Comparing Coaches

Jonathan Willis
January 22 2014 10:32AM

Coaching has been an oft-discussed potential reason for the Edmonton Oilers’ collapse this season. While nobody claims that it is coaching and coaching alone that has the Oilers where they are, some wonder whether general manager Craig MacTavish didn’t make a mistake when he chose Dallas Eakins to replace Ralph Krueger.

How does Eakins’ team compare with that of Krueger, and of Tom Renney at five-on-five?

The Comparison

What is needed for a fair comparison between coaches? A level playing field. Because Ralph Krueger’s Oilers only played against Western Conference teams, we will only consider Oilers games played against Western opponents in 2011-12 and this season.

That introduces another problem. Eakins’ Oilers have played 19 games on the road against Western teams, but only 11 at home. To compensate for that, we will be weighting his home and road games equally so out analysis isn’t impacted by an unbalanced schedule.

What should we compare? We’ll run the gamut of five-on-five statistics: shots, Fenwick (shots + missed shots), Corsi (all shot attempts) and good old goals. All numbers will be expressed as a percentage of total events – in other words, 50 percent represents the break-even mark and a higher number is better. We will also include shooting percentage and save percentage.

Tom Renney

Ralph Krueger

Dallas Eakins

Head-To-Head-To-Head

Tom Renney comes out looking awfully good here. Steve Tambellini never offered an actual explanation of what he thought Renney was doing wrong behind the bench when he fired the veteran coach, but it is abundantly clear in hindsight that canning Renney was the wrong move. The Oilers did a better job at getting shot attempts, and getting shot attempts through without them being blocked, of getting shots on net, and of scoring goals under Renney than they would under either of his successors. If one believes (as I do) that Renney had the weakest roster of the three coaches, it’s impossible to look at this without thinking he did an awfully good job.

Ralph Krueger vs. Dallas Eakins is where it gets interesting. Eakins’ team did a better job of generating shot attempts, but Krueger’s did better work getting them through to the opposition net. Krueger’s teams also did a better job of winning the goals battle, in large part because the team shooting and save percentages were better.

Eakins’ home/road splits are compelling. At home, Eakins’ team is pretty competitive with Renney’s in the shot metrics, but on the road the numbers fall apart to a degree not seen under previous coaches. I don’t have an explanation for that; it’s something I’m going to watch for in future games but the difference suggests that whatever Eakins is doing on the road isn’t working at all.

The other item to note here is the save percentage splits – that the goalies’ terrible play isolated to home games suggests to me that the bad goaltending this year isn’t necessarily driven by team defence. By that, I mean that while the Oilers allow way more shots than the league average, there seems to be little reason to believe that they’re consistently allowing higher quality chances than other teams. Certainly they weren’t under Renney or Krueger; it’s possible that Eakins is doing something bizarre but I don’t think it’s likely.

Would Edmonton be better off with Tom Renney behind the bench? I think so, yes, potentially much better off (particularly given the benefits of continuity). Would they be better off with Krueger than Eakins? I don’t know, but I believe there’s a strong learning curve for any rookie NHL head coach, and Krueger already had a year under his belt. That has to be balanced against MacTavish getting a guy suited to his style of managing, so I’m not sure there’s a definite answer here.

Both Eakins and Krueger strike me as intelligent, motivated coaches; I think Krueger would have figured things out eventually and I believe Eakins still will, but the big mistake here was making Renney a scapegoat for problems that weren’t of his creation.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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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.
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#201 john
January 22 2014, 03:02PM
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Blame management all you want, it's the coach and the players are responsible for winning and losing. Skills, talents and big bodies don't win games. It's how hard you want to win as a team, the players play for each other every single minutes on the ice.

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#202 Zarny
January 22 2014, 03:06PM
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fasteddy wrote:

If in fact its accurate that the kids dont like him, Eakins needs to go. I don't care if hes the 58th coach in the last five years. I would rather see them grow into a style they enjoy playing. ....which seemed to be the case under Krueger. Having your best players not excited to come to the rink is a recipe for disaster. You think Guy Lafleur or Mike Bossy were required to play like checkers? You work with what you've got......not everyone needs to be defense first, let the horses go!

Sorry but it doesn't matter if the kids "enjoy" the style of play.

