Even-Strength Offensive Production Year Over Year

Jonathan Willis
March 12 2009 12:16PM

Kid Line

Offensive production is, in many ways, the single most important attribute that a hockey player can have. It's certainly what draws the most press, and what lands rich contracts.  Defensive production is not easy to define, although we’ve taken some significant steps forward in recent years with things like the Quality of Competition index over at behindthenet.ca, the Corsi measure (which reflects both offense and defense) and other things. Still, it remains difficult to quantify the difference between defensive players with similar reputations (for example, Fernando Pisani and Ethan Moreau).

In contrast, there are a host of ways to quantify offensive production. The most commonly used, and most misleading, is point or goal totals. They’re simple, widely tracked and allow easy comparison between players. However, if Player A scores 10 goals while averaging ten minutes of ice-time a night, he’s probably a better offensive player than a guy like Player B, who managed 15 goals while averaging twenty minutes of ice-time a night. Similarly, Player A might put up great power-play numbers but be an offensive black hole at even strength. Jarret Stoll certainly qualified in that category last year, and Ales Kotalik has a track record of being that kind of player.

To my mind, the best measure of a player’s offensive ability is Even Strength Points Per Sixty. Because only a small percentage of NHL players have a regular role on the power-play, this statistic is more valuable because it doesn’t include power-play points. It also balances for ice-time. Certainly there are other considerations (quality of competition, quality of teammates, situational deployment), most of which are contextual that it ignores, but it gives us a good starting point. Here are the numbers for all Oilers forwards who played at least twenty games in each of the last two seasons – this gives us a good idea of who is surpassing last year’s results, and who is struggling compared to last season. The first number is even-strength points per sixty from 2007-08, the second number is from 2008-09, and the third is the difference between the two:

Zach Stortini: 1.24 PTS/60 – 1.98 PTS/60 (+.74 PTS/60) Ethan Moreau: 1.21 PTS/60 – 1.71 PTS/60 (+.50 PTS/60) Dustin Penner: 1.34 PTS/60 – 1.80 PTS/60 (+.46 PTS/60) - Marc Pouliot: 1.55 PTS/60 – 1.66 PTS/60 (+.11 PTS/60) Hemsky: 2.36 PTS/60 – 2.29 PTS/60 (-.07 PTS/60) Fernando Pisani: 1.55 PTS/60 – 1.45 PTS/60 (-.10 PTS/60) - Sam Gagner: 1.96 PTS/60 – 1.55 PTS/60 (-.41 PTS/60) Cogliano: 2.28 PTS/60 – 1.84 PTS/60 (-.44 PTS/60) Brodziak: 2.09 PTS/60 – 1.39 PTS/60 (-.70 PTS/60) Horcoff: 2.59 PTS/60 – 1.46 PTS/60 (-1.13 PTS/60) Nilsson: 2.37 PTS/60 – 1.00 PTS/60 (-1.37 PTS/60)

I’ve split these players into three groups: significantly better, significantly worse, and roughly the same. Given how this team has struggled, it’s perhaps unsurprising to find most players well back of their pace from last season, but some of the names are surprising. We knew that Stortini has been having a tremendous season – a season so good in fact, that I wonder if he’s going to be able to maintain that scoring rate long term. He may only have ten points, but he’s been used so infrequently that it’s a little shocking that he has even that many.

Ethan Moreau’s having a very decent season at even-strength; he’s riding a nice save percentage and on-ice shooting percentage a little bit, but the fact that he’s getting the job done playing tough competition should not be overlooked. His frequent penalties drive me nuts, but he really does deserve a ton of credit for putting a solid season together after two poor years.

Dustin Penner, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, is having a far better season at even-strength than he did last year. It’s been lost to most observers because his power-play numbers haven’t been very good, but five-on-five he’s a vastly better player than last year. On the other hand, he does get a ton of face-offs in the offensive zone, which certainly inflates his numbers.

Hemsky, Pisani, and Pouliot are all having similar seasons to last year.

Sam Gagner’s struggled, but has come into his own of late. Lowetide did a tremendous post on how he’s progressed as the season wore on, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in a good look at his season. Suffice to say that much like last year, he’s coming on late.

I was very surprised by Andrew Cogliano’s placement on this list, but it does make sense given how he’s been used this year vs. last year; he’s averaging about a minute and a half more per game than he did last year. Like Dustin Penner, Cogliano’s benefitted from a lot of offensive zone faceoffs.

Kyle Brodziak is a player I’ve praising for a long time, and his position on this list doesn’t change my mind at all. I’m actually a little surprised that his offense didn’t drop off further. Last season, Brodziak was on the ice for 21 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs (the team leader in this category last year was Jarret Stoll, with 181 more defensive zone draws – it really wasn’t coincidental that his offense dropped off the face of the Earth. The much-maligned Marty Reasoner finished 2nd with a zone difference of 141). This season, Brodziak/Horcoff has replaced Stoll/Reasoner as MacTavish’s defensive zone players. Brodziak has a whopping 158 more defensive draws than offensive draws, while Horcoff isn’t far behind with 133.

