Shot attempts from the Oilers defencemen

20141209_davidsonPrior to the 2015/16 season starting, I spent some time re-watching San Jose games to get a sense of their style of play and their overall tactics with McLellan behind the bench. We knew historically the Sharks had been a very good team, one that was properly constructed with depth and balance across the roster, and had the ability to outshoot and outscore opponents on a fairly regular basis. But I was curious to see how certain types of players, mainly the ones on defence, were being utilized and what we could expect for the Oilers under a new coaching staff.

What stood out to me from re-watching these games was how often the Sharks would shoot the puck, and how quickly they would get a shot on goal soon after entering the zone. It was obvious that they would crash the net fairly quickly, getting opposing defencemen on their heels, and rely on their skilled forwards to create second and third chances from rebounds.

Defencemen were typically dumping in the puck, and could rely on their forwards to retrieve it. And if they crossed the blue line,  defencemen were very good at getting shots on goal, leading to second chances. To confirm what I was seeing, I looked into what proportion of the Sharks total shot attempts came from defencemen, and how they measured up to the rest of the league.

iCF analysis - EDM vs SJ.jpg

Here we see that under McLellan (2008/09 – 2014/15), the team saw the shot attempts from the defence core gradually increase to about 35-40% of the team total at even-strength. The Oilers on the other hand, were typically below league average (~30%) when it came to shot attempts from the blueline and saw a bump in their proportion in 2014/15 under Eakins and Nelson (Source: Corsica Hockey).


Now with McLellan behind the bench this past season, the Oilers defencemen generated about 35% of the team’s total shot attempts, well above the league average, and closer in line with what the Sharks have done in the past. If we break the proportion of shot attempts into rolling 25-game averages over the course of the 2015/16 season, the Oilers actually did get up to 40% at one point, which just happens to be around the time that the Oilers had a Corsi For percentage above 50% [Copper & Blue]. And when the defencemen started generating fewer shots closer to the end of the season, well that’s also when the team’s overall possession numbers went into the tank.

iCF analysis - Rolling Prop of iCF from D.jpg

iCF analysis - Rolling CF%.jpg

I can’t say for certain that there’s a direct correlation between the proportion of shot attempts from defencemen and the teams overall possession numbers. But it does appear that McLellan shifted away from his strategy of getting shots from defencemen and letting forwards crash the net for rebounds. Early on in the season, the coaching staff did emphasize volume shooting and the importance of getting shots from the blueline, but for whatever reason, McLellan appears to have relied on his defencemen less for shot attempts and relied more on his forwards to funnel shots towards the goal. My thought is that McLellan’s original strategy did a better job of sustaining pressure in the offensive zone, which would lead to better possession numbers (similar to the 25 game stretch this season).

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Oilers lost Brandon Davidson right around the 67 game mark, which is also when the Oilers started to crater when it came to possession numbers. As a depth defenceman, Davidson was quite effective at generating shot attempts, ranking near the top when it came to individual shot attempts per 60 this season.

Player Games iCF/60
ERIC GRYBA 53 10.6

Not suggesting here that losing Davidson is the reason why the team’s possession numbers took a hit. But it appears that after losing him, McLellan looked to his forwards to generate original shot attempts, moving away form his shot-from-the-blue strategy.

Take aways:

  • McLellan has historically had his defencemen generating a higher proportion of the teams total shot attempts compared to other teams. This forced the forwards to crash the net looking for rebounds and creating additional chances.
  • This past season, the Oilers did see a higher proportion of shot attempts from defencemen, but after the 67 game mark, the club saw fewer shot attempts coming from the blueline. The Oilers possession numbers also took a nosedive around this time.
  • Davidson’s absence may have been a factor in the fewer shots from the blueline, as he ranked higher among Oilers defencemen when it came to individual shot attempts/60.


Thoughts on the Oilers: Training Camp and Final Roster

11189242This season can’t start soon enough. We’ve spent so much time speculating on line combinations, player acquisitions and realistic expectations this summer. I think most of us are ready for some meaningful hockey.

Aside from the addition of Connor McDavid, I think the best thing going for the Oilers is the coaching staff. McLellan has really taken control of the team, and I really do think the club will push for wins rather than continuous development. Part of this is also the new GM and the franchise’s renewed commitment to success. As much as we harp on Eakins, Nelson and even Kreuger, I think it was obvious that management (and ownership) was more focussed on development rather than actual wins.