I doubt Patrick Kane "enjoys" being defensively responsible, but he's learned to play a 200 ft game and it wins.

The mentality that scorers or skilled players should be allowed to free wheel and not worry about their defensive responsibilities is flat out stupid.

All you get are floaters and teams that allow that NEVER win.

Like ever.

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#203 Woogie63
January 22 2014, 03:52PM
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Mustangheart wrote:

But let's say for arrgument sake, Katz terminates KLowes contract. Knowing the fast offensive style the Oilers gave always played, who in your Option would compliment the Oilers organization and assist Mc.T in Transforming the club into a competitive playoff team within a relatively Short period????

Bob Nicholson is the best available candidate for our POHO.

POHO should work with + 5 year contract, so he can set the strategy for the long term.

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#204 kale
January 22 2014, 04:49PM
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@Zarny

This is very accurate IMO. It is frustrating to see an attempt to apply such a statistical analysis to this situation without including the millions of qualifiers. Hall was a rookie under Renney and is a 4 year vet under Eakins, the list goes on and on including personnel, experience of players, and strength of competition. Someone once said you can create a statistic for anything but they often mean nothing, this is such a case.

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#205 John Kirsch
January 22 2014, 04:56PM
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TayLordBalls wrote:

This may be the most important comment you ever read:

MacT is the one with the challenge, not the coach. Here is my reasoning:

Everyone knows the western conference is made up of larger bodies. How do you compete and rise to the top of such a division?

The answer is not to go with bigger bodies but to go with more skilled players that can out skate the bigger bodies.

Example: Canada Russia 1972 series. Although Canada did ultimately win the series, the Russians were far faster and skilled than anything in the NHL at that time.

The dynasty Oilers were molded around the concept of Russian speed and skill and they beat the heaviest and toughest teams ever put together in the NHL.

This teams destiny falls onto the shoulders of MacT. He needs to be the visionary to assemble a team capable of beating heavier teams.

We don't need more fighters, we don't need bigger players - we need skill and speed.

MacT needs to assemble players with the intent to out-skate and out-skill bigger teams. The Coach needs to design a strategy NOW, utilizing this skill and speed.

I put my complete trust in MacT - he's the man.

Edmonton pound for pound is up there with any of the elite teams from an offensive skill perspective.

So what?

Like you and your logic, they are a mess. Pure skill means nothing in this league without combining it with 4 competent lines as well as a reliable D corp and goaltending.

Edmonton is lacking leadership from the top down ,the ability to assess and develop talent. The good olde 1980's Edmonton Oilers and 90's Penguins are a thing of the past. Modern teams need to be built with a roster that includes 2 scoring lines and 2 lines that will chip in and provide the "hard" mins (see above for the D and goaltending).

Anyway, hard to blame Dallas for this mess although he probably wasn't ready for prime time. Scotty Bowman couldn't coach this group.

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#206 Loweblows
January 22 2014, 05:28PM
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Will wrote:

Great article Willis. You once again look to answer questions surrounding the Oilers using some hard data without biasing your opinion before you see the numbers.

Having said that, I think this another example of not seeing the whole picture of what the hard data might be representative of. For example, Renny and Kruger had different divisions to content with.

All in all, my friends and are all having a tough time understanding why from coach to coach one part of the team has been great one year, and bad the next year, especially because most of the assistant coaching staff has been in place. I know coaches like to have their own systems but why break what doesn't need fixing?

Everything is broke and desperately needs fixing.I can guarantee no other teams fans obsess more over Corsi than Oilers. Thats because we have forgotten the most important percentages: WINS.

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#207 Harlie
January 22 2014, 05:36PM
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I liked Renney. I still like Renney. Now, I miss Renney. Damn you TambelLoweni!

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#208 pkam
January 22 2014, 07:55PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

I do not think it would be very hard to convince Eberle to add a one-timer in his bag of tricks?

The kid loves to score and every goalie in the league knows he will do it with a wrister. They all know his tendencies and as a result his shot totals have gone down........just like JW predicted it would. Why did this happen you ask?

Well it's because they all know he will not score a greasy goal.......he will wait them out. In other words he has become predictable. I remember Gretzky had many goals where he just shot the puck, but the main thing was you never knew what he was going to do, in other words he was NEVER predictable.

