Finding Shooters

Since McLellan took over as head coach of the Edmonton, he and his coaching staff have preached the importance of shot volume and attacking the net looking for rebounds. Early in the season, McLellan explained why shot volume was important when it came to scoring chances and goals:

Volume shooting, I don’t know what that does to Corsi or Fenwick because I don’t even know what those things are, but volume shooting is important. I think it breaks down defensive zone coverages, gets players out of position, taxes the opposition, makes them play more minutes in their zone. Source

Based on some work I did over the summer, I found that the Sharks got a higher proportion of shot attempts from their defence core compared to the rest of the league. The Oilers were just below average when it came to defensive contributions, and I expected this to increase once McLellan took over.

So far, that hasn’t been the case. Here’s how Oiler defencemen have done per 60 minutes when it comes to individual shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts (Fenwicks) and shots on goal  at even-strength over the past three seasons. I went with score-close situations to remove score effects, as teams play a different style whether they’re leading or trailing, which can skew the numbers. Players are ranked by individual Corsi For per 60 (iCF/60), highest to lowest (Source: War on Ice).

2012/13 – Edmonton
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
J. Schultz 48 9.49 9.09 6.45 4.21
Jeff.Petry 48 9.58 8.74 6.39 4.04
Corey.Potter 33 7.17 8.11 5.58 3.04
Mark.Fistric 25 9.38 5.63 3.84 1.79
Nick.Schultz 48 8.83 5.24 3.68 2.55
L. Smid 48 9.36 5.21 3.61 2.00
R. Whitney 34 7.74 5.02 3.65 3.19
2013/14 – Edmonton
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
Jeff.Petry 80 9.67 8.76 5.89 3.41
P. Larsen 30 6.96 8.04 5.46 3.16
J. Schultz 74 10.09 6.91 5.14 3.30
A. Ference 71 10.08 6.87 4.44 3.27
M. Marincin 44 9.05 5.87 3.61 1.81
Anton.Belov 57 7.46 5.65 3.53 2.12
2014/15 – Edmonton
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
N. Nikitin 42 9.80 12.24 9.18 7.29
O. Klefbom 60 11.50 11.13 7.22 4.78
Keith.Aulie 31 7.63 9.64 6.60 4.57
Mark.Fayne 74 9.31 9.14 4.53 3.40
M. Marincin 41 9.90 9.02 5.02 2.96
J. Schultz 81 10.84 8.75 6.49 4.44
A. Ference 70 10.41 7.57 5.27 2.80
2015/16 – Edmonton
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
D. Nurse 36 12.16 11.79 8.36 6.17
Eric.Gryba 40 10.53 10.11 5.70 4.13
B. Davidson 30 10.35 9.66 6.57 3.67
O. Klefbom 30 11.66 9.43 6.35 4.46
A. Sekera 44 11.41 8.37 5.74 3.94
Mark.Fayne 32 10.33 7.26 4.18 2.54
J. Schultz 31 11.35 7.16 4.43 2.90

Interesting stuff this season as it appears young Darnell Nurse has been the most efficient at getting shots on goal. This could be why the staff is overlooking his dreadful shot share numbers and playing him a ton regardless of the score situation. We also see here that Mark Fayne is not generating shots at all, and could be why he was demoted to the AHL earlier this season.

Regarding Schultz, it’s important note that although it may look like he’s not shooting often, he has still received a very high proportion of high danger scoring chances in his career. So he’s pinching instead of shooting from the point and, attempting at least, to be a finisher. That’s been drastically scaled back under McLellan, which, combined with his low shot attempt rate, is why I think he might be on his way out by the trade deadline.

The Oilers’ lack of shooting and success of getting the pucks on net for forwards to capitalize on rebounds has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff. Just last month, assistant coach Jay Woodcroft explained what he and the staff were expecting from Schultz.

The one area we continue to emphasize with Justin is the willingness to continue to shoot the puck. The ability to hit the net when you do shoot the puck. And letting him know that, and encouraging him that, when you do shoot that creates offence for everybody. Even if that first shot doesn’t get in, if it gets through, that’s what leads to the second chance or third chance. But it’s vital that that shot gets through from the top. Source

And here’s how the Sharks defencemen have done over the past few years. You’ll have to factor in Brent Burns’ role as a forward and defencemen in the past here, which really makes his numbers stand out. Again, these are ranked by individual Corsi For per 60 (iCF/60) at even-strength when the score is close.

