Passing on Matt Irwin

Having so many question marks on defence will lead to plenty of discussion every single time a bottom-six defenceman is available on the waiver wire.Frank Corrado caught the attention of Oilers fans last week when theCanucks demoted him to the minors (and eventually snapped up by the Leafs) and we had a similar thing happen this past weekend with a slightly different result.

After two rough games, the Boston Bruins demoted 27-year old defenceman Matt Irwinwho they had signed this off-season to a one year deal worth $800,000, making him available to all 29 teams through waivers. The Oilers again didn’t bite, but this time, neither did the other 28 clubs.

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

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The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 2

Topics include the Oilers off-season moves, training camp, strengths and weaknesses in the lineup and what my expectations are for the 2015/16 season.

Related Links

The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 1

Goaltending for the 2015-2016 Season  – The SuperFan

Goalies with Potential – The SuperFan

Goalies and Voodoo Magic – The SuperFan

Sharks Under McLellan III – Contributions from Defencemen – The SuperFan

Sharks Under McLellan IV – Systems and Tactics – The SuperFan

Old Man Power – The Copper & Blue

The First 10 Games – The Copper & Blue

Thoughts on the Oilers – 2015/2016 Season – The SuperFan

Comparing the Oilers by Position to the Rest of the League

rsz_game43rnh3Andrew Berkshire recently put together a nice piece comparing the point production of the Montreal Canadaiens to the rest of the league by position. He does a nice providing realistic expectation of players and setting benchmarks for different positions. I thought it’d be interesting to see how the 2014-2015 Oilers measure up with the rest of the NHL.

Below is a summary table of the point ranges by line and position. What Andrew did was find the range of points based on the top 30 players at the position. Second line range was based on players ranked 31st-60th at that position, and the third line range was based on the 61st-90th ranked players. Please note, I prefer evaluating players based on even-strength play, so I focused on those numbers.

Point Range (Even-strength)
Line Left Wing Center Right WIng
1 33-59 39-60 29-55
2 22-32 31-39 19-29
3 11-20 24-30 11-19

So how did the Oilers rank in 2014-2015?  Below are the points for each player, by position, at even-strength. I’ve also included the players’ points/60 and the average time on ice per game to provide some context (Source: War on Ice).

Centers (Even-Strength)
Name Gm P P60 TOI/Gm
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 76 37 1.92 15.25
Derek Roy 46 16 1.50 13.92
Anton Lander 38 11 1.46 11.87
Boyd Gordon 68 10 0.86 10.23
Mark Arcobello 36 8 1.04 12.85
Leon Draisaitl 37 7 1.03 11.01
Left Wings (Even-Strength)
Name Gm P P60 TOI/Gm
Taylor Hall 53 26 1.86 15.83
Benoit Pouliot 58 24 1.98 12.55
David Perron 38 15 1.75 13.53
Matt Hendricks 71 10 0.79 10.75
Luke Gazdic 40 3 0.61 7.43
Rob Klinkhammer 40 3 0.40 11.14
Jesse Joensuu 20 2 0.63 9.57
Right Wings (Even-Strength)
Name Gm P P60 TOI/Gm
Jordan Eberle 81 41 1.98 15.30
Nail Yakupov 81 21 1.20 12.99
Teddy Purcell 82 20 1.11 13.23
Matt Fraser 36 7 1.10 10.65
Steven Pinizzotto 18 3 1.31 7.62
Andrew Miller 9 3 1.44 13.88
Tyler Pitlick 17 2 0.59 12.05
Iiro Pakarinen 17 1 0.36

9.75

Here’s where the Oilers fit compared to the ranges from Andrew’s piece.

Point Range (Even-strength)
Oilers 2014-2015
Line LW C RW
1 Eberle
2 Hall
Pouliot
RNH Yakupov
Purcell
3 Perron

Couple thoughts:

  • RNH made significant strides this past season and is well on his way to becoming a star. His point totals just missed the cut-off to be a first line center, but there should be no issues for him going forward.
  • Hall had an off-year, but you can be sure he’ll be back to elite status next season.
  • Eberle is the only player who falls into the first line category based on even-strength points. He’s not the most productive player, as in he gets a lot of minutes. But he’s become a very consistent player for the club.
  • My guess is if Lander had a full season, he’d make a push to fall under the third-line center category. It is good to know what the realistic expectations should be of him.
  • Since the guy played all the tough minutes last season, Gordon doesn’t have to show up in these tables. The guy is awesome.
  • Man, I cannot believe we’ll have McDavid, RNH and Draisaitl as our centermen in the near future. Good Lord.