Eberle has become too predictable and it's upon the coach to point this out and help him........plain and simple!!!

I do not know how hard is it to convince Eberle to add a one-timer in his bag of tricks, I only know that 2 coaches were unable to do it in 3 years and nearly 200 games. And although Eakins only have spent 4 months and 50 games with Eberle, he is worse than the other 2 for not able to change Eberle.

How about J. Schultz? He was in College for 4 years, about 40 games in AHL with Nelson, 48 games last season with Kureger, and I have not seen a one-timer since he joined the Oilers, until very recently, did you? Now the question is why J. Schultz didn't one-timer before and started to one-time recently? Another question is why J. Schultz make the change and not Eberle?

If you want to manufacture more reasons to assassinate Eakins, here is one, he hates Eberle.

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#209 Rdubb
January 23 2014, 02:39AM
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I've been saying this for yrs now, Renney was easily the Oilers best coach since MacT and he SHOULDN'T been fired when he did, especially with the roster that he had and how young his "stars" were. He did a good job of putting the kids in situations where they could succeed, and they did for the most part, didn't they? Didn't Eberle make the All-Star game that season? Didn't Eberle have his best season as an NHL player? Wasn't that considered Gagners best season as a pro too? Didn't Hall play pretty good hockey, although he suffered a few minor & 1 major injury? Was that not Petry's best season by far? If, if was all the players above best seasons, Renney must have been doing right considering how young these guys where? Tammbi screwed this team in my opinion, and this is just another move that has hurt this team for the future... Also, & I am not sure of this, but wasn't Renney well liked in the room by his playes?

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#210 goodidea
January 23 2014, 08:50AM
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The coach has to make all the players in the dressing room carry their sticks everywhere they go all the time until we make the playoffs,I'm serious!!!!.......it will help.it doesn't matter if your wife doesn't like it or you look funny carrying it all over town, people will understand.

This tactic will help form a team so it doesn't matter that you played almost 20years of hockey you should be first to grab your stick and do this, this team needs to get better and it starts buy acting like a team and playing like a team.

The Oiler need to practice there shots 12hrs a day no kidding, this is not a summer job it's a career and if winning is important then do this, the oilers will get so good at taking shoots and everyone on the team will want to show what they got.

I know they have lives but why not enjoy it by winning, I know at first its not a fun thing to do but when we start winning you wont want to let go of your stick, then the cup.

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#211 outdoorzguy
January 23 2014, 10:51AM
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China town man wrote:

My buddy from Calgary text me. Hey China town man What is the difference between your Oilers and my flames I replied what is it, he tells me both our team sucks but the only difference is the flames organization has more brains than ours. I haven't replied..

You can't!!

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#212 Mustangheart
January 23 2014, 10:52AM
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BingBong wrote:

Sorry, this is off-topic...but I was reading today about how Pitt should consider trading Letang for a legitimate top line forward.

What do people think of Eberle for Letang? Obviously don't like losing Ebs, but Letang is a legitimate top pairing guy who brings offense and plays lots of minutes.

I personally would hate to loose Hall, Eberle, Hopkins, Perron, JShultz, but I would use the rest of the team as trade bait to get Letang. He would be an excellent asset.

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#213 Wonger
January 23 2014, 10:56AM
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Bloodsweatandoil wrote:

Well Wonger, Patience has run thin to nil with good reason. The tone of these threads and posts are greatly warranted. I just feel that your post was something that a Carebear would say, and that it was way too late and the wrong place. What kind of response did you hope to illicit? Go to Leafs Nation, they probably have a good glee club.

Ask Ken Hitchcock what he thinks of MACT and EAKINS! He feels exactly like I do! ....and there are dozens more in the hockey world who agree 100% with me as well. YOU CAN GO TO LEAFS NATION and take all of your NEGATIVITY with you!!!!

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#214 Mustangheart
January 22 2014, 11:24AM
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JW, I your option, should Katz make the move to remove KLowe, who would be a great fit to move the Oilers ahead?

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#215 pkam
January 22 2014, 11:47AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Interesting. I hadn't realized the gap was so wide.

I was wrong on Kureger's man games lost. That 118 man games do not include the 48 games lost by Sutton.