The only reason I like following the annual training camp is to see which player will get the most written about them. This year, it’s been Anton Slepyshev, who really has impressed over the past few weeks. I’m not convinced that he’ll be a full time NHL player this coming season, but I don’t think he’s far off either. Last season, Jujhar Khaira, Bogdan Yakimov and Vladimir Tkachev got a lot of attention. The first two didn’t do a whole lot in this year’s training camp, while Tkachev went undrafted.

The key thing to remember is that training camp really is for the “Group A” guys to get going and for the “Group B” guys to demonstrate they haven’t regressed in any way. If I’m management, I need the AHL bound players to show well in camp and give some assurance that the development system is working. Very rarely do we see someone make the team out of training camp, and when they do, they don’t seem to last long and remain as a fringe player. Patrick Thoresen and Lennart Petrell come to mind.

The roster is starting to take shape now that a number of players have been shipped out. Here’s my guess for the opening night:

Hall McDavid Purcell
Pouliot RNH Eberle
Draisaitl Lander Yakupov
Korpikoski Letestu Hendricks

I’d much rather see Draisaitl start and finish in Bakersfield this coming season, but he appears to be in McLellan’s plans. If he stays, my concern is that he’ll be developed somewhat on-the-fly as a center, whereas a stint in the AHL would be beneficial for his development. He’s been outstanding over the past few weeks, and will likely be used the same way Pavelski was in San Jose: paired with another center but taking faceoffs in specific situations.

And the uhh…defence:

Sekera Fayne
Klefbom Schultz
Reinhart Nikitin

Not good enough in my opinion. What’s frustrating is that there were options this summer, but instead Chiarelli shipped out Marincin, overpaid for Reinhart and brought in Gryba. Things might be okay if Schultz and Nikitin bounce back, but the club is taking a risk with this group. It’ll be interesting to see how McLellan matches his defence pairings with the forward line and which 5-man units get favorable zone starts.

Thoughts on the Oilers: Leadership, Goaltending and Schultz

Oilers-V.-YotesIt’s been a pretty busy off-season with a lot going on in almost every facet of the Oilers organization. And with that comes a staggering amount of speculation on coaching, defense and goaltending. It really seems like everything  and anything is possible, thanks in large part to Connor McDavid. All the speculation and analysis can be overwhelming, but it’s a key part of being a fan. And now that the team has a well qualified management group, I think there’s a lot more brainstorming among fans and media members.

Coaching and Leading

I really expect big things with Todd McLellan behind the bench. The roster still has to be flushed out, no question. But having a legitimate coach with NHL experience is going to do wonders for this club going forward. I really didn’t mind the hiring of Dallas Eakins. I thought he would bring some new ideas and tactics. But we knew there would be a learning curve as he adjusted to a new team and the gring of the NHL. The club had to surround him with coaches that knew the Oilers roster and experienced people like Craig Ramsay to provide guidance. That’s all good. It’s just with McLellan, not only is he experienced, but he can have a positive impact on the coaches that surround him., rather than the other way around.

In an interview last year, Mike Babcock talked about how he selected assistant coaches (like McLellan) and how he developed new ideas using their input. To me, that was a sign of a franchise’s maturity: a club that has a coaching staff so good that they can work on new ideas on a regular basis. When you’re new to the league and organization, you’re often getting guidance rather than really leading the charge. This isn’t to say that a rookie coach is a bad idea. You just have to have a strong franchise with managers that know what they’re doing.

Goalies and Information Overload

I’m pretty sure I can now put together a case for and against every single goalie option out there. There’s been an absolute flood of discussion around the goaltending situation. It’s overwhelming at times to parse through the data and trends to zero in on a goalie, but it’s definitely increased my own understanding of the evaluation metrics.

There is some information overload happening, but it’s encouraging to see a larger, more intellectual discussion about goalies. Thanks to the data sets available through War on Ice and Hockey Abstract, we can get past the high priced UFA goalies and look for some hidden gems that haven’t had an opportunity. What’s also become apparent is the wide range of value people put on goalies. Some would give up high picks for a goalie, while others like me, would rather spend pennies on them. I’m sure the range of opinion on goalie value is just as diverse in NHL head offices.

Whoever the Oilers acquire, it’ll be interesting to look back at some of the pieces written this summer to validate some of our predictions.


Quick note on Justin Schultz. Without a doubt, he has struggled mightily as a defenceman. The club absolutely rushed him  into the NHL, boasted about his offensive potential and then handed him a ridiculous contract. In my opinion, there’s still a player there, but one who may have to leave Edmonton to have success.