San Jose – 2012/13
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
Brent.Burns 30 8.63 16.91 12.74 9.04
Matt.Irwin 38 9.38 14.31 7.58 5.39
Dan.Boyle 46 10.39 10.80 7.16 3.89
J. Demers 22 9.97 10.39 7.38 3.83
Justin.Braun 41 9.07 9.20 5.65 2.58
Brad.Stuart 48 10.51 8.56 4.76 2.26
M-E.Vlasic 48 10.63 8.47 5.06 2.82
San Jose – 2013/14
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
Brent.Burns 69 8.31 23.64 18.93 12.34
Matt.Irwin 62 9.88 12.63 8.52 6.17
M-E. Vlasic 81 10.23 11.51 7.39 5.00
Justin.Braun 82 10.16 10.95 6.63 4.61
Brad.Stuart 61 10.15 10.07 5.04 3.39
J. Demers 75 9.32 9.70 6.86 4.55
Dan.Boyle 75 9.82 8.88 6.11 4.81
S. Hannan 56 9.16 7.37 5.73 3.62
San Jose – 2014/15
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
Brent.Burns 82 10.88 17.16 10.90 6.66
Matt.Irwin 53 9.09 11.96 7.72 5.60
M-E. Vlasic 70 10.62 10.01 5.81 4.04
M.Tennyson 27 9.25 9.37 7.21 4.57
Justin.Braun 70 10.71 9.04 5.44 3.76
John.Scott 38 4.86 7.80 4.55 3.58
S.Hannan 58 9.02 7.45 5.27 3.90
M.Mueller 39 9.40 6.87 4.09 2.29
San Jose – 2015/16
Name Gm TOI/Gm iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
Brent.Burns 42 12.06 20.73 14.33 9.59
M.Tennyson 23 5.83 12.53 8.95 5.82
M-E. Vlasic 39 11.01 10.76 7.13 4.47
Justin.Braun 40 10.84 10.24 6.64 5.26
B. Dillon 42 9.96 9.90 6.74 4.16
Paul.Martin 39 11.30 4.90 3.27 1.77

Compared to the Oilers, the Sharks defencemen are, and have been, a lot more efficient at getting shots through, which could be why they’ve historically ranked high when it comes to possession, scoring chances and goals. The Sharks play a much different style than the Oilers, but my hope is that McLellan will eventually apply his successful tactics in Edmonton.

bruins-vs-phantoms-30

Source: Bruins Daily

A player that I think should be of interest to the Oilers this coming off-season is 28-year old defencemen Matt Irwin. He was with San Jose up until this season when he signed with the Bruins for one year at $800,000. After an okay preseason and two regular season games, the Bruins demoted him to Providence and he hasn’t been back to the NHL since. As of today, he leads the farm team in points among defencemen with 19, dressing for  34 games.

Now there’s no question that Irwin had a very rough two games with the Bruins. But it also sounds like GM Don Sweeney knew there was a possibility that Irwin could lose out to one of the younger players in the Bruins system.

Matt Irwin coming on helps provide depth for our grouping. … But we’ve got some younger players at some point in time have to be given an opportunity if you believe in them.  Source

Irwin’s overall style of play and underlying numbers aren’t anything extraordinary. He did well as a bottom pairing guy, playing 153 NHL games and 181 AHL games while with the Sharks organization. He was a decent option on the powerplay, and managed to hold his own in even-strength play. (More details on his past performance can be found over at Oilers Nation and The Copper & Blue).

What’s most intriguing about Irwin is his ability to shoot the puck and get it on net. In his three seasons with the Sharks, he ranked near the top among defencemen when it came to shot attempt frequency (see tables above). And he was always ranked behind Burns who played a lot of minutes as a forward, so it’s hard to compare the two. Irwin’s also very familiar with McLellan’s system and could potentially bring some of the volume shooting that the coaching staff has been preaching about and often repeating after games.

It’s also worth noting that among the 247 defencemen who have played over 60 games since 2012, Irwin ranks quite high when it comes to shooting frequency. Below are the top 30 defencemen ranked by iCF/60, with Irwin ranking 10th overall. Sorted by iFF/60, Irwin ranks 11th and by iSF/60, he’s 9th. Again, these are for even-strength play when the score is close.

