Connor McDavid for Hart

mcdavid-crosby2-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x716If the Hart Memorial Trophy really is about the “player judged most valuable to his team”, then it should be Connor McDavid winning it this summer.

You can make a case for a number of players to win it, including Sidney Crosby or Brent Burns. But in my mind, the award should go to McDavid, who has been carrying the Oilers all-season, and there are plenty of numbers to prove it.

As of this past weekend, here’s how the Oilers have done with McDavid on the ice and without McDavid at even-strength (5v5) this season. Before doing so, here are the five metrics I include in my analysis.

  • 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, slightlty better than Corsi.
  • Scoring Chances For% (SCF%) – The proportion of all the scoring chances (as defined by Corsica Hockey) that the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Scoring Chances For/(Scoring Chances For + Scoring Chances Against),
  • Expected Goals For% (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. This has been found to be a better predictor of future goals than Corsi and Fenwick. (Detailed explanation can be found at Corsica Hockey)
  • Goals For% (GF%) – The proportion of all the goals that the team scored and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against).

mvp-mcdavid

Here we see that with McDavid on the ice, the Oilers have at least a 50% share when it comes to all five metrics, which is expected considering his talent. His teammates tend to do better with him than without him, and he’s been the key driver of the Oilers offence this season. If the Oilers make the playoffs, it’ll be largely because of him. Without McDavid, the Oilers are mediocre at best as the club lacks secondary scoring, something that’s vital to have success in the playoffs.

That goal-share is what stands out the most. With him on the ice, the Oilers have a +17 goal differential, close to a 60% goal-share . Without him, the team has a -6 goal differential, a 47.8% goal-share, which would rank them in the bottom third of the league.

And here’s how the Pittsburgh Penguins have done with and without Sidney Crosby, arguably the best players in the world, this season.

mvp-crosby

As expected, the Penguins are outstanding with Crosby on the ice, posting a 53% share of the shot attempts, a 57% of the scoring chances and a  60%(!!) share of the goals. What’s amazing is that the Penguins still post incredible numbers even without the best player in the world, getting a 58.6% (!!) share of the total goals with Crosby on the bench. There is a drop off in the team’s outputs (i.e., shots, scoring chances, quality shots), but the Penguins still get at least a 50% share across the board.

And because of his offensive production this season, Brent Burns could also be a candidate for the trophy. Here’s how the Sharks have done this season with and without him.

mvp-burns

What’s interesting here is that the Sharks do better with him on the ice for most of the metrics, but it’s not as significant as McDavid or Crosby’s impact. What might draw attention, however, is the swing in goal share with Burns on the ice. With Burns, the Sharks have a goal-differential of +25 (63% goal share), and without him, they have a -5 differential (48% goal share). I suspect there’s more at play here, as the rest of the metrics only show a slight improvement with him on the ice (xGF%, share of quality shots, actually improves slightly without him). Regardless, a case can be made for the defenceman, but I don’t think his impact is as great as McDavid’s.

Takeaways:

  • The Oilers rely heavily on their young captain for offence, as they’re below a 50% share across all five metrics without him on the ice. The team is desperate need of offensive support on their second and third lines, and wouldn’t stand a chance if it weren’t for McDavid. He’s the MVP, the sole driver of offence, and his contributions, and ability to carry this franchise, should not be overlooked.
  • The Penguins are scary good right now. They’re second in the very competitive Metro division, with a +43 goal differential. They have success with and without Crosby, something not a lot of teams can do, and will be competing for the Cup. Top teams figure out a way to keep their best players to sustain success, and the Penguins are the best example of that.
  • This is by no means a knock on Crosby. If he wins the award, it’ll be well deserved. But if the award is about the player most valuable to his team, then it has to be McDavid. The Oilers aren’t the same team without him, and would be looking at the draft lottery if it weren’t for their captain.

Data: Corsica Hockey

McDavid Gives Himself Permission

1297761398683_ORIGINALReally can’t say enough about Connor McDavid. The kid has been very impressive in his first six games, pretty much confirming all of the hype.

His game in Calgary was simply outstanding, as he dominated the opposition, scoring two goals and adding an assist to go along with a CF% of 76.5% at even-strength. He made a lot of smart plays, often while under pressure, and was often carrying the puck and generating scoring chances.

