Oilers Power Play By The Numbers

Just the facts

The Oilers are a team much improved by number in their 5v5 play. They are still the Oilers though and that means mind boggling blunder after mind boggling blunder, but they are getting better at keeping shots and shot attempts even at least. But what about that Power Play? It is ranked near the bottom of the league despite being loaded with about 17 1st Overall picks and more than enough fire power to take down an Elephant. OilersNation does not approve hunting Elephants. We only hunt the Most Dangerous Game.

JUST THE FACTS

The Oilers at the time of writing this piece are ranked 26th in the NHL for Power Play efficiency. They are running at an unsightly 12.5% so far this year. That’s not bad. That’s a level below bad somewhere between “Ryan Whitney turning left” and “Gigli starring Ben Affleck”. For a quick lesson on how to lose lots of close games you should skim over the section in your Exciting Last Placed Hockey manual on not scoring on almost 88% of your Power Plays.

But we live in a Golden Age of information which can tell us a lot more about the PP than its basic efficiency. It’s still early enough in the season that all of these numbers can take drastic swings one way or the other, mind you. One hot week on the PP and the Oil can climb quite a bit. Perhaps that’s exactly why it’s important to look at more than just the efficiency. 

In any case, I will be presenting this year’s numbers along side the final numbers under Eakins’ 1st season and the lockout shortened year under Ralph Krueger. I want to do so mainly because with the same core group this team has gone from 3rd in the West down to 3rd last in the entire NHL. It’s been an interesting, if not terrifying, journey. The Efficiency number includes all Power Play states but I am isolating the rest of the numbers to 5v4 only. 

Season

Efficiency

CF/60

FF/60

SF/60

SF%

Sh%

PDO

2012-2013

20.1% (8th)

73.9 (29th)

55.0 (30th)

41.5 (30th)

83.5 (25th)

16.86 (2nd)

113.9 (4th)

2013-2014

17.0% (21st)

85.6 (24th)

63.3 (26th)

46.6 (25th)

82.1 (27th)

12.28 (16th)

97.2 (27th)

2014-2015

12.5% (26th)

93.6 (15th)

69.5 (17th)

46.2 (24th)

85.6 (9th)

8.41 (26th)

80.6 (30th)

SO WHAT?

I think those numbers present a lot to think about. First and foremost, the Krueger Power Play was driven by a wonderful Shooting Percentage. The problem with that is nobody outside of witches like Steven Stamkos and Craig Simpson in his prime have been able to crack the Shooting Percentage Code (a story by Dan Brown that will sweep the Hockey Nation). We can see that the man advantage obviously leads to better scoring chances and therefore higher shooting percentages but maintaining regularly high percentages is hard even for veteran teams with a track record of success on the PP.

For example, the San Jose Sharks with Joe Thornton and all the skilled shooters they have run a good Power Play and have for several years. They are still relatively inconsistent when it comes to shooting percentage. Starting with this year and moving backwards they have had 14.06%, 9.69%, 11.02%, and 11.61%. The real stability they have shown has been in producing unblocked shot attempts, not the rate at which they score on shots.

That metric, FF/60, is the one in which the Oilers have made the most progress over time. No, it hasn’t turned into remarkably better shot rates and that’s a topic I would love to pick Ramsay or Eakins’ brain about but the fact is that Edmonton is getting looks at a rate that was unprecedented in the Krueger era. Now maybe those shot attempts are coming from the perimeter too often or maybe they’re being shot wide too often, but either way it seems the Oil are spending more time trying to create than they were previously.

PDO for the Power Play is a bit of a contentious issue for some because the game is not even and a few shorthanded goals against can really submarine the number, but it really shouldn’t be different in theory than other game states aside from the fact we expect the number to regress to a higher position than 100. For the past 5 years the median in the NHL during 5v4 play falls pretty close to 103 give or take the odd fluctuation. Edmonton’s number this season is so bad that the next closest in the NHL is 94.4. That’s a little more than 14% higher. In fact only 1 team in the Advanced Stat era has finished with less than 90% 5v4 PDO and that was Nashville in the Lockout shortened year.

