The Edmonton Oilers forwards and the possession war

Jonathan Willis
November 25 2013 10:14AM

It’s no secret that the Oilers have been losing a lot of games, and those struggles are reflected in the possession numbers of their forwards. Some – people like David Perron and Jordan Eberle – have done relatively well despite the team around them. Others have floundered badly, and some of the names on that list are extremely surprising.

The Chart

I’ll briefly explain the statistics above, all calculated using five-on-five data collected from ExtraSkater.com.

  • Corsi/60 is the total of all shot attempts for minus all shot attempts against when a player is on the ice, divided into average 60-minute chunks. So in David Perron’s case, in an average hour with him on the ice the opposition averages one shot attempt more against the Oilers than the Oilers manage.
  • On-ice SH% is the percent of shots the Oilers take that go in the net with a given player on the ice. So Jordan Eberle’s 10.3 percent isn’t his personal number; it’s his number plus that of all of his teammates when he’s on the ice.
  • On-ice SV% is the same as shooting percentage, except of course that this time it’s goalie performance with a given player on the ice.
  • PDO is the combination of shooting and save percentage, and typically regresses to 100 (though it tends to be a little higher for skilled players and a little lower for fourth-liners).
  • ZoneStart is the percentage of non-neutral zone shifts started in the offensive zone. Here Nail Yakupov’s 68.8 percent means he starts two shifts in the offensive zone for every defensive zone shift he starts.
  • QualComp is each player’s rank among forwards in ExtraSkater’s quality of competition ranking (based on the average TOI of the opposition players each Oilers forward has seen.

Highlights and Lowlights

Taylor Hall has been a Corsi beast for years; this season the Oilers are getting killed with him on the ice. He’s taking on the toughest matchups but clearly needs some help. Interestingly both he and Ales Hemsky have significantly better numbers when they play away from each other.

Jordan Eberle and David Perron are unsurprisingly doing quite well by these numbers, but so too are Mark Arcobello and Ryan Smyth. Arcobello, of course, has been a healthy scratch recently this season and never even got a chance last season because he’s seen as too small for a fourth-line job, while Smyth was given up for dead by many portions of the fanbase. Both guys look like solid contributors here.

Poor, poor Boyd Gordon. Not only is he facing a brutal zone start (he gets more than four defensive zone shifts for every offensive zone draw he takes) but the goalies aren’t making saves (0.865 save percentage) when he’s on the ice. His numbers here are pretty good given the context.

Less good: Dallas Eakins’ physical fourth line. The duo of Will Acton and Luke Gazdic are getting lit up by the opposition; thus far the Oilers have gotten away with it because the goalie has been making saves with that duo on the ice (0.959 save percentage for Acton, 0.982 for Gazdic) but eventually that will stop and these two will get shown for what they are. It’s particularly galling given that they’re playing terrible opponents and getting lots of time in the offensive zone.

An interesting contrast to Acton and Gazdic are Ryan Jones and Ben Eager. Jones and Eager seem less willing to provide the physical play that a guy like Gazdic does, but they’ve done a much better job (in tougher minutes, too) of not letting the opposition ragdoll them in the shots column.

Another unsurprising find: Nail Yakupov and Sam Gagner are struggling here. Yakupov's problems in the early season are well-documented, and his Corsi numbers bear it out (and are more damning given the minutes he's playing), while Gagner has of course been problematic since coming back from a pre-season injury.

What else stands out here?

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
Avatar
#51 Pouzar99
November 25 2013, 12:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I have a question JW. Assuming your scoring chance figures are similar to the ones Dave Staples used today on Cult of Hockey it seems we have a slight edge in overall scoring chances, but trail badly in shots. Does this mean we have adopted a kind of 'don't shoot until you see the whites of the goalie's eyes' approach, while other teams fire more from outside the primary scoring areas, crowding the net and going hard to it for rebounds, so that the scoring chances they do get are better, and they score on a higher percentage of them?

Avatar
#52 Jake
November 25 2013, 12:13PM
Trash it!
3
trashes
+1
6
props
rob wrote:

Hey J.W,here are some numbers for you,we are 3-0 and in that run we have outshot,out hit scored on the powerplay and cycled the puck well.who would have thought a winning team could be done with HARDWORK rather than looking at fancy numbers to tell us we suck!when the oilers shoot,hit and cycle they are successfull,when they chase and get pushed around they are not!

The Oilers were outhit 45-19 by Columbus in the 7-0 game.

http://www.nhl.com/gamecenter/en/boxscore?id=2013020319

Avatar
#53 TigerUnderGlass
November 25 2013, 12:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

@Jonathan Willis

I was going to look but I assume someone has done the math already and you know about it.