The coaching staff did their best to put him in a position to succeed, handing him way too much ice time and offensive zone starts. Two reasons why they had to do that: the team trailed way too often at even-strength and secondly, he was seen as the only option. If the Oilers really wanted to utilize Schultz properly, they would’ve surrounded him with experienced players, including a top pairing. And they would’ve had enough strength throughout the rest of the lineup that would limit how often they were trailing. In my opinion, he wasn’t ready for the NHL and was not put in any position to succeed. That’s the fault of the player and the management team. The contract however, is on management.

It’d be great if he could bounce back, but it’s hard to tell at this point. He was in over his head and it’s shown in his performance and stats. But if the Oilers can solidify their top pairing and move Schultz further down the depth chart, the young defenceman might have  a productive career as more of a 2nd/3rd pairing, powerplay specialist.

Saving Justin Schultz

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

One of the most glaring weaknesses on the Oilers this past season, and the year prior, has been the blueline. Both seasons under MacTavish have started and ended without a complete, competitive, NHL caliber defense core.

One member of the Oilers defence who has taken a lot of flak, for good reason, has been young Justin Schultz.

As you recall, Schultz leveraged an existing clause in his contract with Anaheim to leave the Ducks, who had drafted him 42nd overall in the 2009 draft, to become an unrestricted free agent, coming straight out of college. A number of teams expressed interest, with the Oilers being his chosen destination.

If you were his agent, you saw the obvious need on defence in Edmonton, and recognized the ample opportunity available for Schultz in terms of ice time and linemates up front. In his three seasons with the Oilers, he has been given an absurd amount of ice time for a prospect, spending the vast majority of time with the high end talent up front. He’s been labelled as an offensive-defenceman since college, so the Oilers have tried their best to put him in a position to succeed.

Unfortunately, things just haven’t gone well for Schultz. Despite the ice time, over the years and the offensive zone starts, especially this year, Schultz has struggled to produce both in terms of points and possession (Source: War on Ice).

20122013 20132014 20142015
Games 48 74 81
Goals 4 9 6
Assists 7 10 13
Points 11 19 19
Points per 60 0.82 0.89 0.77
% of Offensive Zone Starts 47.95% 45.17% 62.85%
Corsi For % 42.99% 41.69% 49.24%
Corsi For per 60 47.11 45.33 54.01
Corsi Against per 60 62.47 63.42 55.69
Shots For % 42.05% 42.17% 50.01%

It’s clear that the Oilers rushed Schultz into the NHL, giving him top minutes in his first three seasons but with little support around him, unlike other comparable college players. He’s an excellent skater and can move the puck well, especially in the offensive zone. But his defensive lapses and poor passing out of his own zone are a sign of inexperience and undeveloped skill. Ideally, he should be in the minors working out these things, but instead he’s being paid, and paid quite well, to learn the position at the NHL level.

Having said that, we have to consider that this defencemen is only 24. We know it takes longer to learn this position, with most hitting their primes much later than say a winger or a centerman.

So what I did was take a look at the top 10 defencemen by zone starts (minimum 250 mins played) just to see if there are comparables to Schultz. The idea being that maybe there were others that had similar numbers as Schultz despite the high percentage of offensive zone starts. And maybe they improved later on or teams found a way to get more out of the player. Note: Corsi is based on Score adjusted formula.

