OILERS PP WOES...

Jason Gregor
February 05 2014 02:01PM

The Oilers have allowed a league-high 10 shorthanded goals so far. When you combine that with a struggling powerplay over the last 33 games, you can understand why many Oilers fans are frustrated.

I've noticed many suggest that coaching has to be the issue with the PP woes. Dallas Eakins wasn't here last year when the PP was 8th, and only allowed one SH goal.

Is Eakins the problem?

It would be too easy to put all the blame on Eakins, just like it was foolish to blame Tom Renney for the woes of the Oilers in 2012 and Ralph Krueger for a 24th place finish in 2013.

When I started out researching the Oilers PP woes I tried to have an open mind and not assume blame for any specific person or group. I wanted to look at different angles to see if it indeed was coaching, the players or bad luck.

I was surprised by some of the data that I found, and also re-watching the 10 SH goals gave some strong evidence that indeed it is a combination of the system and bad decisions by the players that is hurting the PP.

Some have suggested Eakins changed the system, but if you look at the first 25 games I don't think that is the case. More on that later.

I have noticed a recent change, however. Since the home game vs. Nashville the Oilers have moved to a 1-3-1 PP system, but they haven't seen any success yet. They are 0-18 since making the switch. So time will tell if they adjust to that.

Outside of changing coaches, what other changes happened on the PP? What about personnel? 

2014       2013    
Player  PP TOI PP TOI/G  Player  PP TOI PP TOI/G 
Jordan Eberle 189:21:00 3:19   Justin Schultz 153:40:00 3:12
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 184:45:00 3:17   Jordan Eberle 153:18:00 3:11
Justin Schultz 181:32:00 3:37   Taylor Hall 146:03:00 3:14
Taylor Hall 174:34:00 3:25   Sam Gagner 140:37:00 2:55
David Perron 168:05:00 3:06   Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 121:34:00 3:02
Sam Gagner 123:00:00 2:44   Nail Yakupov 119:07:00 2:28
Nail Yakupov 119:56:00 2:15   Ales Hemsky 100:04:00 2:38
Ales Hemsky 119:48:00 2:23   Ryan Whitney 87:51:00 2:35
Ryan Smyth 113:35:00 2:21   Shawn Horcoff 78:10:00 2:31

You will notice that seven of the top nine players are still here. Perron and Smyth have taken over for Whitney and Horcoff in the top-nine most PP minutes.

Horcoff only played 31 of the 48 games, but he played on the top unit for much of it, and when he did he made an impact. He did all the dirty jobs: winning faceoffs, retrieving pucks in the corners and battling in front of the net. I know many didn't like Horcoff, but you can't overlook his impact on the PP.

In the 31 games he dressed, the PP was 26 of 109 for 23.8%.
In the 17 games he sat out, the PP went 8 of 60 for 13.3%.

I believe he played a key role in the success of the PP over the previous two seasons.

I will get into the Oilers PP success/struggles in a bit, but I wanted to look at every team's PP from last year to this year. The Oilers aren't the only top-ten team from last year to struggle this year. 

2014               2013            
Rank Team  GP  PP Opp  PPG  PP% SHGA %change Rank Team  GP  PP Opp  PPG  PP% SHGA
30 FLA 56 183 17 9.3 3 -11.10% 6 FLA 48 142 29 20.4 1
28 LAK 58 207 29 14 4 -5.90% 10 LAK 48 166 33 19.9 1
26 CGY 56 177 25 14.1 7 -5.90% 9 CGY 48 155 31 20 2
5 WSH 57 209 47 22.5 7 -4.30% 1 WSH 48 164 44 26.8 4
22 NYI 58 194 32 16.5 5 -3.40% 11 NYI 48 156 31 19.9 0
16 ANA 58 196 36 18.4 5 -3.10% 4 ANA 48 135 29 21.5 5
19 EDM 58 203 35 17.2 10 -2.90% 8 EDM 48 169 34 20.1 1
29 VAN 58 186 25 13.4 2 -2.40% 22 VAN 48 165 26 15.8 3
20 TBL 56 184 31 16.8 5 -2.20% 13 TBL 48 163 31 19 4
18 SJS 57 207 37 17.9 2 -2.20% 7 SJS 48 169 34 20.1 4
15 MTL 57 192 36 18.8 3 -1.90% 5 MTL 48 203 42 20.7 2
8 PHI 57 207 41 19.8 9 -1.80% 3 PHI 48 171 37 21.6 3
21 DET 56 196 33 16.8 3 -1.60% 15 DET 48 185 34 18.4 5
23 DAL 56 199 31 15.6 3 -1.40% 18 DAL 48 171 29 17 3
27 CAR 55 192 27 14.1 2 -0.05% 27 CAR 48 165 24 14.6 4
1 PIT 56 181 45 24.9 3 0.20% 2 PIT 48 170 42 24.7 3
17 MIN 58 181 33 18.2 4 0.30% 16 MIN 48 151 27 17.9 0
25 WPG 58 188 27 14.4 6 0.60% 30 WPG 48 145 20 13.8 3
24 BUF 55 176 26 14.8 3 0.70% 29 BUF 48 163 23 14.1 7
7 NSH 57 171 35 20.5 0 3.40% 17 NSH 48 140 24 17.1 4
13 OTT 57 191 37 19.4 8 3.50% 20 OTT 48 157 25 15.9 1
2 STL 55 196 45 23 5 3.50% 12 STL 48 149 29 19.5 5
10 NJD 57 168 33 19.6 1 3.70% 21 NJD 48 176 28 15.9 6
12 NYR 57 189 37 19.6 5 3.90% 23 NYR 48 153 24 15.7 4
3 TOR 58 185 42 22.7 6 4.00% 14 TOR 48 166 31 18.7 4
11 COL 56 168 33 19.6 1 4.60% 24 COL 48 140 21 15 3
14 CBJ 56 190 36 19 6 4.80% 28 CBJ 48 155 22 14.2 2
9 PHX 56 192 38 19.8 4 5.00% 25 PHX 48 169 25 14.8 2
4 CHI 58 186 42 22.6 5 5.90% 19 CHI 48 150 25 16.7 5
6 BOS 55 159 33 20.8 5 6.00% 26 BOS 48 122 18 14.8 2

