Comparing Woodcroft to the previous Oiler coaches

Pretty remarkable turnaround for the Oilers since the coaching change, with the Oilers now winning 21 of the 32 games with Jay Woodcroft behind the bench. The data after the first ten games indicated the early results under Woodcroft were sustainable – we just didn’t know if the team would stay healthy and if the goaltending would hold up. Thankfully for the club and their playoff aspirations, everything has gone really well.

The even-strength (5v5) results since Woodcroft took over is the key driver right now, with the Oilers doing an excellent job controlling the flow of play (as reflected by the shot-share numbers), consistently pushing for offence even when leading the game, and just dominating opponents on the score sheet. Goal-differential at five-on-five is an important metric for Holland, so it should be obvious to him how significant the results have been since Tippett was dismissed.

The Oilers under Woodcroft have been getting much better goaltending with the team’s save percentage closer to league average levels, and have also seen their team shooting percentage improve. But they’re also getting a higher share of the total scoring chances, as reflected by the expected goals for percentage, due in large part to the coaching staff’s tactics. This includes changing how players are deployed, how they play in the neutral zone, looking for more favorable line match-ups and pushing for offence regardless of the score.

And relative to the previous coaches in the McDavid era, Woodcroft is doing really well with the roster he’s been given and should strongly be considered for a new contract.

This is the first time since 2016/17 that the Oilers have posted a positive goal differential at even-strength – something the Oilers couldn’t achieve under Holland’s first coaching hire (and someone the general manager actually wanted to extend just prior to dismissing him). And this is the first time the Oilers are posting underlying shot share numbers that are better than just break-even and closer in line to what the top teams in the league post (i.e., teams that have a points percentage above 0.600 in the regular season). A 54% Corsi For percentage and Expected Goals For percentage is what top end teams like Florida, Calgary, Carolina, Boston, Toronto and Colorado are currently posting. The Oilers are closer to that group thanks to the coaching change, and should expect to continue doing well if they stay healthy and get decent goaltending.

Now it’s understandable if management wants to wait for the off-season to make the call on whether or not Woodcroft should be given a new contract. Maybe it’s in Woodcroft’s best interest too in case another team brings forward a better offer. But it’s difficult to envision a scenario that would disqualify Woodcroft’s candidacy to be the head coach in Edmonton next season. The regular season results have been excellent and far better than what they’ve had since McDavid arrived seven years ago. And it’s not really reasonable to base the coaching decision on what happens in the post-season considering the playoff tournament is highly volatile that could go either way in a series – really depending more on which team gets the better goaltending. And if the players and their agents are already signing off on having Woodcroft stick around, it’s difficult to go another direction.

It’ll be interesting to see what approach the Oilers take, either going with someone they know and have developed as a coach, someone who appears to have progressive ideas and knows the players and prospects well. Or do they go with an external option, likely someone with similar traits to the previous three coaches. Just keep your expectations of the team lower if that ends up being the case.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Related:

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Protecting leads

A common trend we’ve seen across the league for many years now is how coaches alter their approach depending on what the score is in a game. Trailing in a game, and you can expect the coach to start playing the skilled players a little more and be willing to take on some more risks to create offensive chances. Leading in a game, and teams start to play more conservatively, not really trying anything that could lead to a turn over, and focus more on just keeping the puck out of their own zone.

And we can see this in the data from the previous three seasons. Using Corsi For percentage as a proxy for puck possession, we see how when the game is tied, team’s on average control about 50% of the total shot attempts for and against. When trailing in a game and looking for the next goal, we see that the league average Corsi For% jump to 55%. And when they’re leading, teams tend to take their foot off the gas, not trying to create too much, and we see the league average Corsi For% drop to around 45%. In the graph below, these league-average levels are indicated by the orange line. And for context, I also added the league-high (blue line) and league-low (grey line) Corsi For% for each game-state to show the range.

Protecting the lead

The way coaches approach things when their team is leading in a game isn’t all too suprising considering the majority of them are fairly risk-averse. And they would rather their players play a simple game and not do anything that could jeoparidize their lead. What’s interesting is that in his first fourteen games as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Jay Woodcroft seems to have a different approach and appears to be pushing his team to continue generating offence even with a lead. A stark contrast to the previous three head coaches the Oilers have had since 2015.

The table below has the same three lines as the previous graph showing the range of Corsi For% across the league when a team is leading in a game, tied or trailing. Added to the graph now are bars to represent the previous coaches the Oilers have had and what the Oilers Corsi For% was under them in different game states.

What we see here is that when Todd McLellan, Ken Hitchock or Dave Tippett were coaching, the Oilers followed the usual trend. They would push for offence at a league average rate only when trailing in a game, and saw a significant drop in their puck posession numbers when leading in a game. Hitchcock especially had the Oilers pretty much playing in a defensive shell posting some of the lowest posession numbers in the league when the score was tied or when the Oilers were leading.

What stands out here are the Oilers numbers when they’ve been leading in games under Jay Woodcroft. While the average team posts a Corsi For% of 45% when leading the score, the Oilers are posting one of the highest possesion numbers in the league with 54%. They appear to be pushing for offence, opting to control the flow of play and put pressure on opponents as a way to stifle any chances against. It’s a riskier way to play, but makes sense considering it’s what the top teams in the league do. This season, eight of the top ten teams in terms of Corsi For% when leading have a points percentage above 0.600, and includes Florida, Calgary and Colorado at the top.

I’d be curious to hear Woodcroft’s thoughts on the matter and if he does have a different perspective on how best to protect leads, especially with so many critical games coming up. And if this changes the type of players Holland and his scouting staff start targeting in the off-season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Related: Chasing the game – The SuperFan (2020, January 3)

Digging into the Oilers special teams

The Edmonton Oiler’s special teams has become a drag this season, something I don’t think fans were expecting considering how much of a positive impact it has had on the overall results over the previous two seasons.

When you combine the goals for and against on the powerplay and the penalty kill this season, the Oilers special teams has posted a -1 goal differential, which is right around league average. That’s a significant drop from last season when the Oilers special teams posted a +19 goal differential, the highest in the league. The year before that, their special teams was +21 and tied for first in the league. Without a doubt, the Oilers special teams is the reason why they finished second in their division in 2019/20 and 2021, considering how poor their even-strength (5v5) goal-differential was in both of those seasons (-16 in 2019/20 and -1 in 2020/21). Since the Oilers full-season goal differential at even-strength (while improving under Woodcroft) is still poor sitting at -5, they desperately need their special teams to be better than league average if they have any hopes of clinching a playoff spot.

