One of the more popular assumptions among those who follow the Oilers is that the powerplay was bad early on and that it came to life down the stretch, meaning that despite its 16.6 per cent execution rate (21st in the NHL), it could be a significantly better unit next year. How much truth is there to that idea?
Using the game logs at NHL.com, I went through and calculated the team’s powerplay performance during the four quarters of the season. Just for good measure, I’ve also included the leading goal-scorers from those stretches. The only caveat: I added the numbers myself, and they may be a touch out.
Powerplay efficiency: 8.5 per cent (7/82 in 20 games)
Multiple goal-scorers: Horcoff (2)
The 7/82 start really put the Oilers behind the eight-ball. Shawn Horcoff was the only player to score more than one goal, and the unit as a whole was completely ineffective. It must be considered one of the main factors in a 7-12-1 start, including a 3-8-1 record against divisional rivals.
Powerplay efficiency: 16.3 per cent (15/92 in 21 games)
Multiple goal-scorers: Penner (5), Horcoff (2), Hemsky (2), Pisani (2), Gilbert (2)
Dustin Penner scored five of his thirteen powerplay goals in the second quarter of the season, fully one-third of the unit’s goals in that span. Fernando Pisani, a consistently underrated offensive forward, managed two goals and his return to action (along with the injury to Raffi Torres) was certainly a boost to the powerplay.
Powerplay efficiency: 22.4 per cent (19/85 in 20 games)
Multiple goal-scorers: Stoll (5), Penner (3), Horcoff (2), Hemsky (2)
I really don’t think that it’s a coincidence that Jarret Stoll started scoring powerplay goals once Sheldon Souray was finished for the season. An underrated and occasionally very effective powerplay point-man, Stoll’s performance was clearly superior to Souray’s with the man-advantage last season. Penner continued scoring, albeit at a reduced rate, and all of Nilsson, Cogliano, Gagner and Grebeshkov scored their first powerplay markers of the season.
Powerplay efficiency: 18.8 per cent (16/85 in 21 games)
Multiple goal-scorers: Penner (4), Gagner (3), Hemsky (3), Stoll (2), Pisani (2)
The injury to Shawn Horcoff had a silver lining for the powerplay over the last half of the season; while Horcoff had been an effective player, his injury allowed Sam Gagner to grow into the first unit role, and his emergence became obvious over the season’s final quarter, although Dustin Penner remained the unit’s primary triggerman.
Looking at these statistics, a few things become clear:
- Sam Gagner should get his chances on the first unit, starting from game one,
- Dustin Penner’s middling season did not extend to the powerplay, where he provides important finishing ability, especially when playing with other forwards more apt to pass, and he should maintain his status as the first option at left wing, ahead of Erik Cole, and
- Jarret Stoll was a legitimate point man, and Sheldon Souray needs to prove that he can be an effective option on a powerplay nowhere near as formidable as Montreal’s.