The Oilers have allowed a league-high 10 shorthanded goals so far. When you combine that with a struggling powerplay over the last 33 games, you can understand why many Oilers fans are frustrated.
I’ve noticed many suggest that coaching has to be the issue with the PP woes. Dallas Eakins wasn’t here last year when the PP was 8th, and only allowed one SH goal.
Is Eakins the problem?
It would be too easy to put all the blame on Eakins, just like it was foolish to blame Tom Renney for the woes of the Oilers in 2012 and Ralph Krueger for a 24th place finish in 2013.
When I started out researching the Oilers PP woes I tried to have an open mind and not assume blame for any specific person or group. I wanted to look at different angles to see if it indeed was coaching, the players or bad luck.
I was surprised by some of the data that I found, and also re-watching the 10 SH goals gave some strong evidence that indeed it is a combination of the system and bad decisions by the players that is hurting the PP.
Some have suggested Eakins changed the system, but if you look at the first 25 games I don’t think that is the case. More on that later.
I have noticed a recent change, however. Since the home game vs. Nashville the Oilers have moved to a 1-3-1 PP system, but they haven’t seen any success yet. They are 0-18 since making the switch. So time will tell if they adjust to that.
Outside of changing coaches, what other changes happened on the PP? What about personnel?
|Player||PP TOI||PP TOI/G||Player||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
|Jordan Eberle||189:21:00||3:19||Justin Schultz||153:40:00||3:12|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||184:45:00||3:17||Jordan Eberle||153:18:00||3:11|
|Justin Schultz||181:32:00||3:37||Taylor Hall||146:03:00||3:14|
|Taylor Hall||174:34:00||3:25||Sam Gagner||140:37:00||2:55|
|David Perron||168:05:00||3:06||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||121:34:00||3:02|
|Sam Gagner||123:00:00||2:44||Nail Yakupov||119:07:00||2:28|
|Nail Yakupov||119:56:00||2:15||Ales Hemsky||100:04:00||2:38|
|Ales Hemsky||119:48:00||2:23||Ryan Whitney||87:51:00||2:35|
|Ryan Smyth||113:35:00||2:21||Shawn Horcoff||78:10:00||2:31|
You will notice that seven of the top nine players are still here. Perron and Smyth have taken over for Whitney and Horcoff in the top-nine most PP minutes.
Horcoff only played 31 of the 48 games, but he played on the top unit for much of it, and when he did he made an impact. He did all the dirty jobs: winning faceoffs, retrieving pucks in the corners and battling in front of the net. I know many didn’t like Horcoff, but you can’t overlook his impact on the PP.
In the 31 games he dressed, the PP was 26 of 109 for 23.8%.
In the 17 games he sat out, the PP went 8 of 60 for 13.3%.
I believe he played a key role in the success of the PP over the previous two seasons.
I will get into the Oilers PP success/struggles in a bit, but I wanted to look at every team’s PP from last year to this year. The Oilers aren’t the only top-ten team from last year to struggle this year.
|Rank||Team||GP||PP Opp||PPG||PP%||SHGA||%change||Rank||Team||GP||PP Opp||PPG||PP%||SHGA|
A few things I noticed:
We’ve seen more SH goals this year, 132 in 851 games, compared to last season’s 93 in 720 games. The Oilers definitely have played a role in the increase, and so has Ottawa and Philadelphia. I went and looked at the 2012 season, and that year there was 185 SHG in 1230 games, meaning this year they are on almost the exact same pace. It would seem that last year SHG were down a bit. I have no explanation why.
The average PPG/game, however, is essentially the exact same.
In 2013 the league had 872 PPG in 720 games for 1.21 PPG/game.
In 2014 we’ve seen 1,024 PPG in 851 games for 1.20 PPG/game.
In 2012 there was 1,408 PPG in 1230 games for 1.14 PPG/game, but in 2011 we had 1.27PPG/game, so the past two seasons would fit right in as the average.
