Scoring Chances at the Olympic Break: Defencemen


The Edmonton Oilers’ defence corps is poorly regarded, and with good reason: it simply isn’t good enough. With that said, while it’s an awful mess there are also at least some building blocks in place. Who are they? To try and answer that question, we’ll look at the Oilers’ scoring chance totals with various defencemen on the ice, as well as some other statistics.

The Chart


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  • Side: Which side the player primarily plays; in cases where he can/has played both his primary side is lifted first. 
  • SC+/SC-: Total even-strength scoring chances the player has been on the ice for. 
  • SC%: Total ratio of even-strength scoring chances the player has been on the ice for, with 50 percent representing break even and higher being better than lower. 
  • Fen%: Total ratio of five-on-five unblocked shot attempts (shots and missed shots) the player has been on the ice for, with 50 percent representing break even and higher being better than lower. 
  • QC Rk.: Each player’s rank in Quality of Competition 
  • ZS%: Total ratio of non-neutral zone shifts the player has started in the offensive zone, with 50 percent representing break even and higher meaning more time in the opposition end.

Scoring chances totals are as counted by me; other statistics courtesy of

The Players


Martin Marincin has been a breath of fresh air. The 6’4”, 188 pound rookie leads the entire team in scoring chance percentage, despite the fact that he’s starting three out of five shifts in the defensive end of the rink. This is a remarkable, almost miraculous performance, and it didn’t have come a moment too soon. It’s likely established Marincin on Edmonton’s blue line.

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Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry is one of the most divisive players on the team, with some fans feeling that the day the Oilers move him it will be addition by subtraction and others seeing him as the best NHL defenceman on the roster today. I’m in the latter camp. Petry isn’t breaking even, but the Oilers are much, much better when he’s on the ice despite the fact that he’s playing brutal minutes in terms of who he plays against (good players) and where he starts on the ice (the defensive zone). At 6’3”, 195 pounds he could use both some weight and some snarl but he’s an awfully nice piece today.


Philip Larsen is an odd player to see so high but there are two big caveats here. Firstly, the coaching staff is sheltering him in a major way, and secondly the scoring chance numbers are much higher than the on-ice shot numbers. Over time one would expect the two to more or less line up, and in this case I suspect the larger total (the shot numbers) is the accurate one; at least that’s what my eyes tell me. I don’t really think Larsen should be any higher than seven or eight on an NHL depth chart.


Anton Belov’s an interesting player, too. The big Russian (6’4”, 218 pounds) has foot speed problems and there is probably no player on the team who oscillates between great and terrible as frequently. With that said, the Oilers have done pretty well when he’s on the ice, albeit in a sheltered role, and I’d like to see him get a bit more time just to be sure of what he is. Some European players struggle a lot in their first North American seasons, and he has some nice tools; a strong finish (if he gets the minutes) could suggest he’s coming around.

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Andrew Ference’s awful numbers need to be considered in context: He’s playing extremely difficult minutes. This guy was a No. 4 defenceman for an excellent team a year ago and has some good qualities, but he’s in desperate need of a reduction in workload.


Justin Schultz, who has regularly partnered with Ference and Schultz the elder, is in a similar boat to the Oilers’ captain. He has some nice tools, especially in the offensive zone, but he’s getting killed in a primary role. In a perfect world, he’d be on the Oilers’ third pairing next season.


Nick Schultz is having a rough season, even when we allow for a heavy defensive zone assignment. He’s been worse of late, too, and it seems to be related to the quality of competition he’s facing – when he plays bottom-pairing opponents he’s somewhat okay, but when he moves up the lineup he gets hammered.

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Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • DSF


    Wouldn’t quality of team mates be a very important factor in assessing scoring chances by defensemen?

    If you play more often with Boyd Gordon than with Hopkins it would seem your scoring chances would be more limited.

  • DSF

    JW, eventually you will come to a realization that stats do not matter when comparing defenceman and their projectability.

    For example, Fedun has the best overall stats in the AHL………but what does that matter? Bye the eye we all know he is small, and not overly fast for the NHL. Would he succeed in the NHL, well your guess is as good as mine?

    Did anyone or was anyone able to project that MM the human bean pole, would be a success playing in the NHL so soon and be succeeding……….I don’t remember anyone writing an article predicting this?

    I would be more of the mind that what type of player you are in junior has a major impact as to what type of player you will be in the NHL. IN other words past behaviour and style of play is a better predictor in how a player will perform in the future.

    Statistical analysis is over rated.

    • Of course you need to factor in items like size and speed in projecting a guy – Martin Marincin isn’t a better defenceman than Taylor Fedun in the AHL, but he almost certainly is in the NHL.

      On the other hand, I seem to remember a lot of people – including managerial types, based on their actions – writing off Mark Arcobello as an NHL prospect because he’s one of those small guys who had great results in the AHL but didn’t project to the majors.

      You need a blend. If you only look at the stats, you underrate Marincin, if you only look at physical skills you underrate Arcobello. Picking only one or the other is a great way to make stupid mistakes.

      Ignoring results is always a terrible idea.

