Goaltending Might Be An Issue for the Oilers Next Season

Dashboard 1
Heading into the summer, it was fairly obvious that the team would need to find a dependable backup to play behind Cam Talbot and push young Laurent Brossoit down to Bakersfield for additional seasoning. Although Brossoit had put up some nice numbers at the AHL level, his showings in Edmonton were not very good, as the young prospect appeared in five games, finishing 0-4-0 with a sub-standard 87.18 save percentage at even-strength (Source: Corsica Hockey)

On July 1st, the Oilers did find a backup in 31-year old Jonas Gustavsson, who played with the Bruins last season going 11-9-1, with a 91.42 save percentage at even-strength. Among the 55 goalies who played at least 900 minutes last season, or around 20 games, similar to Gustavsson, the Oilers newest addition ranked 47th when it came to save percentage at even strength, the average of the group being 92.46. The season prior, Gustavsson only played in seven games, with Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek taking on the bulk of games, and did show well, but it’s hard to make any large conclusions based on such a small sample size.

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Dipping into the Goaltending Numbers

One of the most important acquisitions this off season has been netminder Cam Talbot who was acquired for a package of draft picks in June. There was a lot of chatter among Oiler fans, probably since last December when the team went into a free-fall, speculating who the next goalie would be. Both Ben Scrivens and Victor Fasth faltered, forcing the Oilers to make a move to improve a critical part of the roster.

After ten games this season, I think most can agree that Talbot, along with Anders Nilsson, have given the Oilers stability between the pipes. The defence in front of them has struggled mightily, a trend that has continued from previous seasons, but Talbot has made some very timely saves, giving the team a chance to at least stay in hockey games.

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Couple Thoughts on the Backup Goalie Position

The Oilers will be making a big decision between the pipes having to select one of Anders Nilsson or Ben Scrivens to back up Cam Talbot. You could argue that the backup position is meaningless and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Talbot will likely get the majority of starts, and whoever backs him up just needs to be good to average.

One thing to consider, however, is that Talbot is still trying to establish himself as a legitimate starter and needs a new contract for next season. The Oilers cannot negotiate anything with him until January 1, 2016, giving Talbot only a few months to prove his value and lock down that number one spot. An impending contract negotiation, along with a capable backup that should push for minutes, is more than enough motivation for Talbot to perform well.

A quick glance at the candidates:

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

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.

Schultz

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.

Quality Starts Percentage

neuvirth

Adjusted Save Percentage, developed and published by War on Ice, is a very well thought out stat, and I’ve relied on it heavily the past few weeks looking at goalies. Darcy put together a fantastic post recently that looked into the history of the available goalies and found some interesting stuff. Highly recommend checking out his assessment.

I decided to use Darcy’s list of goalies and focus on their percentage of Quality Starts over the past five years. I’ve also included the number of games started in parentheses. Please note, QS% relies on traditional save percentage data (not adjusted) and factors in all situations (even-strength, powerplay, penalty kill).

From Hockey Abstract:

In order to record a Quality Start, the starting goalie must stop at least a league average number of shots (typically 91.3% prior to 2009-10, and 91.7% since), or play at least as well as a replacement-level goalie (88.5%) while allowing two goals or fewer.

The average QS% is 0.530, with anything lower than 0.500 being pretty bad. Having a QS% above 0.600 is very good (Source: Hockey Reference). More on Quality Starts can be found on Habs Eyes on the Prize.

