Comparing Coaches

Coaching has been an oft-discussed potential reason for the Edmonton Oilers’ collapse this season. While nobody claims that it is coaching and coaching alone that has the Oilers where they are, some wonder whether general manager Craig MacTavish didn’t make a mistake when he chose Dallas Eakins to replace Ralph Krueger.

How does Eakins’ team compare with that of Krueger, and of Tom Renney at five-on-five?

The Comparison

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What is needed for a fair comparison between coaches? A level playing field. Because Ralph Krueger’s Oilers only played against Western Conference teams, we will only consider Oilers games played against Western opponents in 2011-12 and this season.

That introduces another problem. Eakins’ Oilers have played 19 games on the road against Western teams, but only 11 at home. To compensate for that, we will be weighting his home and road games equally so out analysis isn’t impacted by an unbalanced schedule.

What should we compare? We’ll run the gamut of five-on-five statistics: shots, Fenwick (shots + missed shots), Corsi (all shot attempts) and good old goals. All numbers will be expressed as a percentage of total events – in other words, 50 percent represents the break-even mark and a higher number is better. We will also include shooting percentage and save percentage.

Tom Renney

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Ralph Krueger

Dallas Eakins


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Tom Renney comes out looking awfully good here. Steve Tambellini never offered an actual explanation of what he thought Renney was doing wrong behind the bench when he fired the veteran coach, but it is abundantly clear in hindsight that canning Renney was the wrong move. The Oilers did a better job at getting shot attempts, and getting shot attempts through without them being blocked, of getting shots on net, and of scoring goals under Renney than they would under either of his successors. If one believes (as I do) that Renney had the weakest roster of the three coaches, it’s impossible to look at this without thinking he did an awfully good job.

Ralph Krueger vs. Dallas Eakins is where it gets interesting. Eakins’ team did a better job of generating shot attempts, but Krueger’s did better work getting them through to the opposition net. Krueger’s teams also did a better job of winning the goals battle, in large part because the team shooting and save percentages were better.

Eakins’ home/road splits are compelling. At home, Eakins’ team is pretty competitive with Renney’s in the shot metrics, but on the road the numbers fall apart to a degree not seen under previous coaches. I don’t have an explanation for that; it’s something I’m going to watch for in future games but the difference suggests that whatever Eakins is doing on the road isn’t working at all.

The other item to note here is the save percentage splits – that the goalies’ terrible play isolated to home games suggests to me that the bad goaltending this year isn’t necessarily driven by team defence. By that, I mean that while the Oilers allow way more shots than the league average, there seems to be little reason to believe that they’re consistently allowing higher quality chances than other teams. Certainly they weren’t under Renney or Krueger; it’s possible that Eakins is doing something bizarre but I don’t think it’s likely.

Would Edmonton be better off with Tom Renney behind the bench? I think so, yes, potentially much better off (particularly given the benefits of continuity). Would they be better off with Krueger than Eakins? I don’t know, but I believe there’s a strong learning curve for any rookie NHL head coach, and Krueger already had a year under his belt. That has to be balanced against MacTavish getting a guy suited to his style of managing, so I’m not sure there’s a definite answer here.

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Both Eakins and Krueger strike me as intelligent, motivated coaches; I think Krueger would have figured things out eventually and I believe Eakins still will, but the big mistake here was making Renney a scapegoat for problems that weren’t of his creation.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Romanus

    Eakins, a rookie coach is not happy when Barry Trotz said Dubnyk has bad habits and not playing well. Trotz was right on, look at the Oilers players stats, the whole team is in minus with plus/minus. How is that possible? I have never seen an entire team all minus and allowed 50 more goals scored against than for. How can a team win games that way? Fire Eakins is what people should chant at the game with signs ‘Fire Eakins’. We cannot stand to see this losing ways.

  • Romanus

    You know who is a good coach? Todd Nelson is a good coach, Barons still hanging in there with no stars. They traded Linus Omark their top scorer, yet they are only 4 points from playoff spot. The big club kept taking his players away, yet Nelson still get his players to perform with what they have.

  • Rdubb

    So what?
    Comparing coaches now?
    Really? What does it accomplish? Oh my! Eakins is not the better coach of the last 5 head coaches? Wanna bring back someone? Rubbish!!!
    You have the team you all deserve!!! Suck it up oilers fans! Maybe we will get better by 2017-18…….