Do 4th liners not usually have a lower shooting percentage than other players. ie. Could the 4th lines high onsv% not be related to the fact that they usually play 4th liners as well?

Avatar
#54 Mikey
November 25 2013, 12:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props
Jon wrote:

In regards to the high on-ice SV% of Acton and Gazdic, isn't that something that's prevalent year to year with fighter/physical 4th liners? I remember George Parros for example always having sky high SV% numbers when he was with Anaheim. Shawn Thornton is another example of a 4th liner...Brian McGrattan. I'm not sure why when a guy bleeds shots against their goalie tends to play better. But it definitely looks like there's some sort of trend there just by looking at the numbers for those types of guys. Any thoughts on that?

Might have something to do with the fact they are playing other fourth liners. These other fourth liners are better hockey players than most fourth liners, but still can't shoot or deke like a second or first liner.

Avatar
#55 Spoils
November 25 2013, 12:30PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
13
props

Joensuu's numbers are terrible. He was great in the preseason. I wonder if he can get back to that.

Sidebar - I'd really like to see Arco back.

Avatar
#56 Jay
November 25 2013, 12:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

here:

http://www.extraskater.com/player/578/nail-yakupov

If you scroll down you can see a variety of things, goals for%, shots for%, corsi and fenwick for%, etc. and you can alter each according to situation (5x5, 5x5 close, 5x5 tied, etc.)

GF% isn't going to be as reliable a stat as CF% or FF% because of sample size and luck.

indeed, Yak's 5v5 close corsi is -3.3% compared to 5v5, thats quite a drop. of the top 6, only Gagner drops more (-3.9%). Hall is the only one with a higher 5v5 corsi close than 5v5 corsi (+1.0%)

Thanks Romulus

Avatar
#57 K_Mart
November 25 2013, 12:41PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
1
props

JW said it best when he attributed Hall's poor corsi to the matchups. For much of the season Eakins was putting hall out against the opposition's top players by choice.

The last bit has been nice to see Gordon, Perron, and Smytty used as the shutdown line. Those guys are sick!! hope they can do it against a real opponent like Chicago.

Avatar
#58 curcro
November 25 2013, 12:53PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
7
props

When selecting Team Canada it is interesting that management can choose from all the best NHLers to fill out their 4th line. Yet the players they choose are all skill players...

odd... no emphasis on grit.

#freearco

Avatar
#59 They're $hittie
November 25 2013, 01:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
3
props

@David S

I didnt say it was a good Idea, I said it was an upgrade. And While they are all young, Klefbom a mid first rounder has had a few years to develop, Nurse an early first has had an extra year and is ready and Ekblad is an exceptional player and more than physically mature. They are a clear upgrade over the bottom 4 guys we have now.

And since when does this management do anything right other than the perron trade.

Gagner was ready for the NHL period. It was not his development that held him back it was the team situation and five different coachers. Look even today on good teams the best of rookies dont produce the way he did as a barely eligible player in the league. HE was not old for his draft but extremely young. Situational not rushed.

Avatar
#60 The Oilers Shot Clock
November 25 2013, 01:38PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
1
props
curcro wrote:

When selecting Team Canada it is interesting that management can choose from all the best NHLers to fill out their 4th line. Yet the players they choose are all skill players...

odd... no emphasis on grit.

#freearco

Canada has a long history of putting their favorite mucker at the time on the team. Draper, Peca and Zamuner have all been on Olympic teams.

Avatar
#61 Joel
November 25 2013, 01:40PM
Trash it!
6
trashes
+1
3
props

How much weight do people put on these moneyball stats? Too many intangibles in Hockey to make them very important. Examples did the other team bring their A game , who was playing that night, who was injured, was it back to back games, hot goalies, bad luck, when they got on the ice.

I personally think that these type of stats are useful once you made a decision only to confirm what you already thought.

Avatar
#62 wigswag
November 25 2013, 01:53PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
0
props

@curcro

We don't know that yet. Could be Lucic and/or Ladd on 4th line.

Avatar
#63 TigerUnderGlass
November 25 2013, 01:54PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
+1
2
props

@Joel

Crazy stats nerds, always trying to judge a player's value based on a single game.

Avatar
#64 Smokey
November 25 2013, 02:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

JW, obviously faceoff percentage tells a story with any center. So much of the problem with possession statistics with Nuge and Sam is poor faceoff prowess which affects their Corsi. I have felt that the coaches should have utilized Hall on the draw more regularly, like Calgary did with Iggy. I think it made logical sense to do that this season to take a strain off RNH who came off shoulder surgery. I think it would of benefited RNH and his play might of been better. The one positive with Hall when he did play center was his decent faceoff percentage. I can't see why it would not improve your top lines numbers and overall possession. With Gagner, well heck I'd try Arco with him for the same reason. But he would be on wing.

