August 25 2013 11:53AM
I picked the Oilers to make the post-season in yesterday's Crystal Ball item, and have had a few emails and dm's asking about my reasoning. I have three main reasons--after the break.
DEPARTMENT OF YOUTH
Just like this baby turtle, the young Oilers--including three #1 overalls--are getting bigger and stronger all the time. Taylor Hall was pushing the river right out of the wrapping, and the other two are coming along as well. Here's what an impact player looks like, by age:
- Taylor Hall 5x5/60 at age 19: 1.78
- Taylor Hall 5x5/60 at age 20: 2.07
- Taylor Hall 5x5/60 at age 21: 3.15 (6th in entire NHL)
Also, Hall's shot differential was in the black, one of three forwards (Ebs, Nuge) who could boast a positive CorsiOn from one year ago. I'm betting Hall
- plays more this season, more 5x5 and 5x4
- posts a strong offensive season (70, 37-45)
I think that's reasonable.
BETTER BLUE TO SHOULDER THE LOAD
I try not to confuse the issue with too many advanced stats, in my opinion most of the stuff we talk about can be seen with the human eye. Like Larry King--who didn't research to prep for interviews--you don't have to dig deep into advanced stats in order to know that one of these things doesn't belong:
Ryan Whitney--still out of work--was facing soft parade opps with reasonable help and getting crushed. Of the 210 NHL defensemen who played 20 or more games last season, Whitney ranked #208 overall (ahead of Buffalo's Mike Weber and Toronto's Korbinian Holzer) in Corsi On.
Craig MacTavish replaced Whitney (and Fistric) with Andrew Ference, Phil Larsen, Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov and possibly Oscar Klefbom.
Seems like an obvious upgrade. Right? No disrespect to Whitney--healthy, he'd be well clear of pretty much everyone on the list. However, there were issues, and those issues impacted the defensive sorties of the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13.
Reasonable to suggest that the team will improve in this area in 2013-14.
This is really good stuff, but you have to be better than Larry King to get it (I'm trying!). Tyler Dellow's Big Oilers Data series is an ongoing look at what the hell happened last season, a year in which the Oilers shot differential went south in a big way compared to their own past.
Tyler focused on the 2line, specifically Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, and their very bad time of it. The 12th article is here, I highly recommend reading all of them. The line below relates specifically to what happened with 89-83 after an OFFENSIVE ZONE FACEOFF WIN!
- The weird thing is that Hemsky and Gagner completely went in the toilet this year following OZ wins. Gagner went from a 65.7% Corsi% to a 55.2% Corsi%. Hemsky fell from 66.7% to 54.5%.
I've spoken to Tyler several times on this point, and he's been narrowing it down to a 'systems' glitch that seems to surround a coaching decision about what to do after an offensive zone faceoff win. Krueger's system(s) seemed to result in possession, but with all three forwards in a very confined area--with very few options.
Fascinating stuff. And if Tyler's right--this was a Krueger creation--then returning to a more traditional NHL scheme (which seems likely) should provide an offensive uptick for that 2line (which should have an added offensive element in David Perron).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Part of the improvement will be the kids growing up, part of it will be improved quality and depth on the blueline, and part of it will be strategy improved.
Yes. I believe so.