Unrestricted Free Agents
Player Age 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Antti Niemi 31 0.617 (60) 0.529 (68) 0.674 (43) 0.469 (64) 0.542 (59)
Devan Dubnyk 28 0.545 (33) 0.548 (42) 0.541 (37) 0.355 (31) 0.685 (54)
Jhonas Enroth 26 0.538 (13) 0.682 (22) 0.778 (9) 0.538 (26) 0.429 (42)
Karri Ramo 28 0.514 (37) 0.452 (31)
Michal Neuvirth 26 0.477 (44) 0.500 (30) 0.583 (12) 0.692 (13) 0.531 (32)
  • Antti Niemi is a good to average goalie, but he’s too old at this point to invest in. He’ll get paid this summer, but I don’t expect him to get better with age..it just does not  happen.
  • Look at that: Dubnyk was right around the average QS% until that horrendous 2013/14 season. Glad to see he has bounced back.
  • Jhonas Enroth has done well historically, but his value may have taken a hit this past season. This guy has to be a legit target for a number of teams.
  • Ah, and there’s our good friend Michal Neuvirth. He’s only 26 and has put up some nice numbers over the past three years but hasn’t started a lot.
Goalies Under Contract Who Could Be Acquired
Player Age 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Antti Raanta 25 0.545 (22) 0.667 (12)
Ben Scrivens 28 0.455 (11) 0.588 (17) 0.629 (35) 0.373 (51)
Brian Elliott 29 0.333 (51) 0.778 (36) 0.600 (20) 0.600 (25) 0.600 (45)
Cam Talbot 27 0.842 (19) 0.500 (34)
Corey Crawford 30 0.618 (55) 0.491 (55) 0.679 (28) 0.554 (56) 0.696 (56)
Craig Anderson 33 0.592 (49) 0.567 (60) 0.708 (24) 0.500 (52) 0.571 (35)
Jimmy Howard 30 0.476 (63) 0.614 (57) 0.619 (42) 0.500 (50) 0.531 (49)
Jonas Hiller 32 0.565 (46) 0.542 (72) 0.56 (25) 0.540 (50) 0.512 (43)
Jonathan Bernier 26 0.636 (22) 0.462 (13) 0.667 (12) 0.612 (49) 0.481 (54)
Jonathan Quick 29 0.617 (60) 0.632 (68) 0.556 (36) 0.531 (49) 0.58 (69)
Kari Lehtonen 31 0.559 (68) 0.610 (59) 0.600 (35) 0.563 (64) 0.462 (65)
Martin Jones 25 0.722 (18) 0.455 (11)
Robin Lehner 23 0.200 (5) 0.800 (5) 0.833 (12) 0.633 (30) 0.458 (24)
  • I included Ben Scrivens since he’s penciled in, at this point, to be the backup next season.
  • Guys like Annti Raanta and Martin Jones have talent, but just haven’t had enough experience, in my opinion, to make a reasonable bet on.
  • Brian Elliot has been pretty steady when it comes to QS%, but his adjusted save percentages have been all over the map historically.
  • Crawford, Howard, Lehtonen and Anderson are getting up there in age, but they’ve been playing well recently. Their current clubs are going to have to make changes because of the cap, making for an interesting off-season.
  • Jonathan Bernier is another interesting goalie. He’s put up decent numbers and is only 26. He’d be at the top of my wish list.
  • Robin Lehner is another good, young prospect, but I’d be concerned about his health as he’s recovering from a significant concussion. At this point, the Oilers need a legit starter or someone that has enough experience to push for a starting position. Worth noting that he along with Devan Dubnyk and Eddie Lack were impacted by the rule changes around stick length in 2013.

Between what I’ve read and what Darcy has put together, I really don’t know what to think anymore. I’d stick with Scrivens as the backup as I think he can bounce back, similar to other goalies in the past. The starting position has to go to someone that’s in their prime (26-30) and has at least 300 games of NHL experience. I don’t like the idea of over spending on goaltending, so Niemi, to me, is out of the question. If a trade can’t be made to acquire someone like Corey Crawford or Jonathan Bernier, the Oilers may have to push hard for Devan Dubnyk or sign Michal Neuvirth or Enroth to value contracts. Lots of options, so here’s hoping Chiarelli takes a “measured approach”.

Goalies and Voodoo Magic

Jan 29, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens (30) stops a shot during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at Rexall Place. The Oilers won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-138256 ORIG FILE ID:  20140129_lbm_wb4_281.JPG

Without a doubt, one of the weakest links of the Oilers in 2014/2015 was the goaltending. Both Scrivens and Fasth failed to lock down the starter position, finishing the season with adjusted save percentages in the bottom five (goalies who played 20 games or more).