Penalty kill

The Oilers are currently allowing the sixth highest rate of goals against in the league on the penalty kill (8.91 per hour) and only ahead of Detroit, Montreal, Arizona, Seattle and Vancouver. And this is largely due to their goaltending which has posted a 84.53% save percentage that ranks 26th overall.

The Oilers have actually done a decent job in front of their goaltending, allowing a near-average rate of shot attempts and shots on goal against. And these numbers have gradually been improving. Under Dave Tippett, the Oilers allowed 58.47 shots against per hour, slightly higher than the league average rate of 54.67. Under Woodcroft, the Oilers are now allowing 55.38 per hour.

The problem is the goaltending has consistently been poor this season. Koskinen has an 84.50% save percentage, ranking 47th among 62 goalies who have played at least 50 minutes, while Smith ranks 56th with an 82.1% save percenatge. While both goalies did post solid penalty kill save percentages over the previous two seasons, Oilers management should have expected an eventual drop-off considering the age of both netminders and the increased potential for injuries and the extended recovery times necessary. Unfortunately, this is what happens when managers lack an understanding of player-aging-curves and fail to address key issues in the off-season.

Powerplay

Over the full season, the Oilers powerplay has scored at a rate of 9.44 goals per hour, ranking fifth in the league and just slightly below the rate of goals they scored over the previous two seasons, leading the league with 10.60 per hour. The Oilers had a great start to the season but have since been in a steady decline with the Oilers generating only 6.41 goals per hour since Woodcroft was hired – one of the lowest rates in the league. The graph below breaks out the Oilers season into rolling 25-game segments and shows the rate of powerplay goals per hour, with the vertical line indicating when the coaching change occurred.

A big reason why the Oilers powerplay has dropped off is their declining rate of shots and scoring chances. Prior to the coaching change, the Oilers were generating over 69 shots per hour – the highest in the league and well above the league average rate of 54.66 per hour. But since Woodcroft’s arrival, the rate of shots has dropped down by 29.5% falling to 48.64 per hour.

The issue here is that the Oilers are really missing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The Oilers have historically seen their rate of shots on the powerplay drop whenever Nugent-Hopkins isn’t on the ice, and that’s even with McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice. Over the previous two seasons, McDavid and Draisaitl have played 52 minutes without Nugent-Hopkins with them and saw their on-ice rate of shots-for drop by 23.8% – going from 64 shots per hour when the trio is together to 49 shots per hour without Nugent-Hopkins.

The same drop-off has occurred this year with the rate of powerplay shots dropping by 16.3% when McDavid and Draisaitl haven’t had Nugent-Hopkins with them, going from 71 shots per hour down to 60. Nugent-Hopkins has missed 11 games this year, and in the 100 powerplay minutes the Oilers have played without him the team has seen a major drop in productivity scoring at a rate of 6.54 goals per hour – a stark decline from the 11.28 goals per hour the Oilers have scored when he’s been on the ice.

While the Oilers can’t predict when injuries will hit, they should be aware of the fact that Nugent-Hopkins is starting to creep into the tail end of his career, having played 701 NHL games now and becoming more susceptible to injuries. And they should also be aware of the positive impact he’s historically had on the powerplay and planned on what to do if they’re ever without their powerplay witch. Again this comes down to management’s ability to regularly analyze their on-ice results, conduct sound player evaluation and intergrate as much information as possible into their decision-making process. The powerplay can still be fixed, but Ken Holland and his staff are once again taking a reactive approach instead of proactively trying to get ahead of issues before they come up and derail a season.

If the special teams is what costs the Oilers a playoff spot, management will have only themselves to blame.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper and Blue.

Oilers management is to blame for the issues in net

Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen: That Blue Paint

Quick query using publicly available data and an understanding of the salary cap and player aging curves could have prevented this fiasco.

If Oilers management isn’t happy with their goaltending, they have only themselves to blame. When you consider each netminders recent history at even-strength and the penalty kill, Ken Holland and his group really shouldn’t be surprised with their poor results this season. How often the Oilers goalies have stopped the puck has actually been similar to their previous seasons.

Even-strength (5v5)

Let’s start with even-strength (5v5), where the Oilers goalies have allowed a total of 80 goals on 876 shots against – ranking 29th in the league with a 0.909% team save percentage. The average save percentage at the team level and individual level for regular netminders is typically around 0.920%.

Below is a table showing how each Oilers goalie has performed this season including their time on ice, shots faced, goals allowed and save percentage. Among the 67 goalies who have played at least 250 minutes this season, Stuart Skinner ranks 43rd in terms of save percentage with 0.913, while Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen rank 51st and 57th respectively. Again, league average save percentage is around 0.920 – and all three have been below that mark this season.

Now to see if these numers are within an expected range, let’s look at how each Oilers goalie has performed in their previous three seasons – between 2018/19 and 2020/21. Same as above, I’ve included time on ice, shots faced, goals allowed and save percentage.

In 113 games between 2018 and 2021, Smith posted a 0.910 save percentage, which is identical to the save percentage he’s posted this season. In those previous three seasons, Smith ranked 54th among 60 goalies who played at least 2,000 minutes – demonstrating clearly that despite a career year last season, he’s a below-average goalie at even-strength. And it’s really not surprising considering he’s at an age when goaltenders drop-off significantly (Source: Hockey Graphs).

In the same three-year period, Koskinen didn’t fare much better posting a 0.916 save percentage in 119 games, sitting just below league average and ranking 42nd among the same group of 60 goalies. He’s definitely been worse this season posting a 0.906 save percentage, which is somewhat expected considering he’s now 33 years old and taking on a larger workload with Smith being injured. Skinner had only played one NHL game in that three-year period, but it’s good to know that his 0.913 save percentage this season would rank 48th among those 60 goalies.

Since Smith is posting the same save percentage this season as he has in the previous three seasons, he’s allowed about the same number of goals we could expect him to allow – approximately 14 . Koskinen on the other hand, is allowing about five more goals than expected. If he was posting a save percentage of 0.916 this season like he had in the previous three seasons, he would have allowed 40 goals instead of 45. The good news is that Skinner is performing better than we expected. Had he posted a 0.903 save percentage, the team would have allowed an extra two goals.

So based on some quick and dirty math – had the Oilers goalies performed at the same levels they had in the previous three seasons, the team would have allowed 77 goals instead of 80 at even-strength (5v5). Using the same number of shots against, that would be a team save percentage of 0.912 and would rank 26th in the league instead of 29th. So as much as the Oilers would like their goalies to be closer to league average levels at even-strength, it’s really not a realistic expectation considering how Smith and Koskinen have performed below league average over the last three seasons. Holland and his group should have known this heading into such an important season.