A few things I noticed:

We've seen more SH goals this year, 132 in 851 games, compared to last season's 93 in 720 games. The Oilers definitely have played a role in the increase, and so has Ottawa and Philadelphia. I went and looked at the 2012 season, and that year there was 185 SHG in 1230 games, meaning this year they are on almost the exact same pace. It would seem that last year SHG were down a bit. I have no explanation why.

The average PPG/game, however, is essentially the exact same.

In 2013 the league had 872 PPG in 720 games for 1.21 PPG/game.
In 2014 we've seen 1,024 PPG in 851 games for 1.20 PPG/game.
In 2012 there was 1,408 PPG in 1230 games for 1.14 PPG/game, but in 2011 we had 1.27PPG/game, so the past two seasons would fit right in as the average.

WHAT REALLY STOOD OUT...

It is interesting to note that 10 of the top 11 powerplays from 2013 have taken a dip in 2014. Washington and Philadelphia have dropped in %, but they are still 3rd and 8th respectively, so I'd say that 8 of 11 have dropped significantly.

The Canadiens, Ducks, Flames, Islanders, Kings and Sharks have had the same coach both years, while Florida and Edmonton have a new head coach. Many want to blame Eakins for the woes of the Oilers PP, and while he might play a small part, I believe an equal, or more, amount of blame goes to the players.

You can't say it is solely Eakins, when six other top-ten teams for 2013 have all dropped to 15th or worse, but they have the same coach. I believe many factors go into the success and failure of a PP, and most of the success falls to the players.

Washington has the most dangerous goal scorer in the game and their PP focuses on finding him the puck in great shooting positions, usually on the left side where he can one-time the puck. He's a special player, and outside of Steven Stamkos I don't see any players as consistently dangerous on the man advantage.

DO THE OILERS HAVE GREAT PP PLAYERS?

Ovechkin is scary good on the powerplay, especially when he unleashes his heavy shot.

I looked at some of the top PP producers and last year's PP success for the Oilers seemed odd because they didn't have one guy who dominated on the PP.

In 2012 the Oilers finished 20.6% on the PP, 3rd in the NHL, and that year they did have some dominant PP players.

The Oilers scored 54 PP goals. RNH had 23 PP points, Hall had 21 and Eberle had 20. Hall and RNH each missed 20 games, but still produced that well. If you pro-rate their PP points over the full 82 games, RNH and Hall would have had 30 and 28 points respectively, which would have put them close to the leading PP producers.

However, last season when the Oilers were 8th in PP, not one player feasted on the man advantage.

The Oilers scored 34 PPG last year, 6th best in the NHL, but their leading PP point producers were Sam Gagner and Justin Schultz and they were tied for 30th in PP points.

Gagner and J.Schultz had 15 points each, while Hall had 14, RNH had 11 and Yakupov had 10.
Schultz and Gagner were in on 44.1% of the Oilers PP goals. That isn't close to what the best PP guys produce.

2013 PP Leaders:

Henrik Zetterberg was in on 67.6% (23) of Detroit's 34 goals.
Phil Kessel was in on 63.6% (21) of Toronto's 33 goals.
P.K. Subban was in on 61.9% (26) of Montreal's 42 goals.
Joe Thorton was in on 61.7% of (21) of San Jose's 34 scores.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro were in on 61.3% (27) of of WSH's 44 tallies.
Steven Stamkos was in on 58% (18) of Tampa's 31 goals.
Claude Giroux was in on 56.7% (21) of Philly's 37 goals.
Andre Markov was in on 54.7% (23) of Montreal's 42 goals.

All of those teams were in the top 11 of powerplay efficiency, and those players were the catalysts to successful powerplays. The Oilers had PP success, but it was spread around and I feel that "share the wealth" production would be hard to recreate.

If you look at this season you'll see the same trend.

The Oilers have four players in the top-50 scorers in the league, but they only have two players in the top-75 of powerplay points.

Nugent-Hopkins has been in on 45.7% (16) of the Oilers 35 goals. Eberle has contributed to 42.8% (15) while Hall has only been in on 34.2% (12).

2014 PP Leaders:

John Tavares has been in on 75% (24) of the New York's 32 goals.
Nicklas Backstrom has been in on 65.9% (31) of the Capitals' 47 goals.
Erik Karlsson has been in on 64.8% (24) of Ottawa's 37 goals.
Giroux has been a part of 58.5% (24) of the Flyers' 41 goals.
Crosby was a part of 57.7% (26) of the Penguins' 45 goals.
Ovechkin has been in on 57.5% (27) of the Capitals' 47 goals.
Joe Pavelski has been in on 56.7% (21) of the Sharks' 37 goals.
Patrick Kane has been a part of 54.5% (23) of the Hawks' 42 goals.
David Krejci has been in on 54.5% (18) of the Bruins' 33 goals.
Shea Weber has been in on 54.4% (19) of the Predators' 35 goals.

Tavares is the only player on a team not in the top-ten in PP%. The Blues are this year's version of the 2013 Oilers when it comes to the PP. They are 2nd in the league, but none of their players have been in on more than 44.4% (Kevin Shattenkirk) of their goals.

