We’re one third of the way through this season and as always there are some who are performing above expected levels and others who have fallen behind. The list of overachievers for the Oilers is interesting, but the guys trailing "reasonable" are the story here.
Each year, before training camp, I create an offensive ‘line in the sand’ for each regular player. The idea is to create a ‘reasonable expectation’ for the player–not too high, not too low–based on their own past. It’s like a handicap in golf: you’re not playing against anything but your own score. Here’s how things are going so far this season.
OILER RE (SO FAR) 12-13
- Sam Gagner +5 Actual: 16, 5-11-16 (14, 4-7-11). This is such a bizarre season for Gagner, who is scoring at a terrific pace while also centering a 2line that is getting its teeth kicked in at even strength. Still, offensively he’s more than covering the bet.
- Justin Schultz +3 Actual: 16, 4-4-8 (RE: 15, 1-4-5). Schultz has exceeded his number smartly in the first one-third of the season. Although he does appear to be hurting a little, the young man is so talented his results rank among the best overachievers so far this season. Stud.
- Taylor Hall EVEN Actual: 16, 3-13-16 (RE: 13, 7-6-13). He’s on pace and meeting expectations. Hall’s goal total is a little low, but these things even out over time and we do know that he dedicated himself to improved passing this year.
- Jordan Eberle EVEN Actual: 16, 5-6-11 (RE: 15, 5-6-11). Eberle is where he should be based on reasonable expectations and he’s been excellent on the powerplay. I think that entire 1line has been terrific, better than the numbers suggest so far, and if the Hockey Gods even things out we should see a nice run in March.
- Nail Yakupov EVEN Actual: 16, 5-4-9 (RE: 15, 4-5-9). Young Russian has been inconsistent–this is what rookie’s do–but has met expectations and shown glimpses of what he will do in the future. Wonderful talent, his shot is breathtaking and I expect the Oilers will take better advantage in the coming weeks.
- Ladislav Smid EVEN Actual: 16, 0-2-2 (RE: 14, 0-2-2). Smid is not going to make his money posting goals and assists, but did enjoy a spike last season. His offense is where it should be, and we should not expect 5 goals in the final months of the season.
- Ben Eager EVEN Actual: 7, 0-1-1 (RE: 10, 1-1-2). Big winger had some injury troubles early but seems to be rounding into form. His most recent games have been (imo) his best as an Oiler. I have adjusted for his injury.
- Ales Hemsky MINUS ONE Actual: 16, 7-3-10 (RE: 12, 3-8-11). This is basically even, he’s had a nice start to the year (especially on the PP) offensively. Like Gagner, Hemsky has some question marks surrounding him based on how many shots the line is giving up compared to what they’re doing at the other end. The boxcars are fine.
- Teemu Hartikainen MINUS ONE Actual: 15, 0-2-2 (RE: 10, 1-2-3). The big Finn is on pace for what we’d expected, getting some PP time and then up and down the depth chart depending on which way the wind blows. It doesn’t show up in the stats, but he’s becoming a terrific down low battler, suspect Smyth’s help is part of it.
- Shawn Horcoff MINUS ONE Actual: 7, 1-1-2 (RE: 15, 2-3-5). I adjusted for injury. Horcoff–like Belanger–is having a good season and his being placed on the IR coincided with a downturn in team performance.
- Nick Schultz MINUS ONE Actual: 16, 0-1-1 (RE: 16, 0-2-2). Offense isn’t his calling card, although you’d think he would get some points just based on playing next to the other Schultz. It has been a struggle for him defensively of late, but the offensive numbers are what we should have expected from him.
- Lennart Petrell MINUS ONE. Actual: 13, 1-0-1 (RE: 10, 1-1-2). Winger had an injury that cost him a few games but he’s on track for the season. Might get pushed with the return of Jones and the early season performances of Hartikainen and Paajarvi.
- Ryan Smyth MINUS TWO Actual: 15, 2-3-5 (RE: 13, 3-4-7). A minor downturn in terms of offensive output, I did predict he would have fewer PP opportunities and Smyth lost a game via healthy scratch. Smyth is an all-time battler, though and has played better since returning.
- Eric Belanger MINUS TWO Actual: 13, 0-2-2 (RE: 15, 2-2-4). Veteran has been playing an extreme defensive role, and the minus 2 RE should not be viewed as a negative. Belanger is delivering quality play and looks exactly like the player Edmonton thought they were getting summer 2011.
- Magnus Paajarvi MINUS TWO Actual: 13, 2-0-2 (RE: 1-3-4). All kinds of good things–including growing confidence in his offensive game–make this a very nice beginning for Magnus Paajarvi. Down slightly in RE, but in the range of what we could have expected.
- Ryan Whitney MINUS THREE Actual: 12, 0-3-3 (RE: 13, 1-5-6). I did account for some worry about his ability to play at previous levels but didn’t nick him enough. I don’t believe this is a slump or that he’s not doing his best to perform at the highest levels.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins MINUS SIX Actual: 15, 1-6-7 (RE: 14, 4-9-13). The Nuge is injured and it is certainly having an impact on him. On the other hand, like all gifted offensive players he’s getting chances galore and if healthy I belive the Nuge would be on pace. At this point, he’s having a disappointing season.
- Mark Fistric DNQ Actual: 10, 0-2-2. I did not project Fistric (he was acquired later) but this number should be viewed as a positive. Big defender has had an impact in his first 10 Oiler games.
- Anton Lander DNQ Actual: 4, 0-1-1. I did not project Lander to play in the NHL this season. He did look good though, in between Harski and Paajarvi on the Nordic Line. Lander’s injury was a bad turn.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The RE numbers are here. I think everyone is in the range save for Gagner and Schultz (positive) and Nuge and Whitney (downside) but the two who are not performing at level have been/are injured and that has impacted performance.
The Oilers record is not because of overall downturns in performance. Their 5×5 scoring and the 2line’s troubles are the major issues, with the 1line, Schultz the younger and goaltending the positives.
If this team does the same things for the next 16 games, they should win more games. Seriously.