Penalty kill

Looking at the penalty kill this season, the Oilers have allowed 20 goals on 174 shots against – ranking 17th in the league in terms of goals against per hour (7.08) and 10th overall in team save percentage with 0.885. The average penalty kill save percentage at the team level and individual level is typically around 0.865 with all three Oilers goalies posting numbers above that this season.

Here’s how each Oilers goalie has performed this season with Skinner ranking 5th among 65 goalies who have played at least 25 minutes shorthanded this season, with Koskinen and Smith ranking 28th and 32nd respectively.

When you compare this season’s numbers with their previous three seasons, Smith and Koskinen are posting numbers fairly close to their historical levels. Over the last three seasons, Smith has a save percentage of 0.883 on the penalty kill, while Koskinen has posted a save percentage of 0.876 – both of which are above league average.
The number of goals allowed by Smith and Koskinen this season are pretty close to what we would expect from them as their save percentages are nearly identical. The issue for the Oilers is that they’re allowing a higher rate of shots against this season (about 61 per hour), while in previous seasons they’ve allowed about 55 shots against per hour. Skinner is performing above league average levels and has saved about three more goals than expected. Had he put up only league average numbers this season, the team would have allowed 23 goals instead of 20 and the Oilers would have a team save percentage of 0.867, which would rank around 16th in the league instead of 10th. Really, the difference has been marginal with all three goalies performing around expected levels.

Thoughts

While the Oilers goaltending overall hasn’t been great this season, the netminders are performing within their expected ranges. All three goalies are league average or below at this point, so expecting anything more from them was unrealistic from the get go.

Had the Oilers conducted a basic analysis using publicly available data and took time to understand salary cap management and player aging curves, they could have made smarter, more sensible bets and be in a better spot in the standings. Instead they chose to – or you could argue they were forced to – take on a lot of risk at such an important position and are getting pretty much what they should have expected.

What’s especially baffling is that despite the red flags, Ken Holland and his group have not once or twice, but three times chosen to start a regular season with Smith and Koskinen as their goalie tandem. And yes, the Oilers did try to upgrade their goaltending in previous off-seasons. But they failed because they didn’t have enough quality assets to part with due to their own mismanagement of the roster construction and their poor draft capital.

Rather that the goaltending performance, the focus really should be on Ken Holland and his management group and their very obviously-flawed decision-making process. And try as they may to improve the roster now and to make a run at a playoff spot, it’s hard to have faith in a management group that got them into this awful mess in the first place.

Related: Evaluating the evaluation – The Copper & Blue (2020, August 14)

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Goal goals

Oilers' revamped third line providing much-needed balance

While the overall results have been excellent, one area for concern is the Oilers goal-differential at even-strength (5v5) – a metric that Ken Holland referenced as his go-to “analytic” this past summer (Source: The Athletic).

After 11 games, the Oilers have just barely outscored opponents 25-24, a goal-share of 51.02 that ranks 16th in the league and fifth in the Pacific behind the Calgary, Los Angeles, Vancouver and San Jose. And it’s really been on the defensive side of the game where they’re having issues as the club is scoring the fifth highest rate of goals per hour in the league (2.80), but allowing the seventh higher rate of goals against (2.69).

The Oilers goaltending currently ranks 23rd in the league at even-strength (5v5) with a 91.86% team save percentage, which is only better than Seattle in the Pacific. One issue is how much offence they’re giving up, allowing the seventh highest rate of shots against per hour (32.3) in the league and the tenth highest rate of expected goals against per hour (2.50) (note that both metrics have been score and venue adjusted to reflect how much time the Oilers have spent playing with a lead).

It’s likely a spot of bother for management and the coaching staff as they finished with a -16 goal differential at even-strength (5v5) two seasons ago and a -1 goal differential last season.

With McDavid on the ice this season, and the team often controlling the flow of play and outshooting opponents (57.16% Corsi For% and 57.12% Expected Goals For%) the Oilers have outscored opponents 12-9 at even-strength (5v5). Without McDavid, they’ve been outscored 13-15 largely due to the fact that they get outplayed by opponents and spend more time without the puck and in their own zone – as reflected by their 47.44% Corsi For% and 44.34% Expected Goals For%.

When we look at each individual forward and their on-ice shot differential, expected goal differential and goa differential, we see how it’s once again the depth forwards that are allowing more goals than they’re scoring. That has to be frustrating for a front office that has spent so many assets over the last few seasons to address their even-strength (5v5) issues.

Below are each forwards on-ice shot differential, expected goal differential and goal differential at even-strength (5v5) this season, ranked by their on-ice goal-differential. I’ve applied a basic heatmap to each metric to show how each player compares in relation to their teammates.

In terms of actual results (i.e., goal differential) it’s the depth forwards that Holland himself either acquired or re-signed that are currently having issues including Foegele, Ryan, Kassian, Shore and Turris. What’s especially concerning is that these players are also allowing more shots and chances than they’re generating, which doesn’t give a lot of confidence that their on-ice results will improve.

It’ll also be interesting to see if Hyman’s numbers improve. He’s been good at driving play, with the team doing a better job of generating shots and chances when he’s on the ice, but the goals haven’t been coming. On the flip side, Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl look like their on a bit of a heater, the results of which are masking some of their poor on-ice shot-share metrics. I’d expect their goal-differentials to slide, but perhaps some extended time with someone like Hyman or even Puljujarvi can help them sustain their current results.

Worth highlighting too how the defence core is doing, which is significantly different than last season. Again, the players below are sorted by their on-ice goal differential with a heatmap applied to to each metric to show how each player compares in relation to their teammates.

Really encouraging to see Bouchard have positive results supported by solid on-ice shot-share numbers. And I’d aspect Nurse’s results to improve considering he has McDavid on the ice with him for 55% of his ice-time. Barrie on the other hand, not sure what to say. His poor on-ice shot-share numbers are consistent with his recent seasons, so the Oilers should’ve been aware of this before signing him to a three-year contract this past off-season. Keith and Ceci are posting okay results, but it’s likely to slide considering the Oilers get outshot and outchanced with them on the ice, and they need to have McDavid with them for positive results to occur. And it’s not surprising to see Koekkoek’s poor on-ice numbers considering his performance the last few seasons and the fact he’s spending a lot of time with the depth forwards.

If the Oilers want to have sustainable success, they’ll need to find a way to get better results at even-strength. It’s a recurring issue with their depth players, one that Holland has publicly addressed, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Oilers approach this – either by changing up the line combinations, making a call to Bakersfield or looking at the trade market.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Repeating history

With the off-season upgrades up front and the question marks around the defence core and goaltending, the Edmonton Oilers are showing some similarities to the  2014/15 Dallas Stars.

