2014-15 Goals Projection: All the Defencemen

Jonathan Willis
August 06 2014 02:37PM

19-Schultz-2

How many goals should we expect from Justin Schultz and Co. on the Oilers’ blue line next season?

More importantly, how do reasonable (your mileage may vary) projections for both the defence and the team as a whole compare to the results posted by last year's playoff teams in the West?

The Chart

85-Marincin-5

Player GP EVTOI PPTOI SHTOI EVG PPG SHG Total
Justin Schultz 77 17.5 3.3 0.2 7 4 0 11
Nikita Nikitin 69 16.5 1.9 2.0 3 2 0 5
Martin Marincin 65 16.0 0.3 1.2 3 1 0 4
Jeff Petry 81 17.7 0.3 2.8 3 0 0 3
Mark Fayne 74 16.3 0.0 2.8 3 0 0 3
Andrew Ference 71 16.0 0.2 2.8 3 0 0 3
Keith Aulie 23 9.1 0.0 0.7 1 0 0 1
Oscar Klefbom 36 15.0 0.0 0.3 0 0 0 0
Brad Hunt 3 8.5 1.2 0.0 0 0 0 0
David Musil 2 9.0 0.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Davidson 1 10.0 0.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Martin Gernat 1 10.0 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0

  • Justin Schultz leads the pack, and that’s no surprise. Despite his struggles generating goals from the point on the power play last year, he has a brilliant offensive record in previous seasons. I also have him pegged for less strenuous duty at even-strength this season (due largely to the arrival of Mark Fayne on the right side) but also expect him to lead the Oilers in total per-game time on ice.
  • On the left side, Nikita Nikitin looks like the best option to take significant minutes next season (seriously, consider the competition). I have him playing in all situations and being the Oilers’ No. 2 choice on the penalty kill.
  • Martin Marincin didn’t score an NHL goal last year, but he has been a pretty reliable producer at previous levels in the past. He could well get more of a push than I have him ticketed for here; heck, he could be on the top pairing coming out of training camp and if he gets power play time that will impact this projection.
  • I’ve projected the Oilers’ three veterans as scoring a grand total of nine goals, three each. There is a gap in style, performance and likely also in usage (i.e. zone starts, quality of competition) between Jeff Petry, Mark Fayne and Andrew Ference, but all three will be counted on at evens and on the penalty kill, and none of the three should generate all that many goals for Edmonton.
  • The Oilers likely have a bigger role for Keith Aulie than I’ve pegged him for here, but he’s going to be hurt by Oscar Klefbom’s position as the team’s likely first recall. If Klefbom is called up, it won’t be to sit in the pressbox. That leaves Aulie without a lot of playing time. For our purposes it doesn’t matter much; neither player is a scorer.
  • On the cup of coffee side of things, the quartet of Brad Hunt, David Musil, Brandon Davidson and Martin Gernat are all decent bets to get some NHL time (and I’d personally put them in that order, with Davidson potentially ahead of Musil). Dillon Simpson could well work his way into the mix, too, but for the time being I’ve left him behind those four because he’s a rookie professional.

Total Goals & the Best in the West

Oilers fans

Total non-empty net goals from Oilers defencemen: 30.

Total non-empty net goals from all Oilers: 224.

  • Anaheim: 31 goals from D, 255 in all
  • Chicago: 31 goals from D, 253 in all
  • Colorado: 47 goals from D, 232 in all
  • Dallas: 30 goals from D, 223 in all
  • Los Angeles: 35 goals from D, 189 in all
  • Minnesota: 30 goals from D, 192 goals in all
  • St. Louis: 34 goals from D, 230 in all
  • San Jose: 34 goals from D, 232 in all

    Average: 34 goals from D, 226 goals in all.

Put it all together, and I think the Oilers can probably score like a playoff team next season.

There are some caveats. I haven’t projected major injuries, because they aren’t really predictable, so health is an x-factor. A number of players posted surprisingly low shots/hour figures last year in Edmonton; I’m inclined to believe coaching strategy was a factor. If that’s true, and if it isn’t fixed, these numbers will be overly optimistic.

Finally, most critically: the Oilers finished 24th in NHL goal-scoring last year, and 30th in goals-against. The jump required to get to the playoff cutline in the former category is much larger than the jump required to get to that same point in the latter category. I haven’t looked at goals against, and it’s a bigger problem.

