Sekera’s PK Curse

Sometimes you dig around some numbers and find things you don’t
expect, like a pair of Oilers defensemen doing really well by some important
metric.

This is not one of those times. This is one of those times when you
dig around some numbers and find things that confirm your belief that the
Oilers are cursed and in need of an exorcism. This one is about Sekera and
Fayne and some unbelievably bad luck while killing penalties.

Let’s start by noting that the Oilers penalty kill is not
terrible. It is firmly in the middle of the pack in terms of efficiency (18th)
and lower-middle/upper-low end in terms of shot attempts allowed (22nd).
This is not a travesty considering what we know about Edmonton’s
(conservatively) terrible defense. In fact, it might even be a positive! Their
save percentage on the PK isn’t even horrible either, coming in at 13th
place.

Just as points of reference, while shorthanded 4v5 the
Oilers as a group allow, on average, the following:

Corsi Against per 60: 100.2

Fenwick Against per 60: 74.8

Shots Against per 60: 54.9

Goal Against per 60: 6.86

Save Percentage: 87.5%

Now if we look at the Oilers defense individually we can see
that there is a lot of variation within the group. Naturally, some are going to
be more effective than others at clearing the front of the net, blocking shots,
getting into lanes, and disrupting the cycle among various other aspects that
go into being a good penalty killer. It’s reasonable to assume that the better
players are at those skills, the more positive outcomes
should result on the ice. Or, that is to say, players who are better penalty killers should
generally have better metrics than those who are weaker.

I think that’s fair and reasonable. Better players should
see lower shot attempts, fewer shots going unblocked, and ultimately fewer
shots in general. All things being equal, fewer shots and fewer shot attempts
should eventually lead to fewer goals. There are no leaps in logic here.

So who are Edmonton’s better penalty killers (minimum 50
mins)?

CA60

Fayne and Sekera have by far the lowest number of shot
attempts against them on a per 60 minute basis. In fact, Sekera has the sixth
lowest in the entire NHL.

FA60

It’s the same story with the unblocked shot attempts. Sekera
is top 10 for lowest numbers against while shorthanded.

SA60

It’s actually kind of interesting here because while Fayne
and Sekera again lead the Oilers in shots suppressed while killing
penalties, they drop significantly overall compared to where they were in
unblocked attempts. For example, John-Michael Liles and Sekera have nearly the
exact same FA/60, but JML has 40.41 Shots Against per 60 (9th) and
Sekera has 47.82 Shots Against per 60 (43rd). Something interesting
is happening there. Still, Fayne and Sekera lead the Oilers.

HDSCA60

This one is courtesy of War-On-Ice.com and it tracks the
High Danger scoring chances that are allowed on the PK while the Oilers
defenders are on the ice. Just as you can imagine, the defensemen who are
allowing fewer shots and shot attempts in general are also allowing fewer
dangerous chances. With Fayne on the ice the Oilers experience the 24th
lowest High Danger Chances Against per 60 minutes.

GA60

And this is where it all goes off the rails. Fayne and
Sekera are getting crushed when they’re out there. In fact, those two are one and
three in terms of most goals allowed per 60 minutes among all defensemen in the
NHL. This is extremely bizarre. It does not follow that Sekera and Fayne can
prevent more shots, suppress attempts, and snuff out high danger chances more
than any other Oiler defender and somehow be almost four times more likely to be
on for a goal against than Klefbom or Gryba.

Unless there’s something happening that is out of the skater’s
control.

SP

This is why I’ve come to respect this great and terrible
curse that has been placed upon the Oilers. It is almost inconceivable that
anybody, even shorthanded, has an on-ice save percentage of 70.18%. No
defenseman in the Fancystat era (since 2007-2008) has ever had a shorthanded
Save Percentage that low with a minimum of 50 minutes played. Nobody.

So, either Sekera is the worst defender in modern history
who is suppressing shots at an elite level but causing his goaltender to miss
almost a full third of the shots directed to him, or he’s on the receiving end
of some brutal luck. Since there doesn’t seem to be any year to year
pattern/recurrence of on-ice Save Percentage I think we can lean towards the
brutal luck explanation. Though, I’m open to interesting theories.

It wouldn’t shock me in the least if the Oilers coaching
staff is scratching their heads when they throw their most defensively
responsible pairing over the boards on the PK and are constantly get burned for
it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I think it’s folly to try to make
sense of something so random. Last year both Sekera and Fayne had higher save
percentages behind them. It’s not something they can really control and if they
influence it at all then it isn’t to the tune of 10, 15, or 20 percentage
points.

I keep circling back to there being a dark curse on the
Oiler defense. It’s really more plausible than anything else I can come up
with.

  • ubermiguel

    Get Willis to do part 2 of this article where he breaks down a couple of goals moment by moment. Maybe there’s a bad habit or two to be found. Or maybe there are a couple of outliers skewing the results (e.g.: empty net + PK?)

