One of the popular phrases in Oilerville is "getting their show run" in reference to the Oilers being unable to execute and match the physical play of their opposition. Is that a phrase we can apply to coach Tom Renney, too?
So far this season, the Edmonton Oilers are Ryan Smyth’s team again. #94 was flying (as he has all season) and his line was making good things happen. At the same time, the line of RNH-Hall-Eberle was playing a secondary role, and as the game wore on the gap in TOI became more severe. There are several possibilities for this action by the coach:
- Renney was coaching to win.
- Renney was using playing time as a teaching tool.
- Renney was line matching and Minnesota was dictating the chord changes by pushing their top line out again and again.
All of those are good reasons for a coach to double shift his veterans, and we also have to add in Taylor Hall’s recent flu and RNH’s tentative play for (now) the last 2 games. However, that’s the "saw him good" analysis; let’s run a few numbers and see who is getting the results offensively (all numbers via behind the net.ca):
- EV TOI: 15.48
- Qual Comp: 3rd toughest among forwards
- CorsiRel: -12.7 (11th best among forwards)
- EV points-per-60: 2.58 (2nd best among forwards)
- Zone Start: 38.2% (3rd toughest among forwards)
This is a very strong line. The CorsiRel is negative, but good God man look at the situation: Smyth is starting in his own zone much of the time, playing the toughest available competition and posting an outstanding point-per-60 number. Ryan Smyth has turned back time (in the good way, not the Cher way) and is the best Oiler forward (in my opinion) early this season. Gabe Desjardins would want me to mention this is a very small sample size and we shouldn’t read too much into the early returns.
- EV TOI: 12.96
- Qual Comp: 9th toughest among forwards
- CorsiRel: 21.7 (2nd best number among forwards)
- EV points-per-60: 0.93 (7th among forwards)
- Zone Start: 62.5% (2nd easiest among forwards)
Again, this is a small sample size, but we do see that coach Renney is giving the kids all kinds of opportunity against the soft parade (when possible). Hall’s CorsiRel is exceptional, but given the situation we can’t give the kids too much credit for it. The results are better 5×5/60 points for the other two kids and Hall is clearly fighting it a little in the early going.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think my first reaction ("Renney’s getting his show run!") is not supported by the math. He’s actually going out of his way to give the kid line a chance to impact offensively at evens and until last night aside the playing time was available in spades for the group.
A few other things: Ryan Smyth is loaded for bear. His early season performance is running circles around his previous seasons and his 5×5/60 number is outstanding. I think we should alter our expectations of Smyth–he’s clearly in great shape and a man on a mission–for this season. Expecting him to play a secondary or support role to Taylor Hall may not happen. This may end up being Ryan Smyth’s team for the entire year, he’s playing that well.
On the other hand, Taylor Hall and the kids should be fine–especially if they get these cherry minutes–but the early season struggles may continue and Sam Gagner’s return to the lineup may impact Ryan Nugent-Hopkins status on the roster. Up until this week, I felt (and still feel) the Nuge belongs, but he played just 10:43 at evens last night and if he can’t be among the top 6F options at even strength then sending him back is the better plan.