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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#51 admiralmark
August 07 2014, 10:50AM
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Will wrote:

I'm with you in that this season's success in my mind will be measured in goal differential more than any other factor. I know we're weak in the middle, but is Nuge, Arco Draisaitl, Gordon, really weaker than Hall, Arco, Gordon, Acton that was last year's opening night roster?

Gordon did well, or as well as anyone could have expected in the tough minutes shut down role, but I think he did better when Hendricks joined him later in the season.

Our opening night defence is much improved, and don't even get me started on the goalies. I think barring injuries, this years team will make good on the whole, "the standing don't reflect the true talent level of this team".

I'm also pretty sure Puolliot and Purcell will be a two way upgrade on Jones and Hemskey. Which also gives Eakins nothing but possibilities for line combinations.

Hall Nuge Yak

Perron Arco Eberle

Poulliot Draisaitl Purcell

Hendricks Gordon Pitlick.

Those are the most complete four lines on paper this team has had in a while.

Well that is the sad fact of playing in the Western Conference. The team could see marked improvement on the ice and yet not see and major bump in the standings. However, I think if these things do occur and the team can end up in the overall GD of -15 to say even. This will be reflective in overall competitiveness and the fans will see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Everyone judges success differently on here. As some only see playoffs as success. But I feel that considering the wreck that Tambo left this team in a 9th-10 place with a GD anywhere from -15 to zero would be a success.

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#52 Will
August 07 2014, 11:09AM
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admiralmark wrote:

Well that is the sad fact of playing in the Western Conference. The team could see marked improvement on the ice and yet not see and major bump in the standings. However, I think if these things do occur and the team can end up in the overall GD of -15 to say even. This will be reflective in overall competitiveness and the fans will see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Everyone judges success differently on here. As some only see playoffs as success. But I feel that considering the wreck that Tambo left this team in a 9th-10 place with a GD anywhere from -15 to zero would be a success.

What teams do you think we can hop over in the West? My first answer would be Calgary, but I admittedly was impressed with how much fire that team played with last year. They truly tried to win every game my friend dragged me to go watch. Hard to say if Calgary is a better or worse team than last year. By my eye they have a young core like the Oilers, but without the top end talent. TJ Brodie being the one exception. But Bennet, Monahan, Guodroue(spelling), are no where near Yak, Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Draisaitl, the 3 defenders, ect.

I also see passing Vancouver as a big possibility. They still have a pretty impressive defence, though now without Garrison. But at forward it's really all up to the aging Sedins and Vrbata. After that it's Nick Bonino and Kassian. I just don't think that team can keep up in the west. And Miller is not as great as people think, especially not anymore.

I would also like to think the Oilers can do better than the Yotes, but they are a team, who plays a system that gives them success, no matter who's on the roster. It will be interesting to see if Gagner can have success in that system, but I seem to remember thinking Dubnyk would be a better goalie with the likes of Weber, Jones, and Jossi in front of him, he wasn't.

Lastly, I think this year marks the return of one of Edmonton's greatest rivalries, and I'm excited to see that return: Dallas. Going forward in the years to come, I can't help but think the top lines in Edmonton and Dallas are going to be the two most formidable lines in the west. Sure, Perry and Getzlaf will always be tough. And Coturier could centre something pretty special in San Jose. But the Kings and St Louis win with depth and size, Nashville is a disaster, and Winnipeg can't seem to get it together. So I am looking forward to years of Hall, Nuge, Ebs/Yak vs. Benn, Seguin, Nichushkin.

One final question for you. If the trade speculation on Petry is true, whether it be before the season or at the deadline, which one of the young D prospects replaces him, and what can the Oilers get for him?

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#53 Serious Gord
August 07 2014, 11:33AM
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admiralmark wrote:

The Oilers are starting the year with an improved Defence, improved Wingers, added Size, and RNH/Hall/Eberle et all another year of added experience. The only area that you could say has not improved is at Center which is at least treading water from last season. An average injury year as you say occurred last season. So if we expect an average injury year again with all these improvements wouldn't you expect the team to improve somewhat? Playoffs no but 9th-10th is feasible.

To say oh but what if RNH gets injured? Well then we most likely wont see a major step forward in terms of wins. To say this falls on Klowe/MacT*yawn* is fine. But ask yourself what happens to 50% of the teams in the NHL if they lose their #1 Center?

agree on you points re improvement, but my points still stand:

"... bottom five in depth, defense and centre. And an unknown in net."

if nothing extraordinary goes arwy, then yes they should improve their position in the league to somewhere 24-20th.

