The Magic Power Play II

One of the more underreported stories (including by me) related to the Oilers this season has been the steep decline in the power play since a brilliant run to start the year.

The Chart

The chart above shows the Oilers’ cumulative power play efficiency over the course of the season, meaning that the first point is from game one, the second from games one and two, the third from games one to three and so on. At game five, the Oilers reached their season peak; this was followed by a steep decline and then a long, slow drop-off. Currently, they are in their worst run of the season, a 2-for-29 stretch since their 8-2 win over Calgary.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

The question is what it means, since we can present the data in a number of ways. For example:

  • “The Oilers scored 10 power play goals on 28 opportunities in their first five games. They’ve scored 23 in the last 131 opportunities – a 17.6 percent clip and below NHL average. This is a sub-average group that got hot for five games.”
  • “The Oilers have gone 2-for-29 over their last nine games. Prior to that they went 31-for-130 – a 23.8% clip and one that would have led the league last year! This is a great group in a cold stretch.”

This is what Mark Twain meant when he talked about lies, damned lies, and statistics – the data can be interpreted in different ways, and it’s important to express it properly or else one arrives at an erroneous conclusion.

So what is the answer? Based on power play efficiency alone, the safest answer is probably that the Oilers are worth their season number – it’s the largest sample, and doesn’t suffer from any arbitrary cut-off. However, there’s more to the story than just goals per opportunities .

The Magic Power Play

Power play efficiency captures only a small piece of the picture: goals. Nobody would argue that goals are the object of the power play, and thus the most vital piece, but they’re also relatively rare events. The Oilers have 30 goals and 165 shots in the most common power play situation – 5-on-4 play – this year, and over that small of a sample the percentages can mislead. Last season, Jordan Eberle scored 34 goals thanks in no small part to an 18.9 shooting percentage – this year he’s on a 23-goal pace over the same number of games despite a shots increase because his shooting percentage has slipped to 10.4 percent. Whether one is optimistic or pessimistic on Eberle, there’s no arguing that shooting percentage has had a massive influence for good and for bad on his goal-scoring totals.

Last year, the Oilers had a really good shooting percentage number – they were one of two teams in the league with a shooting percentage above 16 percent in 5-on-4 situations. Nashville was the other. Looking at recent years, I found that the trend for high shooting percentage teams was to see a massive drop in shooting percentage the next year:

Team Season Season+1 Difference
2008-09 Philadelphia 18.1 13.4 -25.97%
2010-11 Vancouver 16.6 12.8 -22.89%
2008-09 Washington 16.5 16.2 -1.82%
2010-11 Chicago 16.4 10.7 -34.76%
2009-10 Washington 16.2 9.5 -41.36%
2008-09 San Jose 15 13.1 -12.67%
Average 16.5 12.6 -23.38%

For Nashville, that proved true – they’re down to a 12.6 shooting percentage in 5-on-4 situations this year, and have seen the power play fall to 19th this season after leading the league last year. Edmonton, however, has actually increased their shooting percentage – in 5-on-4 situations, they’re at 18.2 percent this year. In terms of shots/minute, though, they are the second-worst team in the league.

Looking at league-wide trends, that seems unlikely to continue. The 2008-09/2009-10 Washington Capitals were the last team to boast a 15+ 5-on-4 shooting percentage over two consecutive seasons; they fell to the bottom of the league in year three. This is the real concern. Either one believes the Oilers have found a way to sustain a high shooting percentage 5-on-4, based on ~120 games of them doing so, or one believes that they’re riding percentages that can’t be sustained, based on what has happened to other NHL teams. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I lean toward the latter explanation: I can’t help thinking that eventually the Oilers’ inability to generate shots on the power play is going to cost them.

But then I thought that last year, too.

Recently around the Nation Network

  • Yak Attack

    Time to re-build the re-build. If we look at recent successful rebuilds such as Chicago and L.A., it is apparent that its not just players that are required, although having the talent pool is really important. Management and coaching has been important, real hockey people doing real hockey jobs, not ex player wanna be’s.