Speaking of Shawn Horcoff, he’s been used far more defensively this season than last season, and naturally his point totals have suffered. This really doesn’t excuse his massive drop in production, because he is still getting some offensive zone work with Hemsky and whichever plug MacTavish has filling in for Penner, but it does help explain some of it. Still, he’s had a bad season offensively at even strength.

Robert Nilsson’s dropped off the edge of the world, and I’m at a loss to explain it. Along with Cogliano and Gagner, he rode a hot streak (and a bunch of bounces) at the end of the year to some nice offensive totals, and was rewarded with a three-year contract. He needs to find his form, or his NHL career could be over shortly after it started.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 CurtisS
March 12 2009, 12:22PM
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Is this the GDT?

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#2 DK0
March 12 2009, 12:38PM
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GDT is a HF boards term, here its called the GDB (blog instead of thread) and no, every GDB begins with those three mighty letters "GDB". Also within 5 minutes someone named Smokin' Ray will yell "GAME DAY!!!"

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#3 I'm a Scientist!
March 12 2009, 12:44PM
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To me, it is obvious that the Zach Attack should be implemented on the first line. That offensive potential is just wasted.

According to my calculations using total ice time this year/points, Horcoff is getting a point every 34 minutes of ice time, Kotalik is getting a point every 28 minuts and hemsky is getting a point every 19 mintues of ice time. Stortini is getting a point every 33 minutes... which is more frequent that Horcoff...so looks like we should have a new first line center.

hmm... I may be a Scientist, but i am NOT a stats person.

I look forward to seeing the line up of Hemsky, Storts and Kotalik in the future. It is only a matter of time until MacT runs the stats analysis like i did... it just makes total and absolute sense.

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#4 Jonathan Willis
March 12 2009, 12:46PM
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@ I'm a Scientist!:

Stortini's numbers are nice this year, but obviously this needs to be looked at with context and not as an independent measure. It's very useful, but not a catch-all.

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#5 David S
March 12 2009, 12:49PM
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I could be wrong, but I suspect that alot of Horcoff's (or Whiffcoff as I've taken to calling him) problems have to do with being driven into the ground to compensate for any number of positional deficiencies coupled with recovery from shoulder surgery. That and Hemsky's latest drop off the cliff and our first line is effectively nullified.

Tough part of the year for that to happen.

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#6 I'm a Scientist!
March 12 2009, 12:53PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Ha ha...oh i know... i just think it is funny.

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#7 Traktor
March 12 2009, 12:54PM
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So Penner's arrows are going up and Horcoff's arrows are going down yet the coach enshrines Horc and uses Penner as a scapegoat. Sounds about right.

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#8 Sean
March 12 2009, 01:06PM
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Nilsson's season is the biggest source of frustration for me this year as I was expecting his contract to be a beauty over the 3 years. Ah well I was wrong.

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#9 mjsh
March 12 2009, 01:15PM
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Traktor wrote:

So Penner’s arrows are going up and Horcoff’s arrows are going down yet the coach enshrines Horc and uses Penner as a scapegoat. Sounds about right.

I would take Horcoff any day over Penner the way they have both played this year. If Penner ever put in the effort that Horcoff puts in he would be a first line player like Horcoff.

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#10 Chris
March 12 2009, 01:18PM
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My favorite thing about MacT: His refusal to skate his BEST Leftwinger on the first line during a tight playoff race...because he (Penner) doesn't LOOK like he's trying hard enough.

My favorite thing about Penner: He used the offseason to learn how to juggle instead of going to L.A with his teammates to work with Chad Moreau.

My favorite thing about Willis: He uses FACTS to support his arguments... Oh, and I think Kotalik sucks. Putting two Canadians on the same line doesn't guarantee chemistry... but putting two Czechs does? STUPID!!!! Kotalik is NOT a first liner... never was, never will be. Put him on the point during the PP, already... then skate him on the third line where he belongs! Does Hemsky really need the aggravation of passing to two different guys who can't connect on one-timers? Why did Tambellini waste a second round pick on this guy? Nilsson, Moreau, Kotalik, and Reddox all have been given opportunities to usurpe Penner (with no success)...If MacT is too stupid or stubborn to put Penner back on the first line; why not give O'Sullivan a look?

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#11 Chris
March 12 2009, 01:23PM
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@ mjsh: Two pounds of effort and a Toonie will buy you a cup of coffee. Horcoff can't handle the puck. He's been brutal.

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#12 Pinto
March 12 2009, 01:49PM
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DK0 wrote:

GDT is a HF boards term, here its called the GDB (blog instead of thread) and no, every GDB begins with those three mighty letters “GDB”. Also within 5 minutes someone named Smokin’ Ray will yell “GAME DAY!!!”

