Sliding

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The Oilers are sliding, and they shouldn’t be surprised.

The good news is that the Oilers currently rank second in the Pacific with 40 points, and fifth in the Western Conference. The problem is their overall results aren’t good enough, especially at even-strength, and they’ve been trending downwards for a while.

20191213 - Goal differential

While the powerplay and penalty kill continues to thrive, it’s the even-strength (5v5) play that is dragging down the Oilers overall results. Below is the cumulative total of goals-scored, which now sits at -12 – a goal-share of 45.77%, good for 26th in the league.

20191213 - Goal differential at 5v5.png

The underlying shot-share numbers have been poor, and appear to be getting worse. While they did show some signs of life only a few weeks ago, their overall play has been declining ever since. I wrote last week that I think it had to do with the team potentially trying to generate more offence by focusing less on defensive play, but that’d be something only the coach could confirm.

Point % CF% FF% xGF% GF% SH% SV% PDO
0.588 47.88
(26th)
48.43
(22nd)
48.90
(22nd)
45.77
(26th)
8.54 90.68 0.992

Below are the Oilers Corsi For%, Fenwick For% and xGoals For% over rolling 10-game segments this season. A glossary describing the metrics can be found below.

20191213 - Shot share at 5v5

The last ten games have been extremely poor, with the Oilers posting shot-share metrics well below league average levels. The expected goal-share has slid down to 45.0%, which again might be due to the team taking more risks in an attempt to generate offence. The Oilers were doing something right early on, but it appears they’ve adjusted their tactics in an attempt to generate offence.

The other concerning issue is the team’s performance at even-strength both with and without McDavid this season. In year’s past, we would see all the shot-share numbers be above at least 51.0% with their best player on the ice. This year, it’s been a different story, as the Oilers even with McDavid have posted shot-share numbers below 50.0%.

20191213 - WOWY 97.png

The good news is that the overall goal-share has been outstanding with McDavid. But it does make you wonder how much better his on-ice goal-share and point totals would be if the Oilers were spending less time in their own zone and more time with the puck. The lack of skill on the roster, combined with a blueline that has only a few puck-movers, is what I think is driving the shot-share numbers downward.

The last ten game have been especially concerning, with the whole team including McDavid struggling to generate offence and spending more time defending. Below we see that the shot-share metrics are closer to the 45.0% percent range (!), with the goal-share being below the break-even mark even with McDavid.

20191213 - WOWY 97-10

The Oilers have posted a -1 goal differential with McDavid, and a -12 goal differential without him over the last ten games. Not even the special teams can bail them out as the outstanding powerplay has scored ten goals (and allowed one) over the last ten, while the penalty kill has actually struggled allowing six goals.

Can’t say their current results are too surprising as the team lacks skill and depth, and their shot-share metrics have been below average for most of the season. The question again comes back to the Oilers management and how they view the overall results and where the team has been trending.

With the team having accumulated 40 points, does management think the results are real and sustainable? Or do they recognize that they’re lacking a significant amount of skill and depth in all positions, and start to add pieces, either from their own development system or through the trade market. Thinking heading into the season that this was going to be a development year, and based on their actual results and underlying trends, I would expect the team to hold off on making any drastic changes and start to give some of the younger prospects a chance to play in Edmonton and further their development.

It would have been nice if the team took a positive step and posted underlying numbers that demonstrated sustainability. But the reality is that they’re not good enough to compete for a championship and should be using this season to properly evaluate the prospects that they do have.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also, I made an appearance on CBC Radio Active this week. Will post the link when it’s available: CBC Radio Active (2019, December 11)

Glossary

  • Corsi For percentage (CF%) – The proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Corsi For/(Corsi For + Corsi Against). This is used as a proxy for possession and can predict a team’s future share of goals (GF%).
  • Fenwick For percentage (FF%) – The proportion of all the unblocked shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Fenwick For/(Fenwick For + Fenwick Against). This is used as a proxy for shot quality and considers shot blocking a repeatable skill. It can also predict a team’s future share of goals, slightly better than Corsi.
  • Expected Goals For percentage (xGF%) – This is a weighting placed on every unblocked shot based on the probability of the shot becoming a goal. This depends on the type of shot, location and uses historical shot and goals data to come up with the probability for each unblocked shot.
  • Goals For percentage (GF%) – The proportion of all the goals that the team scored and allowed that the team generated (i.e., Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against).
  • Shooting percentage (SH%) – The percentage of the team’s shots on goal that became goals (i.e., total goals divided by the total shots on goal).
  • Save percentage (SV%) – The percentage of the team’s shots on goal against that were saved (i.e., 1-(totals goals allowed divided by the total shots on goal against))
  • PDO – The sum of a team’s shooting percentage (SH%) and its save percentage (SV%). It’s based on the theory that most teams will ultimately regress toward a sum of 100, and is often viewed as a proxy for how lucky a team is. (Source)

CBC Radio Active: Oilers quarter season checkup

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Rod Kurtz on CBC Radio Active to talk all things Oilers. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2019, November 12)

Topics we covered:

  • The dismissal of Don Cherry.
  • The Oilers strong start, and the key drivers including goaltending and special teams.
  • Areas for concern, including the number of close games, lower-than-average shot shares and the competitiveness of the Pacific division.

Big thank you to everyone at CBC for putting it together!

CBC Radio Active: Road to the NHL season begins

cbc edmonton logoI joined host Rod Kurtz on CBC Radio Active to talk all things Oilers. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2019, September 16)

Topics we covered:

  • Upcoming pre-season games and what to expect from the Oilers.
  • Reasonable expectations for James Neal and the bottom six forwards.
  • Tyler Benson, and the importance of his development to the team.
  • The young talent pushing for roster spots on the blue line.

 

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

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!

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