    I don’t want to follow the NYI perpetual re-build with shoe carrying management followed by the back up goalie. It looks like they might be coming out of it now but I don’t want that long a re-build here.

    Lets re-build the whole thing !

  • OilLeak

    Take Brodin away from Suter and you’d find he’s nothing special. At all.

    If Minnesota actually had to play against teams from the east this season they wouldn’t even be close to the playoffs. Like the leafs, they’re making the most of a very soft schedule and underperforming rivals.

    You can either cut it or you can’t.

    Meanwhile, edmontons ground hog day movie just reached its seventh sequel.

    • DSF

      What a crock.

      The Wild play in the toughest conference and just beat the Stanley Cup champs in a must win game.

      You know the Leafs play in the EC right?

      Brodin has played the toughest competition all season (23:05 per night) and thrived while Justin Schultz has played middling competition (21:37 per night) (against the same teams as the Wild) and has been absolutely murdered.

      Brodin is +6

      Schultz is -17

      Junior doesn’t know how to play D AT ALL.

      • DSF

        What would be your suggestion as far as handling Schultz Jr now?

        Brodin is a good player. Discounting the fact that his linemate is Suter is even more of a crock.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        When Justin is paired with Shea Weber on the Oilers blueline in the not to distant future, i’m sure that +- will skyrocket. It must be difficult to soar like an eagle in your first yr in this league when you’re working with this current group of turkeys. We’ve seen far worse first yrs in the NHL when it comes to defencemen.

        Allan Iafrate TML 1981

        M.Howe NE Whalers 1978

        Pat Price 1980

        Ray MacKay 1976 EDM

        Tim Horton had a brutal season his first year back in 1958. You wouldn’t want to have seen those +/- stats I seen chiseled into the NHL record book tablets back then.

  • Alsker

    On a side note with the Preds winning tonite they need 1 point in their last two(Det. and CBJ) and we pick 4th as Car has more wins then us. God Im sick of cheering for Draft placement. And no I dont see us picking up points in our last three but do hope for a good old 12-9 game vs. Chicago.Last time they did this the hangover lasted almost a week as we were doing whiskey shots after each goal, good times, good times.

  • 2004Z06

    Shultz Jr is wiped! He has played over 80 games for the first time in his career and over 20 min a night. Give the kid a break, Its not his fault that management is burning him out by not having any decent depth at D to take some of the load off.

  • 2004Z06

    Rather than focusing on just the positives from this season , we might be better off trying to eliminate the mounting and continuous negatives ! Who is ultimately responsible for the cores assessment and rebuild failures ? A meddling owner ? A president that has failed to produce a winner for a long time ? Gutting a team so badly and not filling the holes left with personnel that could move us forward ? Laying blame on the city and fans for lack of bringing or procuring needed upgrades instead of fill ins ?

    Lowe has under accomplished , but still leads the rebuild that keeps us futile . Why I am not sure ? Love the guy , but he is the one ultimately most responsible for teams failure ? Maybe Katz feels sorry/guilty for him if he was meddling and shares some blame ? Mind you Katz certainly has that right .

    Whatever the case , lets hope they look seriously at the negatives outside the coaches and players at this stage . Was replacing the GM enough to make a positive return to competitive hockey ? Not so far ,as we are being mirrored in a long losing streak, which is more a credit to management than personnel . Need new tools again obviously but chances are fading with upper management moves to date .

  • paul wodehouse

    Q…sorry that I didn’t reply sooner…I was busy carving my graven image of our Wanye…I did tap my first maple tree here last week…sap’s a running…syrop festivals next…farmers are gearin’up to start planting…i’ve learned how to drink baggedmilk from the bag and the fanfolks here are just bloody beside themselves with their ‘leaves’ being in the playoffs…my next door neighbours’ name is jeff eberle and is a roaring leaf fan…have tried to convert him but he’ll have none of it…he keeps saying who’s this Quicksilver guy and why is he such a sh!t disturber…anyway my friend thanks for axing…heard that you were doing CCI visits again…God Bless Brian…