2014/2015 (Defencemen, 5v5)
Name Age Team ZSO% Gm TOI P60 CF% C+/- SF%
Jamie.McBain 26 L.A 69.40 26 288.38 1.25 53.82 37.07 55.40
David.Rundblad 23 CHI 68.66 49 582.18 1.24 56.04 127.40 52.72
Jakub.Kindl 27 DET 67.79 35 460.07 0.78 58.45 133.44 56.49
Justin.Schultz 24 EDM 62.85 81 1483.86 0.77 49.24 -41.43 50.01
Dan.Boyle 38 NYR 61.54 65 1040.77 0.69 53.96 149.55 53.88
Xavier.Ouellet 21 DET 61.41 21 312.95 0.58 58.59 88.29 55.32
Brian.Campbell 35 FLA 61.01 82 1444.07 0.54 54.08 204.08 55.02
Victor.Hedman 23 T.B 60.88 59 971.88 1.36 54.68 159.00 54.94
Aaron.Ekblad 18 FLA 60.70 81 1385.90 0.95 53.49 168.91 55.05
Brayden.McNabb 23 L.A 60.32 71 996.67 1.14 57.74 259.39 57.34
2013/2014 (Defencemen, 5v5)
Name Age Team ZSO% Gm TOI P60 CF% C+/- SF%
Torey.Krug 22 BOS 65.87 79 1114.61 1.02 56.55 274.34 55.88
Michal.Rozsival 35 CHI 65.04 42 624.79 0.77 59.66 201.64 59.74
John.Moore 22 NYR 63.42 74 1005.41 0.60 51.42 51.85 52.89
Eric.Gelinas 22 N.J 62.99 60 828.93 0.80 52.65 68.32 49.58
Nick.Leddy 22 CHI 62.95 82 1132.65 1.01 57.82 309.39 57.23
Kevan.Miller 25 BOS 62.08 47 710.35 0.42 52.60 61.99 51.88
Ryan.Murphy 20 CAR 61.69 48 713.42 0.67 47.43 -69.48 45.32
Dennis.Wideman 30 CGY 61.60 46 794.11 1.06 44.86 -152.64 48.55
Sheldon.Brookbank 32 CHI 61.31 48 584.19 0.72 52.01 41.82 51.57
Carlo.Colaiacovo 30 STL 60.80 25 329.73 0.55 53.08 34.84 53.09
2012/2013 (Defencemen, 5v5)
Name Age Team ZSO% Gm TOI P60 CF% C+/- SF%
Marc-Andre.Bergeron 31 CAR/T.B 74.16 25 266.18 0.68 54.35 42.32 54.10
Alec.Martinez 25 L.A 64.29 27 360.77 0.50 59.55 112.56 59.64
Peter.Harrold 29 N.J 63.75 23 336.75 0.18 60.67 102.58 56.47
Michal.Rozsival 34 CHI 63.07 27 419.07 1.43 61.89 165.05 62.58
Bobby.Sanguinetti 24 CAR 62.06 37 468.82 0.51 56.12 109.72 54.92
Patrick.Wiercioch 22 OTT 61.90 42 525.44 0.91 58.04 160.11 55.73
Brian.Campbell 33 FLA 60.91 48 923.54 0.45 49.65 -11.39 48.90
Paul.Postma 23 WPG 60.71 34 429.88 0.70 52.32 35.50 49.62
T.J..Brennan 23 FLA/BUF 60.71 29 419.41 0.86 47.71 -34.63 47.47
Derek.Morris 34 PHX 60.00 39 654.12 0.64 52.54 62.27 51.33


Well, what we see here is that if you’re starting that much in the offensive zone, you SHOULD have a respectable Corsi For % and a decent shot share. And if you don’t…well, that’s a bad sign. Schultz stands out, along with players like Dennis Wideman, as the few that got poor results despite the favorable minutes. Note: I did go back to 2006 and got similar findings.

The Oilers management group appears to be enamored with young Schultz, handing him a $3.75M contract last summer, while pushing an established defencemen like Jeff Petry out of the organization. If this management group, including the new members on board, feel that Schultz is part of the plan’s moving forward, they’ll have to do a few things.

  1. Manage the expectations of the player by choosing actions and words carefully. Avoid Norris trophy references and label Schultz for what he is: a prospect with second pairing capabilities and a good powerplay option. Reduce his minutes and deploy more experienced players in the offensive zone. Which leads to point 2…
  2. Get legit, NHL defencemen to take on the top minutes. These players have to be in their late 20’s with at least 300 NHL games played. Offensive zone starts are hard to come by, so when you’re there, have your best available option out there. At the top of my list would be Andrej Sekera. And the more I read about him, I’m learning more about his old defensive partner in Carolina, Justin Faulk (we got McDavid, so hey, why not try to land both of them?). An experienced defenceman could also partner with Schultz, and stabilize the play when Schultz is joining the rush.
  3. Improve the goaltending and reduce the amount of time the team is trailing. In a situation where a team is pressing for a goal, players like Schultz are relied on heavily. Hopefully Scrivens can bounce back from a pitiful season, but I’d bring in a Cam Talbot type to stabilize the netminding.

Schultz has a lot of work to do this summer in terms of his defensive work, especially in his own zone. There were a few too many times he looked lost, often chasing forwards from the front of the net to the corner, leaving a passing lane wide open. Offensively, he created chances, but he was often caught up ice, allowing a 2-on-1 going the other way.

It’s unfortunate that Schultz has transitioned from being a prospect to being more of a project for the Oilers. The good news is, teams can have an offensive defenceman on their roster, even with defensive flaws. They just have to make sure the rest of the defensive roster is well built with a legitimate number one pairing. The Oilers have an opportunity to resurrect a young player’s career, but only if they can make the right moves this summer.