One thing we know about goalies is that a  lot of voodoo is involved. One season, a goalie can be terrible and the next, he’s winning games in the playoffs. One could argue that even assessing goalies involves a lot of guess work and truthiness, as a lot of factors come into play. Which team is the goalie on, how does the team do possession wise, does the team have a strong defensive core, and so forth.

I really want to believe that Scrivens can bounce back. After a good college and minor league career, he had shown well in his NHL career. Unfortunately, things went sideways this past season, but I don’t think we can write him off just yet.

To make a case, I first looked at how he measures up against the average adjusted save percentage (at even-strength) among goalies who played 20 or more games. And secondly, I looked for other goalies who may have had a rough season (or two) and bounced back.

Performance

Let’s start off with Ben Scrivens’ history.

Season Team Gm Age GP W L T/O QS% AdSv%
2011/12 TOR 12 25 12 4 5 2 0.455 91.66
2012/13 TOR 20 26 20 7 9 0 0.588 92.33
2013/14 EDM/L.A 39 27 40 16 16 4 0.629 93.43
2014/15 EDM 57 28 57 15 26 11 0.373 90.88

This past season stands out as his worst in terms of adjusted save percentage (at even-strength) and the number of games he gave his team a chance to win (QS%). His adjusted save percentage, which factors in the quality of shot (low, medium, high danger), as well as his save percentage of high danger shots at even strength, was well below average.

Line-BenScrivens

Last season, and the year prior, he was alright when it came to adjusted save percentage at even strength…right around the average. His save percentage when it came to high danger shots at even-strength were slightly above average two seasons ago, and not too far off the average last season. I should also note that his save percentage when it came to high danger shots was at 82.96 when Eakins was head coach in 2014/2015, and 79.82 when Nelson was head coach. Scrivens’ adjusted save percentage did not change after goaltender coach Freddie Chabot was fired, but his high-danger save percentage went from 83.84 under Chabot to 79.92 under Schwartz (Source: War on Ice). Maybe it was the team tactics under one coach or the fact that Petry was dealt at the deadline, I’m not sure. But those are all factors at play here.

Comparables

In a previous post, I used the percentage of quality starts to find other goalies who had terrible seasons, similar to Scrivens. Goalies that also had QS% below 0.400 since 2007 include well-established netminders like Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov (Source: Hockey Abstract). I decided to graph each goalies adjusted save percentage compared to the average as well as their high-danger save percentage along with the average. Again, this is for even strength situations and includes netminders who played 20 or more games in a season.

Line-BrianElliott

Line-MikeSmith

Line-DevanDubnyk

Line-Varlamov

Couple notes:

  • I think it goes without saying that goalies can be hard to predict. But when goalies have a bad season, they typically bounce back the following year.
  • Man, Elliott and Smith are all over the map.
  • Our boy Devan Dubnyk was trending well before he had that bad season in 2013/2014. So happy to see him bounce back and get recognized for his accomplishments.

Thoughts

Ben Scrivens has a lot of work to do this summer if he wants to get back to an acceptable performance level. He’s in the last year of a two-year contract and will likely be in the AHL next season if he has another sub-par season. There are only so many roster sports for netminders.

The good news is other goaltenders have had seasons with a QS% below 0.400 but have managed to bounce back and maintain employment at the NHL level. These goalies have also seen their adjusted save percentages take a hit throughout their careers, but have still managed to remain as starters in the NHL. At the end of the day, it’ll be up to Scrivens to put this past season behind him, make the right adjustments in the off-season and put together a solid campaign as an Edmonton Oiler. The club would be wise to assign him the backup role, but I really think he could push for that starter position in 2015/2016.