  • Truth

    Who is the Oilers goalie coach?

    Interesting Devon D’s new coach talked about some bad habits that DD has and as a result the coach is getting his goalie coach to start doing some extensive work with DD to correct these bad habits.

  • Hemmercules

    The Oilers need a new coach, a different system, new assistant coaches, new goalie coaches, a new defense, more bigger better forwards, new goalies and new management. They can do all that in one summer right?? right???

    What a mess. The Oilers make me sad but after investing the better part of my life being a fan its impossible to start liking other teams now. I just want to love hockey again and right now I can barely watch this train wreck.

  • outdoorzguy

    Mr. Katz has more pressing problems to worry about in real life than his fantasy hockey world regarding the theft of medical information;

    Katz Group of Companies bought Medicenters, they also own thousands of pharmacies, Rexal for instance. They hired ZoomMed to link the two through technology…The “ZRx Prescriber” is a Web application that runs on a pocket computer or a PC. The tool is used by physicians to fill out prescriptions and make them available to pharmacists, who can view them online via unique barcodes and confirm them using the physician’s signed copy. The ” ZRx Prescriber ” also gives physicians access to a portable source of medical information generated by the pharmaceutical companies…Katz profits from the Medicenters and ensures that prescriptions are filled at Katz pharmacies.

    There’s no rush right now to fire Lowe or Eakins. Maybe if we could get Katz to fire Redford and Horne, then that would be progress!!

    Boycott all Katz owned properties.

  • pkam

    The coach has to make all the players in the dressing room carry their sticks everywhere they go all the time until we make the playoffs,I’m serious!!!!…….it will doesn’t matter if your wife doesn’t like it or you look funny carrying it all over town, people will understand.

    This tactic will help form a team so it doesn’t matter that you played almost 20years of hockey you should be first to grab your stick and do this, this team needs to get better and it starts buy acting like a team and playing like a team.

    The Oiler need to practice there shots 12hrs a day no kidding, this is not a summer job it’s a career and if winning is important then do this, the oilers will get so good at taking shoots and everyone on the team will want to show what they got.

    I know they have lives but why not enjoy it by winning, I know at first its not a fun thing to do but when we start winning you wont want to let go of your stick, then the cup.

  • Ten years ahead Dallas Eakins will be regarded as an elite,very successful NHL coach like his mentor Roger Nielson. I hope and pray it is here with the Oilers. MacT and Eakins will fix this mess! They are both WINNERS with CHARACTER second to none. You can’t teach that. You are born with it! I am as frustrated as any Oiler fan, but I believe in these men and see many positive changes coming at this years trade deadline and over the summer! I think some of the moves, or the number of moves, will shock us and amaze us! Go Oilers! I am staying the course! I believe in the Oiler’s future because I believe in MACT and EAKINS!!!

      • Bloodsweatandoil

        By next year at this time you will know I was right on the money!!!! P.S. I don’t drink koolaid – I prefer Heineken or expensive scotch like Bushmills!

        • pkam

          If you talk to high level NHL insiders, like I do on a regular basis, you would know that no GM outworks MACT – he is relentless, on a daily basis ,trying to pursue trades to make this team better. He regularly puts in 16-18 hour days! Eakins is also a tireless worker – trying to better himself, and a a result, benefit the Oilers! THESE MEN WILL NOT GIVE UP TRYING TO MAKE THIS TEAM BETTER!!!! I have all of the RESPECT in the world for both of them – like many ppeople in the hockey world do and more Oiler Nation Bloggers should! THEY WILL NOT QUIT and THEY WILL BE SUCCESSFUL!!!!

          • pkam

            Its great if they work hard, it is very admirable. However, they must deliver the goods. Your comment sounds much like the SN talking heads on Tuesday that were aghast that anyone could be upset with Lowe. After all he is a pillar of the community, bleeds copper and blue. This all might be true, but if you don’t deliver the goods…

            In my real life I have had employees who worked their butts off but just couldn’t deliver the goods. Ultimately you can’t keep them as they will drag down the entire group.

            I have not called for MacT or Eakins head, as I see them as no more than possible symptoms, the root cause lies higher up.

            P.S. Old Retire Guy, do you still think I work for the Oil?