Edmonton’s current 80.6 PDO on the 5v4 is bad on a historic level. 

When I see all of that I think that there’s a very good chance that this team will get a lot better at some point during the year, if they keep playing this way. Either a few shots that were missing the net early in the season will find their target or some seeing eye pucks just manage to find their way in, but this is a Power Play that should start getting better results over time.

JUST LEAVE IT ALONE?

LeaveItAlone

No, I’m not saying the Oilers shouldn’t be tweaking things and that the PP is fine the way it is. Obviously there are things that good teams do to be successful on the man-advantage. I still think this team is woeful at winning puck battles and using the numbers to their advantage. There’s no reason why the puck should go into the corner and an Oiler is alone there to fight off two defenders. 

I also don’t like how static some of the players can be, maybe as a result of getting into their position in the 1-3-1 prematurely. While we’re at it I think too many shots are coming from the forwards while Justin Schultz is just passing the puck and not being a shooting threat. Those are just a few of my complaints. 

Still, though, the underlying numbers are showing a team that is getting better. Not everybody buys that because there really isn’t an excuse on a team that boasts RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, and the great Justin Schultz to be at the bottom of the NHL in PP efficiency. Their sh% is low but their other metrics are climbing. It should turn around, provided someone lifts this curse.

  • Igor Ulanov 55

    Please tell me that PDO 80.6(!) 5v4 number includes the 2(!) SH goals scored by Phoenix(!).

    Does this suggest that Jultz is better at setting up the other team with quality scoring chances?

      • Spiel

        Based on the numbers you should be going to the sports book and putting big money on the Oilers to win.
        The numbers are historically bad and regression must happen. The analytics community has hockey figured out, so why not profit from your knowledge?

          • Lumley

            You obviously don’t want them to lose often enough. Just what I thought. It’s all your fault.

            Like I said before, they were intentionally failing (didn’t have to try very hard ) to collect #1 draft picks. Now they can’t figure out how to get out of the bottom. KARMA is a bitch sometimes.

            In my workplace, if someone doesn’t know how to do their job, they have to be replaced after given a second chance. And that’s what happens.

            But with guaranteed contracts only so much can be done.

            Damm I wish I was overpaid … by millions per year.

  • What’s the Stat on how many times Jultz and crew have given up a 2 on 1 or shorthanded chance because of lazy backchecking? Or the ratio of wins to POHO cup rings? Those are the fancy stats.

  • Gml79

    As per answers.com (very reputable!)
    According to Time (in partnership with CNN) : Zoologists today estimate elephants around the world kill 500 people a year. Where the great white shark kills only 4 people worldwide a year.
    The Discovery Channel aired an episode of “I survived” involving elephant attacks in one park in China where the estimate for that one park was – 140 people killed on average a year.

    As far as the Oilers are concerned, it is very possible that I soon will care less than some of the actual team/ management does.

  • Burnward

    Doctor: Sir, you have full blown, terminal cancer.

    Patient: (head slumps)

    Dr: Look on the bright side, your pulse is that of a marathoner!!!

    PDO, shmee-deee-oh.

  • Spydyr

    In watching the Oilers power play one thing which stands out is that they rarely have anybody in front of the net causing a screen or distraction for the opposing net minder. Is it really that difficult for a multi millionaire to go to a place on the ice that will actually matter? Time and again we make opposing goalies look good by giving them an unobstructed view of shots.

  • Spydyr

    Please show me the stat for having the balls to go to the front of the net and take the abuse to screen,tip shots and bury rebounds.There is no stat for heart and grit both things sorely lacking on the Oilers.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Stats aside , just look at our power play deficiencies . Lack of shot from point , therefore opposition pays little attention to it and basically stays more inward to keep our forwards from driving their net . Opposition does not respect our point shots , So we work the periphery and only occasionally drive the net . When we drive the net we are simply out manned and not good at it anyways . Low % shots result in lack of good scoring attempts . We are quite predictable and usually easily kept away from good scoring areas . When we pinch defence we often are open to counter attack by opposition more than most . We simply have a poor defence that also is poor on the power play .

