Scoring Chances at the Olympic Break: Forwards

Jonathan Willis
February 18 2014 08:37AM

The future up front

The strength of the Edmonton Oilers’ rebuild was supposed to be its forwards, but we’ve seen some cracks in that department this season. In the following piece, we’ll look take a statistical look at the Oilers’ forwards, leaning heavily on scoring chance totals and contextual statistics.

The Chart

OilersFSC2.18.14

  • Pos.: Which position the player primarily plays; in cases where he can/has played multiple positions his primary one is listed first.

  • SC+/SC-: Total even-strength scoring chances the player has been on the ice for.

  • SC%: Total ratio of even-strength scoring chances the player has been on the ice for, with 50 percent representing break even and higher being better than lower.

  • Fen%: Total ratio of five-on-five unblocked shot attempts (shots and missed shots) the player has been on the ice for, with 50 percent representing break even and higher being better than lower.

  • QC Rk.: Each player’s rank in Quality of Competition

  • ZS%: Total ratio of non-neutral zone shifts the player has started in the offensive zone, with 50 percent representing break even and higher meaning more time in the opposition end.
  • Scoring chances totals are as counted by me; other statistics courtesy of ExtraSkater.com.

    The Players

    83-Hemsky-10

    Ales Hemsky is having a great season. Yes, his point totals are down. But he’s having success, mostly on a third line that’s been taking on heavy defensive zone minutes. Just about every line he moves to is better off with than without him.

    26-Arcobello-5

    Mark Arcobello too has played very well. He’s been a better second line centre than Sam Gagner and on merit belongs in the Oilers’ top six. Working against him is his size and history, which make his accomplishments this season suspicious, but even so he’s earned more time. Whether or not he gets it remains to be seen; it’s possible Anton Lander is a greater organizational priority.

    93-RNH-9

    Every so often I see people criticizing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins because he isn’t a point-per-game forward this season. This baffles me.

    64-Yakupov-11

    Nail Yakupov’s scoring chance numbers aren’t terrible, but that comes with a heavy grain of salt. Dallas Eakins may be giving him tough love off the ice, but on the ice he’s very, very carefully managing his ice time. Yakupov isn’t seeing top opponents and is getting a ton of offensive zone shifts. He's had a rough season.

    4-Hall-15

    Taylor Hall’s scoring chance totals are better than his on-ice shot totals, which is interesting, but they’re still way down from last season’s 52.7% total. Something’s gone wrong here, and it’s likely related to how the Oilers are using Hall (since there’s no reason to believe the player is substantially inferior to the one we saw last season). Tyler Dellow’s been doing great detail work on this front.

    57-Perron-9

    David Perron was in the lead in this race at one point, but his totals have fallen off sharply since the start of the year. The fall basically coincides with three things: his injury, his being united with Sam Gagner and the Oilers’ general scoring chances fall after the start of the season.

    14-Eberle-10

    Jordan Eberle has had a stunning drop-off over his last 20 games that has largely not been commented on. In his first 39 games he had a fantastic number for the team (+195/-183, 51.6%) but has been hammered of late, going just +71/-119 in those last 20 games. His scoring is down slightly, his plus/minus is down a lot and the team’s results with him on the ice have taken a fall. As with Hall, the suspicion here is that the team’s system changes are resulting in more shots (and more chances) against.

    89-Gagner-7

    Sam Gagner’s been slightly better of late but has been a train wreck all season.

    94-Smyth-9

    Ryan Smyth’s numbers have collapsed over the last little bit after a very strong run at left wing. In his last seven games as a pivot on the fourth line Smyth has been on the ice for just five scoring chances for and 20 against. It may be fatigue and age, but it seems probable the move back to centre (which failed so badly last season) is a primary cause.

    Gordon, Boyd

    Boyd Gordon is getting killed by his assignment, as Dallas Eakins uses that line as his go-to defensive zone unit. It’s a tough job and nobody comes out of it with good numbers; his play’s been just fine.