Name Games TOI/GM iCF/60 iFF/60 iSF/60
Brent.Burns 223 10.01 19.60 13.96 9.06
E. Karlsson 225 12.92 14.74 9.58 6.32
D. Rundblad 83 6.73 13.33 7.95 5.16
A. Edler 226 11.10 13.25 8.88 6.22
D. Byfuglien 235 11.10 13.23 9.94 6.88
Jake.Muzzin 239 9.89 13.02 8.02 5.48
Torey.Krug 200 9.69 13.00 8.70 6.13
Eric.Gelinas 147 8.58 12.95 8.14 5.62
J. Boychuk 229 10.80 12.93 8.59 6.14
Matt.Irwin 155 9.44 12.79 8.03 5.78
Keith.Yandle 257 10.97 12.47 8.60 5.64
Radko.Gudas 161 10.21 12.19 8.25 5.69
Kris.Letang 175 10.70 12.05 8.11 6.35
Shattenkirk 222 9.92 12.04 7.98 5.45
Jacob.Trouba 175 10.77 12.04 7.58 5.13
D.Hamilton 220 10.12 11.75 8.11 6.23
Kevin.Bieksa 214 11.05 11.70 7.92 5.58
T.Hamonic 229 12.20 11.55 7.28 4.88
Matt.Dumba 115 7.96 11.53 7.40 5.04
V. Hedman 221 10.58 11.34 7.39 5.29
Mike.Green 215 10.45 11.33 7.83 5.45
O. Ekman-Larsson 253 10.90 11.31 7.59 5.27
Cody.Ceci 167 9.55 11.29 7.83 5.72
A.Pietrangelo 256 11.60 11.25 7.74 5.13
R.Murphy 107 9.43 11.18 7.02 4.70

The question might be why the Oilers didn’t go after Irwin last summer when he was a UFA or when he was put on waivers by the Bruins. My thought is that Chiarelli (and McLellan to an extent) wanted to see what they had with the Oilers current group of defencemen before sending anyone away to make room for new players. Now that the Oilers have a pretty good sense of what they have, I think it’s fair to say that there will be changes. As of today, I see Chiarelli keeping Klefbom, Sekera, Davidson and Nurse. Fayne doesn’t appear to fit into McLellan’s tactics and Gryba might have value at the deadline, and is very replaceable.

Now if the OIlers do have room on July 1st, they need to address their shots-from-defencemen issue and consider Irwin as a candidate. This is a player whose value hasn’t ever been that high and has been diminished even further as Irwin has spent over three months in the AHL on an NHL contract. Irwin will be a UFA this summer and could easily be signed to a low-risk, value contract and compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Takeaways

  • The Oilers aren’t getting the same proportion of shot attempts from their defencemen that the Sharks defencemen were providing in seasons past with McLellan behind their bench.
  • Matt Irwin ranked near the top of the San Jose defence roster when it came to shot attempts/60, unblocked shot attempts/60 and shots on goal/60 at even-strength (score close). Among the 247 NHL defencemen who dressed in over 60 games since 2012, Irwin ranks near the top when it comes to shot metrics at even-strength (score close).
  • Irwin will be an undervalued asset next summer, having been sent to the minors after only two regular season games in 2015/16.
  • The Oilers could potentially bring Irwin in on a two-way contract this coming summer and have him compete for a roster spot in training camp. The Oilers could potentially benefit from a player who is familiar with McLellan’s systems and who has had success at the NHL level with this coaching staff.

 

Sharks Under McLellan II

ThorntonI recently started looking at some of the underlying numbers the Sharks posted with McLellan behind the bench, mainly to get a sense of what we can expect next year from the Oilers. Without a doubt, McLellan is one of the elite coaches in the NHL, leading San Jose to a lot of regular season success.

What we know so far is that his club’s have been strong possession teams that took a lot of shots. The other day, I also found that his teams blocked a lot of shot attempts against, which shouldn’t be surprising considering some of the strong two-way players on the roster like Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski.

I also started digging into how often the Sharks had their shot attempts blocked. Having re-watched some of their games from last season, it became obvious to me that the Sharks love taking shots as soon as they enter the zone and look for second chances. They make a lot of short passes moving up-ice and really don’t let the opposition set up defensively, creating a lot of havoc.

Here’s a graph showing what percentage of the Sharks’ shot attempts (i.e., Corsi For) were blocked when the score was close during McLellan’s tenure. I also included the NHL average as well as the Oilers performance.

CorsiForBlockedScoreClose

What we can see here is that the Sharks were quite good at getting their shot attempts through. It could be that the team was good at setting up their plays and creating smart lanes to the net. It also confirms what I saw in some of their games: the Sharks were getting their shots in quickly before the opponent could set up, increasing their chances of their shot making it through.

