Thoughts on the Oilers off-season activity + CBC Radio Active segment

cbc edmonton logoIn case you missed it, I joined Adrienne Pan on CBC Radio Active in Edmonton on Tuesday afternoon to talk Oilers. Segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2019, July 2)

Couple thoughts on the Oilers off-season and their activity around free agency.

Mike Smith

  • The Oilers were already in a precarious situation with Koskinen as one of the netminders under contract for the 2019/20 season. Last season, he posted a 0.906 save percentage (all situations). good for 41st out of 60 netminders who played at least 1,000 minutes (approximately 20 games). And he ranked 49th among the same group when it came to goals saved above average (GSAA) with -6.21. More on GSAA can be found at In Goal Magazine.
  • That’s what makes the Mike Smith signing even more puzzling. By adding a 37 year old goalie who has been on the decline for a few years now, the Oilers have taken on even more, unnecessary risk at such a critical position. Last season, among the same group of 60 goalies, Mike Smith ranked 53rd with a 0.898 save percentage, and 53rd in GSAA with -12.65. The good news is that it’s only a one-year term.
  • Smith might be the team’s solution for the short-term, but the long-term issue remains: the Oilers don’t have a young starter-in-waiting, and are a few years away from one of their prospects to emerge as a legitimate option.

Markus Granlund

  • Thought this was a good signing as it creates competition for guys like Tyler Benson and Kailer Yamamoto, and at a reasonable price point.
  • One thing to note. It’s easy to pencil Granlund in as penalty kill option since he led the Canucks in total ice time last season among forwards, and had the third highest rate of minutes per game. But it’s worth noting that while the Canucks penalty kill was right around league average (in terms of goals against), they allowed the second highest rate of shots on goal against and the third highest rate of goals against with Granlund on the ice. Some ugly numbers over his three full seasons in Vancouver shorthanded, so it’d be wise to temper expectations. Noting this as an example of management potentially making a poor assumption based solely on a players ice-time and the team’s overall results.

Tomas Jurco

  • Good, low-risk signing for a productive forward who has shown progress from his injuries.
  • Worth noting that between 2013/14 and 2015/16, his full three seasons in Detroit, Jurco posted a 54.58% Corsi For pecentage – good for fourth among forwards who played at least 250 minutes (approximately 20 games). He ranked third when it came to on-ice unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick) against. If he can get back into form, the Oilers may increase their odds of out-scoring the other teams’ bottom six.
  • Good article from 2016 on Jurco, his productivity and lack of opportunity in Detroit from Iyer Prashanth. Appears at the time the Red Wings favored their over-priced veterans over their young emerging talent – but still applied their over-ripening policy even when the youngsters were showing well. Duly noted.

Gaetan Haas

  • Using an NHL equivalency calculator, the 192 points in 392 games in the Swiss league translates into about 17 points at the NHL level – more or less a replacement level player that can compete with the likes of Joseph Gambardella and Cooper Marody for more of the bottom six minutes.
  • Bruce McCurdy had a great write-up at The Cult of Hockey.

Alex Chiasson

  • This was clearly plan-C (heh) for the Oilers once they lost out on the Brett Connolly and Gustav Nyquist group. And it only makes sense if the Oilers add a legitimate winger to their top six before training camp. In his limited time in the top six, Chiasson wasn’t very good, dragging down the team’s possession numbers at even-strength even when paired with McDavid and Draisaitl (48.7 CF%, 48.8 FF% when all three were on the ice). Keeping my expectations low, but will be thrilled if he can score 20 goals again.
  • Chiasson was effective on the powerplay last season, posting 4.71 points per hour (fourth among regular forwards) and an on-ice goals-for rate of 9.72 (first among forwards). Depth players who can chip in on special teams is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Jujhar Khaira

Miscellaneous

  • We’re starting to see what Holland’s approach will be like going forward, as he’s made some nice low-risk signings but also made a couple moves (Smith signing, Sekera buyout, Playfair hiring) that appear to be based on limited information.
  • The Oilers have to be moving towards more progressive management practices, and need to implement evidence-based decision making processes. It’s obviously still early, but the Oilers need to enhance their front-office to become real championship contenders.
  • The Oilers obviously have to add skill up front, but there should be some concern about the blue-line as they’ve downgraded their puck moving ability. It’d be great if one of the young defencemen in the system can emerge and fill Sekera’s spot, but there has to be a contingency plan in place. Re-signing someone like Gravel would have been a start, as he was fine as a depth option and was productive on special teams. But they’ll need to bring in someone with more NHL experience and offensive ability.
  • As it stands, the Oilers are taking on a lot of risk, hoping for a number of players to have bounce-back seasons – which makes me wonder if they’re more focused on 2020/21 being the season they compete. It might not be the worst idea considering how much more flexibility they’ll have next summer and how many players should/will be turning pro.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

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CBC Radio Active: The countdown is on to end of the Oilers season

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Rod Kurtz on CBC Radio Active to talk all things Oilers. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2019, March 21)

Topics we covered:

  • The season as a whole and the key factors for yet another season without playoffs.
  • Bob Nicholson’s search for a GM, and his missteps and role in the Chiarelli era.
  • The importance of leveraging analytics as part of the larger strategy around decision-making.