When you look closer to the Blues success, the other thing they have in common with the Oilers is a high SH%. The Blues lead the NHL in 5-on-4 SH% at 16.4. This is almost identical to what the Oiler shooters did last season. 

Last year, the Oilers were 2nd best in the NHL with 5-on-4 SH% at 16.8, but they also averaged the 2nd fewest shots/60 on the PP, so it was unlikely they were going to maintain that success rate on the PP.

This year the Oilers are once again near the bottom, 26th, in SF/60 on 5-on-4, but their SH% has dropped from 16.8 to 11.84. Either they are shooting from worse positions, or more likely not getting as many shots from close range.

WHAT ABOUT SH GOALS?

I think the Oilers actual production on the PP hasn't been awful. In the first 25 games of the season they were 20.7%, a bit better than last year, but in the last 33 games the wheels have fallen off. I highly doubt the coaching staff suddenly changed the system 25 games in.

I've noticed teams are playing the Oilers different this year. They slide block to prevent the back door play, so it's tough to have a guy on the goal line producing. The Oilers have had to work farther out from the net, and because they don't have a heavy shot from the blueline, it makes it much harder to generate quality chances. Until they get a threat from the point their PP will continue to struggle.

They could look at using Nail Yakupov more often on the first unit, but he would need to set up for the one-timer on the right point, and currently the Oilers PP runs off the right wall with RNH. They currently have Hemsky on the left wall with Yak on his off wing on the 2nd unit but that unit hasn't had great success either. They could look at using Gagner as the set up guy on the left wall on the 1st unit, with Yakupov, Smyth, J.Schultz and Hall. The problem with that is I think RNH is their best PP option to run the PP through, so until the get a dangerous right-handed shot on the blueline I think they will be hard-pressed to produce.

Yakupov has a great shot, but so far I haven't seen him put himself in good shooting positions often enough. As much as the coach can diagram certain plays, much of the PP success comes down to the players adlibbing as they go, and right now the Oilers lack a PP catalyst.

Someone needs to step up and become the focal point on their PP, and this summer MacTavish needs to find a defender with a heavy shot who is good on the powerplay.

However, the big concern for the Oilers is that they've allowed a league-high 10 SH goals this year. The crazy part is the Oilers are allowing virtually the exact same amount of shots on goal this year compared to last. Last year they allowed 8.2SA60 and this year they are allowing 8.4.

In the first 25 games when their PP was producing the Oilers allowed 4 SH goals, but one was an empty netter.

Let's look at each goal.

October 5th vs. Vancouver: Brad Richardson.

 They had Hemsky on the right wall with Yakupov, Hall, Smyth and J.Schultz, which in theory would be good for setting up Hall in the slot or Yakupov on right point for one timers. This play starts with a bad pass from Hemsky. The pass is deflected and forces J.Schultz to pinch and it gets by him. If Hemsky makes a good pass this play doesn't happen. I don't blame the set up or the system for that goal.

October 5th vs. Vancouver: Jason Garrison

I think it is safe to say that is an unlucky SH goal against.

October 7th, New Jersey: Patrick Elias

That goal came with :03 seconds left in the Devils penalty. They lost a battle on the far boards that led to the puck going to Elias in the corner. It was another unlucky own goal, and not one due to the offensive zone attack or set up.

November 25th vs. Chicago: Jonathan Toews

 The Oilers go with five forwards. They dump it in and Hall pressures Keith, but you can either say Keith made a great hesitation move to avoid him, or Hall went after the puck instead of the man. Saad breaks his stick and fans on the clearing attempt. Yakupov had leaned backwards thinking the puck was going down the ice, which usually it would, but then he had to try and keep it in at the blueline and Toews pounced. A regular D-man might have been handled the bouncing puck better because they are used to being pressured at the blueline, but it is hard to fault Yakupov on that goal. Usually breaking your stick in your own zone puts your team at a disadvantage, but this time it helped the Hawks. I still think five forwards is rarely a good idea 5-on-4.

December 1st vs Dallas: Ryan Garbutt

This was all Denis Grebeshkov. Right before his brutal giveaway he was unable to keep the puck in at the blueline. This is on the player, not the coach, unless you argue there is no reason Grebeshkov should be on the PP. I'd blame Craig MacTavish for this goal. We had seen this type of play from him often in his first tour with the Oilers, expecting him to be different this time around was wishful thinking.

December 10th vs Carolina: Eric Staal

 Perron falls but makes a good pass to Eberle. Eberle was pressured a bit, but that was a bad pass and Staal makes a great move to score. My other question is why would RNH go down so low in the slot and not stay high. The Oilers had four guys below the ringette line. I watched a few other zone entries, and it does seem that often they have four guys that low. When Eberle picks up the puck his only option is to go to Larsen, and that is where his teammates need to give him better outlets. But ultimately that is a bad pass by Eberle.

December 12th vs. Boston: Brad Marchand

The Oilers have complete control of the puck in the offensive zone. They are set up, Larsen walks the blueline correctly, but then he just fires the puck into Bergeron's pads and away they go. Eberle gives a good effort backchecking, but he doesn't go towards Marchand, instead he stays in the middle of ice. If he goes straight to Marchand and ties up his stick, Marchand might not bury that goal. I don't see coaching as the issue on that goal. Eakins should show Eberle the video and say good effort getting back, but next time to go the man not to the goalie.

December 19th vs. Colorado: Max Talbot.

