Playing on the road presents certain difficulties that playing at home does not. In addition to the greater frequency of back-to-back games coming on the road, the coaching has staff has much less ability to control the matchups away from home.
Looking at the difference between home and road performance among Oilers forwards in 2011-12, some interesting trends manifest themselves.
This post started with a look at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. At home, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored 34 points in 30 games in 2011-12 – the best points/game rate on the team, better (by a hair) than Jordan Eberle and miles ahead of the other centers on the roster.
On the road, however, something funny happened – Nugent-Hopkins scored just 18 points in 32 games – a rate that puts him back in Sam Gagner/Shawn Horcoff territory. There was also a radical swing in his plus/minus – from plus-7 at home to minus-9 on the road.
In terms of overall scoring, the decline meant that Nugent-Hopkins was twice as likely to score in a home game as he was in a road game.
I’ve gone over the whole set of Oilers forwards and divided their scoring by home and away games. I’ve also projected every regular’s totals over a 41-game schedule (as each team plays 41 home and 41 away games) in order to iron out small differences in games played between the group.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t end up winning the Calder Trophy, but I do hope he sent a nice fruit basket or something to Tom Renney when his ex-coach got fired.
- Lest anyone accuse me of mindless Eberle bashing, I should point out that while his rate of scoring on the road drops significantly from his totals at home, it still represents the second-best total on the team (behind Taylor Hall). With that distinction noted, however, is there anyone who doubts that Tom Renney was a) getting him favourable matchups at home and b) that those favourable matchups made it easier for him to generate offense?
- There’s not a lot to say about the rest of the group here – the gap between the third ranked Hordichuk (+2) and the bottom-ranked Smyth (-8) is smaller than the gap between second and third.
We talk a lot on this site about how the progression of young forwards isn’t linear. A big piece of the puzzle is simply coaching – when a coach gets forwards with the gift of scoring, he typically tries to get as much scoring out of them as he can, right away. That’s what happened with both Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins this year, and something that should be kept in mind going forward: the coach will not protect them at home forever, because eventually the other, less-developed areas of their respective games will grow. There’s value in being the kind of player that decimates softer competition (they do that now) but there’s more value in being the kind of guy who can score regardless of who is facing off at the other end of the ice. Both Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins should eventually be the latter sort of player, but undoubtedly there will be bumps along the way as they grow into the role.
One last note: I’ve also been looking at some of the underlying data – shots for and against at even-strength at home versus on the road, shots for and against relative to ice-time, etc. – and I’ll be posting some of that here over the next few days.
Related by Jonathan Willis
- Can the Oilers keep their young core together?
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: the offense has dipped, the defense has improved
- Size up the middle: can Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner co-exist?
- The Jordan Eberle selection
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 106 Miles to Chicago
- How many goals will Jordan Eberle score next season?
- One year later: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- There’s no such thing as protection, for Nugent-Hopkins or anyone else