I'm not saying its a fix, or that I don't understand the nuances of the game like the coaches obviously, but it's just a simple observation.

Avatar
#65 Smokey
November 25 2013, 02:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
2
props
curcro wrote:

When selecting Team Canada it is interesting that management can choose from all the best NHLers to fill out their 4th line. Yet the players they choose are all skill players...

odd... no emphasis on grit.

#freearco

Canada's 4th line in Vancity when it started was Toews, Morrow, Richards I believe. All of them were gritty and skilled. Isn't most teams emphasis on having as many 5 tool players that are skilled and gritty. It just isn't feasible in the NHL obviously because of the talent pool is not as deep. If you have too much skill that lacks the intangibles you got the OIlers. Every player Canada had were top 6 forwards and top pairing defenders.

Avatar
#66 Smokey
November 25 2013, 02:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
5
props

@Spoils

I would try a Joensuu, Arco, Jones against softer teams such as ourselves... Play them 8-10 minutes a night 5x5 say in a back to back situation and see what you get.

I remember Glencross, Brodziak, Stortini. Only real goon was Stortini. It was the only time in his career he was a consistant NHL'er. My point is why not see if you can have a Chicago fourth line that's effective for more then 5-7 mins a night like Chicago. Acton, Gadzic are AHL'er.

Avatar
#67 MessyEH!
November 25 2013, 02:44PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
6
props

Could the Oilers be deliberately tanking Acro's season to get a value contract? Or are they just destroying another asset?

For the record NHL07 supports my theory of 4 scoring lines will destroy anyteams forth line goons.

Avatar
#68 gcw_rocks
November 25 2013, 03:02PM
Trash it!
3
trashes
+1
3
props

Gagner's struggles aren't anything new. In his 8th season, if he hasn't gotten it by now, he won't. Time to shift him to the wing where the defensive responsibilities are less so his offensive gifts can shine without the taint of his weak defensive play in the middle.

Avatar
#69 Cynic
November 25 2013, 05:37PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
+1
1
props

The most surprising thing about nerdstats is that the squinty-eyed weasel Stapes gets paid to peddle the narrative he builds off them. It's just a feel-gooe exercise for Oiler fan to distract from the fact that you're paying $100 a ticket to watch a gargabe franchise trot out a collection of garbage players. e

Avatar
#70 wiseguy
November 25 2013, 06:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props
Jon wrote:

In regards to the high on-ice SV% of Acton and Gazdic, isn't that something that's prevalent year to year with fighter/physical 4th liners? I remember George Parros for example always having sky high SV% numbers when he was with Anaheim. Shawn Thornton is another example of a 4th liner...Brian McGrattan. I'm not sure why when a guy bleeds shots against their goalie tends to play better. But it definitely looks like there's some sort of trend there just by looking at the numbers for those types of guys. Any thoughts on that?

High save percentage is likely attributed to 4th liners playing against 4 th liners. Even when you give up chances, they are shots by the mcgrattans, parros', and Thorntons of the league.

Avatar
#71 Dick Wiggler
November 25 2013, 11:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

Enough with the corsi numbers already. Think of it this way. When your top line isnt production as a whole and your bottom line isnt playing good defense as a whole. add to that, weak goal tending. the team wont win. its not an individual stats game, its a team game. thank you willis for more and more individual stats.

Avatar
#72 Ratbastid
November 26 2013, 09:54AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Ok, lets put it on the table. The Oilers aren't even a story anymore. Their play is poor and they are not competitive enough to play many teams in the NHL. Sports writers need to stop regurgitating, manipulating, and reworking this fact, to fill columns. We know it. So, with another spin, I am not sure why anyone would bother to write an article which provides the reader with in-depth stats and analysis, in order to ultimately point where things might be going wrong as it relates to individual and team performance. This is easier than one thinks. Look at each of the players the Oilers have on their roster. Then calculate level of talent and contribution. Then factor in how the rest of the team impacts that player's performance. You will quickly see that there is a moderate level of talent with MANY marginal NHLers on the squad. Case in point, Will Acton. Sorry to say but this man is not an NHL caliber player, even as a fourth liner. He does not have the skill to play in the NHL at this time, and would better himself by playing in the ECHL or AHL. Then look at the established NHLers on the Oiler team. The Oiler's team Captain, Ference, at best, was an average defenceman on a talent thick blue-line with the Bruins. But the Oilers put the "C" on his jersey which usually represents, skill, leadership and intellect. Yet, the Bruins chose to send him packing. What does that tell you? Let me help. Eakins, Mctavish and Lowe really don't know what they are doing.

Comments are closed for this article.