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

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

Topics we covered:

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

 

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Reality Check

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

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

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

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

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

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

WestStandings - 20190210.JPG

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

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

McDavid - FF60 - 25.png

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

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

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

Data: Natural Stat Trick

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Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Keeping tabs

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

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

ROlling Shot Share - 20190208.jpg

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

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

Rolling Fenwick 60 - 20190208

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Data: Natural Stat Trick

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

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

Topics we covered:

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

Related:

Checking in on the special teams

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Got a good reminder from this afternoon’s loss to the Flyers about the importance of special teams. And good timing too; I was digging into the Oilers powerplay and how ineffective it had become heading into the all-star break.

Powerplay

The Oilers currently have the 10th best powerplay (5v4) in the league, scoring 7.79 goals per hour. This is just a hair below their rate of goals in 2016/17, when they finished the season sixth overall with a scoring rate of 7.88 goals per hour. What was great about that 2016/17 season was the fact that the team generated a lot of shots, finishing sixth in the league 55.77 shots per hour, and 10th in the league when it came to unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick), a proxy for scoring chances, with 77.55. Throughout that season, the team had its slumps, but there was a good chance that they would get positive results – which they did.

What’s interesting about the current season is that even though they are getting results (i.e., goals), the Oilers have not been very good at generating shots. They rank 20th in the league when it comes to shots per hour with 48.49, and 23rd in the league when it comes to unblocked shot attempts per hour with 66.33. That gives me the sense that the results aren’t likely to continue, considering the Oilers are below league averages when it comes to generating offensive opportunities.

Worth noting that it’s really been over the last 20 games – without Klefbom in the line-up – that the team has struggled to generate shots on the powerplay. Below is a breakdown of three segments of the season: first 20 games with McLellan, next 11 games with Hitchcock and Klefbom in the line-up, and the next 20 games with Hitchcock and Klefbom out of the line-up.

2018/19 Segment GP Fenwick For/60 Shots For/60 Goals For/60 Shooting%
McLellan 20 68.39 49.64 7.72 15.56
Hitchcock w/Klefbom 11 70.93 59.73 7.47 12.50
Hitchcock w/o Klefbom 20 60.87 40.33 8.07 20.00

It’s interesting to see how much better the team was at generating shots on goal when Hitchcock arrived. It probably had something to do with moving away from five left hand shooters and taking Lucic off of the top unit and replacing him with a right-hand shooter in Chiasson. But once Klefbom was hurt, things went south in a hurry, with the team generating only 40.33 shots per hour. To put things into perspective – over the last 25 games, the Oilers rank 28th in the league when it comes to unblocked shots per hour on the powerplay and 29th when it comes to shots per hour.

I’m curious to know if the Oilers are aware of this and the fact that their 20.0% shooting percentage is masking some pretty significant issues. (Note: the average team shooting percentage at 5v4 over the last three seasons was 12.58%. The highest shooting percentage was around 14.23%). McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins are leading the way in powerplay ice time over the last 25 games, but their talent alone hasn’t been enough. And there should be some heightened skepticism, if there isn’t already, around Nurse’s ability to replace Klefbom’s offence. Someone on the coaching staff needs to figure it out, or watch clips from the 2016/17 season.

Penalty Kill

After today’s performance in Philly, the Oilers penalty kill (4v5) ranks 27th in the league, allowing 8.11 goals against per hour. What has to be frustrating for the club is that they’ve done a good job limiting shots and scoring chances against, but aren’t getting consistent, league-average goaltending.

What’s interesting is that the Oilers were getting great results (i.e., goals against) when Hitchcock arrived, when Koskinen was putting up some outstanding numbers (well above league average norms). The team was allowing around the same rate of unblocked shot attempts against as they were under McLellan, which had them in the top 10 league-wide – the only difference being the goaltending.

Team GP Fenwick Against/60 Shots Against/60 Goals Against/60 Save%
McLellan 20 60.26 44.04 8.69 80.26
Hitchcock w/Klefbom 11 60.12 51.87 3.54 93.18
Hitchcock w/o Klefbom 20 70.60 51.66 9.76 81.11

Once Klefbom got hurt, the rate of unblocked shot attempts spiked up, falling below league average rates. And it’s been poor timing as the goaltending has cratered.

That note about the penalty kill being an issue specifically since December 2016 is interesting.

Between December 1, 2016 and February 2, 2019, the Oilers have allowed the second highest rate of goals against per hour in the league on the penalty kill, with 8.08, only ahead of the Canucks. What’s interesting is that the team has been doing some things right over this stretch as they’ve allowed the 8th lowest rate of shots against per hour with 49.42 and the 6th lowest rate of unblocked shot attempts per hour with 68.27. There’s always room for improvement – the team is allowing a higher rate of high danger scoring chances. But the big problem has been goaltending – as the Oilers have had the third worst team save percentage with 83.63%.

The only thing that really changed for the Oilers in December 2016 was the red-hot goaltending cooling off. In the first few months of the 2016/17 season, the Oilers penalty kill allowed a rate of 4.16 goals against per hour – third best in the league. Their goaltending was the main driver for their success, as the team save percentage was 92.38. This was likely going to be unsustainable considering that in the three seasons prior to 2016/17, the average team save percentage on the penalty kill was 87.76%. The Oilers were also allowing a high rate of opportunities against on the penalty kill in those first few months – so I wouldn’t want to replicate anything they were doing prior to December 2016.