WHAT REALLY STOOD OUT…
It is interesting to note that 10 of the top 11 powerplays from 2013 have taken a dip in 2014. Washington and Philadelphia have dropped in %, but they are still 3rd and 8th respectively, so I’d say that 8 of 11 have dropped significantly.
The Canadiens, Ducks, Flames, Islanders, Kings and Sharks have had the same coach both years, while Florida and Edmonton have a new head coach. Many want to blame Eakins for the woes of the Oilers PP, and while he might play a small part, I believe an equal, or more, amount of blame goes to the players.
You can’t say it is solely Eakins, when six other top-ten teams for 2013 have all dropped to 15th or worse, but they have the same coach. I believe many factors go into the success and failure of a PP, and most of the success falls to the players.
Washington has the most dangerous goal scorer in the game and their PP focuses on finding him the puck in great shooting positions, usually on the left side where he can one-time the puck. He’s a special player, and outside of Steven Stamkos I don’t see any players as consistently dangerous on the man advantage.
DO THE OILERS HAVE GREAT PP PLAYERS?
Ovechkin is scary good on the powerplay, especially when he unleashes his heavy shot.
I looked at some of the top PP producers and last year’s PP success for the Oilers seemed odd because they didn’t have one guy who dominated on the PP.
In 2012 the Oilers finished 20.6% on the PP, 3rd in the NHL, and that year they did have some dominant PP players.
The Oilers scored 54 PP goals. RNH had 23 PP points, Hall had 21 and Eberle had 20. Hall and RNH each missed 20 games, but still produced that well. If you pro-rate their PP points over the full 82 games, RNH and Hall would have had 30 and 28 points respectively, which would have put them close to the leading PP producers.
However, last season when the Oilers were 8th in PP, not one player feasted on the man advantage.
The Oilers scored 34 PPG last year, 6th best in the NHL, but their leading PP point producers were Sam Gagner and Justin Schultz and they were tied for 30th in PP points.
Gagner and J.Schultz had 15 points each, while Hall had 14, RNH had 11 and Yakupov had 10.
Schultz and Gagner were in on 44.1% of the Oilers PP goals. That isn’t close to what the best PP guys produce.
2013 PP Leaders:
Henrik Zetterberg was in on 67.6% (23) of Detroit’s 34 goals.
Phil Kessel was in on 63.6% (21) of Toronto’s 33 goals.
P.K. Subban was in on 61.9% (26) of Montreal’s 42 goals.
Joe Thorton was in on 61.7% of (21) of San Jose’s 34 scores.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro were in on 61.3% (27) of of WSH’s 44 tallies.
Steven Stamkos was in on 58% (18) of Tampa’s 31 goals.
Claude Giroux was in on 56.7% (21) of Philly’s 37 goals.
Andre Markov was in on 54.7% (23) of Montreal’s 42 goals.
All of those teams were in the top 11 of powerplay efficiency, and those players were the catalysts to successful powerplays. The Oilers had PP success, but it was spread around and I feel that "share the wealth" production would be hard to recreate.
If you look at this season you’ll see the same trend.
The Oilers have four players in the top-50 scorers in the league, but they only have two players in the top-75 of powerplay points.
Nugent-Hopkins has been in on 45.7% (16) of the Oilers 35 goals. Eberle has contributed to 42.8% (15) while Hall has only been in on 34.2% (12).
2014 PP Leaders:
John Tavares has been in on 75% (24) of the New York’s 32 goals.
Nicklas Backstrom has been in on 65.9% (31) of the Capitals’ 47 goals.
Erik Karlsson has been in on 64.8% (24) of Ottawa’s 37 goals.
Giroux has been a part of 58.5% (24) of the Flyers’ 41 goals.
Crosby was a part of 57.7% (26) of the Penguins’ 45 goals.
Ovechkin has been in on 57.5% (27) of the Capitals’ 47 goals.
Joe Pavelski has been in on 56.7% (21) of the Sharks’ 37 goals.
Patrick Kane has been a part of 54.5% (23) of the Hawks’ 42 goals.
David Krejci has been in on 54.5% (18) of the Bruins’ 33 goals.