Again, the Oilers have control of the puck, but they make a high-risk, ill-advised pass that leads to a 2-on-1. Justin Schultz would like to have that pass back. You will notice at the :25 second mark Schultz has control and he had RNH as a safe outlet on the boards, but elected to go to his left instead, where neither Hall or Eberle were set up. On this play the Oilers had four guys above the top of the circles and still gave up an odd-man rush due to a bad pass. That is inexperience and trying to force the play.

January 18th vs Winnipeg: Jacob Trouba

 This was a complete team breakdown. Belov can't get the puck in deep at the offensive blueline and the Jets transition quickly. Petry inexplicably leaves his feet, which should never happen that far out or when you have more guys on the ice, and Ryan Smyth doesn't pick up his man on the backcheck.

The Oilers had two D-men on the ice, yet I'd argue that was the worst SH goal they gave up this year when you consider how many bad decisions were made by multiple players.

February 3rd vs. Buffalo: Drew Stafford

 

You have one of your best puckhandlers bring the puck in the zone, peel off to the boards and create time and space. Eberle needs to make a better pass, but once again you will notice his teammates only gave him one outlet, Yakupov. I'd say this is a combination of a bad decision by the player  and a bad system. I've witnessed the players slide down low so frequently on the PP when they enter the zone that I believe that is their system. It clearly isn't great, but ultimately when you have possession of the puck your skilled players should be able to make a good pass.

I think this goal illustrates perfectly the issue with the PP woes of the Oilers. It is a combination of a bad play by a player, and his teammates failing to provide better outlets. To me it looks like that is how the coach wants the team to enter the zone.

WRAP UP

I understand why people want to blame the coach for the woes of the PP. It was better the past two seasons, and he wasn't here, and as Jonathan Willis pointed out here, teams coached by Eakins have struggled both on the PP and allowing SH goals.

It is fair to say he needs to alter some things on the PP, but after watching those goals it is clear to me the players need to make better decisions with the puck as well. I also think the powerplay has been static far too often this year. They need more consistent motion. It is a skill to learn how to put yourself in good positions to shoot, and that is something the PP units need to improve on.

I think past history proves that blaming the coach for the woes of the Oilers isn't working. The players, just like the coach, need to be more accountable and more consistent, and until that happens this team will struggle on the PP and ES.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 mayorblaine
February 05 2014, 02:05PM
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i think there is more than enough blame to go around.

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#2 Oilerz4life
February 05 2014, 03:40PM
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Here's a plan. Put Yak on the point PP. Then, when the Oilers are scored on SH, sit Yak for being defensively irresponsible. Eakins should be fired now, and then find an experienced NHL coach over the Olympic break. Get rid of Smith and Bucky while you're at it.

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#3 lennyl
February 05 2014, 03:50PM
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Here is a thought! Maybe players don't want to play for a coach like that!!?? They loved to play for Krueger last year, just ask Yakupov, and how different it is this year, just ask Yakupov.

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#4 bwar
February 05 2014, 02:45PM
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When the PP was really going it seemed like it was RNH's unit. He was the QB and the other players on the ice were looking to have him set them up. Now the PP usually has 2-3 QB's on the ice, RNH, Jultz, Gagner. Seems to me like this would be like fielding 3 QB's in football. 3 guys trying to do each others jobs but ultimately just hindering each other to the point of failure.

Simplify the PP. Give one player control of the unit. Put some big shots on the ice. Get some grit in front of the net.

Yak has the best shot of the forwards and needs to be on the #1 PP. If Nuge and Yak ever get some PP chemistry going we will have a very dangerous PP.

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#5 vetinari
February 05 2014, 02:32PM
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So, the verdict is that it is not the system, but rather isolated bad breaks or bad decisions by the players on the ice?

In some of the earlier goals, it seems like some of the players are either hesitating a bit too long with the puck or trying to force the puck to players who aren't fully open. It also seems like opposing teams are playing us more aggressively -- especially the kids.

Maybe Horcoff's best gift was his sixth sense to know when to smother the puck along the boards or take it to the corners on the PP because if there was a turnover over there, opposing teams were starting with the puck so deep that they didn't have a clear break on our goalie on a one-on-one?

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#6 toprightcorner
February 05 2014, 02:52PM
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Thank you, Thank you , Thank you

Fantastic article Gregor!! It is great to see articles that the research isn't simply looking at stats and numbers but actually looking at the areas that numbers do not show. Thats exactly how someone should support their point of view. I enjoy reading the statistics but they only show a part of the picture.

In most of these SH goal situations the system itself isn't to blame but simply poor decision making and a few exceptionally good setups by the other team. I agree that the players seem to be going too low which would seem more indicitive to a dump play. With 4 players going in past the top of the circle on the zone entry a bad pass to the point will create 2 on onee chances the other way all of the time.

It also seems that many of these bad plays are starting from Eberle's stick. He seems to be be focused on making a particular pass wheather it is high or low risk and not makeing quick enough decisions on other possible options.

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#7 pillay
February 05 2014, 04:30PM
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I wonder if they could hire Krueger back to run the special teams

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#8 Jed
February 05 2014, 05:02PM
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Is David Staples on drugs?

Hall is his vote to replace Stamkos.

Hall does not know how to play a 200ft game. He makes so many mistakes against lessor competition.

Really.

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#9 DisappointedFan
February 05 2014, 02:25PM
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Well I guess I can put the pitchfork away for another couple games

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#10 Romulus' Apotheosis
February 05 2014, 02:54PM
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Great article Gregor.

Lot of work, lot of angles addressed. Really, really good.