    Joensuu, Jesse

    Jesse Joensuu and Luke Gazdic aren’t really NHL players based on skill; Joensuu’s a spare forward and Gazdic’s an enforcer. Both routinely get lit up by the other team.

    23-Hendricks-2

    Matt Hendricks’ numbers in a brief sample don’t look good, but since his arrival coach Eakins has doubled down on that third line as a defensive zone unit and that’s almost certainly the primary reason Hendricks’ numbers are so brutal. By eye, his play has been quite solid in that role.

    41-Acton-1

    Will Acton and Anton Lander haven’t shown much in the NHL as fourth line pivots. In both cases, offensive creativity was the primary problem, as both centremen settled into ultraconservative patterns on lines where they had very little support from their wingers. Both have been working on that part of their game in Oklahoma, with Lander destroying the league since his demotion and Acton (12 points in 27 games) posting career-best numbers at that level.

    Recently by Jonathan Willis

    74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
    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.
    Avatar
    #1 They're $hittie
    February 18 2014, 02:13PM
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    Young Oil wrote:

    Getting rid of Gagner, regardless of the return, will be a huge boost for this team. Addition by subtraction. Eberle and Perron will likely return to their previous form, especially with a defensively responsible center. It would be really interesting to see Lander between them. Arco would also suffice until we can get a legitimate #2C, whether through the draft or a trade.

    So these two can only contribute properly if they have an elite center or a two way center?

    Thats fine, but you shouldnt be paid 6M a year if that is the case. 6M dollar players need to make their team mates better. No excuses, cant blame some one else.

    Perron has never scored this much. He is in a more offensive system that has defensive lapses. Yes he was better all around in St Louis but he never scored like this either. Do you want him to score or to be good defensively because if you want his offensive numbers to continue like this he wont have good scoring chance against number.s

    EDIT: Further to this, Gagner has played well and his numbers have been good lately which is when Eberle has been playing with him. So you cant blame Gagner pulling him down. Did nuge and Hall bring him down all year at the beginning of the year?

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    #2 Walter Sobchak
    February 18 2014, 10:20AM
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    Tyler does some really good stuff.

    Watching those videos just gets me angry that the Oilers fired Renney & Krueger and replaced them with this Prima-Doña.

    MacTavish & Eakins are going to build a team full of big trees.

    This team doesn’t do anything but reinforce that this may turn into an infinity build.

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    #3 THRNHJE
    February 18 2014, 06:50PM
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    Anyone else here getting sick of reading the phrase 'addition by subtraction'? No? Just me?

    I find it nauseating. It is almost dogma at this point.

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    #4 They're $hittie
    February 18 2014, 01:49PM
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    Stop making Excuses for Eberle. He is not on Par with Hall and Nuge and never will be.

    He has had a piss poor season as well. Probably due to lack of effort and back check.

    He is trending down and is over valued by the league. He is the one that needs to be traded if you want a star defenseman.

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    #5 admiralmark
    February 18 2014, 01:49PM
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    Will wrote:

    Good to note the defensive issues. Is anyone else wondering how one of the best defensemen of the Olympics is on our bottom pairing in Edmonton?

    I hate to blame the coach but I think there has once again been a slight mismanagement of assets this year.

    Belov has been lining up against literally the world's toughest competition and he's coming out on top. Perhaps he's worth a look higher up the depth chart.

    No offence but do you actually watch oiler games? Belov has not looked good this entire season with the exception of maybe the 1st month. Its possible he can get there but as it stands he does not play well on NHL ice.

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    #6 Will
    February 18 2014, 01:33PM
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    Good to note the defensive issues. Is anyone else wondering how one of the best defensemen of the Olympics is on our bottom pairing in Edmonton?

    I hate to blame the coach but I think there has once again been a slight mismanagement of assets this year.

    Belov has been lining up against literally the world's toughest competition and he's coming out on top. Perhaps he's worth a look higher up the depth chart.