That was the high-event team that scored 257 goals in the regular season, second most in the league only behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, but also allowed 257 goals, which was fourth highest in the league. That resulted in a sixth place finish in the Central division, with the team missing the playoffs by seven points.

It was a very disappointing finish for the Stars as in the season prior they had made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, clinching the last wild card spot in the west but losing in six games to the top-ranked Anaheim Ducks. The star players led the way in the regular season with Tyler Seguin finishing fourth in scoring with 84 points as a 21-year old and Jamie Benn finishing 11th with 79 points at age 24.

The Stars made a concerted effort in the 2014 off-season to shore up their forward group acquiring Jason Spezza from the Senators, and signing Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves on the first day of free agency. Similar to Edmonton’s current issues, the Stars were often out-shot and out-scored without Seguin or Benn on the ice in the 2013/14 regular season – an issue that carried over into the playoffs that spring. With Seguin and/or Benn on the ice, the Stars outscored the Ducks 9-6 in all situations. Without them, the Stars were outscored 9-14. Individual production from their star players became an issue in the playoffs as well, as none other than Shawn Horcoff led the Stars in playoff points that year with six.

Improving the forward group in the off-season paid off for the Stars offensively in the 2014/15 regular season. Benn finished first in league scoring with 87, scoring 35 goals. Seguin finished seventh in scoring with 77 points, including 37 goals. Spezza finished with 62 points, including 45 assists. The club generated the highest rate of shot attempts, and scoring chances in the league at even-strength, and finished fourth in terms of expected goals per hour. The Stars would score 174 even-strength (5v5) goals that season, the third highest in the league, and 55 powerplay goals, fifth highest in the league.

But while management added talent up front and got solid results offensively, they went with the same defence core and goaltending which turned out to be disastrous. The team had good reason to be content with their defence core – which featured veterans like Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley, and youngsters like John Klingberg – as in the season prior the team was right around league average when it came to shots and scoring chances against. And goaltender Kari Lehtonen had consistently been solid for the Stars, ranking 13th in terms of save percentage and 6th in terms of goals-saved-above-average among regular goalies (+2000 minutes) in the three seasons prior.

That all went sideways in 2014/15 with the Stars allowing the fourth highest number of goals against (247) and ranking in the upper third of the league when it came to shots and scoring chances against, including the 9th highest rate of expected goals against. What made things significantly worse was the Stars goaltending, which ranked 28th in the league that season with a 90.95% team save percentage. Lehtonen posted his lowest save percentage in his career that season (90.30%), never quite recovered to his career levels, and was out of the league in 2018. This shouldn’t have been too surprising considering he was 30 at the time, which is right around when goaltender performance starts to decline (Source: Hockey Graphs).

While we can hope that the Oilers won’t have a similar fate this upcoming season, there’s reasons to think otherwise.

For one, the Oilers put a lot of focus on the forward group this off-season, spending assets and making some reasonable bets on players that should help improve the goal-scoring. But their defence core is now lacking, with veteran players expected to play above their more recent established levels, putting more pressure on youngsters like Evan Bouchard to progress in their development and take on more minutes. The Oilers are also taking a significant risk with their goaltending, which while was good last season, can’t be expected to be at the same levels given Smith’s and Koskinen’s ages.

What I also found interesting was the Oilers even-strength (5v5) numbers under Tippett compared to the Stars even-strength numbers in 2014/15.

The Stars were far better offensively than the Oilers have been, but I’m expecting the difference to be smaller considering the changes up front by Oilers management. What’s interesting here is that the Stars defensive numbers, which weren’t good that year, are awfully close to what the Oilers have posted under Tippett, with both teams allowing around the same rate of shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts and expected goals against. The Oilers have even allowed the same rate of goals against as the Stars did in 2014/15 (2.64), with the team save percentages being awfully close.

If the Oilers post similar defensive numbers this upcoming season as they have under Tippett thus far and get the same level of goaltending at even-strength as they have in the past, I’d expect them to have similar results as the Stars did in 2014/15. It’ll make for some very entertaining hockey, likely some high-scoring games, but it’s going to put a playoff spot in jeopardy, especially if the special teams struggle at all.

How the Oilers coaching staff and management group mitigate the risks will definitely be something to monitor, especially with so much pressure on the team to make a deeper playoff run.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Moving on from Archibald

With training camp underway, the focus should be on the potential line combinations and defence pairings for the upcoming season, which young prospects will emerge and take on important roles – and really just getting as much information as possible about this roster. And we’re getting plenty of content and storylines to follow and dissect, already within the first couple of days. But it’s pretty hard to ignore the situation with forward Josh Archibald and his reluctance to get vaccinated to spend training camp with his teammates.

Now, Archibald has had plenty of time to get things sorted out and has probably had more than a few discussions with management and the coaching staff to talk about the impacts of his decision to his career and to the team. If he hasn’t straightened things out at this point with training camp already underway, why are the Oilers so hesitant about assigning him to the AHL or even terminating his contract? He’s on the second year of a two-year contract that pays him $1.5 million this upcoming season and is very, very replaceable.

This is clearly a fourth line player averaging about 10-11 minutes per game at even-strength (5v5) and producing 1.18 points per hour over his 235-game career. He’s not a shut-down player, spending the majority of his ice-time against lesser competition. And has in fact been a part of the depth problems the Oilers have been experiencing, specifically when McDavid has been on the bench. In his two seasons with the Oilers, the team has posted a goal differential of -23 (38 GF/61 GA) with Archibald on the ice, a goal-share of 38.4%. Part of the reason for that is the team has poor possession numbers with Archibald on the ice, with the team posting a Corsi For% of 45.5%. And again, this is predominantly against the opponents third and fourth lines and away from elite competition.

Where the coaching staff does have faith in Archibald is on the penalty kill, as he lead the Oilers forwards in total shorthanded ice-time and average ice-time per game in 2020/21 and had the second most minutes the year before. And while the results have been good for the team in terms of preventing goals, with the team allowing about the same rate of goals against with and without Archibald on the ice in the last two seasons, they do a see a significantly higher rate of shots with Archibald deployed. Without him, the Oilers have allowed about 51 shots against per hour, which is just slightly better than league average. With him, that rate of shots against jumps up to 64 per hour, an increase of about 25%. Now part of that has to do with the fact that he’s often played against the other team’s top power play units. But keep in mind, top penalty kill units see an increase of +5.45 shots against per hour relative to the team rate. Archibald’s rate of shots against (+12.27) is double the league average of top penalty kill units, so you really can’t put it all on the level of competition.

