21st) 323.05 (30th)
TOI/GP 4.67 (21st) 4.20 (30th)
Goals 51 (6th) 28 (31st)
GF/60 7.98 (5th) 5.2 (31st)
Fennwick/60 78.52 (8th) 80.79 (9th)
Shots/60 56.47 (7th) 58.13 (9th)
High danger shot attempts/60 28.78 (1st) 24.14 (11th)
Shooting% 14.13 (6th) 8.95 (31st)

The issue is that while the team can generate shots and chances, they’re not converting their shots into goals at the same rate. Last season on the powerplay, the Oilers had a team shooting percentage of 14.13%, one of the best in the league, while this year they’ve been one of the worst with 8.95%. The league-wide average shooting percentage on the powerplay over the last three seasons has been around 12.5%.

To bring it back to goals, if the Oilers had the same powerplay shooting percentage this season as last season, they would be up to 44 goals on the powerplay, 16 more than what they have now – which would improve their current overall goal differential from -26 to -10. And say their shooting percentage was league-average (12.5%), the Oilers would be up to 39 powerplay goals and have a current overall goal differential of -15. Another way to look at it is if the team had the same rate of goals for per hour as they did last season, they would currently be up to 43 goals and a -9 goal differential. And if they matched the league average goal-scoring rate, their powerplay would be up to 34 goals.

If you’re managing a hockey team and see this kind of drop in powerplay production and the impact it’s had on your team’s overall goal differential, it’s critical to dig into why this happened.

The first thing that’s worth looking at is the overall ice time given to players and how much of an impact injuries have had this season. The Oilers were incredibly fortunate last season, especially on defence when Klefbom and Sekera played in 82 and 80 games respectively and were key players on separate powerplay units. This season, it’s been a different story. Sekera missed training camp and the first few months of the season recovering from knee surgery and still doesn’t appear to be 100%. And Klefbom had been dealing with shoulder issues all season, receiving treatment throughout the year before finally electing for season ending surgery.

Last season, both Klefbom and Sekera ranked in the top six among all Oiler skaters when it came to total ice time on the powerplay, averaging about two minutes per game. This year, Klefbom continued to play through injury, and actually saw more ice time at 5v4 compared to last year, primarily filling in for Sekera whose average ice time dropped to just under a minute per game. Worth noting that to fill the void, young Matt Benning has seen more powerplay ice time this season and he’s done admirably well. The rate of shots and high danger scoring chances hover slightly above the team average when Benning has been on the ice, and that’s been with and without McDavid on the ice with him.

Next, it’s worth looking at the shooting percentages for each forward and where the drop offs have been at an individual level.

Starting with Milan Lucic who ranks fourth on the team in total powerplay ice time, we’ve seen that he hasn’t been able to repeat the absurdly high 25.0% shooting percentage he posted last season. He’s down to 13.0% this year, which is just below the league average of 15.0% for forwards who have played over 50 minutes at 5v4 in a season. And it’s much closer to his personal career shooting percentage he posted before last season (13.0%). Worth noting too that his own rate of shot attempts and shots on goal are slightly down this season, with more of his shots being blocked. And his rate of high danger chances, like the rest of the team, are also down. (Refer to the data in the Appendix)

Another forward who is having a down year on the powerplay is Leon Draisaitl. His shooting percentage is also around the league average among forwards this season, a big drop from the 21.0% shooting percentage he posted last season. Personally, I think this year is an anomaly for him on the powerplay – he’s a very skilled player that’s been very productive at even-strength, ranking 18th in the league with 43 points at 5v5. What does stand out is his individual rate of high danger scoring chances on the powerplay. Last season, he had 39 high danger chances in 221 minutes, which converts to 10.58 per hour. This year, he’s only recorded 12 high danger shot attempts, which translates to 3.78 per hour. Suspect it might be a tactical issue the coaching staff has to address (possibly too many shots coming from the defence) or maybe it’s been impacted by the banged-up defencemen and the team’s efficiency at distributing the puck – it’s unclear at this point.

Update – 2018, March 31 – Thanks to Darcy (@woodguy55) for his feedback!

I also think a big issue ailing the Oilers this year is the lack of another scoring threat outside of McDavid and Draisailt. Last year Jordan Eberle ranked fifth on the team in total ice time on the powerplay, which made sense considering his track record of scoring goals and a career powerplay shooting percentage just above 15%. This year, Ryan Strome finds himself fifth on the team in ice time, but he doesn’t exactly have a track record of scoring goals on the powerplay. His career shooting percentage with the man advantage prior to this season is 9.0%, well below the league average among forwards (15.0%). And so far, despite getting the fifth highest proportion of the team’s shots, he’s put up a 7.0% shooting percentage – which again should not be surprising considering what we know about this player. So really the Oilers need to temper their expectations with Strome, consider reducing his ice time and shots next season, and perhaps replace him with someone with more of a history of success.

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