    We take many poor or low grade shots now to mask a lot of our other inefficiencies , yet stats are misleading/masking , but look respectful on paper often sending a pseudo message .

  • Andy7190

    Wow. The stats show improvement! So they must have improved then!

    Yet when you watch the games and look at the standings, they’ve gotten WORSE.

    Professional sports is about winning. Period.

    Yes Fire Lowe. Yes Fire Eakins. Hell, Fire MacT too.

    Because it is high past time the Oilers improved in the W column. Everything else is just BS at this point.

    • The underlying numbers show the Oilers are better at generating shot attempts. There are lots of reasons for overall failure or success, but that 80.6 PDO suggests a big correction either in save percentage or shooting percentage (or both) is likely to occur.

      • Andy7190

        Yeah. Possibly.

        But I suspect the other teams find the Oilers soft and can do what they want when they need to, to get the game back in their favor most nights.

        • No doubt good Power Plays will do everything in their power to increase their odds of scoring. Don’t take this piece as me saying everything will be fine and they can ride it out just the way it is. Even if the Oilers normalized all the bounces for and against they aren’t going to be at the top of the standings.

          I think Justin Schultz is wasting a lot of good opportunities because he doesn’t shoot enough. I don’t like how few Oilers go to the front of the net, and I don’t like the fact that they are outworked all the time. But those are things that can be fixed almost entirely with willpower.

          I still remain convinced that there is a relatively big correction due for this team.

          • Igor Ulanov 55

            The Oilers low PDO has a lot to do with an incredibly bad SV% .722 = 13/18. I’ve got to hope that is unsustainably bad.

            But When did we start including goals against in the discussion about how effective our power play is anyway?

            Do we think good teams are seriously saying “we need to improve our save percentage on the power play?”

            This shouldn’t even be an area of focus. The power play is about dominating possession and creating high percentage opportunities.

            Listening to the crowd telling the team to shoot more might improve Corsi, but it’ll lead to a decrease in Sh%. Which is basically what seems to be happening to the Oilers PP this year.

      • lucky

        Oilers are “better at generating shot attempts” … are you kidding me? They may also be better at pass attempts and save attempts. For Gord’s sake – all we have left is talk about “attempts”?. Listen, even if there was relegation in this league we’d be DFL! By every measure of being decent at hockey, this team is horse bleep, top to bottom. Keep Hall, RNH, Gordon and next year’s pick and blow it up. Tell me again who would trade their roster for this one? Coach? GM? Whatever the _____ the so-called POHO does?

  • lucky

    This team is a statistical nightmare I imagine Tyler Dellows is beside himself.

    Our face off percentage is light years ahead on most games.

    Our Corsi is good this year

    Our Fenwick is good this year

    We scored first last night and stats say teams who do that 9 times out of 10 win. And we lost by 3 BY THREE!!!

    So why do we suck?

    No heart, No fire, No passion, No drive, No right stuff.

    If the Oilers were a ship they would be the goddamn Titanic, Kevin Lowe would be the captain, Mac T would be the iceberg, Eakins would be the life boats, the fans would be the passengers, and Katz would be the owner collecting the insurance revenue.

    Rome isn’t burning Wanye its burnt.

  • Salty

    I sure wish someone had shown Tobias Rieder the underlying stats last night before he scored those two short-handed; that game might have been salvageable if only he had known.

  • Joe Mamma

    If I rolled my eyes any harder, I’d give myself a freaking hematoma. Matt, maybe you and Willis should get together and have a nice deluded chat about how the Oilers are going to turn it around. Soon. Any time now. Just watch. It’s coming. Aaaaaaany. Minute. Now………

  • Steveland Cleamer

    Argh!!!! I can’t believe you used the “Just Leave Britney Alone” guy. I was thinking of making fun of this video about POHO Kevin Lowe, but then I’m not a basement dweller with a video camera and too much time on my hands – oh and I have some dignity. Nice to see the image up none the less.
    Maybe there’s a Nation contest in there somewhere for someone else to make a spoof video???
    I’ll only take partial credit in the form of a Nation Hoodie for this great idea.

