Edmonton has a problem with its power play, and his name is
The Oilers power play isn’t bad. It’s very average, in fact.
The Oilers sit at 16th place in PP efficiency at 18.7%. The thing is, the power play really shouldn’t be average. A team with this many high end pieces doesn’t
have to settle for that. Any club that has Yakupov, Pouliot, and McDavid
injured but can still trot out Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, and Draisaitl
should be crushing it on the man-advantage.
We’ve long talked about Justin Schultz’ limitations as a
player. We know he struggles to shoot from the point. We know he isn’t
assertive in the defensive zone. We also know that when he’s on his game he
should be able to join the attack and disrupt defensive coverages.
Now the power play should be his jam. There’s very limited
offensive chances generated against which means his noted defensive liabilities
have less impact than in any other game state. The fact that there are only four penalty killers on the ice makes his ability to join into the play easier and
also more impactful.
Unfortunately, the facts are plain. Justin Schultz is
unquestionably the worst of the main options the Oilers have to play the point
on the power play.
I always like to look at shots and shot attempts on the PP
because we know it’s very important. The last three coaches have all said essentially
the same thing: shoot often and shoot quickly. Eakins used the word Corsi, McLellan
uses shot attempt – they are indeed the same thing. As a reminder of some things
he’s said here’s McLellan on shot volume:
Volume shooting, I don’t know what that does to Corsi or
Fenwick because I don’t even know what those things are, but volume shooting is
important. I think it breaks down defensive zone coverages, gets players out of
position, taxes the opposition, makes them play more minutes in their zone.
So back to the defenders manning the point on Edmonton’s power play. The team has run three d-men on the 5v4 man-advantage regularly:
Justin Schultz, Andrej Sekera, and Oscar Klefbom. Here are their individual
shot and shot attempt contributions.
There is an alarmingly low number of shots being generated
by Justin Schultz on the power play. The interesting part is that while he’s
attempting almost 27 shots per 60 minutes on the 5v4, more than half are being
blocked outright. We can see that in his iFenwick/60 which sits at a very poor
12.62/60 minutes. Then out of those unblocked shot attempts only half are
actually hitting the net. You can see the conversion rate of unblocked attempts
to actual shots for the other two players is significantly higher. Roughly 66%
of their unblocked attempts are making it through compared to Schultz’ 50%.
Andrej Sekera is attempting more shots and getting more of
them through than any other Oiler defender in the position to play big PP
minutes. Oscar Klefbom is much choosier about his attempts but he is getting a
much higher percentage through the defenders and onto net.
Their individual contributions aside, what’s more important
is how the PP unit actually performs as a whole. This is why it’s important to
look at the on-ice shot attempt information when those three players are
deployed. That’s what the next table does.
I should begin by saying that the spread here is quite
alarming. It is especially so because we know that Schultz plays predominantly
with the top unit and when he’s on the ice the 5v4 PP is generating shots at
roughly the same pace as the worst power plays in the NHL. The Oilers’ power play
is basically comparable to the Calgary Flames’ (who are rotten) if Justin
Schultz is the defenseman manning the point.
Somehow, when Schultz is out there the Oilers are also
allowing almost twice as many shots against compared to what Klefbom and Sekera
are allowing. I’m almost impressed.
The problem really alleviates itself when the team puts
Klefbom or Sekera back there. In general, with Sekera out there the Oilers have
been generating shot attempts like a top 10 team in the NHL. With Oscar Klefbom
they are actually shooting on net like a top 10 club.
What it comes down to is that the Oilers have three options
that they’ve identified to play the point on the power play. With two of those
options the team actually performs like an upper end NHL club. With the other
the team is scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Edmonton is doing the other teams a favour by playing Justin
Schultz on the 5v4 if either Sekera or Klefbom is sitting on the bench. Given
how precious minutes are on the power play, I can’t see any reason to use
Schultz as the top option. The team is in a dogfight to keep games meaningful,
they don’t have the flexibility to waste opportunities to score.