Goalies with Potential

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

I’m of the mindset that having a young goalie with starter potential would be a smart move by the Oilers. Initially, I thought a goalie like Cam Talbot or Martin Jones, who are currently serving as backups, would be smart acquisitions, similar to how the Leafs acquired Jonathan Bernier in June of 2013 for a second round pick. If a goalie has been successful at the AHL level and has shown well in a limited role at the NHL level, that to me is good enough to warrant at least an assessment.

Alex Thomas, who does excellent work at the Oilers Rig, recently put a case together for acquiring Cam Talbot from the Rangers. The 27 year old played well while Lundqvist recovered from an injury. But his stats and style of play, to me, aren’t anything outstanding. In fact, his numbers at the NHL level and other leagues are somewhat similar to that of current Oilers netminder Ben Scrivens.

Here’s their NHL seasons to date. (Source: Hockey Reference)

Cam Talbot
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP W L OT  PCT SO
2013-14 NY Rangers NHL 21 12 6 1 0.941 3
2014-15 NY Rangers NHL 36 21 9 4 0.926 5
Ben Scrivens
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP W L OT PCT SO
2011-12 Toronto NHL 12 4 5 2 0.903 0
2012-13 Toronto NHL 20 7 9 0 0.915 2
2013-14 Total LA/Edm NHL 40 16 16 4 0.922 4
2014-15 Edmonton NHL 57 15 26 11 0.890 1

Here’s a summary of each netminders overall stats by league:

Cam Talbot
LEAGUE GP W L OT MIN. PCT SO
NHL 57 33 15 5 3306 0.931 8
AHL 116 54 52 5 6611 0.914 8
ECHL 2 1 0 1 122 0.921 0
CHA 70 15 44 3861 0.909 2
Ben Scrivens
LEAGUE GP W L OT MIN. PCT SO
NHL
129
42
56
17
7135
0.905
7
AHL 94 49 34 7 5547 0.923 8
ECHL 13 10 3 0 779 0.938 0
ECAC 117 65 37 6708 19

Both goalies have come through the college ranks and have performed well at the AHL level. There’s no denying that they both have potential to be decent at the NHL level. The issue for Oilers fans is that Scrivens faltered badly last year in his first real attempt to be a starter, while Talbot appears to be ready for his first shot.

In my opinion, if you want a “goalie with potential” for next season, stick with Ben Scrivens. Two reasons:

One, Scrivens won’t cost you anything. He”ll make a very reasonable $2.3 million next year becoming a free agent in July of 2016 (Source: NHL Numbers). Talbot, on the other hand, will likely cost the Oilers either a draft pick or a young prospect in return. Goalies are not worth first round picks. And goalies are not worth high end prospects like Nail Yakupov. Nothing of that calibre should be in play. Goalies should never command that kind of return as there are a limited number of goalie jobs and more than enough professional goalies available. If the price for Talbot is high, the Oilers could always consider trading for similar “starter potential” goalies like Martin Jones, Antti Raanta or Andrei Vasilevskiy. But it’d be much wiser to spend existing assets on positions that are harder to fill such as defence.

Secondly, I’m fairly confident that Scrivens will bounce back from his horrific 2014/2015 season. Good to average goalies like Scrivens are susceptible to bad seasons, and typically get back to their standard level of performance soon after. We know Scrivens can play at the AHL level and he has done well in the three seasons prior at the NHL level.

One stat that’s worth paying attention to is the percentage of quality starts. Here’s a summary of the metric from from Habs Eyes on the Prize:

A Quality Start (QS) is a goaltending statistic that is awarded to a goaltender who gave his team a reasonable chance to win a game. This is quantified by the goaltender’s save percentage within an individual game itself and comparing it to the league standards for an average SV%, and the established ‘replacement level’ SV% if the goalie faces a low amount of shots faced in a given game (usually less than 20). If a goalie outperforms the league average save percentage, he is awarded a quality start. Additionally, a goalie is awarded a quality start if he allows 2 goals or less while keeping his save percentage above the expected performance of a replacement level goaltender.