Knowing the Oilers might be starting the season without Archibald, the Oilers did bring in 32-year old Colton Sceviour on a professional try-out agreement, who appears to be a pretty seamless replacement for Archibald. He’s played 500 NHL games, has played a similar depth role as Archibald averaging about 10 minutes a game at even-strength and has a slightly better career points-per-hour rate of 1.41.

Sceviour also has plenty of experience on the penalty kill, becoming a regular option during his four seasons in Florida between 2016 and 2020 leading the team in ice time and average ice time per game.

Sceviour posted some pretty solid on-ice penalty kill numbers in Florida for a player who was deployed as often he was. In two of his four seasons, the rate of shots against were lower relative to his team numbers. And a couple times the rate of shots against were higher but reasonably in line with what happens across the league when top penalty killers are on the ice. Sceviour did see his average ice time drop as a new member of the Penguins last season. But the club did quite well at suppressing shots with him on the ice, seeing their rate of shots against drop by 8.87 shots per hour.

With a replacement like Sceviour who can play depth minutes and has experience killing penalties already participating in the Oilers training camp, the Oilers really should move on from Archibald as soon as possible. The club needs to sort out their even-strength line combinations, give players time to develop chemistry and figure out their special teams – especially their penalty kill, which is going to look a lot different than last season.

More importantly, the Oilers need to make a clear statement that the organization understands the gravity of the global pandemic and do not want to risk the health and safety of their staff, their players, the fans and the community. Letting the decision to move on from Archibald linger is a terrible look for Oilers management, the coaching staff and the leadership group among the players, especially since it’s been revealed that one of their own teammates is still dealing with complications from being diagnosed with Covid-19 last year.

This really isn’t a hard decision or a tough stance to take. Organizations around the globe are making vaccines mandatory to protect their businesses and their industry, and the Oilers really have no excuse here trying to accommodate a single player who doesn’t seem to care about the consequences of his actions. It’s a big season coming up with high expectations for the club – and the focus at this point should be on the players who want to be at training camp and want to have a strong season.

Data: Natural Stat TrickPuck IQCap Friendly

Penalty kill options up front

Something to watch for this upcoming season is how the Oilers coaching staff assembles the penalty killing units. As I wrote a couple weeks back, the Oilers lost some key defensemen with Larsson and Bear now skating with other teams and are taking a risk if they’re expecting Keith and Ceci to take on those minutes and have success.

Things are just as interesting up front. Last season, nine forwards played at least ten minutes short-handed for the Oilers, with Archibald, Nugent-Hopkins, Khaira and Haas leading the team in total ice-time and average ice-time per game. Two of those four are playing elsewhere this coming season with Khaira signing with Chicago and Haas signing with EHC Biel Bienne in the Swiss league. And there’s a chance now that Archibald with miss significant time as an unvaccinated player. Considering how high the rate of shots and chances were when the Oilers deployed other depth forwards like Shore or Turris last season, it’s really looking like the new additions to the team, and perhaps even an emerging prospect, will take on a greater share of the penalty killing minutes.

For reference, the table below sorts the penalty killing forwards from the 2020/21 season by total ice time (TOI), and includes the percentage of the team’s total penalty kill ice time the player was on the ice for (TOI%) and time on ice per game played (TOI/GP). I’ve also included each player’s on-ice rate of unblocked shot attempts against (FA/60), shots on goals against (SA/60) and goals against (GA/60). I’ve also included the table for the 2019/20 season.

What stands out when looking at the data is how much Tippett has relied on Archibald, deploying him for 43% of the team’s total penalty killing time in the 2020/21 season, which was only a slight increase from the 2019/20 season when Archibald finished with the second highest ice time (39% of the team’s total time) and average ice time among forwards, only behind Sheahan. It’s worth noting however that the Oilers allowed a significantly higher rate of shot attempts and shots against with Archibald on the ice, with a higher than normal on-ice save percentage keeping his rate of goals against within a reasonable range.  

Khaira’s numbers stand out as well. He gradually took on more and more responsibility seeing his average ice time per game grow from 1:30 in 2019/20 to just under two minutes in 2020/21. His on-ice results were solid as well, with the team allowing a lower rate of goals against with him on the ice than without him.

Haas was a nice addition to the Oilers penalty kill last season after Turris failed to secure the role. Likely because of his ability to shut down offence at even-strength, really at both ends of the rink, Haas was given a bigger role in 2020/21 and came through for the coaching staff. With Haas on the ice last season killing penalties, the Oilers posted the second lowest rate of shot attempts against, shots against as well as the lowest rate of goals against.

With Nugent-Hopkins likely staying on as a penalty-killer, who else could Tippett use to fill the vacant roles? Before looking at the options, a re-cap of what we know about Tippett and his coaching staff from their two years with the Oilers:

  • They typically use bottom six forwards on the penalty kill, with Nugent-Hopkins being the exception. Yamamoto did get some ice-time, as did Draisaitl, but they prefer to keep top-six players fresh for even-strength play and the powerplay.
  • Tippett likes having a right-handed forward option who can handle faceoffs as opposing powerplays often elect to have faceoffs on their left side. It was part of the reason why Turris was given the first opportunity to secure a role on the penalty kill.
  • The Oilers prefer veteran players who have a history on the penalty kill. Guys like Sheahan and Granlund were regular options averaging over two minutes per game with their previous teams before arriving in Edmonton and got the first opportunity to secure a regular spot in the rotation. The only youngster to get an opportunity on the penalty kill in the last two seasons is Ryan McLeod who played just under 11 minutes total in 2020/21.

Based on that criteria, here’s the list of options I have in mind that could be regular penalty killers in 2020/21:

  • Derek Ryan
  • Warren Foegele
  • Zach Hyman
  • Colton Sceviour

I know the coaching staff is going to look at Shore as an option. But the team allowed some of the highest rates of shot attempts and shots on goal against when he was on the ice last season. Plus, he’s never averaged more than 1:30 per game in a season, often ranking fifth or sixth in ice time on his previous teams. Turris cannot be an option at this point either, even though the team will do everything they can to squeeze some value out of him. He had poor on-ice numbers on the penalty kill before coming to Edmonton, and there really is nothing in his game or his history that indicates he can ever do well shorthanded. McLeod should also get some reps considering he’s a depth centerman and did have some nice numbers in his limited minutes last season – posting a very low rate of on-ice shots against and zero goals against in just under 11 minutes of ice-time. But that’ll depend on how much patience the coaching staff has for the young rookie and if they’re willing to develop him in a season when there’s a lot of pressure to win.

On to the options.