But perhaps more than any other team they are walking on a knife-edge and could have their season destroyed by just one injury or performance disappointment.

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#54 Will
August 07 2014, 12:02PM
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@admiralmark

I also think Fayne is penciled in with tough zone starts against top competition. Which is great news for Schultz and Petry who have been in desperate need of being knocked down the depth chart.

It was a bad contract. The best case scenario is if he's traded for a 2nd line C before the start of the season, and depending on Sabotka who isn't necessarily a for sure to Russia, maybe this gets done? Or, against second pair competition, Petry looks like the defenceman his numbers suggest. That in turn ups his value as a rental player for a team looking to make a serious playoff run, and we can get something more than picks for him at the deadline.

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#55 admiralmark
August 07 2014, 12:39PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

agree on you points re improvement, but my points still stand:

"... bottom five in depth, defense and centre. And an unknown in net."

if nothing extraordinary goes arwy, then yes they should improve their position in the league to somewhere 24-20th.

But perhaps more than any other team they are walking on a knife-edge and could have their season destroyed by just one injury or performance disappointment.

Fair enough. You tend to lean towards predicting less good luck then bad. And i tend to lean towards predicting less bad luck then good.

So my prediction of say 9th in the West(18th overall) is based on just about everything going right. 10th-11th(19th-21st) average injuries and RNH remaining healthy.

RNH goes down.. 24th-25th is likely. So, I think we are actually pretty close in our predictions.

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#56 admiralmark
August 07 2014, 01:02PM
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Will wrote:

I also think Fayne is penciled in with tough zone starts against top competition. Which is great news for Schultz and Petry who have been in desperate need of being knocked down the depth chart.

It was a bad contract. The best case scenario is if he's traded for a 2nd line C before the start of the season, and depending on Sabotka who isn't necessarily a for sure to Russia, maybe this gets done? Or, against second pair competition, Petry looks like the defenceman his numbers suggest. That in turn ups his value as a rental player for a team looking to make a serious playoff run, and we can get something more than picks for him at the deadline.

Exactly which is why a 2-3 year would of been a better way to go. The only thing i would throw in and something that posters sometimes fail to mention is we don't really know what Petry was asking for. Wether he was open to a 2-3 year deal? How much his asking price was? The impression out there is he was asking to be paid 1st pairing $$ on a long term deal but what does that mean? 5, 6, 7 Mill?

My impression is he could be a 1st pair dman on a Championship caliber team if his partner is a bona fide 1st pair D (maybe 15 of these guys in the league). But truly he would thrive as a 2nd Pair D. at $6 Mill can a team afford this as a 2nd pairing and build a Championship caliber team under the Cap?

As much as I dont think they should trade him. If he can fetch a 2nd line Center(not a rental) under 30. Then I would go for it. but I think he would be missed at least in the short term.

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#57 Will
August 07 2014, 01:12PM
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admiralmark wrote:

Exactly which is why a 2-3 year would of been a better way to go. The only thing i would throw in and something that posters sometimes fail to mention is we don't really know what Petry was asking for. Wether he was open to a 2-3 year deal? How much his asking price was? The impression out there is he was asking to be paid 1st pairing $$ on a long term deal but what does that mean? 5, 6, 7 Mill?

My impression is he could be a 1st pair dman on a Championship caliber team if his partner is a bona fide 1st pair D (maybe 15 of these guys in the league). But truly he would thrive as a 2nd Pair D. at $6 Mill can a team afford this as a 2nd pairing and build a Championship caliber team under the Cap?

As much as I dont think they should trade him. If he can fetch a 2nd line Center(not a rental) under 30. Then I would go for it. but I think he would be missed at least in the short term.

Lowetide has a good piece on Petry today. I think in there they report he was looking for 5.5 mill. I don;t know where they get that though.

I think if Calgary can give that contract to Engellend, and Washington can give Orpik that type of money, then why would Edmonton not sign him. I mean, no where in the D is there a 9 mill top pair guy, so if everyone is making 4 - 5 mill, that should average out. My feeling is that Mac T is playing the long game, and thus making some tough decisions. He sees Schultz, Klefbom, Nurse, and maybe even Marincin as the future, knows he needs to make room for them, and will get them all for a period of time that costs the Oilers almost nothing. So I'm sure when you take all that into account, I bet some rather intriguing options open up for him.

