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