There’s a clear gap between the Oilers defensemen getting the job done, and those drowning in the shallow end of the pool.
Dennis King has been recording scoring chances at mc79hockey.com, and those scoring chances line up awfully close to what any fan watching the game can see. The following chart shows chances for and against, along with the percentage of chances that were positive, and the percentage of Fenwick events that were positive (the second number is just shots plus blocked shots for minus the same against).
In short: 50% is the break even mark; a number above 50% means they’re on for more chances for then against, a number below it means that they’re being out-chanced by the opposition.
|Player||No.||Chances For||Chances Against||Chances Percentage||Fenwick Percentage|
Interestingly, the connection between scoring chances and shots plus missed shots is a strong one: just 17 games into the season, scoring chances and Fenwick have a correlation of 0.854 – in other words, if a defenseman is doing well/poorly on the shot clock, they’re probably doing about the same in terms of scoring chances.
What do the scoring chance numbers tell us? Basically, that the Oilers have iced three groups of defensemen this season:
- The top pairing of Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid. Playing the best possible opposition night in and night out, they’re keeping things relatively even. The numbers were even better prior to the last three games; they’ve been a legitimate shutdown pairing.
- Corey Potter and Jeff Petry. Both players have had a lot of offensive zone starts, and that has helped their numbers, but they’re both doing a good job overall. Petry’s well above 50%, while Potter’s in the ballpark, and on this team they both have deserved a top-four slot based on their performance versus the rest of the squad. Then there are the other three.
- Andy Sutton and Theo Peckham have some redeeming points in their favour – Sutton in particular starts a lot in his own end (given that, this data suggests him as clearly the team’s fifth-best option), and both players have been given primarily defensive assignments. They also add a physical element. Cam Barker’s been spotted lots of offensive zone minutes, mostly against lousy opposition, and he’s been hammered. Given that he missed the last two lopsided losses to Detroit and Chicago, his numbers could be even worse. It’s difficult to see his loss to injury as anything other than an opportunity for the superior Jeff Petry to get more minutes.