Oilers Defence in HERO Charts

Oilers_superheroBelow are the HERO (Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic) charts for the Oilers defencemen. These charts have been created and maintained by Domenic Galamini and serve as a fantastic visualization tool. He’s clearly put some thought into what metrics are used and how the data is laid out for forwards and defencemen.

As with any analytics, these charts do not serve as an end-point for discussion and really should be used as a starting point for further analysis. Please note, the charts include the past three seasons (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15).

I found that the charts were pretty accurate in labeling the Oilers defencemen as first, second or third pairing. Obviously there’s other factors to consider, but I think the metrics give some good insight into the players.

One note from the Own the Puck:

What does vTO mean? It stands for “versus Teammates and Opposition”. For example, GF60 vTO is calculated as follows… ( GF60 – Teammate GF60 ) + ( League Avg GF60 – Opposition GA60 ). All stats used in the calculation of vTO metrics are adjusted for zone starts by nixing play that occurs within 10 seconds of off and def zone faceoffs.

Andrew Ference


Nikita Nikitin


Justin Schultz


Oscar Klefbom


Mark Fayne


Martin Marincin


Realistic Expectations



It’s been a rough season for young Schultz. Learning one of the toughest positions while playing for a bad team in the best hockey league in the world was never going to be easy. And we’re seeing what happens when you put a good prospect in a terrible position to succeed.

The bottom line is that Schultz is a prospect. And he has had zero support for his growth and development in professional hockey. The Oilers have absolutely failed this player and need to re-assess how they handle their defensemen going forward. Giving Schultz the most minutes, and the most offensive zone starts has done nothing for his progress. We’re seeing the full array of deficiencies that prospects typically possess by watching Schultz every night. It didn’t help that he not only left the team that originally drafted him and was pursued by 29 other teams, creating a bit of a prima donna perception. The Norris trophy comparisons and the unrealistic expectations have vilified the player, when really, the management group should be getting grilled,

Jonathan WIllis summed it up very nicely last week on the Lowdown with Lowetide. In regards to fans turning on Schultz:

We’re (fans) reacting to comments that comes from the team. Because it’s the team is at the upper echelon here. When Craig MacTavish says something, it travels a lot farther than when 10 people on Twitter say it.

A lot of the reaction has really been incited by the team both in how they’ve used him and in the things they’ve said about him all down the line.

If they had something realistic like…’Schultz has a lot of good offensive abilities and we really like him as a second unit defenseman and a powerplay option’, I think you’d see a lot of the distaste for Schultz become really muted because that’s a reasonable assessment of the player. He can help. He can be a useful. We just haven’t seen him put in a position to succeed yet.

When assessing Shcultz, it’s reasonable to compare his progress to players like Paul Martin and Matt Carle, players who had similar stats as Schultz in college. And bear in mind, while other teams eased in their college standouts at a young age, the Oilers threw Schultz into the fire handing him the most minutes with very little support. A few comparisons were made to Steve Smith last week, which was absurd, but I decided to see who Smith had to mentor him at age 22, compared to who Schultz had.

Oilers 1985-86 Oilers 2012-13
First Name Age   First Name Age
Lee Fogolin 30 Nick Schultz 30
Randy Gregg 29 Corey Potter 29
Don Jackson 29 Ryan Whitney 29
Charlie Huddy 26 Mark Fistric 26
Kevin Lowe 26 Ladislav Smid 26
Paul Coffey 24 Theo Peckham 25
Steve Smith 22 Jeff Petry 25
Justin Schultz 22

It’s obvious why Schultz lead the defensemen in minutes at 22, since the rest of the unit was below average. You can also see here how New Jersey and San Jose developed Martin and Carle respectively in their first two seasons coming straight out of college. It’s mind-boggling that the Oilers didn’t do more to surround Schultz with the right group of defensemen to ensure that he (a) eased his way into the line-up and (b) really earned his spot with the NHL club.

It’s blatantly obvious that the Oilers need to enhance their defensive unit for next season. To not only take on the tougher minutes, but to shelter the prospects like Schultz until they’re ready to succeed.

Developing defensemen

Justin Schultz

Justin Schultz

It’s been pretty apparent that Justin Schultz has struggled in his third professional season. Regardless of his performance, there is value in keeping him on the roster. He’s still a prospect who’s still a ways away from being a good quality NHL defensemen. For now, we’re seeing glimpses of his offensive potential, which if developed and deployed correctly, could be a huge piece of the Oilers foundation. What irks most fans is that he’s not performing well even though he gets a lot of the prime minutes and has (very) strong support from management.