This is your best point IMO:

When you look closer to the Blues success, the other thing they have in common with the Oilers is a high SH%. The Blues lead the NHL in 5-on-4 SH% at 16.4. This is almost identical to what the Oiler shooters did last season. Last year, the Oilers were 2nd best in the NHL with 5-on-4 SH% at 16.8, but they also averaged the 2nd fewest shots/60 on the PP, so it was unlikely they were going to maintain that success rate on the PP. This year the Oilers are once again near the bottom, 26th, in SF/60 on 5-on-4, but their SH% has dropped from 16.8 to 11.84. Either they are shooting from worse positions, or more likely not getting as many shots from close range.

The sad thing is that the oil have been a very poor team at generating shots 5x4 for a long time. The last two years, however, they've basically lucked into a really high SH%, which is completely unsustainable.

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#11 **
February 05 2014, 04:24PM
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Golden Moment wrote:

Excellent article Jason. One of your best, if not your best. With the research that you have done, to help explain a reality, perhaps others will be less critical of Dallas Eakins. Continue with the excellent work that you are doing, it is very much appreciated.

You forgot the flowers and the diamond ring.

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#12 pkam
February 05 2014, 02:48PM
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@JG

Thanks, hope this will put a rest to the repeated blasting by one poster who put all the blame of our PP on Eakins.

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#13 They're $hittie
February 05 2014, 03:59PM
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Did anyone watch the pp last year. It was Gagner (right handed shot) feeding it across the slot to Yakupov (off shooting side) taking the TSAR BOMBA shot with Eberle around the net for a quick shot from the rebound or down low option. With Schultz on the point for the slide pass to Gags or Yak for the shot. Add in your mix for down low on the right side with hall, perron or smyth or what ever.

Just because nugent hopkins is your best player doesnt mean he is your best pp option. In fact (yes he was injured) but I think he was 8th in PP0 minutes last year.

It hasnt worked this year so why not go back to last year and see what happens.

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#14 DisappointedFan
February 05 2014, 03:17PM
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They're $hittie wrote:

great no stamkos

Well Sochi better get ready because you know what this means...

The "Ryan Smyth Clapper" is making another appearance for gold.

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#15 Golden Moment
February 05 2014, 03:23PM
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Excellent article Jason. One of your best, if not your best. With the research that you have done, to help explain a reality, perhaps others will be less critical of Dallas Eakins. Continue with the excellent work that you are doing, it is very much appreciated.

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#16 Andrew
February 05 2014, 08:39PM
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Is Eakins the problem? Absolutely. Inexperience is rife throughout the organization from Katz down. What can we expect of an organization who can't stand up to scrutiny in the light of day? Accountability is just a freakin' word to these people.

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#17 camdog
February 05 2014, 03:49PM
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No shot from the point, nobody standing in front of the net and nobody with offensive potential able to win the faceoff, nobody able to win a battle in the corners, no cycle.

Interesting numbers on the powerplay with Horcoff on the ice last season. The reality is that the moves Mact made this past season, have weakened our power play. As much as Horcoff was hated by some he was a very important part of this team.

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#18 They're $hittie
February 05 2014, 04:37PM
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pillay wrote:

I wonder if they could hire Krueger back to run the special teams

If you managed a business, and they said you werent good enough, would you go back to be the assistant manager to fix what the manager screwed up so he could get the glory.

Krueger has enough on his resume to get his own gig, if it is in the nhl or not is a different story. I dont think he would come back here.

Money isnt everything to everyone.

I would like him back for the PP though. I agree with you on this.

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#19 @Oilanderp
February 05 2014, 08:18PM
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Here is a few quotes from THIS¹ article written by Jonathan Willis on this site almost a year ago:

Last year, the Oilers had a really good shooting percentage number – they were one of two teams in the league with a shooting percentage above 16 percent in 5-on-4 situations. Nashville was the other. Looking at recent years, I found that the trend for high shooting percentage teams was to see a massive drop in shooting percentage the next year

For Nashville, that proved true – they’re down to a 12.6 shooting percentage in 5-on-4 situations this year, and have seen the power play fall to 19th this season after leading the league last year. Edmonton, however, has actually increased their shooting percentage – in 5-on-4 situations, they’re at 18.2 percent this year. In terms of shots/minute, though, they are the second-worst team in the league.

Either one believes the Oilers have found a way to sustain a high shooting percentage 5-on-4, based on ~120 games of them doing so, or one believes that they’re riding percentages that can’t be sustained, based on what has happened to other NHL teams. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I lean toward the latter explanation: I can’t help thinking that eventually the Oilers’ inability to generate shots on the power play is going to cost them.

Mr. Willis saw this coming. The math saw this coming, and here it is.

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#20 toprightcorner
February 05 2014, 03:04PM
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bwar wrote:

When the PP was really going it seemed like it was RNH's unit. He was the QB and the other players on the ice were looking to have him set them up. Now the PP usually has 2-3 QB's on the ice, RNH, Jultz, Gagner. Seems to me like this would be like fielding 3 QB's in football. 3 guys trying to do each others jobs but ultimately just hindering each other to the point of failure.

Simplify the PP. Give one player control of the unit. Put some big shots on the ice. Get some grit in front of the net.

Yak has the best shot of the forwards and needs to be on the #1 PP. If Nuge and Yak ever get some PP chemistry going we will have a very dangerous PP.

In theory, your 100% correct. The problem is that both Yak and Nuge are left hand shots. Yak needs to be on his off wing (right faceoff dot) to unleash his wicked shot on a one-timer and that is where Nuge does his best work. It is difficult for a left hand shot to make a cross ice pass from the left boards accross the middle of the ice becasue of the angle with the puck being closer to the goal line.

They have tried to do the Nuge thing with Eberle (right shot) and it has worked from time to time but Eberle just can't get the shot off nealy as fast as Yak can. I would like to see a system where the players were placed to have Yak take that one-timer as it is probably in the top 10 in the league and how he scored many of last years goals.