But Kureger's year is still substantially less than the other years.

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#216 bdiddy18
January 22 2014, 11:53AM
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Renny had a defeatest attitude , he accepted the learning that was needed and knew that would come with loses. In many ways thats ok from a teaching perspective but from a compete perspective that was going to get you nowhere.

There were several times and very often that Renney would say " IF im still here it will be great" "IF I'm here to be a part of the success"

He already knew the likelihood of him being able to keep his job for the long haul was slim and accepted that fact rather than being determined to not let it happen.

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#217 pkam
January 22 2014, 12:44PM
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@Mack Strong

I stop reading the rest when I read this statement:

"Tom is doing well as an assistant coach in Det (one point out of wild card in the ultra competitive Western Conference)"

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#218 Eulers
January 22 2014, 01:47PM
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Great post, JW! I'd been thinking of Renney recently too. Your past posts had made clear that Krueger created a downturn in play. Eakins has extended this, though percentages on the shooting side and save side (if they are temporarily bad) may skew his record. It does make me yearn for Renney days...

As you say, Tambo should have been fired the day he walked into Lowe's office with "I just got a great deal on the Bhulin wall", because we are paying the price for the bad decisions on the big club for years. At least, Tambo brought some positive to the little club: Best AHL GM award ;)

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#219 tileguy
January 22 2014, 02:20PM
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Johnnydapunk wrote:

Wow that's a weird one! The Southampton situation is a bit of a mess and I don't think this will help things at all.

But in a way what Krueger is very good at (at least he is regarded very highly in Germany and Switzerland) is at motivation and Southamption is in disarray right now.

In a way maybe we are seeing the Oil without that type of motivation that Krueger seemed to have on athletes.

I'm not saying that Krueger would have brought the Oil the Stanley Cup, but maybe if he was retained in some capacity as a co coach or something similar that the Oil situation wouldn't be as dire.

I think Krueger would be perfect for the oil situation right now, either as coach, assistant coach (to Eakins) or as a motivational coach. Somebody has to install a work ethic in our young multi millionair core.

MacT you burnt that bridge, maybe Klowe can go begging Ralph to come back.

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#220 Sketchy
January 22 2014, 03:02PM
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Was there a reason Hitchcock isn't here?

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#221 Mustangheart
January 22 2014, 03:13PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I've actually never understood the need for a 'President of Hockey Operations.' The team president can run the business side, the general manager can run the hockey side.

But let's say for arrgument sake, Katz terminates KLowes contract. Knowing the fast offensive style the Oilers gave always played, who in your Option would compliment the Oilers organization and assist Mc.T in Transforming the club into a competitive playoff team within a relatively Short period????

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#222 pkam
January 22 2014, 04:59PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

It's the coach's responsibility to teach, mentor, motivate so that the team can win.....pretty plain and simple.

Yea we al know what the Oilers lack in size and sound defensive hockey players, no real genius needs to tell us that. What has becoming more evident here is that our skilled players are starting to believe their own hype.........that being that the are so skilled.

I for one see the problem as an general unwillingness to shoot the puck by our skilled players........they are all too happy to perimeter pass away, with no real shots taken. How many times does Eberle need to get a one timer at the side of the net and unless he can contain the puck and then wrist it, he seems unwilling to shoot. The only two players that will shoot the puck consitently are PErron and RNH.

We all know that goaltender around the league scout players and I'm sure they know the passing tendencies of Oiler players.......when was the last time the top line got a greasy goal? It becomes very easy for goaltender to make the save if they know what they can expect.

Eakins needs to communicate more with his players about this ......as Gretzky says 100% of shot not taken never result in goals.

Eberle has been like that since his 1st year.

After 3 years, the other 2 coaches are not in fault, but it is Eakins fault that he didn't change Eberle in 4 months?

Did you see J. Schultz one-timer last year, even once? I didn't see it even earlier this year, but I see it lately. Not very powerful, but at least he tries. But it can't have anything to do with Eakins because he can only do harms, right?

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#223 Sketchy
January 22 2014, 05:17PM
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Dave Lumley, lets hear more from him!! He'd be a better POHO than Lowe!!

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#224 Hall the time
January 22 2014, 05:31PM
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I really like Jesse Joensuu's play and he's big, now if only he could put up the same points Penner did he would be world class.