You really can’t blame him for the Norris trophy comments. I’m sure MacT would take that one back since it put a lot of unneeded attention and pressure on a 22 year old. Schultz did use a loop hole to leave the Ducks and cash-in on a new deal with the Oilers, something that others have done as well, but that shouldn’t skew the fact that he’s still a young prospect finding his way in the NHL.

Who you can blame for Schultz overall performance and development is the Oilers management team.

They’ve had extremely high expectations since they signed him as a free agent. The Norris trophy comment came out, which made many think of recent recipients like PK Subban, Zdeno Chara, Duncan Keith and Erik Karllson. Realistically, the expectations should have been based on proper metrics of comparable players with similar performance in college and draft selection. Something that Scott Reynolds put together when Schultz signed with the Oilers. Here’s the group of defensemen who had similar stats as Schultz in college and were selected in the second round. Not a bad group at all:

Player Draft Year Draft Number Freshman Age Points per game
Freshman Sophomore Junior
Matt Carle 2003 47 18y 9m 0.87 1.02 1.36
Brendan Smith 2007 27 18y 7m 0.55 0.74 1.24
Justin Schultz 2008 43 19y 2m 0.51 1.15 1.19
Jordan Leopold 1999 44 18y 1m 0.59 0.62 1.17
Jamie McBain 2006 63 18y 7m 0.50 0.69 0.93
Paul Martin 2000 62 18y 6m 0.53 0.86 0.87
Alex Goligoski 2004 61 19y 3m 0.63 0.95 0.89

Source: Copper and Blue

Three of the players, Matt Carle, Paul Martin and Jordan Leopold, made the jump straight from college into the NHL. We know Schultz did spend some time in the AHL with Hall, Eberle and RNH during the lockout, but you can be assured that he would’ve been pushed right into the NHL had the lockout been avoided.

The key thing is to surround the prospect with defensemen in their absolute prime (age 26-30, 300+ NHL games) to carry most of the load while the young prospect can be deployed in the right situations. Here’s a look at the defensive rosters that the three rookies from college had in their first and second professional seasons along with their total time-on-ice (TOI).

Matt Carle
San Jose Sharks (2006-07) San Jose Sharks (2007-08)
Player Age GP TOI Player Age GP TOI
Hannan 28 79 1,803 Vlasic 20 82 1,772
Vlasic 19 81 1,798 Ehrhoff 25 77 1,673
Ehrhoff 24 82 1,523 Rivet 33 74 1,569
McLaren 29 67 1,435 Murray 27 66 1,153
Carle 22 77 1,397 McLaren 30 61 1,120
Murray 26 35 377 Carle 23 62 1,026
Davison 26 22 205 Ozolinsh 35 39 662
Paul Martin
New Jersey Devils (2003-04) New Jersey Devils (2005-06)
Player Age GP TOI Player Age GP TOI
Niedermayer 30 81 2,100 Rafalski 32 82 2,093
White 26 75 1,577 Martin 24 80 1,889
Rafalski 30 69 1,573 White 28 73 1,591
Martin 22 70 1,409 Matvichuk 32 62 1,130
Hale 22 65 976 Malakhov 37 29 601
Stevens 39 38 913 Albelin 41 36 503
Albelin 39 45 666 Hale 24 38 458
Brown 27 39 544 McGillis 33 27 384
Jordan Leopold
Calgary Flames (2002-03) Calgary Flames (2003-04)
Player Age GP TOI Player Age GP TOI
Lydman 25 81 2,088 Regehr 23 82 1,832
Regehr 22 76 1,729 Leopold 23 82 1,822
Gauthier 26 72 1,431 Warrener 28 77 1,530
Boughner 31 69 1,370 Gauthier 27 80 1,498
Leopold 22 58 1,195 Lydman 26 67 1,421
Montador 23 50 759 Ference 24 72 1,344
Buzek 25 44 632 Montador 24 26 306
DuPont 22 16 268 Commodore 24 12 183

Aaand, here’s who Schultz had in his first two seasons:

Edmonton Oilers (2012-13) Edmonton Oilers (2013-14)
Player Age GP TOI Player Age GP TOI
Petry 25 48 1,052 Schultz 23 74 1,728
Schultz 22 48 1,030 Petry 26 80 1,727
Smid 26 48 975 Ference 34 71 1,495
Schultz 30 48 894 Belov 27 57 951
Whitney 29 34 628 Marincin 21 44 843
Potter 29 33 576 Larsen 24 30 515
Fistric 26 25 383 Klefbom 20 17 269

Source: Hockey Abstract

Now you can make a case for each of the Oilers defenseman and their positive or negative impact on Schultz. The main thing I wanted to illustrate is that if the Oilers had looked at legitimate comparables, they may have seen the value in surrounding young Schultz with quality defensemen in their primes. Both Carle and Martin benefited from being on well built rosters with their development in mind, and have established themselves as reliable NHL players.