Scrivens finished with a QS% of 0.396 this past season, which was second last among goalies who played a minimum of 20 games. In last place: Victor Fasth at 0.375. The league average for goalies is around 0.530. Worth noting that Scrivens has had a respectable QS% in the past. (Souce: Hockey Abstract).

Ben Scrivens
Season Team GS SV% QS%
2011-12 Toronto 11 0.9063 0.455
2012-13 Toronto 17 0.9116 0.588
2013-14 LA/Edmonton 35 0.9262 0.657
2014-15 Edmonton 53 0.8879 0.396

The good news is that other good goalies have had horrific seasons similar to Scrivens’ 2014/2015 campaign. Of those that finished with a QS% below 0.400 since 2007, the vast majority have bounced back and managed to have decent careers. A few of the notables.

Brian Elliott
Season Team GS SV% QS%
2007-08 Ottawa 1 0.9655 1.000
2008-09 Ottawa 30 0.9024 0.500
2009-10 Ottawa 48 0.9100 0.563
2010-11 Ottawa/Colorado 51 0.8940 0.333
2011-12 St. Louis 36 0.9401 0.778
2012-13 St. Louis 20 0.9034 0.600
2013-14 St. Louis 25 0.9237 0.640
2014-15 St. Louis 45 0.9170 0.578
Cam Ward
Season Team GS SV% QS%
2007-08 Carolina 67 0.9042 0.567
2008-09 Carolina 68 0.9158 0.618
2009-10 Carolina 45 0.9162 0.556
2010-11 Carolina 73 0.9223 0.589
2011-12 Carolina 68 0.9151 0.559
2012-13 Carolina 16 0.9075 0.438
2013-14 Carolina 28 0.9004 0.393
2014-15 Carolina 50 0.9085 0.560
Devan Dubnyk
Season Team GS SV% QS%
2009-10 Edmonton 16 0.8870 0.313
2010-11 Edmonton 33 0.9155 0.545
2011-12 Edmonton 42 0.9172 0.548
2012-13 Edmonton 37 0.9199 0.541
2013-14 Edmonton/Nashville 31 0.8895 0.355
2014-15 Arizona/Minnesota 55 0.9300 0.673
James Reimer
Season Team GS SV% QS%
2010-11 Toronto 35 0.9202 0.571
2011-12 Toronto 34 0.9004 0.353
2012-13 Toronto 31 0.9235 0.516
2013-14 Toronto 32 0.9108 0.469
2014-15 Toronto 27 0.9056 0.444
Mike Smith
Season Team GS SV% QS%
2007-08 Tampa Bay 32 0.9040 0.469
2008-09 Tampa Bay 40 0.9151 0.625
2009-10 Tampa Bay 36 0.9035 0.389
2010-11 Tampa Bay 20 0.9021 0.500
2011-12 Arizona 66 0.9294 0.636
2012-13 Arizona 34 0.9104 0.441
2013-14 Arizona 61 0.9152 0.574
2014-15 Arizona 61 0.9044 0.475
Semyon Varlamov
Season Team GS SV% QS%
2008-09 Washington 5 0.9216 0.800
2009-10 Washington 23 0.9068 0.478
2010-11 Washington 25 0.9239 0.720
2011-12 Colorado 52 0.9125 0.577
2012-13 Colorado 33 0.9027 0.333
2013-14 Colorado 60 0.9284 0.733
2014-15 Colorado 57 0.9213 0.579

Obviously, each goalie had their own unique situation, and there are always 1,001 factors that impact goalie performance. But the general trend is that goalies who have a poor QS% one year, tend to bounce back soon after. Scrivens has his work cut out for him this summer if he wants to improve. But in my mind, the Oilers should retain him as their “goalie-with-potential” paired with an established netminder this coming season, and avoid sending away assets for guys like Cam Talbot.

Thoughts on the Oilers: Goaltending, Coaching, Personnel, Mo’ Money

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

This season can’t end soon enough. The Oilers are 24-43-13 with two games remaining, and are destined to finish 28th.