Losing Streaks: Who Wore it Better?

Source: Edmonton Journal

Source: Edmonton Journal

I think the general consensus is that the Oilers look much better now than they did with Eakins. Copper and Blue did put together a nice piece that dug into some of the underlying stats of both coaches to challenge this perception. The bottom line is that the Oilers were a better possession team with Eakins behind the bench, but were sunk by bad goaltending. The Oilers under Nelson have spent less time trailing in games and the powerplay has been very good. Both coaches, however, were not given well built rosters, with defense being a major problem.

What’s become apparent is that Nelson has received far less criticism for his recent 7-game losing streak compared to what Eakins received when the team went on that dreadful 11-game run. Anything over 5 games is cause for concern, but for whatever reason, Eakins and Nelson have been treated very differently. Now granted, the 11-game losing streak was longer and early in the season when expectations were higher, and sunk playoff hopes by December. And of course by February all is lost anyways, so maybe there’s not nearly as much pressure on Nelson to win (and maybe fans want to improve their chances of landing a higher pick in the entry draft). It’s also become quite obvious that those that cover the game as a profession as well as a large segment of fans didn’t like Eakins and have expressed how much better of a person Nelson is. We’ll save that topic for another day.

I thought it’d be interesting to dig into the two losing streaks to see if anything stands out and uncover why some may find Nelson’s losing streak more acceptable and even….encouraging. Quick tale of the tape:

Coach Losing Streak Started Ended
Dallas Eakins 0-7-4 Nov 11, 2014 Dec 3, 2014
Todd Nelson 0-5-2 Feb 28, 2015 Mar 13, 2015

Here’s a breakdown of the time spent (at even strength) trailing or leading and their possession stats in those situations during the losing streaks (Source: Puckon.net)

Eakins Nelson
Situation Time Spent Corsi Time Spent Corsi
Down 2 26.7% 54.0% 23.7% 57.0%
Down 1 27.2% 48.0% 20.1% 53.8%
Tied 38.8% 49.5% 33.9% 41.1%
Up 1 7.3% 38.9% 20.8% 42.1%
Up 2 0.0% 1.5% 20.0%

And here are some of the advanced stats (at even strength, all score situations) for each of the coaches longest losing streak. (Source: War on Ice)

Metric Eakins Nelson
PDO 96.3 94.3
Goals For % (differential) 37.5% (-10) 32.1% (-10)
Corsi For % 49.2% 46.2%
On ice shooting % 6.0% 5.4%
On ice save % 90.3% 89.0%
Offensive Zone Starts 44.8% 49.7%
Shots For % (differential) 49.2% (-8) 49.3% (-5)
Scoring Chances For % (differential) 50.5% (+4) 47.1% (-20)

And finally, the special teams. (Source: War on Ice)

Special Teams Eakins Nelson
Powerplay 12.1% 40.9%
PP Scoring Chances For % 82.7% 81.1%
Penalty Kill 82.1% 72.7%

So based on the stats alone, which losing streak would be more encouraging? Here are my takeaways:

  • Both losing streaks were awful and well deserved. Make no mistake, both coaches are qualified NHL coaches, having spent years at the AHL level and having success. But neither should be let off the hook for losing like this.
  • Eakins’ losing streak showed the club was still creating opportunities, but had a terrible time converting on their scoring chances.
  • During Nelson’s losing streak, the Oilers spent more time with a one goal lead than when Eakins was on his losing streak. Definitely an influence on fan perception.
  • Nelson’s powerplay was on fire during that 7-game skid converting on 40% of the opportunities. He was known for having a good powerplay at the AHL level, but I don’t think anyone can expect the powerplay to continue clicking at this level. My opinion on powerplays is that it’s completely useless unless the team is doing well at even strength. It’s a supplement to give teams an edge, but that means they have to be competitive for the other 95% of the game, which Nelson is still figuring out.
  • Nelson’s powerplay success during the losing streak also bloated some of the individual player stats. For example, during the 7-game losing streak, Eberle and RNH combined for 19 points, more than half of which were on the powerplay. Again, this sort of stuff changes how a team is perceived.

