So far in this series, we’ve looked at the players projected to fill the Oilers’ three offensive lines in 2014-15. Rather than deal with the rest of the players individually, we’ll take the rest of the forwards as a group and see how Edmonton’s total forward line-up compares to the eight playoff teams in the West last season.
Players in grey have already been considered; players in the dark text have not.
- Matt Hendricks has been durable over his career, but I’ve projected a TOI drop from his 2013-14 run in Edmonton, a run in which Dallas Eakins played him far more than he’s played in several years. Still, more usage than he’s had in some other cities means that a declining Hendricks scores more goals than he has since 2010-11 (when he tallied nine).
- Boyd Gordon is going to be a critical player for Edmonton, with contributions that go well beyond his goal total. The thing that kills him offensively is his five-on-five shooting percentage, which is reliably in the 6.0 percent range (or worse); he can’t finish his chances. Despite this, he’ll probably get a bit of power play time, doing the Horcoff thing (winning faceoffs, standing in front of the net).
- Anton Lander isn’t in the Oilers’ top-12 group in this look because he isn’t a right wing (last year, Dallas Eakins seemed to be auditioning him for a job on this year’s defensive zone line, but he didn’t look good in the position). However, the versatility of the team’s spare forward means he’ll get some games in at centre and some on the wing, and while he won’t blow the doors off I’ve got him scoring a career high four goals after posting 18 in the AHL this year.
- Tyler Pitlick and Luke Gazdic are sharing the last available winger slot on the Oilers’ roster here. Pitlick will win the battle because he plays the right side and because he’s the better hockey player, but Pitlick’s injuries (he’s cursed) and a desire to get Gazdic in the lineup against Calgary and a few others mean the enforcer will (probably) play more games.
- Jesse Joensuu doesn’t make the team out of camp here, but assuming he clears waivers he will get some ice time later in the season. Steve Pinizzotto is in a similar situation, but like Joensuu should be right near the top of the recall list.
- Getting cups of tea at the NHL level are Will Acton (history with the coach, versatility, and being an established North American pro puts him ahead of the rookie centres), Ryan Hamilton (similar story here, plus he’s actually been a pretty good AHL’er), Andrew Miller (at some point the Oilers will want to recall a skill guy, and Miller came on toward the end of last year) and Iiro Pakarinen (I needed another winger to play a game, and none of the Moroz/Hamilton/Kessy trio should be ahead of the Finn at this point).
I wanted to make a few quick points about methodology; those in the tl;dr crowd are advised to skip this section.
- I’ve assumed the Oilers as a team will be basically average in terms of the minutes they play, projecting based on the NHL median to establish the number of minutes at evens and on special teams available. Obviously, they probably don’t hit those numbers *exactly*, but for our purposes it seemed the most reasonable way to proceed. I then parceled those minutes out at the wings and at centre.
- I have 19 forwards playing an NHL game in Edmonton next season. Generally the Oilers are a little higher than that, but that’s also taking into account midseason trades which I have no way of predicting.
- The projection above assumes no catastrophic injuries. This is a big one, and it impacts our final goal projection by a lot. If, for example, David Perron suffers a concussion that costs him 50 games, we’ll see the goals totals of the players behind him on the depth chart go up as they take his minutes, but Edmonton’s overall projection will go down. In other words, while I think the projected total is a reasonable one, it’s one subject to adjustment down at the team level based on the real possibility of injury.
Total Goals & Comparables
Total goals from Oilers forwards: 194.
- Anaheim: 224 non-empty net goals from forwards
- Chicago: 222 non-empty net goals from forwards
- Colorado: 185 non-empty net goals from forwards
- Dallas: 193 non-empty net goals from forwards
- Los Angeles: 154 non-empty net goals from forwards
- St. Louis: 196 non-empty net goals from forwards
- San Jose: 198 non-empty net goals from forwards
Minnesota: 162 non-empty net goals from forwards
Average: 192 non-empty net goals from forwards.
Assuming a healthy roster, the goal-scoring from Edmonton’s forward group should be playoff-calibre. It’s more scoring than I expected, but it comes with a second big caveat. As I went through this series, I marveled at the number of players who posted exceptionally low shots/hour rates in 2013-14 compared to their recent work, and I’m inclined to put that down to coaching. Because these projections are based on the last four seasons, those low performances hurt but had less impact than the previous years. If I’m right that it’s coaching and if it goes uncorrected, the projection above is going to be significantly on the high side.
Coming next: a look at the defence, and after that we’ll try and figure out goals against.
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