It would be a huge benefit to the young prospects like Schultz, Klefbom and Marincin if the Oilers can land some experienced, in-their-prime, defenders this summer. That might mean reduced minutes for the young players, but it at least takes some of the burden away and lets them flourish in more specific situations (i.e., power play, offensive zone starts).

Finally, I just want to re-emphasize the realistic expectations we should have on Schultz. Below are the points per 60 by season for Schultz and each of the three comparable players. Very high level, but it might help to temper some of the Norris trophy expectations.


Just a side note: Bruce made a great point yesterday on Lowetide’s show regarding some of the excessive comments against Craig MacTavish. Critique his work all you want, and pick apart every one of his moves, but there’s really no need for the personal insults. Part of being a fan is about furthering our knowledge about the game, and the cheap shots to people running the team does nothing to push the discussion along.

Talking Oilers, player development and defence rosters on Lowdown with Lowetide

Mr. Allan Mitchell (aka. Lowetide) invited me as a guest to his show this morning to talk Oilers and specifically the defensive rosters before and after Pronger. We talked about a recent article I wrote (Pre and Post Pronger) and dug a little deeper into the Oilers current method of developing defenseman. The full radio interview is here, starting around the seven and a half minute mark (suggest reading the above article first):

A couple of notes I wanted to add:

  • The Oilers had a fantastic 2005-2006 regular season. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. 😉
  • Between 1996 and 2006, the Oilers made the playoffs seven times out of nine seasons. That’s nine tight playoff races, while playing in the toughest division in the NHL. More on this “Golden Era” here.
  • After Pronger left, a bulk of the minutes went to a 20 year old Ladislav Smid and a 23 year old Matt Greene. A big reason why they may have had to play in the NHL was because the Oilers didn’t even have their own AHL affiliate in 2006-2007.
  • The team did smarten up and partner with the Springfield Falcons in 2007. But nothing worth mentioning came out of the Falcons era, which ended in 2010. The Oilers went on to partner with Oklahoma City, which they’ve relied on to produce some notable players like Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander, as well as coach Todd Nelson.
  • I mentioned that I wanted to see Marincin and Klefbom spend just a little more time in the minors before taking on full time gigs with the Oilers. I’m a fan of both of these guys, but there’s a lot of benefits to developing at ages 21 or 23 in the minors. Plus, the Oilers are going to hang way too much responsibility on these guys, which will likely stifle their development. If for whatever reason the club elects to keep these guys in the NHL, there has got to be a huge push to land a couple of defensemen this summer who are in their prime (300+ NHL games, aged 26-29).
  • Regarding Smid’s decline as an Oiler, I highly recommend checking out this piece by Jonathan Willis. I was a fan of the guy, but it was clear that Smid struggled without Jeff Petry as his partner. Both Smid and Matt Greene were guys who I thought would’ve been reliable defenders had they been handled properly at an early age.

A big thank you to Al for having me on his show. I’ve been a long time listener and reader of his work…definitely one of the best guys covering the game.

Thoughts on the Oilers: Defencemen, Rookies and Training Camp

10279542Welp. This hasn’t gone as planned.

Five straight losses to start the season. Three of which were against division opponents.

From what I’ve seen, this is a better team than last year. The goals against are coming from quick plays and bad turnovers. I haven’t seen a whole lot of running around in the defensive zone, which was prominent last year. And it was always after that running around the Oilers would get scored on. This year, there’s just been some horrible turnovers and sub-par goaltending that’s been to blame. But both of these things are fixable.

I’m still confident in the twelve forwards. Again, it’s not a deep lineup, especially at centre, but I think all four lines (for once!) are pretty decent. My only issue is the utilization of Draisatl on the second line. The club has got to do something about that to not only find a complementary player for Yakupov, but also give Draisatl a chance to develop properly.

