WISDOM AND THE O-ZONE

mclellan capture 170915

Todd McLellan deployed his defensemen in an interesting way last night and it’ll be interesting to see if we see any changes for the Nashville game. There were some surprises—Oscar Klefbom missed some TC games and it showed—but their usage was fascinating in game one. There are some things that look different and that we can follow. 

ABOUT LAST NIGHT…

BLUE LAST NIGHT

Todd McLellan is an interesting coach. His top pairing (Sekera—Fayne) received a zone-start push and Sekera played an extra 2.5 minutes. Fayne, a veteran, played 4.5 FEWER minutes at evens than rookie Griffin Reinhart. 

The second pairing (this is my assumption, lord knows what it really looks like on the whiteboard) of Oscar Klefbom—Justin Schultz had a tough night by my eye (Klef’s TC probably contributed) and were swimming on the winning goal (along with Nuge, disconnect among the trio). That pairing got the tough zone starts AND didn’t play as much with the McDavid line as I thought they would under McLellan. 

The third pairing did see the Ozone a lot and with good forwards, and their possession numbers reflect it. I thought that pairing was solid defensively, less impressive with the puck and that could be a reflection of McLellan’s wanting puck movers in the defensive zone. 

I’ll be interested in seeing what happens with these three pairings against Nashville, if McLellan handles them in the same way. 

POWER PLAY

  1. Justin Schultz 2:13
  2. Andrej Sekera 1:34
  3. Mark Fayne 0:16
  4. Eric Gryba 0:10
Nothing unusual about this alignment, Schultz and Sekera are the logical recipients of 5×4 time, Fayne and Gryba’s totals aren’t notable. 

PENALTY KILL

  1. Oscar Klefbom 3:08
  2. Justin Schultz 2:29
  3. Andrej Sekera 2:24
  4. Mark Fayne 2:24
  5. Eric Gryba 1:07
  6. Griffin Reinhart 0:28
Lots of PK time last night and all of the defensemen took part. Justin Schultz averaged 20 seconds a game on the PK one year ago, that’s a change in usage for sure. Klefbom was at 1:44 last season, so he certainly took on more in this game than in the past. McLellan’s most mobile defensemen—and Fayne—did most of the penalty killing. 

WHO DID THEY FACE?

The Blues most difficult lines are centered by Paul Stastny and David Backes—they’re really difficult players to battle. Here’s a look, via WAR-ON-ICE, at the EV TOI facing each center last night:

PAUL STASTNY

  1. Griffin Reinhart 6:06 (Corsi event: 9-3)
  2. Mark Fayne 5:49 (Corsi event: 5-5)
  3. Andrej Sekera 5:42 (Corsi event: 5-5)
  4. Oscar Klefbom 4:28 (Corsi event: 2-4)
  5. Justin Schultz 4:17 (Corsi event: 2-4)
  6. Eric Gryba 4:09 (Corsi event: 8-1)
It’s an interesting set of numbers. Ken Hitchcock would have (in theory) been thrilled with a Reinhart-Gryba matchup but it didn’t go well for the Stastny line (they were up against Nuge’s line for five minutes last night, McDavid’s for a little less). What does this mean? Hell if I know, beyond Reinhart looking pretty damned good here. One game and all that, but interesting all the same. 

DAVID BACKES

  1. Griffin Reinhart 8:24 (Corsi event: 8-10)
  2. Eric Gryba 6:59 (Corsi event: 4-8)
  3. Oscar Klefbom 4:52 (Corsi event: 3-6)
  4. Justin Schultz 4:30 (Corsi event: 3-5)
  5. Mark Fayne 1:54 (Corsi event: 2-2)
  6. Andrej Sekera 1:12 (Corsi event: 0-1)
Hitchock basically had Reinhart playing 14.5 of his 18.5 EV minutes against the two toughest lines—that’s a matchup St. Louis probably focused on (or as much as Hitchcock focuses on it). Still, in those 14.5 minutes, Reinhart was 17-13 in terms of Corsi (well, he and his mates). 

