Fix That Power Play

I don’t want to sound too alarmist, but everybody involved with the Oilers power play should be exiled to Romania where they will live in relative obscurity until eventually history has forgotten them. I’m not naming names – Jay Woodcroft – but the person in charge of this debacle needs to figure this thing out fast.

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The Oilers are currently 4/29 on the power play this season. That’s a 13.8% efficiency, which ranks them 20th in the NHL. Unfortunately, since the Oilers beat the Flames down in two straight games where Calgary did not look ready to compete, the power play has gone 1/19 for 5.3%. It goes without saying, but I will anyway, that this is just not good enough.

My problem with Woodcroft’s brutal power play is that I can’t tell for the life of me if there’s a plan at all. I mean, it’s basically McJesus Take The Wheel out there. They can’t break out of their own zone, they set up in position before gaining possession, and the threat from the point is not going to be respected until someone from this defensive top six steps up.

These struggles are going to cost the Oilers games and are an invitation to other clubs to take liberties on their star players. If you aren’t making teams pay when you have the man-advantage then it’s pretty difficult to win. It’s a 3-2 league and getting three 5v5 goals per game is a lot to expect on a nightly basis.

What we saw against the Leafs, and have seen many times this season already, is that referees will not call every infraction against Connor McDavid. He won’t draw five penalties a game even though the rulebook called to NHL standards probably dictate that he should. His speed is so unprecedented that defenders just have to hold on. Kadri was draped all over McDavid for 12 seconds in OT and there’s probably a holding call there, but refs aren’t going to call it.

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If the Oilers aren’t going to punish teams by scoring on the power plays when the refs DO call those penalties, then it just empowers the opposition to keep obstructing McDavid. It’s as simple as that. There is no number of Milan Lucic’s you can add to the team that will deter clubs from crossing the line with McDavid more than a lethal power play.

What’s most frustrating is that the Oilers with McDavid, Eberle, Lucic, Nugent-Hopkins, and Draisaitl should have more than enough ability up front to run a highly successful power play. Of course, they still lack that player on the blueline who can keep penalty killers honest. Or, at least, the players they’ve tried haven’t been able to get that job done.

The only two defenders with significant time on the PP this season have been Klefbom and Sekera. They’ve averaged more than two minutes per game on the man-advantage, while nobody else has more than 19 seconds per game. Given how brutal the Oiler attack has been on the PP, this is one area where some experimentation might pay dividends.

The first player I would be interested in seeing on the PP who hasn’t spent much time there is Darnell Nurse. So far he’s averaging just five seconds per game on the power play. That’s essentially what it looks like to be thrown over the boards expecting time to run out right away. He’s the highest scoring Oiler defender after one month, and the only one to have actually scored a goal.

One of the things I’ve liked most about Nurse early on has been his ability to skate the puck out of his own zone and move the puck up to the forwards. WheatNOil over at The OilersRig is tracking things like zone exits, zone defense, and puck retrievals. Nurse has been quite good at getting the puck out of his zone with his feet and turning that into controlled zone entries for the Oilers. It’s a skillset that the Oiler power play could use. Darnell Nurse also happens to lead the (regular) Oiler blueline in Corsi For percentage with 50.9% this season. If there’s a knock on those numbers it seems as though McDavid is driving them a lot (64.5% with him, 46.0% without him), but that’s not really a major concern on the power play. Honestly, if there’s evidence that he and McDavid perform well together then I’ll take it as a positive for the purpose of putting together a five man PP unit.

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Ultimately, what they’ve been trying just hasn’t been working. This club needs to get better on the power play. The coaching staff has a significant impact on special teams. Woodcroft and McLellan need to get this ship turned around. Put the lines in the MacBlender, get new faces on the point. Just do something.