I think he sees his top two centres going forward, he has impressive depth on the wings and the real deal in Gordon. Scrivens hopefully will emerge, so what to do with the D? My guess or my hope is that he has something in mind. More importantly, I think he has a date in mind. He is building the pieces now, and in one or two years will pull the trigger on something that will vault this team.

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#58 Brian
August 07 2014, 01:42PM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

If I were you I would ask for a refund!

I did, Soupy, and cheque is in the mail.

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#59 admiralmark
August 07 2014, 01:44PM
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@Will

@Will

Engelland was possibly the biggest overpay this off season and Orpik was overpaid as well. I think in some cases teams have to overpay to get these FA's but as long as it isn't too long term such as in Nikitin's case it can be benefit and is necessary. At $5.5 I wonder if he would of signed a 2-3 year? Or was he demanding more term? Its hard to analyze his treatment without knowing the details. You get the feeling they saw him more of a 2nd pair player and were not willing to pay him 1st pairing $$ long term because of it. This will be one of those moves by MacT that will be under the microscope this year.

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#60 Coppperhead
August 07 2014, 01:56PM
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So despite what looks like a much improved defensive corps the Oilers are not going to improve in goals from the defensive corps (30 total last year).

Personally I think the Oilers will see 35 goals from the defensive corps. The PP should be MUCH improved this year (better coaching will help drastically). Last year the average team had 9.4 goals on the PP from defencemen and I see the Oilers reaching around that mark (if it's 9, that's +6).

Last year Schultz and Petry combined for 16 goals at evens. Your prediction has 10. Where did they go? Petry shouldn't lose any time at evens and was already getting tough zone starts so he should do just as well. Schultz could drop for 19 to 17 minutes at evens and that's 1 less goal.

Looking at the rest I could argue for one more here and one less there but let's say you're right. I'm at 9 goals on the PP and 28 goals at evens. 37 total. Seems within the range of possibility to me.

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#61 Will
August 07 2014, 02:37PM
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admiralmark wrote:

@Will

Engelland was possibly the biggest overpay this off season and Orpik was overpaid as well. I think in some cases teams have to overpay to get these FA's but as long as it isn't too long term such as in Nikitin's case it can be benefit and is necessary. At $5.5 I wonder if he would of signed a 2-3 year? Or was he demanding more term? Its hard to analyze his treatment without knowing the details. You get the feeling they saw him more of a 2nd pair player and were not willing to pay him 1st pairing $$ long term because of it. This will be one of those moves by MacT that will be under the microscope this year.

I agree they were an overpay, my point was if you have to overpay a player would you rather it be Orpik, Engelland, or Petry. At 3 years full seasons in the NHL, I would take Petry.

Interesting point about Nikitin. I see a lot of fans questioning the Fayne and Nikitin signings. Maybe they're not worth it in terms of point production, but for a team playing in the West, trying to get bigger with guys that can actually skate, take and make a pass, having these guys in the line up is going to do wonders for breaking up the cycle and winning the one on one battles. By my eye only Klefbom was able to match up size wise last year and muscle guys off the puck. When Nurse, Marincin, and Klefbom (who's already big) get some weight on them, our D core is going to be terrifying.

I am still holding out hope for a Petry for Boychuck deal. I think we have the young talent in Schultz, Nurse, Klefbom, and Marincin, and would not be too damaged by a 30 year old vet from Boston who is big mean, and puts up decent numbers for a second pair guy.

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#62 Serious Gord
August 07 2014, 04:06PM
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admiralmark wrote:

Fair enough. You tend to lean towards predicting less good luck then bad. And i tend to lean towards predicting less bad luck then good.

So my prediction of say 9th in the West(18th overall) is based on just about everything going right. 10th-11th(19th-21st) average injuries and RNH remaining healthy.

RNH goes down.. 24th-25th is likely. So, I think we are actually pretty close in our predictions.

Cool.

The oil over the last six years or so have been one of the most often injured teams in the league or at least it seems that way.

And I think its fair to say that young, inexperienced, small teams/players are more likely to get hurt than ones without one or more of those attributes. And the oil - at least until recently - was leading the league in all three.

So I think my pessimism is better-founded than your optimism.

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