Goaltending

The Oilers will be looking for a new goaltender this summer with Fasth heading to free agency and Scrivens settling into a backup role. I thought Fasth would be the guy to take over, but alas, the Oilers will likely dump a pile of money at someone like Antti Niemi. His numbers are nothing great, but because of his experience and Stanley Cup ring, the Oilers, or another desperate club, will make a pitch for his services.

Good/average goaltending is really all a team can ask for from their netminder. It’s really more important to have an experienced defence core, which to me, makes or breaks a goalies career. If the Oilers want average goaltending, they really should save the money and avoid someone like Niemi. Instead the club should pursue someone younger with upside like Cam Talbot (NYR) or Martin Jones (LA). Unfortunately, MacTavish tried this last season with Scrivens and Fasth, and failed, so it’s likely he’ll chase an experienced goalie. I’m hoping the Oilers’ analytics team can uncover a goalie whose career has been good, but value has dropped because of a poor year. Darcy Kuemper (MIN) comes to mind.

Coaching

This is going to be a tough decision for MacTavish. Do you go with Nelson who has done an okay job as interim head coach or do you chase one of the top coaches who might be available after their respective playoff runs? MacTavish struck out once going with a younger coach, so my guess is he’ll make sure his next hire is a veteran guy. Not to say that Nelson or Eakins aren’t good candiates. Both have done excellent work at the AHL level providing guidance to developing players, and are worthy of NHL positions. I just imagine MacTavish going down a safer route, so he faces less criticism if/when things go south.

Size

It seems every time the Oilers lose, I come across comments online and the radio about how the Oilers need to be bigger.

Chasing a single trait like size, or even speed or skill, is extremely short sighted and is often influenced by our own personal biases and experiences. When assessing anything, whether it be a player or a car or an idea, it’s critical to remain open minded. The Oilers, for whatever reason, have chased size (i.e., coke machines) drafting or acquiring players who had limited potential (JF Jacques and Brad Isbister immediately come to mind). It’s easy to find size..just sort the list by weight and height. But it’s harder to get a big player with strong complementary traits like skating, puck control and endurance. It’ll be interesting to see how the scouting staff does this summer.

Katz

A lot has been made of how terrible the Oilers have been since Katz officially took over the club in 2008. David Staples from the Cult of Hockey put some numbers to it to highlight just how bad they’ve been relative to the rest of the league.

At the end of the day, there really is nothing we can do with who owns the team. The NHL, and other professional leagues are just a time-filler for owners. They all have other legitimate businesses running, and pro-teams are really just for fun for them. It always makes me laugh when someone refers to hockey as a “business”. It’s a cartel. Similar to the drug trade. They have their own rules, their own measure of currency, and their own economy and operational structure. So to hope that another owner comes along and takes the game more seriously is just wishful thinking. You can hope Katz can hire the right managers and staff, but it’s clear that he goes with people he knows personally and has an attachment to. Can’t do much about that, so we kinda have to roll with it.

Side note: I’ve come across a lot of interesting research on social behavior and norms, cognitive psychology stuff. One thing that’s apparent is how money impacts our decision making, the norms that guide our behavior and our relationships with others. It’s possible that Katz’ deep pockets, and early promises to spend to the cap,  may have altered how the Oilers assess and acquire players. There was a time when the Oilers actually pieced together a nice roster (see 2005/2006, Oilers). But something changed along the way where they now rely heavily on free agency and less on true scouting and asessement. Just a thought.

Recommended Links

Don’t Worry, It’s Almost Over – The Copper and Blue

The Character of the Oilers – Oilers Rig

Patience and Prudence in Development – Lowetide

Edmonton Oilers Player Grades, Game 71-80 – The Cult of Hockey

Corsi Didn’t Help Tyler Dellow or Kyle Dubas – Hockey in more than 140 Characters

Money Changes Everything – Dan Ariely

Thoughts on the Oilers: Goalies, Player Development and Prospects

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Ty Conklin

Great to see Devan Dubnyk have such a great bounce back season. Beating the Oilers must have felt pretty awesome for him (100 times), but he also had  a pretty solid performance against the Predators last night, another team where things went from bad to worse for him. I know a lot is being said about Sean Burke’s impact on him in Arizona. I’m just curious as to why Burke isn’t having the same impact on Mike Smith, who has been struggling all season.

