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

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Let’s get serious here about fan bashing. Try Toronto and especially Montreal, and the MSM in these cities is cruel when the teams are losing, probably the best way to describe the atmosphere.

    Professional hockey like all professional sports is about performance. Seven consecutive seasons out of the playoffs. 30th, 30th and 29th place finishes the past three seasons. These metrics spell unacceptable performance.

    Recent Oilersnation contributors have questioned if this squad is better than last year and are now concluding that it isn’t. Which means? The rebuild is going in the wrong direction. Just about every NHL TV commentator I’ve heard this year points to the poor performances of many veteran players and the need for major replacementa. This is easier said than done when the club has assembled such a large cast of sub-NHL players.

    My sense is MacTavish will give Ralph Krueger some rope as coach next season, which is probably fair. Did Krueger pick his assistants? If the answer is no, then he should be given that chance as his performance is affected by the performances of his assistant coaches.

    The job of making this non-performing team into a contender is now in the hands of Craig MacTavish. We can only hope that he does the job well.

  • Jasmine – you have to agree something is wrong with the Oilers, besides the fans. The fans dont’ put the product on the ice.

    If it’s not the Presiden, GM, Coach or players – what’s your thoughts on why the lose and don’t show up for games?

    Should fans just sit idly by while their team continues to sink to the lowest of lows?

  • Ducey

    Knowing how this team rewards their old players you can expect Kelly Buchberger to be the next head coach. Are you all ready for that?
    There is no “Old Boys Club” on this team.

        • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

          Troll to the Extreme! LOL

          Same freaking points, so mentally challenged

          even discussing her gives her too much credit,

          Can’t we vote her off the island, pleeeease

      • Yak Attack

        Every post of yours says the exact same thing.

        I for one want my team,management and coach’s in the here and now to perform and to be accountable for their performances. Stop living in the past, KLOWE has not performed as long as he has been in management, FACT. Slats is long gone.

        Instead of bashing the fans that want and deserve better, why dont you tell us what the answers are in a constructive, current format.

        Until then, troll somewhere else

        I know that i’ve probably just wasted key strokes on an Surrey Sucker !

  • Concurrent injuries to Hopkins and Eberle for a good portion of season , has a lot to do with the stats to be honest . Were they not playing with some nagging injuries that limited them in some ways , I am sure those figures would have been better . Next year lets hope they play healthier and have more depth to compensate if same scenario develops .

    • Ducey

      This is true. What is lost here is that every team goes through injuries to key players on their roster. The difference is that good teams and well coached teams can adapt their playing style to suit the limitations that the team has. I was at the game on Monday a for the first time ever i left after the 2nd period. I could not stand to watch the Oilers not care enough to try other than a few shifts here and there. My feeling is to give the Oilers next year to prove that they can turn things around, if not Lowe, Howson, Mac T and all of the coaches need to go as well as some key players so we can get this ship headed in the right direction.

      Lets go Oilers

      • Perhaps Oilers fans are the reason for this. Prior to the game yesterday, Oilers fans bashed the Oilers non-stop 24-7 until game time. How would you perform in a job if your boss was constantly criticizing everything you do no matter if you do it well or not.

  • Ducey

    As well, it seems that they keep saying the want to play “up tempo” and not trap it up because thats how you play Oilers hockey.

    Meanwhile the rest of the planet has moved to zone coverage and trapping. The ’80’s Oilers run and gun strategy doesn’t work anymore.

    You would think the team would figure that out eventually.

  • Our powerplay has become predictable and NHL players know exactly what to expect………no genius here.

    We like to pass the puck in circles until it hits Schultz’s stick…….then he shoots, only to have the lanes blocked. On the odd occasion he will pass cross ice and the forward will think twice, and not shoot. Getting the greasy goal is well beyond this team because all the young players are starting to believe their own hype……..that being they are so skilled, there is no reason to get a greasy goal.

    Predictable PP equals declining results!

  • John Chambers

    I truly believe the Oilers need a coaching change more now than they did one year ago at this time.

    It probably won’t happen this summer. But 20 games to next season in if we’re not holding down a playoff position, I bet it will.

    • I have to agree. As much as I don’t want to use yet another coach as a scapegoat, the results speak for themselves. It’s not just a matter of Ralph not having the players to win, he is not even getting results out of his established players. It’s just not working.

      I think based on what MacT said, and a concern on the part of the franchise for optics, Kreuger will likely get another chance. I agree %100 twenty games at most to turn it around.

    • So you want 5 coaches in 7 years. No wonder the rebuild isn’t working when team is constantly changing coaches. RNH is the new Poti. Changing coaches is why the rebuild isn’t working All coaches have different systems and having to learn so many different systems hurts the rebuild.

    • Ducey

      I would think they would give Ralph until the Christmas break.

      Its weird though. The Oilers have had good PK and PP for a few years. This is a sign of good coaching.

      Yet they suck 5 x 5 and don’t seem to be able to forecheck or keep from running around in their own end.

      Maybe they need to take a hard look at Buchberger and Smith. They have been around forever. Neither had much if any coaching experience coming into their jobs. Its not like they are seen as leading lights either.

