Corey Potter Has Been A Different Man Since Injury

Corey Potter was one of the feel good stories of the early season for the Edmonton Oilers. A long-time minor league journeyman caught the break in Edmonton he never seemed able to catch under Tom Renney in New York. With the Oilers’ defense crippled by injury and inferior talent before training camp even opened, Potter took advantage of the opportunity and established himself as one of the team’s better options in the early going. It was enough to earn Potter the first one-way contract of his career, a two-year deal worth $775,000 per season.

Unfortunately, by eye Potter’s play has fallen off lately. What has his game looked like statistically?

The reality is that the dip in Potter’s play doesn’t coincide with his new contract. Instead, it coincides with his injury. Potter lost the last half of November and the first half of December to an ankle injury, and since he came back he just hasn’t been the same player.

Let’s start by looking at two measures of on-ice effectiveness. Shots +/- is straightforward enough: it’s a simple count of shots for and against while a player is on the ice at even-strength. Fenwick +/- is almost as simple: it counts shots and missed shots for and against, while ignoring blocked shots. Potter’s pre-injury numbers are here and his post-injury numbers are here, but I’ve also broken it down into handy chart form:

Time Period GP Shots +/- Fenwick +/- Shots % Fenwick %
Pre-Injury 16 +126/-121 +174/-177 51.0% 49.6%
Post-Injury 23 +169/-188 +234/-261 47.3% 47.3%

The percentage numbers on the right-hand side show how many of the shots were good when Potter was on the ice; i.e. prior to injury 51% of all shots fired were fired by the Oilers when Potter was on the ice. That number fell to 47.3% after he returned from injury.

That might seem like a pretty small dip, but that shift in percentages is huge. To see how big, we only need to look at Potter’s individual scoring chances. David Staples of the Cult of Hockey watches every game for scoring chances, assigning a player a plus if he did something to contribute to a chance for, and a minus if he did something to contribute to a chance against.

At the time of Potter’s injury, his scoring chance plus/minus was +30/-33, a fairly good number for a defenseman (explanation: for defenseman, break-even isn’t really break-even, as they’re more likely to get a minus than a plus). Today, that number sits at +63/-87 – which means that since his return from injury Potter has gone plus-33 and minus-54 – a huge drop in performance.

The bright spot here is that Potter’s fall from grace coincided with his injury – which means that its at least possible it’s a temporary thing that will go away when he gets up to 100%.

  • Pizzy

    At fist I was happy with the Potter signing. Now, not to sure. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt and see how he responds over the remainder of the season. FOOSBALL!

    • JW
      Did you take into consideration the other players that were injured prior to and after coming back from injury? Also, was there any change in defense partner after? At the beginning of the season guys like Horcoff/Smyth/Jones were playing great up front especially on the defensive side of things and lately have not been nearly as good, could this be exaggerating the decline in Potter’s play? I’m sure I have more questions but can’t think of them right now.

  • A-Mc

    I’m still good with the Potter Signing. He has had a rough go. Injury, Declined play because of injury, and then his best Taxidermist impression on Halls Face.. These things wear on you. If being on a ‘high’ from being given his first real NHL gig was what contributed to his success, then the later part of this season thus far has definitely made him ‘low’.

    I’m not worried about Potter. He was an excellent signing for chump change.

  • A-Mc

    Part of this fall may also be his being put in tougher situations. he is a 5/6 who can also man the PP point. He is not a top pairing defenseman (which he has been asked to play like more then a few times since returning). He will look much better when asked to play 3rd pairing minutes. Easy fix right? Just add 2 real NHL dmen and we are good. I’m sure this will be addressed via trade or free agency. It will happen? right? Someone tell me it’s going to be ok…..

  • I’d be curious to see if there is much change in qualcomp and qualteam between the splits. Instinctively it feels like he has had to take on more responsibility since coming back due to other injuries etc, but I have no idea if that is true.

      • magisterrex

        Do you think that injuries to other players should be factored into the analysis of Potter’s play? When Hall, Eberle and RNH were injured at various times, that could equate to added time in the defensive zone for Potter.

        I would think any defensemans numbers would be better if the quality of the roster was better???

    • Dipstick

      I still think the signing was great, hes better than a lot of our other options and at under 1 mil a season thats good for any 5th 6th 7th options so as long as he fills one of those roles its a good depth signing regardless. Especially on a team that is as weak defensively as the Oilers.

  • Maybe a look at his wowy would help fill out the picture a bit.

    On another note – John Carlson has struggled badly the last 5 or 6 weeks. There is almost nobody out there I’d rather target in a deal right now and I wonder if his struggles just might make it possible to pry him loose.

    Also, given the situation in Winnipeg, anybody have a guess at the price of Evander Kane?

  • magisterrex

    What’s the Gilbert injury timeline when compared with Potter’s? I wonder if the loss of Gilbert pretty much tanked everyone’s numbers. Is there a “Gilbert Adjustment” that can be added to the stats?

    Just thinking out loud…