        • Bloodsweatandoil

          Well Wonger, Patience has run thin to nil with good reason. The tone of these threads and posts are greatly warranted. I just feel that your post was something that a Carebear would say, and that it was way too late and the wrong place. What kind of response did you hope to illicit? Go to Leafs Nation, they probably have a good glee club.

          • outdoorzguy

            Ask Ken Hitchcock what he thinks of MACT and EAKINS! He feels exactly like I do! ….and there are dozens more in the hockey world who agree 100% with me as well. YOU CAN GO TO LEAFS NATION and take all of your NEGATIVITY with you!!!!

          • Joe Mamma

            Hitch is notorious for pumping the tires of the competition to lull them into a false sense of security, so even assuming you do actually know what hitchcock has to say about these two, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

            You’re delusional.

          • S cottV

            Absolutely agee.

            Hitch is a master at mind games.

            So much so – that some consider it a weakness.

            He is no doubt blowing smoke on the MacT / Eakins support.

            While second hand, I dont doubt the source who said Hitch told him some time ago, that he would have loved an opportunity to Coach the Oilers.

            Further said that it would never happen because the Oilers would not let him do it his way…

  • pkam

    My buddy from Calgary text me. Hey China town man
    What is the difference between your Oilers and my flames I replied what is it, he tells me both our team sucks but the only difference is the flames organization has more brains than ours.
    I haven’t replied..

  • S cottV

    It’s not looking good for Eakins, when he comes out in the paper – declaring that his job is on the line.

    That is pretty much pleading with the player group to buy in / step it up and save his @ss.

    I doubt that the player group responds to the extent that might be necessary.

    All indications are that the player group is under achieving to at least some degree. Coach leadership is the major factor that governs where performance falls between the spectrum of under achievement and over achievement.

    The coaches job is to get the most out of the player group – to extract over achievement. Eakins has had enough time to try and get his message across, to achieve buy in and to extract at least some signs of player group over achievement.

    I am not sure that there is even one aspect surrounding the way the club is playing, that you can point at and declare some over achievement in this area or that area.

    The overall record certainly points to under achievement by anyones standards. Oilers are at .346 and the Sabres at .344

    Over achievement and the club is probably pushing on a .500 record.

    Pushing his suspect agenda on the player group from the get go and having it blow up to the point that he needed to backpeddle out of things, really hurt his credibility. He bit off way more than was necessary or appropriate for the circumstances at hand and ended up having to throw it up – let alone chew it.

    Like others – I have been saying for a long time that Eakins is in over his head and never should have been put in this position in the first place.

    The right Coach with the right stuff – could do a lot better.

  • pkam

    Sorry, this is off-topic…but I was reading today about how Pitt should consider trading Letang for a legitimate top line forward.

    What do people think of Eberle for Letang? Obviously don’t like losing Ebs, but Letang is a legitimate top pairing guy who brings offense and plays lots of minutes.

    • pkam

      I’ll even add a 3rd rounder, or next year 2nd rounder to sweeten the pot. But I doubt that will be enough.

      IMO, Letang is a mature version of J. Schultz, if J. Schultz pans out. The only thing I don’t like is his 7.5M contract.

    • outdoorzguy

      I personally would hate to loose Hall, Eberle, Hopkins, Perron, JShultz, but I would use the rest of the team as trade bait to get Letang. He would be an excellent asset.

    • S cottV

      I may be rich and famous, and have more chins than a Vancouver phone book – but I am definitely not Hitch! That being said – I love Hitch as a person and coach – he could coach or manage my team any day!!!!!!

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    Renney ran a boring, cold and calculated defensive system. they wanted an identity change to fit the teams “direction” of high speed offense. let the leash off a little. Renney was closer to a Mac-T clone in philosophy of the game. he also came across as a robot (similar to Eakins macho robot facade at age 40-million. get over yourself.) who tried to sound smart using a dull/inaccurate DNA metaphor as often as possible.

    i really enjoy the “under these coaches players decide to throw the puck into shin pads more” stat. what a crock of garbage for correlation = causation. you’d think dudes who have been on skates since 4+ years old would know to find lanes, shoot around defenders, etc…

    “nope, it all comes down to who is coaching them and the system theyre in that generates how stupid players become.”

    there’s so many things to factor in here (over the course of all these coaches) other than just straight statistical comparisons. reduction to numbers = fallacy… even though the author wants it to be his lens to absolute abstracted knowledge.