On the flip side, you can see that the Oilers were brutal at getting their shot attempts through and were often one of the worst in the league when the score was close. This will be area that McLellan has to focus on, but it’s anyone’s guess if the current Oilers roster can handle the new attack plan.

I don’t think it’ll be as easy as just shooting more often. The plays that a team uses to advance the puck through the neutral zone and then gaining the zone will one of the critical factors. The good news is McLellan has a successful formula, but it’ll be up to him to deploy the right players at the right time to execute those tactics.

Sharks Under McLellan

oilers-sharks-14-12-09aBringing in an elite level NHL coach is going to go a long way in turning this franchise north. The addition of Todd McLellan and his coaching staff, along with the continued development of the young core, is worth getting excited for heading into the 2015/16 season.

Over the past seven years, McLellan posted some very nice possession numbers, as the Sharks consistently out-shot their opponents and won a lot of regular season games. One thing to note is that the Sharks were a bit of a high event team when it came to shot attempts. In the last four years, the Sharks finished in the top four when it came to the total number of Corsi events (for and against) per 60 minutes at even-strength (score adjusted).

San Jose Sharks (Even-strength, Score adjusted)
Metric 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
CF% 55.1
(5th)
51.6
(11th)
54.5
(1st)
51.9
(9th)
51.4
(11th)
54.6
(4th)
51.5
(14th)
CP60 98.8
(27th)
104.9
(16th)
107.3
(13th)
107.9
(4th)
107.3
(8th)
109.8
(4th)
110.6
(3rd)
Shot Attempts Blocked 23.2%
(19th)
21.4%
(29th)
25.3%
(15th)
27.5%
(4th)
26.6%
(10th)
26.6%
(5th)
26.2%
(9th)

I don’t think this is too concerning since they would still win a lot of games  (except for the most recent year). What’s also worth noting is that the Sharks blocked a high percentage of shot attempts against, typically finishing in the top 10 league-wide.

Team - SA Blocked

What does it all mean?

What I’m thinking is that the Sharks block a high percentage of shots because they cut off passing lanes and forced teams to take weaker shot attempts that the defenceman anticipated. And when they’re on the offensive, they’re either shooting early or finding their shooters and getting as many pucks towards the net as quickly as they can.

Watching the Sharks beat the crap out of the OIlers every year, I’ve noticed that they never have a lot of pinching defenceman and quite often let their forwards shoot the puck on net as soon as they enter the zone. If McLellan brings along some of his set plays, we should see the centers take on a more prominent role and have defenceman playing, you know, defence. If McLellan had his players blocking a high percentage of shot attempts against, it’s likely because players stay in position and read the play.

The Oilers have historically been a high event team but for the wrong reason. It’ll be interesting to see how McLellan will generate shot attempts and which players he’ll rely on to drive the play. And if he is successful, we should expect the Oilers blocking a higher percentage of shot attempts than they have done in the past. It’s obviously a big part of McLellan’s game plan, so I’d expect to see it happen in Edmonton.

We know that the Oilers have really lacked some of the key fundamentals to being a decent possession team. A combination of poor roster construction (especially on defence) and weak coaching tactics have made the Oilers an easy team to play against. With McLellan behind the bench, we should see an improvement in the team’s possession metrics and (hopefully) see the results on the score sheet and standings. This will of course depend on how well the current group of prospects develop, especially when it comes to defence.

Curious to hear what others think and what tactics/plays we should expect next season with McLellan. This will likely be part one of a series of post as I dig into the numbers and get a better sense of McLellan’s coaching style. Feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email at sunilagni23@gmail.com.

Scrivens

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Unbelievable performance by goaltender Ben Scrivens tonight as the Oilers shutout the powerhouse San Jose Sharks. How the Oilers allowed that many scoring chances and still won the game, a shutout no less, is beyond me.

Scrivens set a new record for most saves in a shutout win with 59 stops. Here’s hoping he can continue playing well and extend the current three-game winning streak.

It can easily be pointed out that the team played horrific defense and allowed way too many quality scoring chances. They really did luck out against one of the top teams in the league.

But in the midst of another losing season, it’s nice to have one of these memorable wins. Lord knows we’ve been burned by a hot goalies enough times, so it’s nice to be on the winning end for once.

Recommended Links

Ben F’n Scrivens!!! – The Copper and Blue