In my last post, I focused on the longest losing streaks each coach has had behind the bench this year. The purpose was to find out why Nelson’s losing streak was somewhat dismissed, while Eakins losing streak received a far greater backlash. Eakins’ 11-game skid had some decent underlying numbers at 5-on-5, but had some sketchy goaltending and a weak powerplay and failed to have any positive results. Nelson just finished off a 7-game streak, where they were absolutely lights-out on the powerplay, but had some troubling underlying stats at 5-on-5. My guess is that the success of the powerplay, and the point production of the young guns like Eberle, RNH and Yakupov gave the perception that Nelson was doing a better job.
I received a comment that suggested that individual players have benefited from the coaching change and their production has been better under Nelson. At first glance, it appears to be true. Eberle and RNH in particular have been outstanding over the past few weeks, with a large chunk of their points coming on the powerplay. Make no mistake, Nelson has done very well with the man advantage, something he was known for at the AHL level, and deserves full credit for its success. My take, however, is that 5-on-5 play is much more important, so I decided to take a look at the productivity of players at even strength under the two different coaches.
Please note, I exclude the five games that MacTavish was behind the bench in all of my comparisons involving Nelson. I’ve included in the list below the players who played under both coaches. (Source: War on Ice)
Looking at the point production (points per 60), the two players that saw an increase of their 5-on-5 production under Nelson are Eberle and Yakupov. Hall’s numbers increase, but that may have been because he was banged up early in the season. What’s surprising is the decrease in productivity for players like RNH, Pouliot, Gordon, Purcell and even Schultz. What’s troubling is the decrease in the possession numbers (Corsi For %) across the board. We are seeing that the team does struggle with possession in all score situations (whether they’re trailing, leading or the game is tied) under Nelson, while Eakins had something figured out when it comes to 5-on-5 play.
And here are the players who were coached by one and not the other. Included are guys like Lander, Roy and Klinkhammer who have all done relatively well with Nelson behind the bench, but still struggle possession wise.
What’s become apparent is that individuals are producing more points, but it’s due in large part to the successful powerplay. Stripping the powerplay away, however, gives us a better assessment on how the team is doing for the majority of the game. In this case, the production has increased for some and decreased for others. When it comes to possession, which is a key indicator of team success, the entire team is struggling mightily.
Both Eakins and Nelson are qualified NHL coaches, having found success at the AHL level, and will likely be employed in some capacity next season in the NHL. Nelson should definitely be considered for the OIlers head coaching position next season along with other experienced coaches available this summer. The problem is that the Oilers are struggling to assemble an NHL caliber roster, and until they do, it really won’t matter who the coach is next season.