      If nothing else, a few new voices might get the players’ attention

      • Wax Man Riley

        The blue line has regressed since Huddy was removed as defensive coach. Look at Petry, Smid, and even JSchultz this season – they are not improving as the season goes on. I think it is time for Steve Smith to go as the d-coach.

        Hiring Bucky was a joke from the start. He should have been gone a long time ago.

        Basically, Lowe made sure his buddies were on the bench in assistant roles all throughout the debacle of the past few seasons. In the NFL coordinators (i.e. assistant coaches in the NHL) get canned regularly when their teams are not performing. The same rules should apply here.

        WRT Kruger, while I expected more, with the current blue line there is not much you can do. I said it at the beginning of the season, and I still stand by it, but hoping that the hobbled one would rebound, and that Theo Pilon, Potter, Teubert, etc. would magically become solid 5s and 6s was a comically misguided strategy.

    • I’m slowly coming around to the same perspective. In virtually every area, this team is worse than the 2011-12 group under Tom Renney. A lot of that falls on the now-departed Tambellini, who failed miserably to address problems with the team over the summer, but Krueger ought to have been able to maintain status quo. The team’s inability to generate shots is damning.

      • Or it could be that Krueger needs an experienced NHL assistant coach who can focus his efforts on the PP. Right now, we’re down a man on the coaching roster and the other two guys Krueger has are ex-players, not actual NHL top-cheddar coaches.

        Looks to me like Krueger has been trying to implement a system to alot of young guys that requires a fair amount of practice to become proficient. Since practice time has been almost non-existent and he had no real training camp or pre-season he’s probably been focused on teaching his system at the expense of special teams.

        That and having half a roster completely incapable of executing a system (probably) designed for young, fast, skilled players and you have the sh!t show we’re witnessing.

        • DSF

          The PP has imploded because it was very easy for opposition coaches to take away the Schultz point shot.

          Schultz has TWO goals in his last 25 games.

          Nuff said.

          That he is an absolute disaster at evens is pretty much all you need to know about this player.

          • What I know about this player is it’s completely unreasonable to expect a guy to transition from college hockey to a grueling NHL season. Schultz should have been left in OKC to rip it up and learn the pro game. That he was immediately inserted into the Oilers lineup is another gaffe in a long history of rushing young talented guys and throwing an anchor on their development.

          • DSF

            Many, many players have transitioned to the NHL after an NCAA career without suffering a meltdown of epic proportions.

            While I agree he should not have been rushed, point is he was and the Oilers are going to pay for it.

      • DSF

        The Oil do need a coaching change. What is in common through the last 12 yrs or so. Oh yeah right…Lowe. That is wear the toilet flushing needs to commence. The team hangers-on need to go too. (Buchie and own goal Smith).

        Those are the people who have resisted change and are living in 80’s.

        • Some so-called Oilers fans need to be flushed down the toilet as all they’ve done since Slats left is bash every move the team makes. Lowe resigned because of the fans. Fans wanted Lowe fired the day he was hired. After every trade, fans wanted Lowe fired. Lowe even got death threats after a trade. Is that how you treat a GM? Players don’t sign in Edmonton because of the fans. Coaches won’t come to Edmonton because of the fans. GMs won’t come to Edmonton because of the fans.

        • The Lowe bashing has gone too far. Lowe even gets blamed when Slats made a mistake. The other day someone blamed Lowe for Grier playing through injury when Lowe still played. Slats was the GM

          Be careful for what you wish for. A GM with no Oilers connection could trade Yakupov, RNH, Hall, Eberle, J Schultz, Gagner for magic beans. Wonder what fans would say then.

          • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

            You should change your name to Bashmine. I also looked up some synonyms for you, feel free to use.

            backbite, bad-mouth, belittle, berate, blow off, calumniate, cap, castigate, cuss out, cut down, cut to the quick, decry, defame, derogate, discount, do a number on, dump on, give a black eye, hurl brickbat, insult, knock*, minimize, nag, offend, oppress, persecute, pick on, put down*, rag on, reproach, revile, ride*, rip up, run down, scold, signify, slam*, slap, sling mud, smear, sound*, swear at, tear apart, trash*, upbraid, vilify, vituperate, zing

          • Wax Man Riley

            Just curious….

            bash bash

            Is Lowe your dad? bash bash

            The ONLY constant bash bash in the losing bash, has been bash bash Lowe.

            2 playoff appearances in 10 years bash bash coupled with finishes of 30 bash, 30, and 29 (and probably 27 bash), means something is seriously wrong bash.

            Lowe is the constant.


  • 27Ginge

    The Oilers’ powerplays are basically extensions of their five on five play recently. Fast paced attack that if unsuccessful leads to backtracking and spending time in their own end. Three guys skate around looking for a pass, one guy stands still and the guy with the puck passes it into Hall’s or Yakupov’s skates. You have to either be willing to dump it in and go get it OR be physically capable of completing multiple passes in succession while staying onside and actually moving toward the offensive areas of the ice. Right now the Oilers cannot accomplish either. Five on five, five on four, five on three, three on two, six on five, it doesn’t much matter.