Silly!!!! It's BITCHES not "blog"

GDB

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#13 DK0
March 12 2009, 02:46PM
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@ Pinto: Haha, my bad.

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#14 Ducey
March 12 2009, 02:57PM
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A little off topic.

Is it just me or has Pouliot won a lot of faceoffs lately? (I noticed he turned a faceoff win into a shot on his own net in the third period last game).

Maybe he might be answer in the faceoff dot down the stretch?

I like his game lately anyway. He seems to be a better addition to the 2nd line than Nilsson.

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#15 Dennis
March 12 2009, 03:00PM
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As a guy who's logged scoring chances for all but two games this season, I will bet large coin that 18 will not duplicate his '09 season in 2010.

The guy gets consistently out-chanced - the SV PCT on supports that - and he's scored some goals from some awful angles - the high shooting pct would explain that.

As lucky a season as I've seen from anyone.

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#16 Dennis
March 12 2009, 03:03PM
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Ducey: Yes, he took 11 draws last game and I'd imagine that was a season high. So, while 89 plays the role of playmaker on that line - he's like 83 in that regard - 78 plays the pivot when it comes to faceoffs.

I saw he "won" a couple of draws because we won the scramble but he won some clean ones as well. Kid's played pivot his whole life and I think his career draw pct was around 47% heading into this season.

Certainly a number to attach more optimism too than that of 89's and most certainly 13's.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
March 12 2009, 03:15PM
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Dennis wrote:

As a guy who’s logged scoring chances for all but two games this season, I will bet large coin that 18 will not duplicate his ‘09 season in 2010. The guy gets consistently out-chanced - the SV PCT on supports that - and he’s scored some goals from some awful angles - the high shooting pct would explain that. As lucky a season as I’ve seen from anyone.

I agree with you on Moreau, you know, but at the same time he is playing the tough opposition with some funny looking linemates and not getting murdered.

Sure, he isn't going to get the bounces like this again, but he probably won't need as many if he plays a full season with Pisani and a legit third line centre.

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#18 Death Metal Nightmare
March 12 2009, 03:16PM
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stats analysis (which didnt need stats analysis): everyone on the team except Hemsky is pretty crappy or 'mediocre'. hell of a team.

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#19 Kent
March 12 2009, 03:21PM
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I'd say Stortini's surprising ESP rate has a lot to do with that (team best) 12.7 SH% with him on the ice, which strikes me as ridiculously high considering his talent level (as well as the guys he plays with) and therefore unsustainable. The Oil are -110 in terms of shots at the net At ES with Stortini skating, so it's not like he's driving possession or anything.

Not to rain on your parade Jonathan. Just looks like a really inflated number to me.

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#20 Jonathan Willis
March 12 2009, 03:29PM
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@ Kent:

I'm sure it is. Very sure, in fact.

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#21 Dennis
March 12 2009, 04:26PM
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JW: that's a fair enough point. But just to counter that:

- he's at an age where the decline's sharper so he's got that going against him.

- I would've been more impressed with your point if you'd be more confrontational and/or dismissive;)

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#22 Rick
March 12 2009, 04:30PM
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Dennis wrote:

As a guy who’s logged scoring chances for all but two games this season, I will bet large coin that 18 will not duplicate his ‘09 season in 2010. The guy gets consistently out-chanced - the SV PCT on supports that - and he’s scored some goals from some awful angles - the high shooting pct would explain that. As lucky a season as I’ve seen from anyone.

Not duplicate in what way?

Am I right in understanding that this is the first year you have logged scoring chances? I am just trying to figure out what the bench mark is that you are using to say he won't duplicate.

As far as we know he may always have been a player that got outchanced. Of course not all chances are created equal so the type he is giving up may very well be reasonable given the situation and not of the particularily difficult variety. In other words the chances he is giving up could be benefitting the goalie in terms of save percentage as opposed to the other way around.

As far as offence goes, you mention shooting percentage and yet he is below his career average this year.

He was hot early but it looks to me like when it all shakes out this will pretty much be an average Moreau year.

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#23 Dennis
March 12 2009, 06:54PM
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Rick: it's the first year so we'll know more as the seasons go. But, still, most guys that get out-chanced get outscored.

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#24 Rick
March 13 2009, 08:31AM
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Dennis wrote:

Rick: it’s the first year so we’ll know more as the seasons go. But, still, most guys that get out-chanced get outscored.

Of course but that in itself isn't necessarily the correct measure. If a player or line is used in a primarily defensive or containment role there has to be an expectation that they will get outchanced.

In which case the real measure is whether or not the amount they are getting outscored through the chances they are giving up is acceptable or not. The only way to guage that is to compare the player or line to the guys that fill the same role on the other teams around the league to see how they all rank.

Of course this is impossible given the infancy stage recording scoring chances currently sits at.

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