After the game, Todd McLellan had this to say:

That was the best game yet from Connor, He made an impact throughout the night. Had an impact on the score sheet and probably could have had even more of an impact with some of the chances he had. I thought he let himself go and kind of gave himself permission. Sometimes you have to do that to get after it. As a young player you don’t have to give way to the veterans all the time; you’re allowed to go out and take charge. And I thought he did that. (Source: NHL.com)

I had noticed  in the first two games against St. Louis and Nashville how often McDavid would make a pass or look to make a pass rather than shoot. I’d seen enough of his highlights in junior to know that he likes carrying the puck and used his speed regularly to pressure defencemen and create room for himself. But since it’s the NHL and his first time playing against experienced players, it’s understandable that he deferred to his teammates instead. I think a lot of us were relieved to see him carry the puck more in Calgary and really become that driver that could generate chances.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if what we saw in Calgary could be verified with the data available at War on Ice. I decided to look at shot attempts and see what percentage of the shot attempts McDavid was on the ice for actually came from his stick. For now, I looked at all situations (even-strength and special teams) to see if anything stood out.

McDavid CF Proportion

Pretty clear jump from the first four games to the one in Calgary for young Connor. He was, early on, paired with Hall, who we know takes a lot of shot attempts himself, so it’s been  a smart move separating the two. It also gives you two drivers on two separate lines, which will be tough for opposing coaches who want to match lines. We’ll let that Vancouver game slide. It was the Oilers third game in four nights, and the entire team got dominated possession wise. I don’t expect McDavid to have that low of a shot attempt proportion often.

Hopefully McDavid can continue with his strong play and start carrying the puck and generating scoring chances on a more consistent basis. This should be a fun season.

The McDavid Effect

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Source: TSN.ca

When Bill Daly turned the golden card, I honestly didn’t even hear the words (might have zoned out). I just saw the card and laughed maniacally for a good 15 minutes, frightening my kids in the process. I was happy to hear McDavid would be coming to Edmonton. But I was laughing at what the fallout would be for the roster, for the fans and for the city. And especially what the perception and outrage would be outside of Edmonton.

The negativity towards the team by outsiders is warranted. This team has been pitiful for almost a decade, so the thought of McDavid heading to a poorly managed organization will fire up a lot of people. And the negativity will grow similar to how the Penguins get taunted because they have Crosby and Malkin. The hate towards Edmonton is real folks, and it’s gonna get worse once McDavid in the lineup.

Getting a talented player like McDavid is going to put pressure on management to get their act together. Get a goaltender. Get a couple defencemen. And get a coach. Surround this “generational talent” with the right players, because the entry-level years are going to fly by. And like Darcy mentioned in the Lowdown with Lowetide roundtable, McDavid will be commanding good money once the three years are done, and it’ll be around the time that Hall and Eberle are finishing up their mega-contracts. The pressure will be from fans and from the entire league to ensure this player does well, so the Oilers have moved towards adding experience to the front office.

What the addition of McDavid also does is improve the Oilers chances of signing some free-agents who may not have considered Edmonton a possible destination. And the Oilers increased their chances even more by bringing in Chiarelli, who can leverage his network to connect with players, or even rival GMs if he chooses to go the trade route.

The roster will have to be revamped as soon as possible, pushing those that were MacTavish’s acquisitions (i.e., Schultz, Nikitin) towards the exit. I’m hoping that Chiarelli moves forward building off the success of the existing minor league program, and refrain from bringing in say, his Boston/Providence connections. Lateral moves, something that happened when Eakins was coach, really aren’t necessary.

Chiarelli as GM gives me a lot more confidence in Oilers management. He’s the first GM hired by the Oilers who has past experience as GM. Plus he has a familiarity, and a relationship, with managers across the league, something MacTavish was still in the process of building towards. I didn’t mind the hiring of MacTavish as I thought he’d be able to bring some new ideas and apply something from his graduate school experience. But really, he should’ve been placed in an assistant GM role first before making the jump. Similar to what Steve Yzerman did with Detroit before moving on to Tampa Bay.

A lot of changes have been made because of McDavid and the kid has yet to play a game. We’re already feeling the impact as fans, and I think there’ll be even more to come especially with player personnel  this summer. And if the off season changes are this big, imagine what impact McDavid will have on his teammates and the overall success of the on-ice product when the season starts.

This should be fun.

Recommended Links

Old Boys Club Pronounced Dead – Copper and Blue

Beautiful Sunday – Lowetide

Bottoms Up: The Kool-Aid Kid – Oil Acumen

Is…Is This Happiness? – Black Dog Hates Skunks

Edmonton Oilers Shouldn’t Expect Connor McDavid to Match Sidney Crosby’s Rookie Scoring – Cult of Hockey

Mieux Respirer – Lowetide