CBC Edmonton News (TV): The Oilers GM search and the upcoming trade deadline + radio spot

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Tanara McLean on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly television segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 16:40 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2019, February 21)

Topics we covered:

  • The Oilers last 10 games and the areas that they’re starting to improve on.
  • The general manager search, and what type of leadership the Oilers need in the front office. Touched on a few things from my recent article. 
  • The recent acquisition of Sam Gagner and some of the benefits he brings to the roster.
  • The upcoming trade deadline, and why the Oilers need to be acquiring assets for next season.
  • Upcoming games against New York and Anaheim, and what to expect from each club.

I also joined host Tara McCarthy on CBC Radio Active to talk all things Oilers. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2019, February 21)

 

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!

Related:

Disorganization

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After the Oilers won the draft lottery in 2015, the goal was simple: build a competitive roster around your generational talent and start contending for championships as soon as possible. Assemble a coaching staff, enhance your hockey operations department, draft and develop players – the standard items part of any professional hockey team’s plans. The Oilers, however, had the added advantage of having a good cluster of talent featuring an elite player.

Instead what the Oilers did was make a long series of roster decisions that were clearly misinformed and lacked the proper foresight. Peter Chiarelli failed to assess/identify talent, properly evaluate the player market, manage his team’s salary cap and calculate the risk involved in his moves. Every single one of his decisions served as an example of one or more of these managerial flaws.

What’s especially troubling – I think even more so than some of the decisions themselves – was the fact that an entire hockey operations department supported these decisions, and were part of the environment that allowed this level of incompetence to continue driving decisions. So much damage could have been prevented had someone internally been properly monitoring and assessing Chiarelli’s work.

While it’s a relief that Chiarelli is no longer the general manager, the Edmonton Oilers now have a lot of work to do to pursue a championship. And I don’t think traditional hockey-operation-methods is what’s going to get them out of this hole. The Oilers really need to take a more drastic, more innovative approach that will make them competitive and steer them towards their goals.

For example, rather than hire an individual who was a former player or who has been serving as a scout or assistant general manager in the league, the club should look outside of the traditional hockey circles and construct a hockey operations department with people who have extensive decision-making experience and understand how to manage finances, and evaluate labor markets and risks. A general manager needs to understand what it takes to make evidence-based decisions, and how to identify and collect necessary information.

I fully get that hockey isn’t even close to where baseball is in terms of progressive, outside-the-box thinking. But I think it’s that type of mindset that I think will turn the Edmonton Oilers around.

One last note: I’m glad people are finally recognizing how poorly Chiarelli managed this team. But the early warning signs were there and were regularly discussed and documented by those paying careful attention and willing to think critically. Hopefully we’ll see less appeals-to-authority when discussing the game and hear more individual opinions based on sound logic and reasoning. Hockey discussions can be a lot more valuable that way.

ICYMI: I joined host Tanara McLean on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss Chiarelli’s dismissal. Clip is here and starts at the 7:00 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2019, January 23)

I also joined Rod Kurtz on CBC Radio Active to discuss this topic. Full audio clip is here: More Change for the OilersCBC Radio Active (2019, January 23)

Related articles:

 

 

CBC Edmonton News (TV): Bounce back win against Montreal, McDavid-Draisaitl tandem and more

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Kim Trynacity on the CBC Edmonton News for my weekly segment to discuss all things Oilers. Clip is here and starts at the 14:20 mark: CBC Edmonton News (2018, November 14)

Topics we covered:

  • Tuesday night’s win against Montreal, and what went well for the Oilers.
  • The tandem of McDavid-Draisaitl, their success together, but also the issues around roster construction and scoring depth.
  • The current state of the Oilers defence and Chiarelli’s recent comments about lacking a puck mover on the blueline.
  • The importance of improving their powerplay.
  • Important game against Calgary on Saturday night and playing Pacific division rivals seven times in the next eight games.

I also joined Adrienne Pan on CBC Radio Active on Tuesday afternoon. Will post a link if it becomes available.