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#225 pkam
January 22 2014, 05:45PM
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TayLordBalls wrote:

Sheep - You're following the crowd.

The Oiler's management need to be trend setters.

Perhaps the coach can consider shaping the players with:

1) More practice on increasing their passing skills at faster speed.

2) Learning how to get in the open.

3) Learning how to hit the net in pressure situations.

4) Mobilize the defense as rear forwards.

5) Own the puck = don't give it away.

6)Keep the puck off the boards in the offense zone.

7) Keep it on the boards in the defense zone.

baaaaaa

You can do some of that with your offense.

We will need a few big guns who can one-timer from the blueliners. Now the other teams just collapse before the net and box out our forwards. Hard to get to the net without a few canons to pull their players out.

Without size, it is very hard to win the puck battle along the board and the corners. So the only way is to cycle the puck very fast and accurately.

And without size, how are you going to defend? Unless we are going to possess the puck for all 60 minutes.

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#226 Dave
January 22 2014, 09:19PM
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Rick Stroppel wrote:

BRING BACK KREUGER. SERIOUSLY.

I was driving around this evening and I heard Ralph Krueger interviewed on the radio. It reminded me of what a smart and classy guy he was. It sounded like he still feels very "connected" to the Oilers players. He said he could not bear to watch oilers games, even hilights.

Anyway, this is my constructive suggestion, moving forward. MacTavish contacts Ralph and BEGS him to come back as HC starting next season. If Katz wants to save money on the contract, offer Eakins a new contract as an assistant coach (not associate, he is not good enough). Tony Granato agreed to this when he realized he just wasn't HC material. George Burnett has a better chance of getting another HC job in the NHL than Eakins.

Or maybe just fire Eakins. Wouldn't that make us all feel a lot better. ADIOS, JACKASS! DON'T LET DOOR HIT YA WHERE THE GOOD LORD SPLIT YA!

I have no proof whatsoever but I just have a feeling that Katz had something to do with Kreuger's demise.

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#227 john
January 23 2014, 03:20AM
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You know who is a good coach? Todd Nelson is a good coach, Barons still hanging in there with no stars. They traded Linus Omark their top scorer, yet they are only 4 points from playoff spot. The big club kept taking his players away, yet Nelson still get his players to perform with what they have.

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#228 Mustangheart
January 23 2014, 10:48AM
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Woogie63 wrote:

Bob Nicholson is the best available candidate for our POHO.

POHO should work with + 5 year contract, so he can set the strategy for the long term.

Good Choice, but how to pull him out of Calgary when they are in a rebuild stage? Who else??

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#229 pkam
January 23 2014, 11:47AM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

Well the slow death of the Oilers is just as bad as waiting at a Medicentre!!

The slow death of the Oilers was between 2007 and 2010. Now it is a slow recovery. It may not as fast as you want but it is still a recovery.

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#230 pkam
January 23 2014, 04:02PM
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Bryzarro World wrote:

I stopped reading this after the pronged trade. Ya... REALLY BOLD!! The bold move would have been to sit his crying ass and get a good return, not cave and trade for garbage....

I mean the trade for Pronger. That is not bold?

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#231 Fire the coach!
January 24 2014, 08:18PM
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PATHETIC! How long will it take to get rid of Aikiens?

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#232 Johnnydapunk
January 22 2014, 01:44PM
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tileguy wrote:

speaking of Kreuger

Former Edmonton bench boss Ralph Krueger has been hired by Southampton F.C. — currently sitting ninth in England’s Barclays Premier League — as an aide to club owner Katharina Liebherr, according to The Guardian.

Lol, not sure what to think.

Wow that's a weird one! The Southampton situation is a bit of a mess and I don't think this will help things at all.

But in a way what Krueger is very good at (at least he is regarded very highly in Germany and Switzerland) is at motivation and Southamption is in disarray right now.

In a way maybe we are seeing the Oil without that type of motivation that Krueger seemed to have on athletes.

I'm not saying that Krueger would have brought the Oil the Stanley Cup, but maybe if he was retained in some capacity as a co coach or something similar that the Oil situation wouldn't be as dire.