Shea Weber has been in on 54.4% (19) of the Predators’ 35 goals.
Tavares is the only player on a team not in the top-ten in PP%. The Blues are this year’s version of the 2013 Oilers when it comes to the PP. They are 2nd in the league, but none of their players have been in on more than 44.4% (Kevin Shattenkirk) of their goals.
When you look closer to the Blues success, the other thing they have in common with the Oilers is a high SH%. The Blues lead the NHL in 5-on-4 SH% at 16.4. This is almost identical to what the Oiler shooters did last season.
Last year, the Oilers were 2nd best in the NHL with 5-on-4 SH% at 16.8, but they also averaged the 2nd fewest shots/60 on the PP, so it was unlikely they were going to maintain that success rate on the PP.
This year the Oilers are once again near the bottom, 26th, in SF/60 on 5-on-4, but their SH% has dropped from 16.8 to 11.84. Either they are shooting from worse positions, or more likely not getting as many shots from close range.
WHAT ABOUT SH GOALS?
I think the Oilers actual production on the PP hasn’t been awful. In the first 25 games of the season they were 20.7%, a bit better than last year, but in the last 33 games the wheels have fallen off. I highly doubt the coaching staff suddenly changed the system 25 games in.
I’ve noticed teams are playing the Oilers different this year. They slide block to prevent the back door play, so it’s tough to have a guy on the goal line producing. The Oilers have had to work farther out from the net, and because they don’t have a heavy shot from the blueline, it makes it much harder to generate quality chances. Until they get a threat from the point their PP will continue to struggle.
They could look at using Nail Yakupov more often on the first unit, but he would need to set up for the one-timer on the right point, and currently the Oilers PP runs off the right wall with RNH. They currently have Hemsky on the left wall with Yak on his off wing on the 2nd unit but that unit hasn’t had great success either. They could look at using Gagner as the set up guy on the left wall on the 1st unit, with Yakupov, Smyth, J.Schultz and Hall. The problem with that is I think RNH is their best PP option to run the PP through, so until the get a dangerous right-handed shot on the blueline I think they will be hard-pressed to produce.
Yakupov has a great shot, but so far I haven’t seen him put himself in good shooting positions often enough. As much as the coach can diagram certain plays, much of the PP success comes down to the players adlibbing as they go, and right now the Oilers lack a PP catalyst.
Someone needs to step up and become the focal point on their PP, and this summer MacTavish needs to find a defender with a heavy shot who is good on the powerplay.
However, the big concern for the Oilers is that they’ve allowed a league-high 10 SH goals this year. The crazy part is the Oilers are allowing virtually the exact same amount of shots on goal this year compared to last. Last year they allowed 8.2SA60 and this year they are allowing 8.4.
In the first 25 games when their PP was producing the Oilers allowed 4 SH goals, but one was an empty netter.
Let’s look at each goal.
October 5th vs. Vancouver: Brad Richardson.
They had Hemsky on the right wall with Yakupov, Hall, Smyth and J.Schultz, which in theory would be good for setting up Hall in the slot or Yakupov on right point for one timers. This play starts with a bad pass from Hemsky. The pass is deflected and forces J.Schultz to pinch and it gets by him. If Hemsky makes a good pass this play doesn’t happen. I don’t blame the set up or the system for that goal.
October 5th vs. Vancouver: Jason Garrison
I think it is safe to say that is an unlucky SH goal against.
October 7th, New Jersey: Patrick Elias
That goal came with :03 seconds left in the Devils penalty. They lost a battle on the far boards that led to the puck going to Elias in the corner. It was another unlucky own goal, and not one due to the offensive zone attack or set up.
November 25th vs. Chicago: Jonathan Toews
The Oilers go with five forwards. They dump it in and Hall pressures Keith, but you can either say Keith made a great hesitation move to avoid him, or Hall went after the puck instead of the man. Saad breaks his stick and fans on the clearing attempt. Yakupov had leaned backwards thinking the puck was going down the ice, which usually it would, but then he had to try and keep it in at the blueline and Toews pounced. A regular D-man might have been handled the bouncing puck better because they are used to being pressured at the blueline, but it is hard to fault Yakupov on that goal. Usually breaking your stick in your own zone puts your team at a disadvantage, but this time it helped the Hawks. I still think five forwards is rarely a good idea 5-on-4.