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#22 Rick Stroppel
February 05 2014, 05:50PM
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They're $hittie wrote:

If you managed a business, and they said you werent good enough, would you go back to be the assistant manager to fix what the manager screwed up so he could get the glory.

Krueger has enough on his resume to get his own gig, if it is in the nhl or not is a different story. I dont think he would come back here.

Money isnt everything to everyone.

I would like him back for the PP though. I agree with you on this.

YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN

Jim Playfair was HC in Calgary in 06-07, was demoted to associate coach, and stayed for two years.

Tony Granato was HC in Colorado for two years, was demoted to assistant coach, and remained for three years.

So it is at least theoretically possible to bring back Krueger and have Eakins working under him. Two people (Eakins and MacTavish) would have to swallow their pride big time. Maybe that isn't such a bad thing.

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#23 Loweblows
February 06 2014, 07:04AM
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pkam wrote:

@JG

Thanks, hope this will put a rest to the repeated blasting by one poster who put all the blame of our PP on Eakins.

Nope. Fire Eakins!

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#24 v4ance
February 05 2014, 03:04PM
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The message was diluted somewhere during all the losing but it needs to be reinforced: "Make smart decisions with the puck!"

Too often, the Oilers are trying to force a play through multiple defenders instead going/passing to soft spots in the zone on the PP.

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#25 Johnnydapunk
February 05 2014, 03:38PM
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Great article! (Though that "keep calm and whatever" stuff does my head in to no avail as it was plastered on everything in the UK for years, and now it's come to North America, aargh!! Just the tiniest detraction from the article :-) )

The Oil are terrible at controlling a game, or I should say they are terrible at slowing down a game, they play this fast back and forth pond hockey style that can work if you are scoring 7 goals a game, but they aren't. They can only play that one speed and power plays need to be played at a slow controlling pace. It could be the fact they are used to needing a goal or two and are really playing with the pressure of the clock, or that the players just can't control the puck and play well enough to be able to have an effective power play.

It's a bad sign when you are afraid when the Oil have a power play as you are sure that a short handed goal is gonna be scored, or there are gonna be some breakaways happening. I kindof wish the Oil would deliberately take a penalty like the old Oil used to and just play 4 on 4 as it feels like it's less of a risk.

I think they need to play to their confidence levels and as it can't be that high, need to play the simple PP before going into this 4 or 5 forwards stuff. A lot of mistakes are made by second guessing and when you're losing a lot, you are second guessing everything you do and that hesitation is making the difference.

They need to bring back the trap (or as MacT called it, the Responsible Forechecking, System) until they get their shots against count under control, it's all a big car crash right now.

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#26 **
February 05 2014, 04:22PM
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the system in place affects how a player makes the decision. If they call a certain play they have been instructed to, and it doesn't work, and they do it again, and again it doesn't work, it forces players to scramble and improvise, which leads to the bad decision. The same thing happens in basketball and football. If the system of plays is weak, the players are going to execute it weak.

Most of the players on the pp are the same as last year. Unless they hit their head and lost some cognitive ability, I don't see why all of the sudden they began making bad decisions that end up in their own net( one caveat, Grebeshkov and Larsen were new this year but they have been responsible for some really awful pp).

I'm sorry but the pp is mostly on the coach. The pp is the one place in hockey where x's and o's make the most impact.

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#30 Walter Sobchak
February 05 2014, 06:16PM
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Great job on the article Gregor.

Couple things that stand out with the coaching on the PP that some may have mentioned already.

While the SH% numbers are lower, I honestly believe this is due to the player's switching spots on the PP.

RNH now sets up right where Hall & Yakupov use to set up. Yakupov has moved back in a defensive rover position.

Somebody mention that Gagner use to fead Yakupov for a back door or a one timer which is now occupied by Peron or Gagner.

RNH as both Eakins & MacTavish have mentioned should be on the half wall, this is where Hall occupied last year.

You want to play to the strengths of certain players, if Hall & Yakupov can'y use there shot then you get a PP with lower shot attempts & even lower scoring.

We've seen Eakins try and continue to try and do some strange things on the PK as well.

RNH being used against the top players on the PK, then having to sit out the next shifts when your top line should be jumping out on the ice the second the PK is complete to take advantage of the other teams tired best players.

While I agree that it's not all coaching something is effecting the play this year, be it SH% or SV% or 5X5/60 the Oilers seem to have regressed almost everywhere, as a team and individuals.

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#31 nina russo
February 06 2014, 09:36AM
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Wow, someone must have offered you the Kool-Aid.

This is SOOO Eakins fault. Fire incompetence. If MacT won't admit his mistake fire him too.

Enough political bandwagonning, who are you trying to impress???

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#32 S cottV
February 05 2014, 03:49PM
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I don't know Jason, looking closely at the videos you would have to conclude that using 4 forwards and in particular - Yak, as the back supporter is a very bad idea. #1 - 4 forwards on PP - Yak fails to provide backside point support. Is way too deep on the back side.

#2 - Agree - unlucky.

#3 - 4 forwards on PP as Petry looks to have just switched in and Perron much looser on pressuring the puck carrier than you would expect from a d man.

#4 - 5 forwards on PP - Yak doesn't handle the situation as well as you would expect a d man to handle it. Takes all in chance on a bouncing puck and gets out of the way.

#5 - Looks like 4 forwards on PP. Yak is the back supporter and fails to cover off the side boards Grebeshkov possession by turning away and out of proper support. If Yak does what a back side d guy would be expected to do - no goal.