  • Andy7190

    Fire the Goaltending Coach! It is all his fault! It has nothing at all to do with management. Nothing!

    Clearly this new goaltending coach is the problem. Not the management at all. Because the stats are good.

  • Visually McDavid

    This was a great article. The stats were interesting and the information is broken down in an accessible and funny way. I don’t know if anyone has ever told you this, but you should be a hockey writer when you grow up!

  • oilerjed

    I thought a great illustration of this season was captured during our 2nd pp and our 1st PK.

    2nd pp – Nitkitin gets out skated by Reider and watches the goal against from his belly, all alone, with a mouthful of Reider’s snow.

    1st PP – Nuge makes a steal and busts it down the ice hounded all the way by 3 Yotes until Yandle calmly takes the puck and moves it back up the ice.

    I feel legitimately ripped off this year. I picked a perfectly good goat in Shultz who was a lock to be major player in everything Oiler bad and along comes Niki with a colossally atrocious season to spoil my pick.
    Why is Nikitin still playing?

  • Spydyr

    Matt – you can throw all the fancy stats you want at it, but bottom line is winning and losing. What metric measures the heart, the try in a player. That is what is missing on this team, and that is what is dismissed by management because Dellow can’t measure it.

  • Harry2

    Can someone school me up on the draft please? If Edm finishes last but misses out on the first selection how far back can they fall? Second, third?

    By the way, I am well.aware that draft talk in December i infinintly pathetic

  • smith

    So the Oilers excuse this year is that they are a good team just not getting bounces? Is this official now. Last year was bad goaltending and injuries to RNH and Gagner. What was 2012’s again? I have a hard time keeping track.

    • Andy7190

      I read Jones. But the owner isn’t going to fire himself.

      He needs to fire his hand picked management team, though. How to get him to act, is the problem.

      You’d think most owners would be sick of being a laughingstock.

  • Burnward

    Seriously though.

    Other teams let the Oilers stay to the outside and shoot from there. Usually ahead by two or three.

    PDO means jack squat when you talk about this hockey team.

  • Out of curiousity, what’s the chant now that we’ve got 10?

    Are we shooting for 15 now? 17 to tie the record? 18 to break it?

    Or heck, let’s try to excel at SOMETHING, and shoot for 20, because that’s about the only thing the Oilers could be good at.

    Blow it up, send them all away, and start over. At this point, I’m fine with getting rid of the entire team, Hall and RNH included. I’d rather have a less flashy, older, more experience player who had some maturity and ability to do the tough things, than Hall’s defensive liability mess all over the ice. RNH is too danm small for the West. Eberle don’t get me started. And Yak will be bolting for the KHL ASAP at this rate

  • Buzz Killer

    Seems like they are averaging 2 shots on the power play & not quality chances at that. They could play short-handed an entire period & it wouldn’t matter.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    The biggest problem could be our highly paid youth ? Maybe their lack of progression is more responsible for us remaining a cellar dweller ? Management ( rightly or perceived wrongly ) has put to much emphasis on what the youth brings to the entire team ? So long as we keep them can we ever expect to get much better ? Therein might be the mixture problem , and not the solution ? If they are not good enough will we ever be good enough ?

    We seem to be compelled to building around that youth , but to no avail . Not sold our youth package is all they hoped it was cracked up to be . team in such disarray might have to call the team Edmonton Muddlers .

  • vetinari

    @Matt

    You’re just taking some of the sh!t and abuse that people would like to send to Katz, Lowe, MacT and/or Eakins directly if any of the “common people” could actually locate them.

    I guess the point of your article is that the stats bear out that there are some improvements on the PP. However, it’s the 92 other problems that are sinking this team faster than a kale smoothie after Eakins’ spin class.

  • bwar

    Since coaching doesn’t matter it sure is weird how the powerplay started to suck when Eakins arrived. Players just need to skate harder, no coaching issues to see here.