The last game against the Leafs was absolutely magical. For
fans of the Oilers and the game in general, it was special to watch something
that happens so infrequently occur right in front of our eyes. Sure, McDavid
had his first ever five point night. That wasn’t it. Sure, Eberle had his first
ever career hat-trick. That wasn’t it either. No, it was incredible watching
Korpikoski and Hendricks finish the game without ever being on the ice for a
single shot attempt against the Leafs at even-strength.
For all the unbelievable things the McDavid line was doing
on the ice, the duo of Hendricks and Korpikoski were responding in kind with a
performance almost equal in its sheer awfulness. And the problem is that brutal performances are all too common for Lauri Korpikoski. He is by many
measures one of the worst players in NHL.
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, Lauri Korpikoski was
a much more valuable player than he was today. In 2010-2011 in had a 19 goal,
40 point season. He followed that up with a 17 goal, 37 point season the very
next year. For a player like Korp, who also isn’t afraid to lay the body and can
be used on the PK, that makes for a positive mix of scoring and physicality. At
least, that was the outward appearance.
When you look just a little bit deeper into the most productive
era of Korpikoski’s career you start to see it for the smoke and mirrors that
it really was.
During his career 2010-2011 season he was sporting an
all-situations shooting percentage of 18.2% that was masking his otherwise
uninspiring performance. His 5v5 shooting percentage was tops on the Coyotes by
a mile at 16.25%, which covered up for the fact that he had the second
lowest shots per 60 minutes among Arizona’s forwards. He was (and this is true)
only shooting the puck 0.04/60 minutes more than the Belanger Triangle himself.
That soaring shooting percentage drove his PDO up to a team
high 103.8 on the season. He couldn’t have looked better if his life depended
on it. And that’s good for him because the truth was that he was a cinder block
tied to the ankles of his teammates. And that’s bad for the Oilers because it doesn’t
look like that’s ever changed.
Over the course of his career in Arizona he played six seasons. In five of those seasons he had the lowest or second lowest Corsi
For percentage Relative to his Teammates on his club. That is to say that when
he was on the ice his teammates were likely to have a shot attempt share almost
5% lower than they would without him. It’s not enough that Korpikoski had the
lowest raw CF% on the Yotes over that time, even players like Oliver
Ekman-Larsson couldn’t keep positive possession with LK on the ice at the same
Faint offensive ability or not, if you are constantly
playing in your own zone it puts a lot of strain on the defense and
goaltending. For a team like the Oilers, adding a player like that to the fold
was a mistake. It will go down as one of Chiarelli’s poorest moves to date.
That 0 CF% game against the Leafs was especially poor by
Korpikoski, but he is otherwise having a very Korpikoski-like season again. He
is as bad as advertised and delivering exactly as promised.
Lauri Korpikoski has a 41.1% Corsi For percentage this
season with the Oilers. It is by far the worst on the team. The shot attempt
ratio is one thing, but the goals for and against are another. He also has one
of the worst Goals For percentage on the team at 37%. In raw CF% he is among the
worst NHL forwards given at least 400 minutes of 5v5 ice-time. And, as per his
usual, his teammates do significantly better without him than with him. Relative
to his teammates he is the 4th worst forward in the NHL, ranked 310
of 313 players.
Take, for example, his partner in crime against the Leafs –
Matt Hendricks. With Hendricks the two of them have 50% Goals For and 42.8%
Corsi For. Without Hendricks, Korpikoski 26.7% Goals For and 39.4% Corsi For.
Without Korpikoski, Hendricks has 55.6% Goals For and 48.6% Corsi For. This
story gets repeated almost all the way down the list for Korpikoski compared to
his Oiler linemates. The effect he has on the Oiler defense is chilling. The
numbers for Eric Gryba suggest the bearded rearguard is a very competent defender so long
as he isn’t forced to share the ice with Korpikoski.
Trading Boyd Gordon with 1 year left on his deal for
Korpikoski with two left on his is a move that has made the Oilers worse in a
very real way. He very negatively affects the direction the puck is moving and has for every team he’s ever been a part of. The positive aspects of his play – the
physicality, the ability to chip in offensively a little – are not enough to
outweigh the damage he does.
The game against the Leafs was bad, but as the Oilers start to figure out how to get the non-McDavid lines going they should be circling Korpikoski’s name. The club really needs to examine what he brings to the table. The Oilers are getting clobbered with him on the ice and it looks a lot like fixing his line might be as simple as taking him off of it.