Source: War-on-Ice

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Reinhart played seven minutes with Connor McDavid and the ZS’s tell us a lot of the events involving both men began in the positive end of the ice. Todd McLellan MAY have decided to run his weakest pairing (at moving the puck) with one of his two offensive lines—or maybe it just worked that way. 

Is that a better plan than running Klefbom-Schultz in the O-zone to take advantage of the attacking opportunity, as Dallas Eakins did one year ago? I’m interested in your opinion. On a day where everyone agrees there wasn’t enough offense, perhaps we could look at this decision and discuss it. 

  • bradleypi

    I wonder when the oilers are gonna figure out that Klef and schultz are just not a good pair on the back end? A non physical offensive dman with a moderately physical YOUNG 2 way dman. It makes zero sense why they keep getting thrown to the wolves. Not sure why sekaras and Schultz don’t get paired up. Seems like a perfect fit to me. Let jultz be a rover and the veteran can just focus on backing him up. Tired of watching this team struggle to score and defend.

  • bradleypi

    I kept reading all off-season how Sekara and Fayne were the Oilers’ top pairing, and would get the shut-down minutes. Lowetide also calls them the top pairing.
    All off-season, we heard that Schultz was misused by Eakins, and that he wasn’t a #1 dman.

    I’m having trouble understanding these charts. It seems like Jultz is second in EV TOI, leading in PP TOI and PK TOI, and that Jultz/Klefbom were the top pairing. (Yes it’s only one game, but it was a Stanley Cup contender, so you’d think they would have tried to play their best defencemen the most).

  • bradleypi

    “Is that a better plan than running Klefbom-Schultz in the O-zone to take advantage of the attacking opportunity, as Dallas Eakins did one year ago?”

    Not doing what Eakins did sounds like a no brainer to me…

  • Alsker

    Reinhart looked at ease on the ice(not bad for the little NHL exp he has). Offensively what this team truly missed was Dr.Drai, if on the 3rd line with Yak+Lander as the unicorn or with McD + Slepy. His energy and skill was missed in St.L.

  • Alsker

    Klefbom had a rough night last night , while rest did about as expected or better . Not sure coaching staff sold on Fayne . Coyotes taking it to the Kings tonight .

  • #97TRAIN

    It is something to be considered, Lowetide, since, in reality, St. Louis scored all four of the game’s goals. Elliot was solid sure, but the Oilers have history extending for some time with hot goaltenders. Also, we witnessed the Oilers inability to score under Eakins’ system as well, employing the defenseman differently, as you make the case for. I think the issue may have more to do with the fact that the Oilers don’t seem to have any Ryan Smyth types, parking themselves in front of the opposition’s net, making life difficult for opposing goaltenders. Offensive defenseman need to be used optimally, but does this mean that they should be utilized exclusively in the offensive zone, or should they be used all over the ice? Klefbom and Schultz are the team’s most skilled defenders, and their TOI needs to be gradually increased imo. Therefore, they need to be employed on face-offs in all zones of the ice with some regularity. I’m not sure that I’m ready to point fingers at Mclellan, as there does seem to be a bit of a history with the team that outlives this current incarnation of coaches.

  • bradleypi

    Was just looking at the Leafs roster. Holy, I think they have a chance of sucking for longer then the Oiler’s have. Especially since finishing last doesn’t give you a very good chance of picking first anymore.

    By the time they get the pieces they need, the ones they have will be over the hill.

    One tip leafs… Start drafting D-men now, then get your centers. That is one thing you can learn from the Oilers ( in how not to do it).

  • hagar

    Sounds like you find Todd “interesting” Lowetide?

    Interesting is a mixed emotion that can go both ways, and is just a stop gap between what you say in the future, and what you think now.

    It’s a nice safe way to say something, without actually saying it.. I don’t blame you one bit. She’s a tough mistress sticking necks out on writing about the oilers.