  • Oilcounty88

    Anybody who thinks Woodcroft is going anywhere is delusional. Mclellan has said multiple times that he’s his guy. Whether Mclellen decides to step in and be more involved in how the powerplay is run is yet to be determined. Watch Montreals powerplay and you get a very good idea why they’re successful. Weber has the type of shot that a) is very hard to defend, and b) creates space for everyother guy on the unit. The oilers are missing a guy who has a legitamite shot from the point. Nurse would have the closest thing to that on the Oilers. He should be getting a look in that spot. People remember Lindstrom for his sneaky wrister that he could score from the point on but they forget Kronwall was beside him with a real hard slap shot. One dimensional is the Oilers main PP problem this season.

  • Toe-Dragger

    The setup on the power play makes no sense at all. We should be running our PP off the right wing wall because our 2 best playmakers are left handed shots (McD and Nuge). Way too often we set up on the other side but, while sometimes the battles take you there, we set up over there on purpose. If you are setup on the left hand wall as a left hand shot, defenders can pay the passing lanes so much easier as you are barely a threat to shoot.

    Next, I know Larsson isn’t though of as an offensively skilled guy, but I would have him on PP#1 because he is a right handed shot. All he needs to do is not cough it up and fire a low clapper when he has a lane. It’s not rocket science. Defenders will crash on McDavid and he can lay a pass back to a right handed D so much easier for a one timer than an awkward lefty to lefty pass where it’s almost impossible. I would actually put Puljujarvi on that PP as well and diamond him out to the other side where he is more of a shooter if the second high forward attacks Larsson. Or where McDavid can go cross seam.

    The other thing you can do if you move Eberle to PP#2 is run your power play off the left side wall through him. Even though Nuge is slightly better, Eberle has good hands and good patience and all of our other best Dman options for shooting are left handed. This gives the better angle to lay it back there. We can play more of a diamond on this PP as well but Nuge is our best player at all the little things and can get in for tips and other crafty plays in the middle. We are giving ourselves bad angles where we aren’t in a position to do damage with the shot and it makes us so much easier to defend than we should be with the talent at our disposal.

  • @Hallsy4

    Gotta get Sekera off the PP. He makes way too many poor decisions with the puck at the point. Outside shots with no traffic for an easy easy save, or shinpads. Wastes valuable time as he makes a poor decision, they ice the puck, and the Oil spend 30 seconds retrieving the puck and getting set up again. Get him off there, he’s a good D man but that’s not his game. Buries his head everytime.

  • paulvechkin

    I’d make Puljujarvi the trigger man on the unit with McDavid. If you’re determined to run it through McDavid, which makes sense, then you need the shot to be from a RHS. Eberle does not have an NHL quality one timer, he has great hands and a solid wrist shot but that does work as the focal point of a power play.


    On unit 2 when Davidson gets back run it off the opposite side to set of Davidson’s onetimer. He’s a left shot but he can blast it. Im not opposed to the idea of Nurse be in that spot until Davidson returns.


  • Derian Hatcher

    My two cents…PP is too static. Too little movement leads to predictability. Look a 3 video clips of the the Oilers PP and it’s pretty easy to defend. Look at the player movement of the Pens in last years playoffs. Lots of puck movement AND player movement.

  • Valar Morghulis

    Wow, slagging and insulting an entire province because you don’t like an NHL player who was born there…..

    You’d think we haven’t won a game this year, but I guess there is no age restriction on the internet.

  • Leaking5w-30

    I agree that we need to try nurse on the pp. he is still young enough to be groomed for the role. And while he needs seasoning… in terms of raw tools he’s our d’s best skater and stick handler. He is also near the top for shooting passing and jumping in on the rush. Let’s treat him like a first round pick and develop him for a role that needs to be filled !

  • 916oiler

    Zone entry is a huge problem for us – how often do we get stuck in the neutral zone and never get the puck in to the zone cleanly!?

    I’d say give Russel a try on the PP – he has a history of putting up points back there!

  • Arod

    put gryba in front of the net beside Maroon. Then have them link arms and become so unmovable that it takes all 4 guys from the other squad to do it. While everyone on the ice is pushing and pulling maroon and gryba, shoot into bottom corner.
    celebrate briefly and repeat