      • Johnnydapunk

        I know that sometimes when assessing a player all you have is stats. It’s hard to scout all players in an attempt to accurately assess their skill, strength, and suitability to the NHL.

        What I am saying is that stats generally are over used and interpreted to suit one’s needs. There is nothing more compelling than a professional opinion based on observation and then comparative analysis.

        If a scout/writer/coach/fan make a observation on a player…… my mind there is nothing more compelling in assessing a player. Like most fans, I”m not interested in stats over someone’s opinion that I respect.

        When it comes down to it………it is still a very basic game.

    • Johnnydapunk

      I agree with you to a certain degree that stats are a bit of a crapshoot, but I’m also in the mindset that it’s all just an educated guess and you don’t know the answer until it’s too late.

      I mean if you look at the Oilers roster a lot of the Defencemen seemed quite good, and most were fairly highly rated in Juniors, I mean even Potter was on the gold winning American WJC team.

      I’m only guessing that what may be a semi decent indication if a player is gonna be NHL calibre is if they have a bit of size (height primarily as weight can be put on) and a bit of foot speed and the rest should be teachable in the minors.

      I have high hopes for Nurse as he seems to have the right pieces and could be good in a few years.

      I still also think that Belov is also worth keeping, it seems like it takes a season to adjust to the size and speed of the NHL game, Hejda was a good example as he struggled his first season here then he turned into a decent defenceman (albeit on another team)

  • DSF

    Not suggesting there is an AlMcinnis on the backend, but there are not that many plays coming back to blue line for one-timers. The Dangle twins would rather dick around with the puck around the boards, and loose it to the oppositon without a shot on goal. Besides, if the D man shoots the puck from the backend, not that often there is someone is in front of the blue paint… again playing rinky , dinky doo around the boards.

    On the power play, its usually Jr. Schultz and a forward, of whom none have a bullet from the backend.

  • Krusher

    This article depresses me actually. If you take the breakdowns given at face value (no other factors/opinions) our best D-man is a rookie. Yikes. On the positive, we might have the best group of 3rd pairing D-men in the league! Yep, this is what it has come down to right now…..

    I still can’t figure out why Fedun hasn’t gotten more of a look over a guy like Larsen this year, but sure hope after the break he gets the call up.

    Go Canada

  • DSF

    I’m I the only person that thinks playing with j Schultz is the main reason n Schultz and ference have poorer than expected stats?

    Is there an analysis of the defenceman by partner that might show this or prove me wrong, as I’m going by eye.

      • DSF

        If all the other defenceman on the Oilers played the same one way game as J Schultz does,and getting #1 powerplay time all the while they’d have alot more points too. Problem is while schultz is doing the flashy stuff, his partners are being hung out to dry. Maybe im wrong but id really like to see stats for those guys with and without J schultz, i bet he could make Weber look bad.

  • DSF

    Im going to jump off topic here and I apologize…

    Im watching the Canada Swiss game and I can’t believe how bias and completely incompetent the US ref is!

    Its disgraceful that she is the ref for this game….

    Easily the worst ref’ing I’ve seen in long while…

  • Johnnydapunk

    On a slightly unrelated note, looks like the Omark experiment is over in Buffalo as he was apparently assigned to their AHL team in roster, he refused to go, and now he is on unconditional waivers with views to mutually terminate his contract.

    Surprised he wouldn’t go as it’s not like he would even have to move or anything as Rochester is pretty well next to Buffalo.

    Looks like the KHL for him unless MacT does something silly like take him back, repackage him in a pretty box and bow and regift him to another team for a 3rd round pick 😛

    • Eulers

      Basically this is the case. As much as it’s great Marincin is playing so well with Petry. He and the team would be better served to pull out all stops to get an established 1st Pair Dman to match up with Petry for next year and have Marincin play on the 3rd pairing possibly with Ference? This would of course mean finding another 2nd pair D to put with J.Shultz.

      Maybe J Shultz and Marincin might make a decent 2nd pairing by next season? If thats the case then this team is sitting pretty all of a sudden with Belov, Nurse, or Fedun as options for the 3rd pairings.

  • Eulers

    I thought J Schultz was awful for at least the first 35-40 games. He seems to have turned it around. Is there a way to see these stats for each quarter of the season? I don’t watch close enough to know if he is being used differently or if he is just playing better (maybe coaching).

  • Eulers

    Watching the Oilers defence these past years helps me appreciate Team Canada’s defence as if it were a work of art of the highest magnitude.

    If I were a Blackhawks fan instead, I don’t think I’d appreciate the beauty of well executed break-outs, winning puck battles, good defensive coverage, and on it goes.

    If Canada wins the tournament, their defence will be key: USA’s Cam Fowler and Russia’s Belov wouldn’t make team Canada’s 4th team!!

    Seeing Doughty, Keith and Weber especially gives me chills #defenceenvy

  • Oiler63

    Hi Jonathan, do you have the data just for last 20 or so games? I thought Justin Schultz played better and looked more comfortable lately. Don’t know if that means he’s turned a corner and if data supports my observation.

    Another question, how much would you pay to re-up him as an RFA?