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    There has to be a dark secret or rot affecting the team. Something not as tangible as we would like or can see. None of them consistently stand up for each other, no one has stood up to lead (and there are leaders on the team). Beyond streaky play.
    I think Hall believed he was going to play as a line mate with McDavid (who wouldn’t want to….). Within 14 games of being in the league it is so clear that McDavid is better than Hall and I don’t think that is sitting well with Taylor.
    I also believe that we should trade some of these core players because I think most of them bolt first chance they get….might as well try and get something we can use in “the McDavid rebuild”.

    • Jay (not J)

      WWYDWW is late today, maybe an Erhoff rewrite?

      Really though, how many words does it take to say ‘This guy can’t really help the Oilers’? or rather how do you make that one line fill a whole article?

  • CofC

    it’s 11:45 AM. Schultz still not traded.

    I agree there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. I think the players are just too young and have only experienced losing to know what it really takes to win. While I am indifferent to keeping Hall vs. trading for a top 2 defence man, I have never been impressed with the way he seems to carry himself on the ice and off. There are too many prima donna’s in the dressing room and Tmac and Chia need to start weeding them out ASAP before that mentality begins seeping into members of the new core (Drai, Klef, Nurse, Connor).

    • It already is, not Connor yet, but if they don’t straighten out this s*hit show ASAP, whatever plague it is will infect him as well. We have seen this before Joffrey Lupol 20-30 goals every year, Erik Cole 20-30 goals every year. Except when they played for the Oilers. I honestly think it is time for a complete purge of the old management and the old “core” to lift the pall over this team.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    Any coach will tell you that in order to have a good PK you need to be able to retrieve loose pucks. That means you need to either have quick feet or a long stick, neither of which Fayne or Sekra have. They can get away without those attributes 5v5 because of puck support which isn’t present on the PK. In your graph you’ll notice that the best Pk Defencmen either have a long stick or quicker then the others.

  • Well, Sekera and Fayne are two of the lesser used options on the PK with TOI coming in just over your 50 minute cutoff. So you’re probably looking at a small sample discrepancy. A couple of shots that go in off skates, or a couple of extra PKs in buildings with stingy shot counters is certainly going to screw up the numbers.

    If it’s real then we’re circling around to the old shot quality discussion. Are Sekera and Fayne doing something that lets the opposition hold the puck until they get a high(er) percentage shot?

    Without having looked at anything I’d guess that they play “soft”, not challenging the puck carrier. Couple that with not closing off the passing lanes and you’re asking the keeper to stop one-timers off cross-ice passes – not good for the save percentage.

    And of course once the opposition senses that you aren’t going to challenge them then they’ll just keep moving the puck around until they get that good look. Which makes it look like you’re doing a good job of suppressing shot attempts but really just means the sharks are circling.

    But yeah, a curse is a good explanation too and probably gives you more optimism for fixing it.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Erhoff was placed on waivers earlier. Seems like he’s had a bad year so far, looking at his stats, but he’s pretty cheap. I haven’t read to much else into him this year but I think he’d be better than what’s on the roster already could play 3-4 slot, imo.

  • We have 3 of fab 5 to move forward with in Hall, Eberle and Hopkins . Schultz and Yakupov need to be replaced with wily veterans . Surrounding our fab 3 with more youth instead of wily veterans this year has kept club back in the basement of league . Next year they may be better adapt at keeping club going forward (Draisaitl, Nurse , McDavid and Klefbom ). Purcell is not a good option . Defensively only Sekara is presently decent and i’d like to see an upgrade on rest of them and hope Klefbom keeps improving . Nurse still a question mark at this stage . The other option is to break up the Fab 3 thru trades , but that brings us back to stage one again . How much freedom does Chia have when his advisors are basically MacT. , Howson , Green and Lowe to a minor extent ? He was let go by Bruins , and I doubt he wants to go to far outside their wishes with the group that resides with him .

  • camdog

    What really boggles the mind is how all the bad analytics on Fayne are bad luck and all of the good analytics are due to his skill set. It really is a perplexing scenario…

      • a rebuttal to that could be, he lets more shots from more dangerous areas, and from those areas save percentages are lower.

        But, looks to me that he doesn’t really do that either.

        Maybe the forwards have WAY WAY more to do with PK success than the defence? If that was the case, it could explain why his good metrics are having little affect on the overall outcome?

  • I haven’t read all the comments but I think I get this gist of what you’re saying.

    I thinking it would along the lines of the Oiler goalies terrible 5×5 save percentage over the past few years. The goalies weren’t as bad as the stat suggests. It’s that the other teams scoring chances are real good opportunities.

    Yesterday NJ passed the puck around till they got a good clean shot on net. Eventually someone would get caught out of position. Talbot made some very good saves but given that extra second in prime shooting area, goals will be scored.