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    #7 Rama Lama
    February 18 2014, 09:09AM
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    JW, what you are stating in this article is more an inditement on coaching than anything.........pretty well every player has regressed under Eakins?

    We won't or should'nt even talk about defence........the thought scares me.

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    #8 Fasteddy
    February 18 2014, 01:04PM
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    Generally speaking I respect analytics as a tool, but while reviewing these numbers one thing jumped out at me; Smytty having 121 scoring chances for.....I suspect quality scoring chances would be a totally different story, (and conversely quality against). Smytty hasn't had 121 good scoring chances in three years combined, never mind just this season. (nothing against him, I have nothing but respect for the career he's had and his compete level is never a question)

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    #9 Sevenseven
    February 18 2014, 09:10AM
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    Gagner is killing eberle and perron.

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    #10 Young Oil
    February 18 2014, 01:55PM
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    Getting rid of Gagner, regardless of the return, will be a huge boost for this team. Addition by subtraction. Eberle and Perron will likely return to their previous form, especially with a defensively responsible center. It would be really interesting to see Lander between them. Arco would also suffice until we can get a legitimate #2C, whether through the draft or a trade.

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    #11 ubermiguel
    February 18 2014, 02:00PM
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    The only measure that says Arcobello is not an NHL player is a tape measure. Get this guy back up to the big club after the break.

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    #12 Will
    February 18 2014, 02:47PM
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    admiralmark wrote:

    No offence but do you actually watch oiler games? Belov has not looked good this entire season with the exception of maybe the 1st month. Its possible he can get there but as it stands he does not play well on NHL ice.

    I have watched the games this year and something definitely looks off. My theory is the coaching, yours is the different ice sizes. How a defender is better at defending a larger ice surface seems a bit baffling.

    Either way I'm not really taking a one way or the other stance, merely that against incredibly tough competition in the Olympics, he is looking great; but against weaker competition in the NHL, he is not looking great. I just want to know why is all.

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    #13 Will
    February 18 2014, 02:49PM
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    pkam wrote:

    Are you telling me the solution to help a defense who struggles in 3rd pairing against weaker opponents, is to move him up the depth chart to play against stronger opponents?

    Okay, now after reading your comment, I can see the problem in Eakins. N. Schultz and Potter should be our 1st pairing.

    I don't really think it's a solution, but since we can't get any worse, why not give Belov some more rope and see what he can actually do. It is very apparent watching him on the Russian team that he is capable of more. How do we get that out of him here?

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    #14 Young Oil
    February 18 2014, 03:02PM
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    They're $hittie wrote:

    So these two can only contribute properly if they have an elite center or a two way center?

    Thats fine, but you shouldnt be paid 6M a year if that is the case. 6M dollar players need to make their team mates better. No excuses, cant blame some one else.

    Perron has never scored this much. He is in a more offensive system that has defensive lapses. Yes he was better all around in St Louis but he never scored like this either. Do you want him to score or to be good defensively because if you want his offensive numbers to continue like this he wont have good scoring chance against number.s

    EDIT: Further to this, Gagner has played well and his numbers have been good lately which is when Eberle has been playing with him. So you cant blame Gagner pulling him down. Did nuge and Hall bring him down all year at the beginning of the year?

    Just because Gagner is getting more points doesn't mean he has been "playing well". His slight increase in points lately is as a result of playing with two very good players in Perron and Eberle. Pretty much all of Eberle's and Perron's stats, both point-wise and advance stats wise, have plummeted since they started playing with Gagner. They have made Gagner better, while Gagner has made them much worse. He is possibly the worst defensive player I have ever seen considering he is in his 7th pro season. He has shown next to no progression, and in my opinion the team is much better off without him.

    The scariest thing? If Hemsky and Smyth leave after the season, Gagner will be the longest serving Oiler on the team.

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    #15 Wax Man Riley
    February 18 2014, 06:46PM
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    They're $hittie wrote:

    So these two can only contribute properly if they have an elite center or a two way center?