  • TartanArmy

    I expected Schultz to have less toi at ev, looks like it was pretty even amongst all the dmen. Would have liked Fayne to have hade a few more and Scultz a few less, maybe the coaches faith in Fayne isn’t as strong as predicted. Running Schultz in all 3 disciplines is going to have him playing close to 25 mins per night, I’ll leave that up to smarter men than me to decide if that’s wise. Reinhart looked pretty solid by my eye in as the game went on, Klefbom looked shaky, not convinced Schultz is the right partner for him. Gryba was pretty good, nothing flashy, played as advertised. Fayne seemed meh and Sekeras had good and bad moments. Can’t help but wonder what Nurse in the lineup would look like.

    Only 1 game though, things overall looked ok. Plenty room for improvement, but not a disaster.

  • Schultz usage against a heavy team was interesting. He did not sink. A year ago 3 pucks would of been in the back of the net.

    Reinhardt looked legit, calm and composed, and able to handle big assignments. Was very impressed. He looked better then Hamilton in Calgary the other night. Maybe Boston did us a favour?

    Still looks like we need a puck mover on that third pairing.

    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      Take it easy. The flames played badly, but we’re talking game 1 of 82. Reinhart definitely didn’t look out of place from what I saw tho. He’s more mobile than reports give him credit for.

  • TartanArmy

    One has to wonder…it could be coincidental, but the Kings have lost two games so far, 5-1 to the Sharks and 4-1 to the ‘yotes. How long a leash does Sutter have with Lombardi considering the incident in Tampa Bay last season, where the players, after a loss, locked Sutter out of the dressing room? Apparently, as Larry Brooks told it, they pushed trash cans in front of the door and vacated the room before he could get a key and enter. Has Sutter lost the dressing room in L.A., or have the Kings just simply gotten off to a shaky start?

  • TartanArmy

    You can’t read too much into the TOI, match-ups and zone starts of one game. There are too many situational factors that lead a coach to send certain players over the boards. At least give it a few more games and work out a longer term average before making a conclusion on how TM uses his defensemen.

    For all we know, the other Oilers d-men were getting tired chasing the Blues’ forwards around all night, so Reinhart got extra ice-time on account of his stamina.

    Besides, the game was played in St.Louis (which is implied but not explicitly stated in this article), so Hitchcock had the last change and probably got more of the matchups that he wanted than TM did.

  • TartanArmy

    Get use to it guys, it’s going to take any new coach quite a few games to rectify bad habits and develop good ones; like keeping their feet moving while defending, finishing checks with their body and not their sticks! learning to play with newly assigned partners also takes time. Rome is not built in one day!

    • paul wodehouse

      …Too Many

      I keep getting Unresponsive Script Error Messages and Firefox hangs…it’s definitely this site…tried the fix but I’m given to understand the site has a ton of stuff going on and add-0ns and stuff make script wongkie…

      getting pretty fed up with it actually!!!

      before it freezes again …nice topical piece LT…one complaint…no T&A with your WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN ? section …one more thing …y’think 97’ll be used as the lightning fast trailer in the great breakout the Otters used through his junior career or is that too soon to ask and is it a suicide play in the show for the kid?

  • O.C.

    I was expecting a tire fire on D. Surprised how well the players worked together, in a first game in Oil silks for 2, against a Stanley Cup contender, and the opponent is the home team so they will dictate match ups…

    I wouldn’t read too much into the figures from one game, or changes (if any) that happen today. (As example, Reinhart had two penalties last game; makes sense that his partner had more minutes.)

  • O.C.

    Hey LT, I would like to see Sekera and Shultz or Klef, paired together and run them the huge OZ push and see what happens. Eakins wasn’t the greatest coach and had some strange ways about him but giving Schultz the OZ push wasn’t one of them.

    I can’t understand TMac and his philosophy on giving Reinhardt and Gryba, especially Gryba that huge OZ push, is there another pairing in the NHL with less offensive ability than them two? I think and hope someday #8 offence will show up, he does seem to know when to jump up. He’s not a terrible skater he does need to work on it, and I’m sure he will.