#6 - Again 4 forwards all pressed in too low including Yak. With 2 d men back in normal position - no goal.

#7 - Again 4 forwards. Eberle plays the situation incorrectly by focusing on the puck and not the man he was covering. You would expect a d man to handle it better.

#8 - Again 4 forwards + J Shultz - so almost 5 forwards. Lack of puck possession support at blue line like what would be expected from a 2nd d man, and a poor 2 on 1 by Schultz.

#9 - Belov should have got it deep but poor support by forwards to allow the 2 on 1 and then Belov slips on the way back, at a critical time.

10 - 4 forwards and Yak bites too deep as the back supporter, allowing the odd man counter attack.

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#33 rectal place
February 05 2014, 10:59PM
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The oilers are just terrible. No analysis required.

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#34 Zarny
February 05 2014, 11:57PM
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** wrote:

the system in place affects how a player makes the decision. If they call a certain play they have been instructed to, and it doesn't work, and they do it again, and again it doesn't work, it forces players to scramble and improvise, which leads to the bad decision. The same thing happens in basketball and football. If the system of plays is weak, the players are going to execute it weak.

Most of the players on the pp are the same as last year. Unless they hit their head and lost some cognitive ability, I don't see why all of the sudden they began making bad decisions that end up in their own net( one caveat, Grebeshkov and Larsen were new this year but they have been responsible for some really awful pp).

I'm sorry but the pp is mostly on the coach. The pp is the one place in hockey where x's and o's make the most impact.

What are you talking about? This isn't football. Coaches don't call "plays". There is no Zulu Tango Foxtrot.

Systems are general zone and/or man assignments not skating routes. You might practice a breakout based on defensive tendencies of your opponent but if they do something different you improvise and move on you don't do it again.

Have you been on the ice when the coach has been drawing x's and o's on the white board? 9 times out of ten it goes for sh*t off the draw and then you just play hockey.

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#35 camdog
February 06 2014, 07:44AM
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@Loweblows

The Oilers and Eskimos, both haunted by memories of greatness. Both organizations have been ruined because of the mistakes by those on the top of the ladder. They have both been so dysfunctional it amazes me.

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#36 They're $hittie
February 05 2014, 03:08PM
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great no stamkos

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#37 Johnnydapunk
February 05 2014, 05:30PM
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Mr Gregor I do have one question that isn't overtly on topic, but something you may know as you are in a lot more contact with professional players and whatnot.

Is the coaching system that is used throughout the NHL and minor league teams the same? Meaning specifically, is the system used for offence, defence and things like PP and SH the same for the Oil that is being used (and taught) in OKC and in Bakersfield? Or is it different systems depending on what works in each respective league?

I'm asking that as I wondered if players when they are called up, need to learn the system used by the team or is already known and it's just the pace and things that need to be adjusted to?

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#38 S cottV
February 05 2014, 05:53PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Not sure why you think four forwards is the main issue on every goal.

You know they played 4 forwards often last season and didn't give up 10 SH goals. So to say it doesn't work isn't accurate.

If Larsen, Schultz, Eberle make better decisions with the puck, when they had time to do so, then no odd man rush is happening.

Many teams have four forwards on their PP and have success. Oilers did it last year.

Many times the off-side D-man will slide down like Yak did on #1...D-men don't just stand on the blueline on the PP.

Many slide down on the opposite side.

And on the Devils goal...the Oilers had 2 D-men on the ice for the entire two minutes...Was Schultz and Belov to start and then Ference and Petry...

Points taken but it is risky and if you had to use 4 forwards, the one in the back would preferably not be Yak.

Without 2 legit pp dmen and no size in the top 6 for net presence, the Oilers are overly forced to use 4 forwards and an umbrella formation.

I'm not the biggest Eakins fan but have to admit he is handcuffed on pp options.

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#39 Rick Stroppel
February 05 2014, 06:03PM
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I THINK THIS WOULD BE INTERESTING, BUT I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO LOOK AND I AM TOO LAZY TO FIGURE IT OUT MYSELF

1. Powerplay comparison based on plus-minus during the power play. Ten goals is more than a blip. Factoring in the SH goals, Edmonton may have the worst PP in the NHL this year.

2. Powerplay comparison based on net goals per minute of power play time, rather than per power play. A twenty second advantage after overlapping penalties is one PP. A five minute penalty is also one PP (unless the team with the advantage scores more than once).

3. My gut tells me that giving up a SH goal is devastating to momentum and morale. What is the success rate of teams that give up a SH goal? Obviously you should throw out games where both teams give up a SH goal.

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#40 The real minnow
February 05 2014, 06:16PM
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WAIT A SECOND!!!!

Isn't it baseball season??

No??

It's -30 outside???

Dammit!!

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#41 S cottV
February 05 2014, 06:53PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Having a D man with a heavy shot would be huge,and something they need to add. Schultz has great offensive instincts and could roam in the O zone on the PP, so could have two D-men but one who is very creative...

Yeah - a big left hander with a heavy shot to offset with Shultz.

Add in a couple of big forwards (one that plays 2c) to the pp mix and it sure adds more options to the pp at less risk.

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#42 Zarny
February 06 2014, 10:10AM
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** wrote:

"Have you been on the ice when the coach has been drawing x's and o's on the white board? 9 times out of ten it goes for sh*t off the draw and then you just play hockey."

And yet they hockey coaches keep doing it, so either they are utterly stupid, or there is merit to it. There's no grey area there, chose one. I didn't just mention football, I also mentioned basket ball, which I think is the closest to hockey in terms of fluidity of the game. Stop thinking x's and o's are just the passing routes of a football book.

Of course there is merit to it. It reinforces simple, fundamental things like which man to take and makes sure everyone is on the same page.