December 1st vs Dallas: Ryan Garbutt
This was all Denis Grebeshkov. Right before his brutal giveaway he was unable to keep the puck in at the blueline. This is on the player, not the coach, unless you argue there is no reason Grebeshkov should be on the PP. I’d blame Craig MacTavish for this goal. We had seen this type of play from him often in his first tour with the Oilers, expecting him to be different this time around was wishful thinking.
December 10th vs Carolina: Eric Staal
Perron falls but makes a good pass to Eberle. Eberle was pressured a bit, but that was a bad pass and Staal makes a great move to score. My other question is why would RNH go down so low in the slot and not stay high. The Oilers had four guys below the ringette line. I watched a few other zone entries, and it does seem that often they have four guys that low. When Eberle picks up the puck his only option is to go to Larsen, and that is where his teammates need to give him better outlets. But ultimately that is a bad pass by Eberle.
December 12th vs. Boston: Brad Marchand
The Oilers have complete control of the puck in the offensive zone. They are set up, Larsen walks the blueline correctly, but then he just fires the puck into Bergeron’s pads and away they go. Eberle gives a good effort backchecking, but he doesn’t go towards Marchand, instead he stays in the middle of ice. If he goes straight to Marchand and ties up his stick, Marchand might not bury that goal. I don’t see coaching as the issue on that goal. Eakins should show Eberle the video and say good effort getting back, but next time to go the man not to the goalie.
December 19th vs. Colorado: Max Talbot.
Again, the Oilers have control of the puck, but they make a high-risk, ill-advised pass that leads to a 2-on-1. Justin Schultz would like to have that pass back. You will notice at the :25 second mark Schultz has control and he had RNH as a safe outlet on the boards, but elected to go to his left instead, where neither Hall or Eberle were set up. On this play the Oilers had four guys above the top of the circles and still gave up an odd-man rush due to a bad pass. That is inexperience and trying to force the play.
January 18th vs Winnipeg: Jacob Trouba
This was a complete team breakdown. Belov can’t get the puck in deep at the offensive blueline and the Jets transition quickly. Petry inexplicably leaves his feet, which should never happen that far out or when you have more guys on the ice, and Ryan Smyth doesn’t pick up his man on the backcheck.
The Oilers had two D-men on the ice, yet I’d argue that was the worst SH goal they gave up this year when you consider how many bad decisions were made by multiple players.
February 3rd vs. Buffalo: Drew Stafford
You have one of your best puckhandlers bring the puck in the zone, peel off to the boards and create time and space. Eberle needs to make a better pass, but once again you will notice his teammates only gave him one outlet, Yakupov. I’d say this is a combination of a bad decision by the player and a bad system. I’ve witnessed the players slide down low so frequently on the PP when they enter the zone that I believe that is their system. It clearly isn’t great, but ultimately when you have possession of the puck your skilled players should be able to make a good pass.
I think this goal illustrates perfectly the issue with the PP woes of the Oilers. It is a combination of a bad play by a player, and his teammates failing to provide better outlets. To me it looks like that is how the coach wants the team to enter the zone.
I understand why people want to blame the coach for the woes of the PP. It was better the past two seasons, and he wasn’t here, and as Jonathan Willis pointed out here, teams coached by Eakins have struggled both on the PP and allowing SH goals.
It is fair to say he needs to alter some things on the PP, but after watching those goals it is clear to me the players need to make better decisions with the puck as well. I also think the powerplay has been static far too often this year. They need more consistent motion. It is a skill to learn how to put yourself in good positions to shoot, and that is something the PP units need to improve on.
I think past history proves that blaming the coach for the woes of the Oilers isn’t working. The players, just like the coach, need to be more accountable and more consistent, and until that happens this team will struggle on the PP and ES.