Derek Ryan is pretty close to meeting the coaching staff’s penalty kill criteria that I listed above. He’ll be a bottom six player for the Oilers next season. He’s right-handed and has a lot of success taking faceoffs. And while he hasn’t been averaging over two minutes of PK time per game, he’s typically been third or fourth in terms of total ice time and average ice time per game in his three seasons with Calgary. Considering his even-strength shot-suppression numbers are similar to Haas, I suspect he’ll take on similar minutes and hopefully have similar results on the penalty kill.

Warren Foegele is another option if he finds himself playing on the third line, potentially with Ryan. He was not a regular penalty killer during his three seasons in Carolina, averaging about a minute per game and ranking fifth or sixth in terms of ice time among forwards and taking the rare draw. The Hurricanes did see a drop in their rate of shot attempts against when he was on the ice, so there’s some potential there.

Zach Hyman could get a look on the penalty kill considering he averaged over two minutes per game in his last five seasons with the Leafs, took draws and had some good seasons in terms of on-ice rates of shots and goals against. Although he’ll likely be a top six forward at even-strength, there may not be space for him on the powerplay, freeing him up for the penalty kill.

Colton Sceviour is the one player that meets all three criteria and is probably the best option to replace Archibald’s minutes. He’s played over 500 NHL games. He’s right-handed and has experience taking faceoffs. And in his four seasons with Florida between 2016 and 2020, he lead his team in ice time on the penalty kill averaging over two minutes per game. And while he did see his average ice time per game drop last season in Pittsburgh, the club allowed a lower rate of shots and goals with him on the ice, similar to some of his seasons with Florida when he was on the first penalty killing unit. His career on-ice numbers are stronger than Archibald’s (refer to the Appendix), making him an ideal candidate for that first unit. This is all dependent of course on him showing well in training camp, finding some chemistry with a potential linemate and signing an NHL contract.

A lot of pressure on this team heading into the season, and I can’t imagine the coaching staff is too comfortable with so much change happening on the penalty kill. But while they’re losing key players up front, there appears to be some good options if the coaching staff is willing to try it out. The concern here is that they go with the players they know and have signed and give ice-time to Shore or Turris instead of someone like Sceviour who starts training camp on a PTO. We’ll see how things play out.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Appendix: On-ice penalty killing numbers

Consumer confidence

Oilers GM hopeful NHL season can be saved | CTV News

One of my favorite articles this summer was Dom Luszczyszyn’s look at how much confidence the public has in the front offices of every NHL club, and how poorly the Oilers ranked compared to the other 31 teams.

The results were based on a survey The Athletic conducted asking subscribers to evaluate teams based on six main categories: roster building, cap management, drafting and developing, trading, free agency and vision. Highly recommend checking Dom’s article out; major kudos to him for continuing to do this annually.

I can’t say I was too surprised with how poorly the Oilers ranked, considering how many blunders they’ve made over the last few years – and this off-season was a continuation of Holland’s approach. When completing the survey myself, I ranked the Oilers front office quite poorly for all six categories, and have noted my thoughts on each below.

Roster building: How the front office has managed its roster, looking in general terms about the players in the system and whether they formulate the right building blocks for the team’s goal of contending, whether that’s in the present or future.

This was pretty straight-forward for me. With a superstar like McDavid under contract, management should be evaluated entirely on how the team does without him on the ice. And so far in the two seasons with Holland in charge, the Oilers have failed to assemble a roster that can break-even in terms of goals and shot-share metrics when McDavid is on the bench at even-strength. In fact, this past season the Oilers posted some of their worst underlying numbers since McDavid’s arrival, thanks in large part to the depth players Holland signed to contracts.

With McDavid on the roster, the goal has been and always will be a championship. And it’s hard to feel confident in Holland’s ability to get roster-building right when the players him and his staff have signed are a big reason why the Oilers can’t post a positive goal-share at even-strength.

Cap management: How the front office has managed the team’s finances, with regards to the efficiency of money spent (are there a lot of bad contracts on the books), cap space, future flexibility and general dollar worth. Bottom line: If a team is or isn’t spending money, are they doing so wisely?

If there’s one thing we’ve confirmed about Ken Holland it’s that he does not integrate analytics into his overall decision-making process. One of the key benefits of analytics is being able to cut through the noise that personal and group bias brings to your organization. It makes you question what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing and forces you to think and re-think a problem. It’s challenging and uncomfortable and requires a lot of effort individually and collectively. But having a process in place that draws in and leverages analytics can improve your chances of success and give a team an edge over the competition.

And you know the Oilers lack this level of intelligence and effort just based on the traps they keep falling into. Signing players who had a high on-ice shooting and save percentages (PDO) well above their career norms the season before – check. Signing players who produced well with McDavid but showed little without him – check. Signing players based on who management is familiar with or who they can think of or reference easily (i.e., availability heuristic) – check.

When a team has consistently fooled themselves into these kind of signings and bringing on inefficient contracts, and don’t appear to addressing their decision-making process, why would anyone feel confident in their ability to manage the cap going forward? It’s 2021 and the Oilers still can’t be bothered to learn how other successful teams have managed their cap and avoided these kinds of mistakes.

Drafting and developing: How the front office has managed its farm, from draft day to the big leagues, relative to their draft pick capital. Is the team making smart selections and are those players meeting their potential after the draft?

When it comes to drafting, I tend to defer to people who watch and evaluate prospects, entry drafts and developmental paths. From my perspective, the Oilers appear to have selected decent players in the first round like Holloway and Bourgault and Broberg. But everything else they’ve done since Holland’s arrival to build a strong development program appear to be raising some red flags.

For example, Corey Pronman from The Athletic recently ranked the Oilers prospect pool 25th in the league, evaluating every team’s players who are 22 and younger; in 2020 he ranked the Oilers 26th (Source). When he recently compiled his ranking of 194 players under 23, the highest ranking Oilers was Yamamoto at 79th. Holloway was 90th, Bouchard was 124th and Broberg was 127th (Source).

In his own list of top 50 prospects, Scott Wheeler from The Athletic applied different criteria but also had similar findings. Only two players made the list, Bouchard at 31 and Holloway at 33.(Source).

There’s definitely some runway for these prospects to emerge and hopefully the Oilers have the right development plans in place for each one. I’m just not convinced the Oilers are integrating as much information as possible when (1) making their draft selections and (2) evaluating what they have in their system. And that’s unfortunate considering how badly they’ll need low-cost, team-developed players to push for roster spots and reduce the need to bring in more veteran players on inefficient contracts.

And as for player development, I’m not fully convinced that Tippett will be able to manage and balance the expectations for this team with the development of young prospects. In his first season as head coach, we saw players like Bear, Jones and Yamamoto emerge as NHL-caliber players. But last season, there was definitely a tendency to go with proven veterans at the expense of youngsters, especially when games were on the line. That really can’t happen this year with Bouchard, McLeod and potentially others pushing for roster spots and needing patience from the coaching staff to be impactful players.