    Thats fine, but you shouldnt be paid 6M a year if that is the case. 6M dollar players need to make their team mates better. No excuses, cant blame some one else.

    Perron has never scored this much. He is in a more offensive system that has defensive lapses. Yes he was better all around in St Louis but he never scored like this either. Do you want him to score or to be good defensively because if you want his offensive numbers to continue like this he wont have good scoring chance against number.s

    EDIT: Further to this, Gagner has played well and his numbers have been good lately which is when Eberle has been playing with him. So you cant blame Gagner pulling him down. Did nuge and Hall bring him down all year at the beginning of the year?

    Ummmm.... In case you didn't remember, Horcoff was traded, so yes, yes I can blame it all on Gagner.

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    #16 Vincheese
    February 18 2014, 09:02AM
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    I suspect the percentages would greatly improve if we had a capable blue line. Much of these stats fall on them, and our inability to break the cycle against larger bodies in our own end.

    Turnovers are something the forwards could also work on as a group to make the situation better as well.

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    #17 Air on Egg blood
    February 19 2014, 11:32AM
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    Anybody else thinking that young Kristers Gudlevskis would be a great goalie prospect to acquire from TB?

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    #18 admiralmark
    February 18 2014, 10:11AM
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    Sevenseven wrote:

    Gagner is killing eberle and perron.

    Gagner is killing me.

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    #19 Rod from Viking
    February 18 2014, 10:28AM
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    "Matt Hendricks’ numbers in a brief sample don’t look good, but since his arrival coach Eakins has doubled down on that third line as a defensive zone unit and that’s almost certainly the primary reason Hendricks’ numbers are so brutal. By eye, his play has been quite solid in that role".

    Exactly Johnathan, plus he adds some grit and toughness, I hope Luke can find a way to be able to be less of a liability in his own end because I like the other elements he brings, both these guys seem like really good team mates.

    It's good to see an analytical guy that see's more than the numbers in players.

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    #20 Rod from Viking
    February 18 2014, 10:40AM
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    Walter Sobchak wrote:

    Tyler does some really good stuff.

    Watching those videos just gets me angry that the Oilers fired Renney & Krueger and replaced them with this Prima-Doña.

    MacTavish & Eakins are going to build a team full of big trees.

    This team doesn’t do anything but reinforce that this may turn into an infinity build.

    Hopefully they only have enough big trees to shelter the little skilled shrubs.

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    #21 @Oilanderp
    February 18 2014, 01:33PM
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    Ryan Smyth’s numbers have collapsed over the last little bit after a very strong run at left wing. In his last seven games as a pivot on the fourth line Smyth has been on the ice for just five scoring chances for and 20 against. It may be fatigue and age, but it seems probable the move back to centre (which failed so badly last season) is a primary cause.

    Did he have the same linemates when he was at LW?

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    #22 pkam
    February 18 2014, 02:32PM
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    Will wrote:

    Good to note the defensive issues. Is anyone else wondering how one of the best defensemen of the Olympics is on our bottom pairing in Edmonton?

    I hate to blame the coach but I think there has once again been a slight mismanagement of assets this year.

    Belov has been lining up against literally the world's toughest competition and he's coming out on top. Perhaps he's worth a look higher up the depth chart.

    Are you telling me the solution to help a defense who struggles in 3rd pairing against weaker opponents, is to move him up the depth chart to play against stronger opponents?

    Okay, now after reading your comment, I can see the problem in Eakins. N. Schultz and Potter should be our 1st pairing.

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    #23 Taylor Gang
    February 18 2014, 05:03PM
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    They're $hittie wrote:

    Stop making Excuses for Eberle. He is not on Par with Hall and Nuge and never will be.

    He has had a piss poor season as well. Probably due to lack of effort and back check.

    He is trending down and is over valued by the league. He is the one that needs to be traded if you want a star defenseman.

    Some of your points are valid, but some of your points are just anti-Eberle propaganda.