Worth noting that in the 2013 off season, Dubnyk had to make changes to his game because of new rule changes impacting goalie stick lengths. This story gets a little lost since it’s safe to assume that professional athletes should be able to adjust to rules. But stick length, especially for taller goalies, can have a major impact on the goalie’s posture.

Two inches may not seem like much, but goaltenders grip their stick where the shaft intersects the thicker paddle, so changing that point relative to the ice can force an altered stance or blocker position, opening up holes on the blocker side arm, and even causing balance issues in the crease. [In Goal Magazine]

The full article from that summer on how the changes impacted Dubnyk, Eddie Lack and Robin Lehner is worth a read. Dubnyk had a terrible season after the change and the latter two are still competing for starter positions in Vancouver and Ottawa respectively. Maybe give Dubie a call and find out about this head/trajectory training.

Taking a look at this Matt O’Connor fellow, who has drawn attention from many teams for his performance in college. His history and stats look quite similar to former Oilers netminder Ty Conklin (Source: HockeyDB).

Matt O’Connor
Season Team Lge GP Min GA SO GAA W L T Pct
2010-11 Youngstown Phantoms USHL 29 1713 98 0 3.43 10 16 2 0.886
2011-12 Youngstown Phantoms USHL 50 2886 146 1 3.04 28 16 5 0.902
2012-13 Boston University H-East 19 1110 53 0 2.86 8 8 2 0.910
2013-14 Boston University H-East 22 1224 59 0 2.89 7 9 4 0.920
2014-15 Boston University H-East 25 1518 53 1 2.1 17 3 4 0.929
Ty Conklin
Season Team Lge GP Min GA SO GAA W L T Pct
1995-96 Green Bay Gamblers USHL 30 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1996-97 Green Bay Gamblers USHL 30 1609 86 1 3.21 19 7 1 0.908
1998-99 U. of New Hampshire H-East 22 1338 41 0 1.84 18 3 1 N/A
1999-00 U. of New Hampshire H-East 37 2194 91 1 2.49 22 8 6 0.908
2000-01 U. of New Hampshire H-East 34 2048 70 0 2.05 17 12 5 0.920

Conklin as you may recall, was another good college prospect that the Oilers actually took time to develop in the minors and as a backup before giving him the starter job. It’s easy to recall his horrible 2005/2006 season and his playoff….ah you know what, never mind. The concern with the Oilers chasing O’Connor is that they’ll probably promise him lots of ice time, like they did with Justin Schultz. Any young player would love to fast track his career and would jump at the opportunity to join a team with little depth. This of course is never good for any young prospect as it’s critical for players, goalies and defensemen especially, to develop in the minors first. Unfortunately, the Oilers have built a reputation of being a place where young guys get ice time handed to them and the pressures of winning are non-existent.

Must be fun for fans of playoff teams and bubble teams on trade deadline day. Rather than make a push for anything, the Oilers will likely be off loading an NHL player or two for picks. It’ll also be a good indicator of what MacT’s plans are for the marquee prospects in the system. I’d prefer to see guys like Nurse and Draisaitl spend some time in the minors. But MacT might just be clearing a spot at the deadline for these prospects in the hopes that they’ll be ready for the NHL. It makes no sense to rush these guys who’ll be playing key positions in a few seasons.

Recommended Links

The challenge for Todd Nelson and the Edmonton Oilers is just to avoid embarrassment – Cult of Hockey

Development and the Edmonton Oilers – Cult of Hockey

About Nail – Lowetide

Updated Oilers Possession Stats – Copper and Blue

Are the Oilers Set at Centre Now? – Oilers Rig

Thoughts on the Oilers: Shot differentials under Nelson; Keeping Fasth; Pre-Pronger Era

Anaheim Ducks v Edmonton OilersWith Nelson behind the bench, the overall perception of the Oilers has improved as they’ve started winning games. Even though Nelson has only won three in regulation since Eakins was fired, there’s a general sense of optimism that the team just might start turning it around. Unfortunately, they’ve been getting outshot quite regularly, which never ends well for a club.