Trading: How the front office has managed the trade block, mainly has management made the right calls in trading assets and whether they’re generally on the right or wrong side of a deal.

After seeing how badly he overpaid to acquire Duncan Keith, I don’t know how anyone could trust Holland and his staff when it comes to trades. As I wrote at the time of the deal, the Oilers somehow took on more risk, more money and gave up way more value than they needed to considering it was Chicago that was in a bind. An absolute disaster of a trade regardless of how Keith performs the next two seasons.

Trading away so much draft capital to address current roster holes has been a major concern as well considering again how badly the Oilers need low-cost, team-developed players to fill important roster spots in the future. And it wouldn’t be so bad if the Oilers were just willing to move a veteran or two (especially when their perceived value becomes inflated) to re-coup draft picks. Unfortunately those veteran players, often underperforming and/or overpaid, are grossly overvalued by management. Just a weird cycle the Oilers have put themselves in.

Free agency: How the front office has managed a period generally synonymous with mistakes and how it has navigated the minefield of free agency. Does the team generally give out reasonable deals, or is it prone to over-paying and over-committing to players it shouldn’t?

Because management doesn’t integrate analytics and information into their decision-making process, they have a tendency to bring in players on inefficient contracts. Had they looked at Barrie’s on-ice numbers away from McDavid, or Ceci’s numbers when he’s deployed as a top four defencemen, the Oilers could have saved a lot of money and allocated those dollars to more impactful players. But because they don’t look at numbers and overvalue veteran players who can be easily referenced in the NHL Guide and Record Book, they’re now locked into a pretty mediocre defence-core for a good chunk of McDavid’s remaining contract term.

Even the smaller, low-risk contracts Holland has handed out don’t appear to be driven by careful thought and analysis, and more on gut-feel. And that’s a major problem considering how much the Oilers are paying Holland to carry out his approach.

Vision: How the front office communicates its plan, both implicitly and explicitly. Vision is mostly an abstract concept, one that boils down to whether a team’s plan to build a Stanley Cup contender is evident in its decision-making process and whether its plans for the future appear sound.

Based on the decision-making process and how poorly the roster has been built around McDavid for the next few seasons, I would say there’s very little vision in the front office. There doesn’t appear to be a long-term plan, as indicated by the disastrous trades and signings, especially the ones made this summer when the team had cap space. The way the Oilers evaluate professional-level players and prospects, and what the on-ice results have been like, it’s hard to be confident in management’s abilities. Especially when watching other teams take on a more progressive approach, applying best-practices from within and outside of professional sports, and having long-term success.

Unless this management group evolves and adjusts their approach, it’s hard to have any confidence in them turning things around and building a true contender. A lot definitely has to change and I’m not sure the Oilers are even aware of their underlying issues on the ice and the major inefficiencies in their own front office.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Cap Friendly

Killer minutes

The Edmonton Oilers are currently entering the 2021/22 season with a weaker defence core than they had last season. And one specific area they’ll probably take a hit on is their penalty kill, unless they address their blue line prior to training camp.

The Oilers penalty kill over the last two seasons under Dave Tippett has had good results – finishing 10th in the league last season allowing 6.16 goals against per hour and second in the league the year before allowing 5.15 goals against per hour in 2019/20. A big reason for their success has been the play of the goaltenders as the Oilers, similar to any other team Tippett has coached, allowed a rate of unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick, a proxy for scoring chances) and shots on goals against much higher than league averages.

SeasonGoals against/60Fenwick Against/60Shots against/60
2019/205.15 – 2nd76.28 – 23rd54.84 – 22nd
2020/216.16 – 10th75.98 – 25th55.67 – 24th

At this point, based on the defencemen they’ve lost and the replacements they’ve brought in, it’s likely the Oilers will allow an even higher rate of shots against next season – which really isn’t ideal considering their goaltending could potentially regress.

In the two seasons with Tippett behind the bench, ten defencemen have played at least 10 minutes on the penalty kill – a total of 624 minutes. The table below sorts the defencemen by total ice time (TOI), and includes the percentage of the team’s total ice time the player was on the ice for (TOI%) and time on ice per game (TOI/GP). I’ve also included each player’s on-ice rate of unblocked shot attempts against (FA/60), shots on goals against (SA/60) and goals against (GA/60).

PlayerGPTOITOI%TOI/GPFA/60SA/60GA/60
Nurse127285.0545.7%2.2482.7260.836.31
Bear114215.0034.5%1.8981.2158.606.14
Larsson105213.4534.2%2.0371.4052.284.78
Russell90197.4831.6%2.1975.6554.696.08
Klefbom62159.6325.6%2.5781.1961.276.39
Koekkoek1834.985.6%1.9489.1960.038.58
Lagesson2734.325.5%1.2754.2036.723.50
Benning4328.784.6%0.6764.6239.610.00
Jones7622.273.6%0.2961.9837.725.39
Kulikov1010.981.8%1.1071.0238.240.00

Two of Tippett’s go-to penalty killers are gone, with Bear and Larsson having each played over 34% of the team’s total penalty kill time. Klefbom isn’t likely to return and another handful are signed to play elsewhere. That leaves only three of the ten players (Nurse, Russell and Lagesson) signed to play in Edmonton next season, meaning at least two new players will need to take on significant penalty killing minutes.

At this point it’s pretty safe to assume that these vacancies will be filled by Cody Ceci and Duncan Keith – both of whom are experienced players who have led their previous teams in penalty killing ice-time among defencemen over the last few seasons. The problem I see is that based on their history they probably won’t be able to post the same penalty kill numbers as Larsson who had been excellent for the Oilers the last two seasons.

Last season, Larsson played over 50% of the team’s total ice time on the penalty kill, ranking second behind Nurse. Without Larsson on the ice, the Oilers allowed over 82.88 unblocked shot attempts against per hour and 60.87 shots against per hour – rates that would have them worst in the league. With Larsson on the ice, the rate of unblocked shot attempts dropped to 71.31 per hour, an approximately 14% decrease, while the rate of shots against dropped to 52.11 per hour, an approximately 21% decrease. Another way to put it: the Oilers went from one of the worst teams in the league at preventing shots when Larsson wasn’t on the ice, to one of the best teams in the league when Larsson was deployed. The best part is that the rate of goals against also dropped with Larsson deployed, with the team allowing 5.49 goals against per hour with him on the ice, and 7.02 goals against without him.