My guess is that a combination of a solid powerplay, combined with the emergence of fan favorite Nail Yakupov has created this perception that the team is better. It’s a valid assessment, but we can’t overlook the fact that the club is still built very poorly with weak defence and sub par goaltending. The overall perception of both coaches has also played a big part in how their losing streaks are perceived. Both coaches have different personalities and presented themselves very differently in public. The way Eakins was brought in (the abrupt firing of Krueger, the first press conference) was the complete opposite of the the low-key, easy going, entrance of Nelson. All of these things change our perception of coaches and how we interpret their losing streaks.

Just a side note: As for coaching, I think Todd Nelson should be considered for the head coaching position by the Oilers, but it has to be part of a thorough candidate search. AHL coaches like Nelson, as well as Eakins, are well qualified and can bring different tactics to a team. But the only way they can have success is if the roster is built to compete. It’s encouraging to see guys like Lander and Klefbom doing well. But the club will need a lot more growth across the entire roster to be even remotely competitive next year.

Filtering out the Noise: Laraque/Gazdic and Goalie performance against former teams

LaraqueWithout a doubt, blogging tools such as Twitter have been great tools for fans to share and receive information. The best part about it, however, has been its ability to filter out the junk information that surrounds the game of hockey.

Two great examples today.

A local sports reporter was being interviewed on the radio this morning and suggested a current Oilers enforcer Luke Gazdic was a better player than former Oiler Georges Laraque. It was quickly picked up on Twitter.

Unfortunately, the reporter didn’t back up his assertion, leaving it up to listeners and the online community to correct him. Jonathan Willis of the Cult of Hockey had this to add: Continue reading

Thoughts on the Oilers: MacTavish on goaltending and coaching

Source: Calgary Sun

Source: Calgary Sun

Oilers GM Craig MacTavish provided some insight into the state of the Oilers in a recent interview with David Staples of the Edmonton Journal. The interview is broken up into four parts, the first of which can be found over at the Cult of Hockey.

Regarding goaltending, MacTavish revealed his hopes that one of his netminders would provide a “spark”, similar to what Jonathan Quick provided the LA Kings.

Quick developed. And he gave them the spark. He was the guy that gave them the spark that ignited that team. The team still has trouble scoring goals but they really were challenged back that year and it was all based on defence and the play of Jonathan Quick.

I find this point interesting only because LA, even though they were on the verge of a breakout, had some decent defencemen in front of Quick. Not to say that Quick isn’t an elite goalie. But I’d like to see how he would do playing behind the current defence core of the Edmonton Oilers. This also explains why MacTavish was after Jonathan Bernier, who was the backup in Los Angeles and developed in the same system as Quick.

MacTavish also provided strong support for head coach Dallas Eakins.

And I would say, absolutely, yeah. I love the coach. To me, he’s done a lot. There’s been a lot of heavy lifting for him. We’re going to have continuity of coaching going forward, which is going to make a big difference going into next year. It’s the same coaching staff, the same messaging. You know how disruptive it is to change coaches. We’re going to have this continuity of coaching. For me, this guy has got the right balance of supporting the players and holding them accountable. There’s an accountability that like.

Even though Eakins is struggling this year, I think it’s critical that they maintain some consistency behind the bench. I think by the end of next year, if things don’t turn around, MacTavish may have to make a change.

I was pretty skeptical about the Oilers hiring MacTavish. The optics were just terrible as another former player was getting the job based on their alumni status rather than their professional credentials. But since his hiring, MacTavish has completely re-done the roster through some excellent, simple, trades and free agent signings. I really do think the team is heading in the right direction and feel a lot more confidence in him over Steve Tambellini.

Highly recommend the entire interview over at Cult of Hockey.

Recommended Links

Did Craig MacTavish Move Ladislav Smid to Calgary Just in Time? – OilersNation

Simple Concepts – The Copper and Blue