I had confidence in the defensemen at the start, only because I assumed that Petry would be playing important minutes and the rest of the group would be legitimate NHL players. Instead, Petry has had his minutes reduced, including a healthy scratch, and the club has relied on guys like Schultz, Nurse (back to junior now) and Hunt (back to the AHL).

What this tells me is that the Oilers training camp did not go too well. There were injuries, but the coaches didn’t do enough of an assessment to confidently assign the right minutes and situations to the right players. We’re five games in to the regular season, and the club is only now starting to iron out their defensive roster.

I guess this is what happens when you’re coming out of a losing season and start to re-jig your defensive tactics. Coaches have to test out which players fit where and basically reacquaint themselves with the roster. Perfect example is benching Petry for guy like Hunt. The latter has a decent shot and can join the powerplay, but his overall game isn’t near the level of the former. Marincin, who stood out near the end of last season is only now getting in to the NHL roster.

I’d also be curious to know how much say the forwards have on who plays defense in key situations. I don’t understand how or why Schultz is playing more than 24 minutes when he’s having such a hard time playing without the puck. The guy is fantastic getting out of the zone, but still has trouble keeping up with rushes from the opposition. He’s still developing, and really should be deployed more efficiently.

Regardless of the poor start, there’s ample time to turn this around and get some wins. There has yet to be a game where the forwards, defensemen and goaltending all played a decent game as a unit. Now that the defense is looking like somewhat of an NHL roster with the promotion of Marincin, the goaltending should improve.

Recommended Links

Gregor: Draisaitl’s development likely better in junior – Edmonton Journal

Mirtle: Blame bad luck, goaltending for Oilers early mess – Globe and Mail

Same time next year – Lowetide

Thoughts on the Oilers: 2014/2015 Season, Forwards, Defence, Goaltending

Leon Draisaitl

Leon Draisaitl

This is year two of the MacTavish-Eakins era and needless to say, there has to be progress following last season’s train wreck.


I think the new additions will be a massive boost to the club. Experience still counts in this league, so it’s refreshing to see guys like Pouliot and Purcell flanking a very young and developing core. Both are still in their primes, making serious money. But both should be counted on for secondary scoring.

The top six overall looks like a legit NHL group. But because of the weaknesses at centre, this club is one injury away from entering the McDavid sweepstakes. There is never a good reason to keep a player under 20 on your roster, unless he’s Crosby or Ovechkin. And again the Oilers will be relying on a young prospect to produce with Draisatl securing the second line centre position. Here’s hoping he can at least get the softer minutes (i.e., offensive zone face offs, power play time, against easier competition). With such a glaring hole at centre, I think most assumed the Oilers would’ve sought out a veteran player like Derek Roy or Derek Legwand.


This group is definitely an improvement from last season, with the addition of Fayne and Nikitin. But it is still far from being a top NHL caliber group. Guys like Schultz, Klefbom, Marincin and Nurse are still developing, but will likely be asked to play high end minutes. If this club can stay healthy, and the team is smart enough to keep Petry long-term, I think they can compete well in their division. My expectations when it comes to how they play as a unit is much higher with the addition of Craig Ramsay on the staff. It’ll be interesting to see if he can find a way to better utilize this group and find some success in 5-on-5 situations.


This is one area where I’m still unsure about. If the coaching staff can limit the ridiculous amount of clean zone entries and two-on-ones like last year, I think this tandem is good enough. But if those same defensive lapses and poor coverage emerge from last season, no goalie will stand a chance. Here’s hoping some stronger possession play through all three zones will help the goalies. From what I saw last year and the pre-season, I’m predicting Fasth comes out as the clear cut number one goalie by November.

Bold Predictions

Regardless of the glaring hole at centre and the question mark in net, I think there’s a lot of potential in this current roster. The wings have a lot of talent and experience, and stack up well against the top teams in the league. The defence has improved with new roster players and the addition of Ramsay. MacTavish has brought in proven possession players with experience, which should hopefully translate to less time scrambling and chasing the puck. An additional 10 wins from last season isn’t asking for much, so I’m predicting they make a jump up to 10th in the west this season.

2013/2014 Season:

67 PTS
203 GF
270 GA
14th in the West

2014/2015 Predictions:

85 PTS
220 GF
240 GA
10th in the West

Top Scorer: Taylor Hall
Best defenceman*: Jeff Petry
Likely to get dealt: David Perron

*Based on boxcars and advanced stats

Recommended Links

The Autumn Leaves Drift by My Window – Lowetide

Are We There Yet? – Copper and Blue

Oilers Rig Podcast – The Oilers Rig