    Is this the fault of the system? Coaching? Or the players’ abilities? I’ve no stat’s to back this up but it seems to me all the other teams powerplays seem to get better and more chances than the Oilers get going the other way.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    They’ve got chemistry. Ebs can finish, and that’s really all you need for McDavid, it seems. Someone who’s ready and able to seal the deal when Connor gives him the puck.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    They’ve combined for quite a few points since they were put on a line together. I don’t disagree, I think that line needs a more physical presence than Pouliot. But I think they should keep McDavid and Ebs as a pair, then cycle the other winger until someone clicks.

    Did they try Kassian-McDavid-Ebs yet? Kassian wreaking some havoc in front of the net and in the corners might give Connor a few extra seconds to work, which is all he needs. Swapping Pouliot for Kassian subtracts some skill from the line, but if Kassian keeps hitting everything that moves like he’s been doing, it could be advantageous.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Unfortunately, Eberle is still the best option the Oilers have for playing with McDavid. Breaking up Hall and Draisaitl at his point is probably not a good idea.

  • Morgo_82

    I thino Pouliot brings more dimension to the McDavid line than Eberle. He can shoot, pass, AND sustain a cycle on the boards. Eberle is one of the worst players on the tewn when it comes to working the wall. Teams don’t win if they can’t win battles on the boards.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I actually don’t think you’d be sacrificing too much skill if you put Kassian on that line. There was a reason he was a first rounder.

    His stats show that he could be a 20 goal scorer.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    That’s why I wanna see Kassian tried out on that line. Not as skilled as Pouliot, but he’s much more physical and isn’t afraid to muck it up on the forecheck. McDavid has 7 points in the last 5 games, Eberle has 6. To me, that’s pretty good chemistry for a small sample size.

  • Morgo_82

    I agree that they’ve been productive. I’m just saying that it’s not sustainable without being able to battle more physically when it’s required, as it us often in the NHL. I would rather have Wayne Simmonds type of player, than Eberle. Less skilled, but WAY more competitive.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    No future in Ebs being on this line especially when (someday) we get into the playoffs. I would rather have 2 grinders with the ability to score w/ McDavid. Ebs will never go into those tough areas for the puck and those are the players you need in the playoffs.

    Not convinced Kassian will have a long lifespan here given his past but maybe he will turn things around.

    He is a 1st round bust we should not get too fixated on players like him- IMO.

    We need to start building for the playoffs.

    John

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I believe Kassian can be a poor man’s Wayne Simmonds, or (and don’t roast me too hard on this one) an extremely poor man’s Lucic. He plays that gritty style with a touch of skill, forechecks hard and lays the body, he goes straight to the dirty areas and raises hell. Kassian’s on my very short list of keepers for those reasons.

    I just don’t know anymore. What they’ve been trying hasn’t worked, so changes are obviously needed. I like Hall, Ebs and Nuge as players, but I think they’re just too similar. It might be time for the team to admit that Connor/Drai/Nurse/Klef are the future of this team, and try to parlay the original core into a hard working supporting cast of players for those four.

  • Ah yes. Time to pull out the old line MacBlender.

    There is a solid argument made to let a pair/line of players develop chemistry. Hall/Draisatl/Purcell and Eberle/McDavid/Pouliot have shown they can generate against certain teams. Now when there is a stretch of games where their production has slipped, time to mess with the lines rather than trying to make other adjustments? No. The Oilers have done this in the past to little benefit.

  • PhiDelt

    Did you watch the ASG? People put in a lot of effort to help John Scott score some goals. All he had to do was stand beside the net and make some tap-ins.

    Most of Eberle’s goals with McDavid have been John Scott goals. Pass the puck to McDavid anywhere on the ice and it can lead to a goal. It doesn’t require a high skill level to accomplish.

    You could play Hendricks on his wing,and he would make the tap-in goals and make the easy passes to McDavid that show up as assists because McDavid is McDavid.

    I’d still keep Eberle there though. Let him pad his stats so an Eastern team thinks they’re getting a quality scorer, not Rob Brown 2.0.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    If Kassian can keep himself on the straight and narrow, he’s the exact type of player I’d want for the playoffs.

    In hindsight, he may have been drafted a little too high. The beauty of that is, we didn’t draft him. We get to reap the (possible) benefits, and all it cost us was Scrivens.

    I think Kassian will stick here. He fits Chiarelli’s model, and he’s one of the few guys who brings it every night.

  • S cottV

    We haven’t seen the best of Kassian yet.

    I’m pretty sure he will get a look in top 6, once some space clears by the trade deadline.

    The 3rd line – Kassian / Letestu / Yak was ugly. Both wingers on their off sides and Letestu in the middle. Dysfunctional – to say the least. You have Kassian who is built / has the skill set for a functional 3rd line. Letestu – who has almost zero presence in the middle. And Yak – who is just not a 3rd line player.

    I would even give Yak one more try at top 6. He either makes it or breaks it. If he can’t play top 6 better than other options, you gotta move him out, one way or the other. I doubt he makes the grade in top 6.

    As for Kassian – on a good team, like we hopefully have within two years, I see him as a compliment to a strong 3rd line and worst case scenario an excellent 4th liner. Nothing wrong with that.