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 a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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.
Avatar
#51 pkam
November 25 2013, 11:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I'd say inferior competition, as JW mentioned above.

You answer does not explain why they get outshot so badly by inferior competition, but somehow managed to outscore the same inferior competition.

Avatar
#53 They're $hittie
November 25 2013, 11:28AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

At some point, I think you have to say 'no more tanking' and actively try to win. The Oilers have been at that point for a few years now. I think it's pretty clear that MacTavish recognizes this, though so far his efforts haven't worked out.

However they arent actively tanking, they are just losing. I believe the three rookies would be an upgrade. Two of them are big and nasty with skill. Unless Hemsky is traded for a power forward that can slot top 9 and some how a top 4 dman (a regular team top 4, not oiler top 4) than we are stuck in limbo. And seeing how the oilers top 6 forwards are not tradable according to Mac T how are we suppose to get these guys. You could move the 1st rounders, but this years is too valuable so it is too late and only an idiot would trade next years if his team sat in a lottery position like the oilers.

Avatar
#54 David S
November 25 2013, 11:41AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
5
cheers
They're $hittie wrote:

However they arent actively tanking, they are just losing. I believe the three rookies would be an upgrade. Two of them are big and nasty with skill. Unless Hemsky is traded for a power forward that can slot top 9 and some how a top 4 dman (a regular team top 4, not oiler top 4) than we are stuck in limbo. And seeing how the oilers top 6 forwards are not tradable according to Mac T how are we suppose to get these guys. You could move the 1st rounders, but this years is too valuable so it is too late and only an idiot would trade next years if his team sat in a lottery position like the oilers.

Please show us any example where throwing three rookie D into an NHL lineup was a good idea. We've done that here in Edmonton with forwards and it hasn't worked out so well. Whereas if you look at most competent teams you might see one or maybe two new guys being broken in at the most. And even then they don't get prime time for a couple of years.

Oilers on the other hand...

#SamGagner

Avatar
#55 Smokey
November 25 2013, 11:42AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

I'd like to see a breakdown of Taylor Hall season when he played center verses wing. Also when he was playing with Sam or Nuge once he returned to his natural position. I think it would paint a tale. I think playing with Ebs and Nuge, he will return to beast form.

Also seeing Arcobello at the top. What can you honestly say that hasn't been said before. Who cares if he is 5'8'', he's running wild with the wolves. Proof Eakins only puts so much stock in advanced stats. But I also admit I am surprised Gagner's numbers are as good as they are though. I thought they would be worse.

Gordon is a beast. Anyone complaining at 3 million right now. Signing was MacT's finest. Full marks. Ridiculous zone starts, and the guy produces. Wish we had two defensively responsible centers with good faceoff percentages playing right now?

Avatar
#56 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 25 2013, 11:48AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
6
cheers
David S wrote:

Please show us any example where throwing three rookie D into an NHL lineup was a good idea. We've done that here in Edmonton with forwards and it hasn't worked out so well. Whereas if you look at most competent teams you might see one or maybe two new guys being broken in at the most. And even then they don't get prime time for a couple of years.

Oilers on the other hand...

#SamGagner

This is what I don't understand about DSF's "the Oilers could have drafted Perron" argument.

I personally like the way they acquired Perron. If they'd drafted him, he probably wouldn't be nearly as good as he is today.

Avatar
#57 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 25 2013, 11:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
5
cheers
Serious Gord wrote:

Thanks for the stats - lots to chew on, little of it good.

Hall definitely has some 'splainin' to do. As does gagner especially when you consider that he wasn't playing during many of the very worst early games.

Is there anyone who can explain why acton is playing and acrobello is not, other than it is flat out nepotism?

Eakins' answer is the standard line of "heaviness."

Meaning, I think it is fair to say he'd play any "heavy" player in the 4C spot (regardless of familial ties) if he had access to him and is basically dead set on not playing Arco on the 4th line.

Arco is basically waiting for an injury or horrible play within the top 9 (at center or on the wing), likely candidate is Smyth but he's playing great so… Arco is out of luck.

The other option is that Acton line finally getting lit up (it's just a matter of time) and Eakins opting for a change… but in that case, I'd expect Lander, Horak, or Pitlick (whenever he's healthy) might get the 4C spot over Arco.

heaviness. It's a disease of NHL thinking.

Avatar
#58 Will
November 25 2013, 11:53AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Great read, and great explanations of these advanced stats. I am a little skeptical in how the sats may have been skewed by poor early season goal tending and injuries.

Having said that, can you do a comparison of a middle of the pack team. Maybe a team not lighting it up, but one that is in the hunt so we can see kind of where our numbers need to be in order to get there?

Avatar
#59 Jay
November 25 2013, 11:57AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

JW,

is there corsi close stats for individual forwards? my buddy always say that yak only scores when the game is no longer close. if there was such astat, it would help identify those players vs the ones who actually matter whent he game is close.

Avatar
#60 HOFFFF
November 25 2013, 12:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

This is what I don't understand about DSF's "the Oilers could have drafted Perron" argument.

I personally like the way they acquired Perron. If they'd drafted him, he probably wouldn't be nearly as good as he is today.

Don't get him going again....

Avatar
#61 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 25 2013, 12:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jay wrote:

JW,

is there corsi close stats for individual forwards? my buddy always say that yak only scores when the game is no longer close. if there was such astat, it would help identify those players vs the ones who actually matter whent he game is close.

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.

Avatar
#62 Pouzar99
November 25 2013, 12:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

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
#63 TigerUnderGlass
November 25 2013, 12:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

@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
#64 Mikey
November 25 2013, 12:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
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
#65 Jay
November 25 2013, 12:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
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
#66 They're $hittie
November 25 2013, 01:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

@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
#67 Smokey
November 25 2013, 02:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

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
#68 Smokey
November 25 2013, 02:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
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
#69 Smokey
November 25 2013, 02:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
5
cheers

@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
#70 wiseguy
November 25 2013, 06:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
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
Cheers
1
cheers

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
Cheers
0
cheers

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.