2014-15 Oilers Shot Differentials (5on5)
Coach Games % of shots shot differentials
Eakins 31 49.4% -18
MacT/Nelson 5 45.1% -23
Nelson 16 45.0% -71

The team is getting the wins, but it shouldn’t hide the fact that the club is still weak in a number of areas. I’ve liked Derek Roy’s play and hope the Oilers can either sign him or at least be inspired to seek out a legit NHL centerman. The defence is still in need of an NHL player or three. And the goaltending, which hasn’t been awful as of late, will likely get revamped for the 2015 season.

Glad to see Fasth getting some starts.  He’s looked pretty good, especially the other night against Pittsburgh when the rest of the team played terribly for the majority of the game. His 5-on-5 save percentage (adjusted) has been respectable  in 2015. Whether that’s because of the head coaching change or the new goaltender coach is anyone’s guess. Thought I’d break it out by coach and goalie coach.

Adjusted Save% (5on5)
Head Coach Scrivens Fasth
Eakins 90.28 88.97
MacT/Nelson 89.55 66.96
Nelson 90.68 93.25
Adjusted Save% (5on5)
Goalie Coach Scrivens Fasth
Chabot 90.03 86.97
Schwartz 90.59 91.00

Source: War on Ice

The team is leaking shots at an alarming rate, so Fasth will have to continue standing on his head to bail out his team. He should be the guy the team goes forward with, but will likely be shipped for a draft pick at the trade deadline. It’s also encouraging to hear the Oilers are pursuing goaltender Matt O’Connor, who has played extremely well at the college level. Just wish we had, you know, developed our own goalie.

Definitely hoping the Oilers can beat the Leafs in Toronto on HNIC. Not because I dislike the Leafs, who are actually fun to watch with guys like Kessel and Kadri on their roster. But because of the positive attention the Oilers will get in the biggest media market. Oilers win and they’ll receive lots of praise for winning under the new coach and the prospects coming down the pipe (with lots of links to Nurse’s performance at the World Juniors). The Leafs on the other hand will receive negative coverage for not rebuilding soon enough like the Oilers (hah!) and point to the tough decisions Shanhan and company will have to make at the deadline. Fluff pieces are nice once in a while.

Edmonton Oilers (1990-2014)

Edmonton Oilers (1990-2014)

I’ve been looking back at some of the success the Oilers had before this nine year drought. One thing that stands out is how well the teams were built even before the 2005-2006 season, and how good they were at generating shots. People can quip that the 2006 run was a fluke or that it was all Pronger. Their regular season was outstanding from start to finish. Had the goaltending been stronger before Roloson showed up at the deadline, they would’ve finished much higher than 8th. But the few seasons before the lockout, the team was generating shots and holding their own against some of the best teams in the league. They missed the playoffs, sure, but the team was getting some very nice production from all areas of the roster. No idea if it was the ownership change, or the management structure, but something altered the way this team evaluates professional and amateur players. The Oilers made some excellent trades in the early aughties, but haven’t been able to replicate that success under Katz. Here’s hoping the promotion of Bob Green can make an impact.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to listen or read Jason Gregor’s interview with Ryan Smyth. Smyth’s personality came through really well on the radio making the whole interview exceptional. He’s not the most polished guy when he talks about the game, but you can tell from his interview why he was revered in Edmonton. The guy had a tremendous career and really connected well with the community. Think it’s only a matter of time before someone hires him for a player personnel manager role.

Recommended Links

Are the Barons Developing Enough NHL Talent – Lowetide

You can’t trust *some of* the people who cover the Edmonton Oilers – Oilersnation

It’s Been Nine Years – Copper and Blue

Trade Talk: Save the damn puck edition – The Oilers Rig