In 2019/20, Larsson missed significant time due to injuries, but still had a positive impact on the penalty kill when he did play. He was fifth on the team in total penalty kill ice time and average ice time per game that season. With him on the ice, the team’s rate of unblocked shot attempts dropped from 80.59 per hour to 72.99 (a 9.4% decrease) and the rate of shots against dropped from 57.53 per hour to 54.01 (a 6.1% decrease). And again the rate of the team’s goals against saw a drop with Larsson on the ice – 3.65 goals against with Larsson on the ice and 5.82 goals against without him.

Between 2019 and 2021, among 81 defencemen who played at least 200 minutes on the penalty kill, Larsson ranked very highly among his peers in terms of shots and goals against relative to team numbers.

  • Fenwick against per hour relative to team: -12.77 (2nd)
  • Shots against per hour relative to team: – 8.03 (5th)
  • Goals against per hour relative to team: – 2.29 (5th)

Ranking much lower on the same list are two players that the team spent significant assets to bring in: Cody Ceci and Duncan Keith.

Now Ceci does have some potential considering last season in Pittsburgh he led the team in penalty kill ice time among defencemen and had a positive impact. Overall, the Penguins penalty kill posted poor results despite being one of the better teams at preventing chances. And Ceci played an important role there as the team allowed a lower rate of unblocked shot attempts against and goals against with him on the ice.

SeasonTeamGPTOITOI/GPFA/60 RelSA/60 RelGA/60 Rel
2013/14OTT4985.801.75-3.89-5.34-3.17
2014/15OTT81190.852.365.473.07-1.17
2015/16OTT75185.102.475.356.08-0.79
2016/17OTT78240.853.098.513.44-2.69
2017/18OTT82227.772.7814.5510.96-1.89
2018/19OTT71185.952.628.116.841.14
2019/20TOR55160.452.9218.9714.660.90
2020/21PIT52131.672.53-5.170.73-2.38

Having said that, that was the first time that’s happened in Ceci’s career, so I’m a little skeptical that he can have the same success. In his previous stints in Toronto and Ottawa, his team’s consistently allowed a significantly higher rate of unblocked shot attempts against and shots against with him on the ice – basically the complete opposite of what Larsson accomplished the last few seasons in Edmonton. My thought is that the reduced overall ice-time in Pittsburgh where he spent a much lower proportion of his even-strength ice time against elite competition might have helped his overall game. The problem is that based on the long-term contract he just received from management, Ceci will be expected to play higher up in the line-up, similar to what he was doing in Ottawa. So that won’t be an option in Edmonton.

Duncan Keith’s numbers are even worse and I’m honestly perplexed as to why Chicago kept giving him so many minutes on the penalty kill. In that same list of 81 defencemen who played at least 200 minutes over the last two season, Keith is near the bottom when it comes to the rate of shots and goals against relative to team numbers.

  • Fenwick against per hour relative to team: +15.62 (76th)
  • Shots against per hour relative to team: +13.12 (79th)
  • Goals against per hour relative to team: +1.30 (59th)

With Keith on the ice last season, Chicago’s penalty kill allowed an additional 14.96 unblocked shot attempts per hour and 13.50 shots against per hour. This also led to more goals against as Chicago allowed over 10.0 goals against per hour with Keith on the ice – a major jump from the 5.57 goals against per hour without Keith – absolute nightmare stuff. What’s even more alarming is that similar results occurred in the two seasons prior as well with the rate of unblocked shot attempts and shots against being much, much higher with Keith on the ice. Bottom line: with Keith killing penalties next season, expect the rate of shots against to go up.

SeasonTeamGPTOITOI/GPFA/60 RelSA/60 RelGA/60 Rel
2007/08CHI82376.304.597.746.001.86
2008/09CHI77267.523.47-4.43-2.16-0.34
2009/10CHI79247.423.131.771.69-0.45
2010/11CHI79215.322.7310.2312.77-1.17
2011/12CHI69170.802.484.732.591.87
2012/13CHI46107.002.338.6112.810.82
2013/14CHI77188.282.452.384.93-4.24
2014/15CHI78186.902.409.582.92-0.53
2015/16CHI66178.872.7112.904.942.33
2016/17CHI75194.682.609.797.471.70
2017/18CHI82199.052.43-5.001.011.12
2018/19CHI80166.372.0810.2111.471.99
2019/20CHI59171.232.9016.1412.80-1.83
2020/21CHI52140.432.7014.9613.505.01

Should note that while first penalty kill units typically see an increase in shots against per hour as they are playing against top powerplay units, the rate of shots against go up by about 5.45 per hour on average. Both Ceci and Keith’s historical on-ice rates are much higher than that in relation to their teams (often being more than 10.0 per hour), which should be a red flag for the Oilers.

Unless they’re expecting one of the youngsters like Lagesson or Bouchard to play a bigger role on the penalty kill next season, the Oilers should probably continue looking to add depth to their defence core. Specifically someone who has success playing shorthanded.

One player that the Oilers could potentially look at as a low-risk, low-cost option is 34-year old defencemen Jordie Benn who is currently an unrestricted free agent. He’s got experience having played in over 500 games and has posted some good numbers on the penalty kill – especially in his last few seasons with Vancouver and Montreal.

SeasonTeamGPTOITOI/GPFA/60 RelSA/60 RelGA/60 Rel
2012/13DAL2651.932.0011.225.413.05
2013/14DAL77134.921.75-10.67-6.133.36
2014/15DAL72132.131.84-0.721.220.07
2015/16DAL62124.152.00-5.84-2.70-2.76
2016/17DAL58145.732.51-2.899.883.25
2016/17MTL1323.271.7948.5240.9410.32
2017/18MTL77169.202.204.06-0.213.81
2018/19MTL79225.982.86-8.21-7.08-1.35
2019/20VAN44104.482.37-13.29-14.82-2.76
2020/21VAN3149.351.59-6.14-2.92-2.40
2020/21WPG83.930.49-69.52-54.38-15.14

Among 119 defencemen who have played at least 150 minutes since 2019, Benn ranks quite highly when it comes to shot metrics relative to team numbers.

  • Fenwick against per hour relative to team: -11.56 (9th)
  • Shots against per hour relative to team: -11.26 (3rd)
  • Goals against per hour relative to team: -3.14 (4th)

With key penalty killers gone, Tippett is likely to go start with the veteran defencemen the Oilers have added so far but really shouldn’t expect a whole lot from them. Both Ceci and Keith, while experienced, have posted terrible numbers on the penalty kill – something you would hope management and the coaching staff would be made aware of. The Oilers really cannot afford to give back all of the goals that the powerplay generates, making it even more critical that management addresses the weaknesses of the roster and that the coaching staff be a little more creative than they’ve previously demonstrated.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.