Last season, the Edmonton Oilers killed 82.4 percent of the penalties they took. While only league average (they ranked 14th in the NHL in PK percentage), that represented significant improvement over previous years.
Despite having the league’s 14th-most efficient penalty kill, however, the Oilers allowed more power play goals than all but six teams. The reason? Their penchant for taking penalties.
As it turns out, the difference between being a disciplined team with an awful penalty kill and being an undisciplined team with a decent set of penalty-killers is pretty minute. The San Jose Sharks, for example, allowed 52 goals – the same number as the Oilers – despite having the second-worst kill in the NHL.
Who were the worst offenders?
The following list uses data from behindthenet.ca – penalties taken per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time, and penalties drawn per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time. I’ve ranked layers by the difference between those two totals, so as not to penalize individuals who take off-setting minors.
Ben Eager stands out here, doesn’t he? The difference between the number of penalties he draws and the number he takes is five times as large as the next-worst forward. This is the downside of adding ‘a little bit of crazy’ to the lineup: everywhere Eager has played, he’s been extremely good at getting his team into situations where they play down a man. His abilities in this area are exceptional: only five forwards with 20+ games and averaging more than five minutes of even-strength ice-time per game managed to take more penalties than Eager.
It’s interesting to see where Darcy Hordichuk falls on this list. He takes almost as many penalties as Eager, but because he also draws penalties he ends up as a net positive to the team in this department. This isn’t an aberration, either: in four of the five seasons for which we have data, Hordichuk draws more penalties than he takes. It’s a valuable trait in any player, and relatively rare for an enforcer.
Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi are all extremely adept at drawing penalties – particularly Hall, who led the Oilers in this department one season ago (all three were among the Oilers’ best forwards in this department in 2010-11).
Using the same criteria as for forwards, here are the Oilers defencemen:
Defence is a tough position, and that shows here: NHL defenders, on average, take far more penalties than forwards do.
Andy Sutton has been a penalty machine for as long as we have data; his ugly number here is actually an improvement from what he did with the Ducks one season ago. The difference between penalties drawn and taken, multiplied by Sutton’s ice-time, works out to 22 short-handed situations over his 52 games played. Among defenders with more than 20 games played, Sutton’s rate of taking penalties is surpassed by only two players; nobody with more than 40 games played is penalized as often.
A hair back of Sutton is Colten Teubert, who looked lost at the NHL level last season in a number of ways. It’s not a surprise he also managed to take a lot of penalties during his time in the majors.
Toss in Theo Peckham and Cam Barker, and the Oilers had the most penalty-prone blue-line in the game last year. Among NHL defenders with more than 20 games played, Sutton (3rd), Teubert (4th), Peckam (11th) and Barker (15th) were all in the top-20 league-wide in penalties taken relative to ice-time.
Tyler Dellow talked about Peckham a few weeks back, focusing in on the penalties he took last season; it’s an interesting read and related to this post.
The trio of veterans that will make up the core of the Oilers’ blue-line hopes this year – Nick Schultz, Ryan Whitney and Ladislav Smid – all managed to play their games despite often playing tough opposition. This is particularly praiseworthy given the style of game played by Smid/Schultz and Whitney’s difficulties with mobility last season.
Jeff Petry was also excellent in this category over 35 games in 2010-11.
I’d suggest this number is one mark in Corey Potter’s favour as he battles for a roster spot/ice-time with Sutton and Peckham.