First Unit Power Outage

While the Oilers have been getting by alright in the offence department, averaging 2.83 goals per game (13th in the NHL), their first unit power play has been all but invisible over the season’s opening stanza.

It’s an outage that is almost inexplicable, given the success experienced by the power play’s second unit. Shawn Horcoff and the trio of rotating rookies on that grouping have been phenomenal, and the gap between those players and the first unit of Hemsky, Penner and Gagner is obvious when we look at their on-ice scoring rates in 5-on-4 situations:

Player GFON/60
Jordan Eberle 9.99
Magnus Paajarvi 9.99
Shawn Horcoff 9.72
Taylor Hall 8.55
Dustin Penner 1.64
Sam Gagner 1.6
Ales Hemsky 1.57

Put another way, those numbers mean that on any given shift the second unit power play has been six times as likely to score a goal as the first unit power play.

That anemic performance has also been evident in the stats lines of those three forwards. Based solely on even-strength scoring, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky are on pace for career seasons, while Dustin Penner is in last season’s range. But because of their power play point totals – Hemsky has three, while Gagner and Penner have only a single point each – Hemsky and Gagner aren’t on a career-best pace and the knives are starting to come out for Penner.

A shakeup is one option that Tom Renney has at his disposal. It’s been suggested that Gagner and Hemsky have overly similar skill-sets; Renney could swap Gagner for Horcoff or move Penner to centre and swap Gagner to the second unit for one of the kids (or add Brule to the rotation, etc.). He’ll need to make a move at some point, although the top trio have had success as a group before in brief stints together and I wonder if this is just one of those slumps that they’ll eventually get through.

In any case, something needs to happen and soon. Hemsky’s power play unit the last few years has averaged roughly one goal every 10 minutes in 5-on-4 situations; roughly four times the efficiency of his current group and a lot closer to acceptable numbers for an NHL first unit. The first unit’s ineptitude has already cost the Oilers the ability to take advantage of a hot start from the second unit (or looking at in reverse, the second unit’s hot start has kept the Oilers PP at a respectable 16th in the NHL) and eventually that second unit is going to cool down.

Tonight might represent a good opportunity for the Oilers first unit to break out; Carolina’s PK is ranked 22nd in the NHL.

  • D-Man

    Here’s a thought… Do we add a forward to the point on the FIST power play unit?? Let’s say – Horcoff-Eberle-Hall up front with Whitney and Hemsky on the back?? Hemmer could play the full two minutes on the point… Thoughts??

    • Crash

      I love the idea of Hemsky playing both units, but I also like the idea of him on the PK and you probably can’t afford both.

      JW points out that the second unit will likely cool off which is true… but at the same time the 1st unit will probably pick it up a bit.

      Brule on the PP is a great idea IMO…he’s good on the faceoff dot and he has a pretty good shot….he might even be a good option on the point alongside Whitney…similar to the days when the Oilers had Stoll.

      No matter what though, if they refuse to get pucks to the net with traffic, the PP will continue to struggle. It doesn’t always have to be a beautiful tic tac toe, top corner shot… sure would like to see more ugly goals…

      Jam that crease boys, jam it.

      • Mr Schollz

        I’m a long time lurker and know all about the honorable fist tradition. I debated putting one in but felt like I’m not established enough yet to truly cut it loose freely.

        • Ender

          I posted this on August 19th, but in the interest of keeping newer Citizens current I will re-post a brief history lesson on FIST:

          August 19,2010
          Ender wrote:

          I wonder how many of them even know what they’re writing. For the newer Citizens, people used to write ‘First’ in days of yore but our clever and witty moderator used to change that to ‘Fist me’ as a gentle discouragement. I think eventually his mom (who was reading over his shoulder) let him know that perhaps that was a bit over the top, so ‘Fist’ remained as a subtle reminder of what was.

          I confess I don’t know what charge people get out of it but if people insist on posting it, I think they should know that what they’re posting is actually, well, kind of degrading I think.

    • D-Man

      I like the idea of running a forward on the back end as it also allows more time for MPS on the PP. My second unit would look like Gagner-MPS-Penner with Foster and Hemsky on the point. You could slide Gilbert in here too, depending on how gassed Hemmer or Foster would be.