Summary

With Klefbom out of the line-up this season:

Oilers Powerplay (5v4)

  • Unblocked shots per hour: 60.87 (28th)
  • Shots per hour: 40.33 (29th)
  • Goals per hour: 8.07 (10th)
  • Shooting percentage: 20.00 (2nd)

Oilers Penalty Kill (4v5)

  • Unblocked shots against per hour: 70.6 (18th)
  • Shots against per hour: 51.66 (21st)
  • Goals against per hour: 9.76 (30th)
  • Save percentage: 81.11 (29th)

Data: Natural Stat Trick

The Hitch Effect

coppernblue.com.full.54273To have a chance of making the playoffs this season, a lot of things are going to have to go right for the Edmonton Oilers. They’ll need their core players to be healthy. They’ll need their top end stars to produce and for their depth players to contribute. Special teams can’t be a drag. And they’ll need their goaltending to perform at or above league average levels. Pretty standard requirements for any of the western conference teams competing for a wild card spot.

One area that the Oilers really need to improve on to increase their chances of outscoring opponents at even-strength is their overall share of shot attempts, used as a proxy for possession, as well as their proportion of scoring chances. The Oilers have been posting some very poor numbers since Hitchcock arrived, generating the second lowest rate of shot attempts in the league, and allowing the eighth highest rate of shot attempts against. Looking at the rate of unblocked shot attempts for and against, or Fenwick (which I use as a proxy for scoring chances), the Oilers are getting around the same results – second lowest rate of chances for in the league, and sixth highest rate of chances against.

In their 30 games under Hitchcock, the Oilers have posted an even-strength Corsi For% (i.e., the proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated) of 46.61% – one of the worst in the league. To put things into perspective, the Oilers under Hitchcock are posting shot-shares that are similar to what the Oilers posted under previous coaching regimes.

Oilers - CorsiFor - 2007-2019.JPG

Poor roster construction, under-performing players and injuries to key players are definitely playing a factor in the Oilers’s poor shot-share metrics. But there has to be something more to this considering that almost every player’s on-ice numbers have taken a hit since Hitchcock arrived. And that includes Connor McDavid who very often has been able to drive offence no matter who is on the ice with him.

Below are the Oilers forwards this season who have played at least 50 minutes under Todd McLellan and at least 50 minutes under Hitchcock, and what their on-ice Corsi For percentages have been under each coach.

corsisplit - forwards - 20190129

The one player that sticks out, aside from McDavid, is Nugent-Hopkins, who saw his on-ice Corsi For percentage drop from 51.98% under McLellan to 41.39% under Hitchcock. Over his career, he’s usually been around 49.0%, regularly playing top competition, so there’s definitely something in the new system that’s driving down his numbers. When he’s been on the ice, the rate of shots against are at one of the highest among Oiler forwards, and not a lot is being generated in the offensive zone.

The fact that the team is having so much trouble sustaining offensive zone pressure at even-strength should be concerning to the management group who is obviously looking to improve their talent up front. One or two players aren’t likely going to turn the Oilers shot-share and scoring chance numbers around this drastically, so before making any transactions it’s important to dig into what the coaching staff is currently doing tactically, why it’s impacting almost every forward including the best player in the world, and how it can be improved.

Now management might be telling themselves that Klefbom’s return should improve things, as he not only brings a unqiue skill-set, but his presence will reduce the minutes played by guys like Nurse and Russell.

But if we look at the defencemen who played at least 50 minutes under McLellan and Hitchcock, we see that even Klefbom’s numbers took a hit, dropping from an on-ice Corsi For percentage of 53.24 down to 50.93. The fact that Klefbom’s numbers aren’t immune to the impacts of Hitchcock’s new system makes me skeptical that his return will drastically turn the team’s shot-share numbers around.

corsisplit - defencemen - 20190129

Something else to consider in all of this is how the rest of the teams that are competing for a wild card spot in the west have been doing over their last 25 games. Below is a summary, including each team’s points percentage, Corsi For% (proxy for possession), Fenwick For% (proxy for scoring chances) and Goals For%. I’ve also included each team’s shooting and save percentage to get a sense of how far above or below they are from league averages.

Team Points% CF% FF% GF% SH% SV% PDO
Minnesota 50.0% 50.16 51.20 45.83 7.03 90.47 0.975
Dallas 52.0% 48.00 48.79 47.52 6.01 93.41 0.994
Colorado 36.0% 50.75 51.17 40.06 5.91 90.79 0.967
Vancouver 56.0% 46.71 47.12 50.85 8.53 92.72 1.013
Anaheim 48.0% 48.98 48.44 46.54 7.76 91.72 0.995
Arizona 48.0% 48.49 49.17 41.14 6.94 90.13 0.971
St Louis 56.0% 53.72 54.72 54.14 8.14 91.69 0.998
Edmonton 46.0% 45.31 44.17 45.01 10.00 90.66 1.007
Chicago 44.0% 45.77 44.01 44.55 8.36 91.69 1.001
Los Angeles 50.0% 45.72 46.00 51.41 7.38 93.77 1.012

Just based on how well they’ve been controlling shots, and how well their goaltending has improved, I’d suspect that the Blues will make a stronger push for a wild card spot than teams like Edmonton and Vancouver. The Oilers always have the McDavid factor, and the goaltending could bounce-back, but they’re definitely going to have to make some deployment/tactical changes to remain competitive.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Discussing the current state of the Oilers and Flames on CBC Alberta at Noon

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Andrew Brown and CBC Calgary’s Dave Waddell on CBC Alberta at Noon to talk Oilers and Flames, and the different directions the two clubs are going in. It was a fun, interactive panel discussion about each team’s current state and the steps that have led them to where they are. Full audio segment is here: CBC Alberta At Noon (2019, January 25).

A re-cap of the discussion can also be found here: Why Alberta’s NHL teams have traded places in 2019, and what Edmonton can do about itCBC News (2019, January 27)

A big thank you to everyone at Alberta at Noon for having me on and for putting it all together!

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