    Sure, Eberle isn't on Hall or Nuge's level, but Eberle is not trending down, nor is he overvalued by the league. He does nothing but produce; the kid's money. He's the one I'd trade for a top 2 defenseman as well.

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    #24 Rod from Viking
    February 18 2014, 05:23PM
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    Fasteddy wrote:

    Generally speaking I respect analytics as a tool, but while reviewing these numbers one thing jumped out at me; Smytty having 121 scoring chances for.....I suspect quality scoring chances would be a totally different story, (and conversely quality against). Smytty hasn't had 121 good scoring chances in three years combined, never mind just this season. (nothing against him, I have nothing but respect for the career he's had and his compete level is never a question)

    They must be calling those 50' 45mph laugh shots of the wing as scoring chances(lol)

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    #25 Tuningout
    February 19 2014, 01:04AM
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    THRNHJE wrote:

    Anyone else here getting sick of reading the phrase 'addition by subtraction'? No? Just me?

    I find it nauseating. It is almost dogma at this point.

    I agree. It's part of what has the Oilers in the mess they are in. Subtracting the current goat or two for magic beans. Instead of exchanging assets like winning teams do. "Get rid of the cancer, team will be better" blah.

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    #26 Oiler Al
    February 19 2014, 08:29AM
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    Oiler Al wrote:

    JW.. curious as to why Hemskys QC number is so much different than his 3rd line mates. Would PP time make the difference.

    Its possible JW is pumping Hemskys tires here to boost the trade value for Hemsky.

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    #27 Puck JammeR!
    February 18 2014, 09:30AM
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    Don't be fooled by the difference in shots

    I'm still (I'm still) Taylor from the block

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    #28 Young Oil
    February 18 2014, 03:06PM
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    Also, funny thing. I know +/- is a fairly inaccurate stat, as it depends on the quality of the team, and who you are playing with, but Gagner has the second worst +/- in franchise history.

    Who has the worst you might ask?

    The current assistant coach.

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    #29 Oiler Al
    February 18 2014, 04:49PM
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    JW.. curious as to why Hemskys QC number is so much different than his 3rd line mates. Would PP time make the difference.

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    #30 The Beaker
    February 18 2014, 06:19PM
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    pkam wrote:

    Are you telling me the solution to help a defense who struggles in 3rd pairing against weaker opponents, is to move him up the depth chart to play against stronger opponents?

    Okay, now after reading your comment, I can see the problem in Eakins. N. Schultz and Potter should be our 1st pairing.

    remember that moving up and playing against stronger opponents means playing with better partners hopefully. Belov by eye and number has looked good when playing with guy like Petry. Looked like crap when playing with guys like N Schultz

    Belov hasnt really played enough in NA to make any sort of major decision on him yet.

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    #31 Sevenseven
    February 18 2014, 09:19PM
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    Rod from Viking wrote:

    They must be calling those 50' 45mph laugh shots of the wing as scoring chances(lol)

    With Dubnyk in net, yeah those might go in. I can see why they count those (lol)

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    #33 rickithebear
    February 19 2014, 09:27AM
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    Hendricks has 12% zone start. So for every 1 offensive zone face off the opposition gets 7 1/3 offensive zone faceoffs.

    40% of most players play starts from faceoffs

    The other 60% is over the boards. Hendricks should be outchanced 3.5 to 1 by the nature of his usage.

    he has 16 Chanses and by usage average would be 56 chanses against. he has given up 30. 26 less than expected.

    gordon has 114 chances and by usage should have given up 296 chances. he has given up 165

    jones has 63 chances and should give up 110 He has given up 88.

    Quite solid? Hendricks, Gordon, Jones are kicking ass and protecting our youth.

    Hall, RNH, Eberle, Gagner should all be in around 15% more chances than the opposition by usage.

    Hall 53 games -57 chances to expected EBS 59gm -69 chances to expected RNH 58gm -60 Chances to expected Gagner 47gm -59 chances to expected.

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