The strength of the Edmonton Oilers’ rebuild was supposed to be its forwards, but we’ve seen some cracks in that department this season. In the following piece, we’ll look take a statistical look at the Oilers’ forwards, leaning heavily on scoring chance totals and contextual statistics.
Pos.: Which position the player primarily plays; in cases where he can/has played multiple positions his primary one is listed 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 ExtraSkater.com.
Ales Hemsky is having a great season. Yes, his point totals are down. But he’s having success, mostly on a third line that’s been taking on heavy defensive zone minutes. Just about every line he moves to is better off with than without him.
Mark Arcobello too has played very well. He’s been a better second line centre than Sam Gagner and on merit belongs in the Oilers’ top six. Working against him is his size and history, which make his accomplishments this season suspicious, but even so he’s earned more time. Whether or not he gets it remains to be seen; it’s possible Anton Lander is a greater organizational priority.
Every so often I see people criticizing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins because he isn’t a point-per-game forward this season. This baffles me.
Nail Yakupov’s scoring chance numbers aren’t terrible, but that comes with a heavy grain of salt. Dallas Eakins may be giving him tough love off the ice, but on the ice he’s very, very carefully managing his ice time. Yakupov isn’t seeing top opponents and is getting a ton of offensive zone shifts. He’s had a rough season.
Taylor Hall’s scoring chance totals are better than his on-ice shot totals, which is interesting, but they’re still way down from last season’s 52.7% total. Something’s gone wrong here, and it’s likely related to how the Oilers are using Hall (since there’s no reason to believe the player is substantially inferior to the one we saw last season). Tyler Dellow’s been doing great detail work on this front.
David Perron was in the lead in this race at one point, but his totals have fallen off sharply since the start of the year. The fall basically coincides with three things: his injury, his being united with Sam Gagner and the Oilers’ general scoring chances fall after the start of the season.
Jordan Eberle has had a stunning drop-off over his last 20 games that has largely not been commented on. In his first 39 games he had a fantastic number for the team (+195/-183, 51.6%) but has been hammered of late, going just +71/-119 in those last 20 games. His scoring is down slightly, his plus/minus is down a lot and the team’s results with him on the ice have taken a fall. As with Hall, the suspicion here is that the team’s system changes are resulting in more shots (and more chances) against.
Sam Gagner’s been slightly better of late but has been a train wreck all season.
Ryan Smyth’s numbers have collapsed over the last little bit after a very strong run at left wing. In his last seven games as a pivot on the fourth line Smyth has been on the ice for just five scoring chances for and 20 against. It may be fatigue and age, but it seems probable the move back to centre (which failed so badly last season) is a primary cause.
Boyd Gordon is getting killed by his assignment, as Dallas Eakins uses that line as his go-to defensive zone unit. It’s a tough job and nobody comes out of it with good numbers; his play’s been just fine.
Jesse Joensuu and Luke Gazdic aren’t really NHL players based on skill; Joensuu’s a spare forward and Gazdic’s an enforcer. Both routinely get lit up by the other team.
Matt Hendricks’ numbers in a brief sample don’t look good, but since his arrival coach Eakins has doubled down on that third line as a defensive zone unit and that’s almost certainly the primary reason Hendricks’ numbers are so brutal. By eye, his play has been quite solid in that role.
Will Acton and Anton Lander haven’t shown much in the NHL as fourth line pivots. In both cases, offensive creativity was the primary problem, as both centremen settled into ultraconservative patterns on lines where they had very little support from their wingers. Both have been working on that part of their game in Oklahoma, with Lander destroying the league since his demotion and Acton (12 points in 27 games) posting career-best numbers at that level.