      Granted – the big ‘IF’ here is how much of a liability Hemmer would be defensively, but with enough practice his offensive skill should exceed this limitation…

  • AussieOil

    @ D Man, I agree with an extra F on one of the PP units, but not Hemsky on the point. Hemsky is most dangerous on the half boards, right where he has room to go in any direction or make a nice cross seem pass. Pajarvee seems defensively responible, and can make a nice pass, maybe try him

    • D-Man

      With the ‘umbrella’ formation on the PP (which is similar to what the Oilers already do), Hemmer could still be on the half board. The key to making the PP work and for him to be effective is to a) get a lot more shots from the point and b) ensure we have some traffic in front of the net. Only then, will that cross-seam pass be open for the one timer we’d like to see from Hall… Otherwise, you’ll see that pass get deflected and dumped down back into the defensive zone.

      Not sure I agree with the thought that Hemmer should be on the PK as others would suggest. Don’t get me wrong – he’s shown that he can be an effective PK, but I believe he’s more valuable on the PP… Let Horcoff/Eberle/Penner/Frasor/Cogs/Brule/Jones continue to work on positioning on the PK.. Our bigger issues there are actually the defense we have. We don’t have the depth on our 4th through 6th D – yet – to have an effective PK.

  • D-Man

    I can’t see Hemsky playing anywhere other than the side wall on the PP. He can hold the puck there to help control the zone on a dump-in and of course make those beautiful cross ice passes.

  • Jason Gregor

    What is their ratio of PP minutes to PP points?

    Just curious why you use GFON/60?

    I would think that is a bit misleading possibly. When you multiply the minutes to 60min isn’t that making each PK unit seem similar?

    I like a lot of stats, but I think any that uses “over 60 minutes” is misleading, because there is no way that ten minutes in one game is the same to another.

    If I’m seeing it wrong let me know.

    • DK0

      I think the points per 60 minutes thing is a good way of showing it. If line 1 is out there for a minute and a half before it scores, but line 2 comes out and scores 15 seconds into a new powerplay, you have to have some number that says line 2 obviously did a better job then line 1.

      GFON/60min allows you do do that.

      I think maybe your trying to argue (correct me of i’m wrong) with “because there is no way that ten minutes in one game is the same to another” that maybe line 1 wears down the PK and line 2 comes in and cleans up. My counter-argument would be that over the course of many games there is going to be penalties drawn by a tired line 1 and line 2 starts the PP off. so while line 1 might generally be out there before line 2, its not 100% of the time and that would diminish the effect of this occurrence on the GFON/60 number.

      • Jason Gregor

        Not my argument at all. When you do it over GFON/60 minutes you are assuming minutes in every game are equal. I don’t think they are.

        What if in one game you play four minutes against the 1st ranked PK, then next game only two minutes against 30th ranked PK and score two goals. That would change your ranking significantly wouldn’t it?

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      GFON/60 just makes the numbers easier to read. You could do the same thing based on 4 min of PP time (about average for these players in a game), but then you end up with the following numbers:

      Jordan Eberle 0.66
      Magnus Paajarvi 0.66
      Shawn Horcoff 0.65
      Taylor Hall 0.57
      Dustin Penner 0.11
      Sam Gagner 0.11
      Ales Hemsky 0.10

      And while 10 minutes in one game isn’t the same as 10 minutes in another, it’s not really the point. It’s measuring overall impact. Just like we add up all the goals a player scores over the season… not each game was the same but it gives you an overall idea.

  • Slick

    While four forwards on the pp is a good idea, I don’t think hemmer should be the guy on the blue line, keep him on the half boards. Brule on the other hand might be worth a look as the four forward, he has a great clapper that he can get off quickly. He has also proven himself at the faceoff dot and would provide an extra chance there if someone else were to get the boot.

  • It shouldn’t be too shocking that Hemsky is struggling a little bit on the PP, he hasn’t played much hockey since fall of last year.
    He flew out of the gate but since the adrenaline has worn off he hasn’t been nearly as dynamic. Once he gets up to speed and starts moving the puck faster, the results will come.

  • cringleman

    @Gregor – I’m no expert on hockey stats (other things, maybe), but I’d say you’re already looking at a points to minutes ratio – just over more minutes than you’d like. Divide by sixty if you want PPP/(1)min. Folk may correct me if I’m nuts.

    (Also, like Mr. Shollz, I’m new. FIST post! Lurkers unite!)

  • Oilers4ever

    Quite glad I’ve missed most of this game tonight. What an embarassment.. after a big one over the Hawks and they no show like this.. a crap team to boot compared to the killing they took at home against the Sharks.. something needs to be done. I understand this is a growth year for the young kids.. but the veterans are mailing it in too many times… bench them, bring up some kids, do something. Tonight’s game makes me embarassed to be an Oilers fan… the junior team where I live would show more guts and emotions that this bunch of losers do…very pathetic.