But if the play off the draw goes to sh*t you don't cycle around and try it again. You move on and play hockey.

There is actually a huge grey area. It's childish and simplistic to think otherwise.

I agree basketball is closest to hockey in terms of fluidity and in basketball the set plays are also very loose and broad just like Gregor pointed out. If a set a pick and it doesn't work they don't continually reset and try it again. They move and play.

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#43 ubermiguel
February 05 2014, 04:09PM
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Nice analysis.

Any numbers on PP faceoff %? This year our top two faceoff men are not on the PP. Winning a draw on the PK means you can punch it out of the zone which easily kills 20 seconds.

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#44 pkam
February 05 2014, 04:19PM
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camdog wrote:

No shot from the point, nobody standing in front of the net and nobody with offensive potential able to win the faceoff, nobody able to win a battle in the corners, no cycle.

Interesting numbers on the powerplay with Horcoff on the ice last season. The reality is that the moves Mact made this past season, have weakened our power play. As much as Horcoff was hated by some he was a very important part of this team.

Although Ryan Whitney has become useless in our own end after his injuries, he was still an important member of our PP unit last year.

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#45 Joy S. Lee
February 05 2014, 04:36PM
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I will reiterate what I said in an earlier ON column: this team places too much emphasis on scoring the PP setup, and not enough on scoring a PP goal.

They have often turned away from having an edge on a defender to the net - just after having gained the zone, which they have a lot of trouble with as a rule - in order to make sure they get the "set up" they want.

This team needs to attack for the goal, no matter the situation. If opportunity arises as they are trying to set up, take the opportunity and worry about the setup later. In other words, don't pass up chances to score, no matter the situation. Setting up is merely a way of getting into a comfortable, advantageous position. Screw that...if it's a challenge to beat the opponents agression, gain some open ice and just score the freaking goal.

In fact, just tell these kids to just play it like it's a 5x5. When they realize they have openings, they'll start to see them before they develop. Way too much emphasis on system, not enough on improvisation, so far as I'm concerned. I know systems are necessary, but you should be able to stray from them at a drop of a hat, and improvise. That's a strategic response in itself, because you can't always defend improvisation.

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#46 Fossil
February 05 2014, 04:44PM
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Good article. No coach is perfect. Our PP has to be one of the easiest to defend against. They seem to believe to other team is just going to watch them pass it around until a shot is open. Do they practice with defenders attempting to check them? It sure doesn't look like it. Baring down and making a hard clean pass, shooting on net or away from the guy blocking rarely happens. Creating scoring chances occurred when these guys came into the league, now a successful PP is not getting scored on. It is starting to look like signing the big contract was the only goal.

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#47 Lowe Expectations
February 05 2014, 06:05PM
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A powerplay just like any part of a team requires an identity. A player to which it funnels through plus a style (back door passes, bomming point shot, traffic in front etc). In watching you get the sense they have no idea what is they want to do. And also the puck pursuit, the absolute desire to get the puck and keep it really lacks.

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#48 Dog Train
February 05 2014, 08:53PM
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Lots of skill on the PP but the dirty work and the hard shot from the point are seriously lacking. Sometimes I feel like our plan is to pass the puck into the net. The best PPs in the league usually have a high volume of shots with traffic in front. If teams were afraid of us getting shots from the point then that would open up more room down low to make passes across the crease.

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#49 **
February 05 2014, 11:23PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

How come former NHL players say that the coach draws up zone entries, and they look for certain plays, but often they have to adlib due to changes in position, blocked shots..etc.

Do you have proof that x's and o's actually have more of an impact. I've never seen it, and coaches and players I talk to all say it isn't the case. I think you are mistaken in thinking it is.

You're supporting my argument. Basically you're saying the same thing I did. I think you are confusing position with execution.

IF the coach draws up a zone entry that calls for a pass to the middle for example, but the other team's formation clogs the middle, then that set play fails, and like you said, and like I said in the post you replied to, now the players have to improvise, go back, recover position for the set play, and try again.

X's and O's are where the plays start from. You are a sports journalist and you say you've never seen them have more of an impact?, Where do you think the advanced stats come from?, coach's ice time allocation?, defensive systems?, that is x's and o's, maybe you tried to say something else, I don't know, but seriously, you've never seen x's and o's play an important part in hockey?. You've never seen the coach take a time out and draw on his little white board?. I'm sorry but I am having a hard time taking yo seriously after a comment like that. Coaches say it all the time in the interviews, they use the phrase "game plan", I can assure you they are not talking about fairy dust and unicorn farts, they are talking about a set strategy, commonly known as x's and o's.

You make too many generalizations man, speaking in absolutes, that's not the way to support an argument, that's just a bratty way to say that you're right and I'm wrong. Time will tell for sure where most of the fault is with these sorry Oilers special teams.

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#50 Zarny
February 05 2014, 11:39PM
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Keep calm...Ha! Wrong crowd for that. The Eakins haters lost all perspective 3 months ago.

The players are in position. That's what coaching and systems are supposed to do. The players make dumb decisions and get beat on their 1 on 1. That's not coaching.

With clowns throwing jerseys on the ice and the toxic atmosphere the 19-24 y/o are no doubt playing loose and confident. Luckily kids who can't grow facial hair are known for being the demographic most capable of handling pressure.

Smart comments about Horcoff. He couldn't live up to his contract offensively but he pulled a lot of weight. On the PP. Shorthanded. Even strength. He sheltered Nuge and Gagner.

Hopefully Eakins plays Petry or Belov on the PP more. Because they looked so good on the Trouba goal. Yeah, I can totally see them making better decisions on the PP.

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