Oilers 2015-16 in Review: The Overview

McLellan and Chiarelli

With the 2015-16 season now in the books, it’s possible to assess the season-over-season improvement in the team under the watch of new general manager Peter Chiarelli and new head coach Todd McLellan thanks to coaching and personnel shifts.

This is going to be a multi-part series, but it starts with the four most important areas of team performance and shines a light on what improved, what regressed and what didn’t change at all year-over-year.

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5-on-5 Offence


Season Shots For SH% Goals
2014-15 1846 7.10 131
2015-16 1855 7.17 133
Difference 9 0.07 2

This is as close to “no change” as it is realistically possible for an NHL team to achieve.

Despite the presence of Connor McDavid for much of the year, Leon Draisaitl for much of the year, supposed improvements in driving to the net and a widespread belief that previous coaches were “gaming” Corsi by shooting from everywhere, Edmonton held steady at five-on-five.

The Oilers picked up one additional goal thanks to getting an extra nine shots over 82 games, and picked up one additional goal thanks to the tiniest possible uptick in save percentage.

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Bottom Line: Two-goal improvement.

5-on-5 Defence


Season Shots Against SV% Goals Against
2014-15 2008 0.902 197
2015-16 1971 0.915 167
Difference -37 0.013 -30

The Oilers real strides were made on the back end.

The question now is whether the team improved thanks to a revamped defensive system or whether it improved because it finally managed to land a goalie. There’s room for interpretation here and we’ll get to that later in the series; my personal belief is that the best thing that anyone in the new administration has done in their first year on the job was the addition of Cam Talbot in net. Whatever improvements Edmonton made defensively, in my view, were small by comparison to the impact of a real goalie. 

Edmonton improved by four goals thanks to a decrease in shots against; a 37-shot gain looks small over an 82-game season but it’s almost a half-shot per night and that isn’t nothing. The remaining 26 goal-improvement comes thanks to increased save percentage, due either to dramatically reducing opposition shot quality or thanks to having an NHL goalie in net or to some combination of the two.

Bottom Line: 30-goal improvement.

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Power Play Offence

Todd McLellan9

Season Minutes Shots For SH% Goals
2014-15 383.6 329 12.16 40
2015-16 407.4 343 12.24 42
Difference 23.8 14 0.08 2

Again, we’re firmly in “no change” country.

McLellan and his staff (notably assistant coach Jay Woodcroft) have a strong power play reputation thanks to their time in San Jose, and while they improved on the early-season numbers from last year they proved unable to match the man advantage improvements ushered in under Todd Nelson in the back half of 2014-15.

The Oilers improved by two goals thanks to playing ore minutes on the power play. There was no significant shift thanks to either shot volume or shooting percentage.

Bottom Line: Two-goal improvement.

Penalty Kill Defence


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Season Minutes Shots Against SV% Goals Against
2014-15 368.0 318 0.843 50
2015-16 436.0 397 0.879 48
Difference 68.0 79 0.036 -2

Again, we’re basically in “no change” territory, but that’s misleading, because while the overall line stayed about the same, the individual components shifted dramatically.

Under former head coach Dallas Eakins, Edmonton made significant strides both in a) avoiding penalties and b) reducing shots against on the penalty kill. Those strengths weakened following his dismissal early in 2014-15, and the downward trend has continued in the new season.

Edmonton actually got worse by about eight goals due to playing an extra hour on the penalty kill, and decreased by a further two goals thanks to allowing more shots against. Fortunately for the Oilers, goaltending improved in a major way, saving the team an additional 12 goals and offsetting declines in all other areas.

Bottom Line: Two-goal improvement.



Offensively, Edmonton was basically stagnant, improving by the tiniest amount. Despite injuries, improvements in personnel season over season (most notably the arrival of Connor McDavid and the emergence of Leon Draisaitl) make this status quo result highly disappointing. We’ll get into player results a little later in this series, but right now I think it’s fair to say that the perceived boost due to the new coaching staff never came to pass.

Defensively, the Oilers improved mightily, both on the penalty kill and at even-strength. I tend to think this is mostly (though not entirely) attributable to the presence of Talbot, given that neither of Edmonton’s other goalies was particularly good this season; Anders Nilsson’s performance came halfway between Ben Scrivens/Viktor Fasth and Richard Bachman’s late-season work, while Laurent Brossoit’s numbers were inferior to any of those players.

There is a lot of work to be done. Goaltending seems to have been mostly nailed down, but Edmonton remains a poor puck-possession team and a team that struggles to execute on the opportunities it gets both at even-strength and on the power play.

Breakdowns courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com. 


  • S cottV

    I am encouraged from the PC media availability, that he is going to improve the d corps and continue to go bigger and or harder to play against.

    He wouldn’t come out and say it, but – not to difficult to read between the lines, that one or two of Eberle, Hall and Nuge will need to be traded to get the d corps addressed. He said “I could trade the #1 pick, like he wasn’t going to trade the #1 pick.

    Also – pretty clear that PC was not happy with Yak and his agent, over what transpired at the trade dead line. Yak is as good as gone and I hope it happens sooner than later, so we can all put this behind us. Yak is about the furthest thing away from what PC wants and I couldn’t agree more.

    Not sure the PC is gonna like what Hall said to conclude the season. “Difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel?” I don’t know. The guy is either real dumb or is real clever about trying to get his name on the Yak outta here list.

    • oilerjed

      I had to listen to his interview to hear this. To be fair he was answering the question as to how he feels right now at the end of the season.
      His answer was that “it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, right now”
      I didnt read anything nefarious in his comment.

  • Ed in Edmonton 1

    When I listen to PC he provides logical and understandable answers. Whenever I heard MacT as GM he always seemed to be trying to sell a bill of goods. Everything from `bold moves`to `Norris trophy potential` to his defence of Eakins due to `constant messaging`.

  • Petrolero

    I think a big part of the reason the offense is stagnant is the lack of point production from the back end. Articles written about it have said the Oilers are far away from even the average in that department.

  • Hawk E. Pashyn

    Nail Yakupov conversation: Yak is going to be a star in the NHL. I didn’t say defensive gem, though he is FINALLY beginning to get “it”; I mean he’s going to be an offensive star. The real question is where.