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#233 Cynic
January 22 2014, 02:23PM
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I believe (Ralph's book) was called "Switzerland can tie Canada and so can you!"

Just wanted to re=post that for Mooger in case other people skimmed past it.

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#234 pkam
January 22 2014, 04:49PM
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Mack Strong wrote:

The implication is that we dropped him and it was not long after that Detroit picked him up.

Detroit is a well run well managed organization that picks well trades well and develops amazingly!!! Period.

Detroit and Ken Holland "know a little about winning" and would not bring in a person who is A. going to upset the balance that they have achieved B. Is not going to compliment and add to what is already a model system and organization.

Sure you can say its Holland or Babcock or Zetterberg or Datsyuk (both of which were 7th and 6th round picks and developed from within) and the list goes on and on. They add to and develop. WE ARE NOT DOING EITHER!!

There is no doubt that we have some assets here that could be great! but thats where its going to stay - in the "could be" category.

This all comes down to Management…imagine if we had Detroit's organization and management right down to coaching………me thinks you'd keep reading then…. =)

Love the OIL Love the Nation!

What is the implication that Detroit picked him up as their associate coach not long after we dropped him?

The Leafs picked up Randy Carlyle as their head coach not long after the Ducks dropped him. The Ducks picked up Bruce Boudreau as their head coach not long after the Caps drop him. Does it make us better than the Ducks and the Caps because they dropped a coach another team picked up as their head coach, not an associate coach?

Do I have to quote you some more examples? It happens to many teams every year. More often than not it is not the coach problem, but the management or the players.

Tambellini didn't fire Renney, he just didn't renew his contract. So in a way it is slightly better than firing the coach. And it is my speculation that he is doing that to save his job, just like all the other GMs do.

What did BB do to Ron Wilson when his job is in risk? How about Gillis? In both cases, the GM just renewed their coaches not long ago before they fired them. If Ken Holland's job is in risk, do you think he would do any differently?

No disrespect to the Wings, but the players that you listed were Europeans drafted before 2000. Detroit had invested in European scouting before 2000 which gave them the edge ahead of other NHL teams. Now they have lost that edge as the other NHL teams are investing in European scouting too.

Since Katz took over the team, he has invested more money in scouting which our previous owners group refused to do. Not saying the management have no fault but not all problems are the management's faults.

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#235 Will
January 22 2014, 05:19PM
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Great article Willis. You once again look to answer questions surrounding the Oilers using some hard data without biasing your opinion before you see the numbers.

Having said that, I think this another example of not seeing the whole picture of what the hard data might be representative of. For example, Renny and Kruger had different divisions to content with.

All in all, my friends and are all having a tough time understanding why from coach to coach one part of the team has been great one year, and bad the next year, especially because most of the assistant coaching staff has been in place. I know coaches like to have their own systems but why break what doesn't need fixing?

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#236 Oilers Coffey
January 22 2014, 06:31PM
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Intriguing!!! #Renneylogic trumps both Kruegerisms and Eakins dog n pony show.

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#237 Death Metal Nightmare
January 24 2014, 10:38AM
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Renney ran a boring, cold and calculated defensive system. they wanted an identity change to fit the teams "direction" of high speed offense. let the leash off a little. Renney was closer to a Mac-T clone in philosophy of the game. he also came across as a robot (similar to Eakins macho robot facade at age 40-million. get over yourself.) who tried to sound smart using a dull/inaccurate DNA metaphor as often as possible.

i really enjoy the "under these coaches players decide to throw the puck into shin pads more" stat. what a crock of garbage for correlation = causation. you'd think dudes who have been on skates since 4+ years old would know to find lanes, shoot around defenders, etc...

"nope, it all comes down to who is coaching them and the system theyre in that generates how stupid players become."

there's so many things to factor in here (over the course of all these coaches) other than just straight statistical comparisons. reduction to numbers = fallacy... even though the author wants it to be his lens to absolute abstracted knowledge.

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#238 shaddup
January 24 2014, 05:36PM
Trash it!
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Cheers
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cheers
shaddup wrote:

Your sarcasm is either so subtle,so cunning and passive aggressive that it went over my head in it's implausible ironic tone...or, you have just written, by far, the most naive comment to grace this forum...

Either way, I am in utter awe...well done Sir.

edit. very well done

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