The Edmonton Oilers without Connor McDavid on the ice

The Oilers rely a lot on Connor McDavid. That much isn’t a secret. McDavid leads the team in ice-time and is fifth in the entire NHL for forwards, along with having a 12-point lead on the next highest scorer on his team.

It’s safe to say McDavid is a massively important part of Edmonton’s team. But do they rely on him too much? Is there an actual good NHL team on the ice when he isn’t? How do they compare to other top teams in the league in terms of reliance on their top centre?

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Edmonton currently sits ninth in the NHL in terms of Corsi For percentage at 51.89%, meaning they generate slightly more shot attempts than they give up, and are one of the better teams in the league at it. It’s still early in the season with only 23 games played, but that is a sizeable improvement from last year’s 48.77 (19th). They have gone from a team that would usually lose the shot-attempt battle to one that is wining it more often than not. They sit tenth in Goals For %, as this simply counts the amount of goals scored for and against a team, another improvement from last year’s 44.33% (29th).

If you eliminate all the time on ice with McDavid it paints a different image of the Oilers. The amount of shot attempts they generate and limit decrease, as well as their goals scored, but do the Oilers really need McDavid any more than any good team does? I’m not sure that’s the case.


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With McDavid on the ice the Oilers are dominant, generating shot attempts and outscoring opponents like the league’s best teams. Edmonton sees a pretty significant drop in their ability to get shot attempts without McDavid on the ice, but their ability to score goals craters to that of Buffalo or Arizona levels.

McDavid is easily the Oiler’s best player, but if you eliminate the time he’s on the ice you get a different image of the Oilers. It’s difficult to consider the results without considering what other teams look like without their best centre, as generally a team will look worse without their first-line centre.

The Oilers want to be a good hockey team, so I’m curious to see how some of the league’s playoff teams look like without their top centre on the ice, and if Edmonton really is over-relying on McDavid.


Pittsburgh seems a similar drop in their shot attempts without Sidney Crosby on the ice, but the difference is they remain able to outscore the opposition without Crosby. This is likely because Evgeni Malkin or Phil Kessel on the ice when Crosby isn’t, so they don’t suffer as much as Edmonton does without their top centre on the bench.


San Jose’s play without Joe Thornton mirrors that of Edmonton’s without McDavid. Their capacity to score goals without Thornton is much worse, but it’s still less severe of a drop than Edmonton. San Jose still edges ahead in shot attempts without Thornton, whereas Edmonton is just close to breaking even without McDavid. San Jose remains a very good team despite this drop off, which might be encouraging for Edmonton.


Kopitar plays 21-minutes a game like McDavid, and Los Angeles does see a decline in both their shots and goals without Kopitar. There is a fairly significant drop in shot attempts, but Los Angeles remains well ahead in terms of goals compared to the drastic difference Edmonton endures.

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Chicago sees little difference in terms of shots with or without Toews, but a hefty increase in goals. Chicago’s scoring depth of Artemi Panarin, Artem Ansimiov, and Patrick Kane likely allows them to still be a strong scoring team without Toews out there. Edmonton’s secondary offense of Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins haven’t been as consistent.


Stastny isn’t likely to be compared to McDavid too often but he is St. Louis’ leading centre with over 20 minutes of ice-time. The Blues fair pretty well with and without Stastny on the ice. Their goals for and against aren’t as equal and they have a hard time without Stastny out there, similar to Edmonton and McDavid.

The Oilers need McDavid a lot, but even some of the top playoff teams see some sort of drop in shots and goals without their best centre on the ice as their other lines generally aren’t as productive. Edmonton’s drop in shot attempts is similar to some of the better teams in the NHL, and teams like San Jose and St. Louis share similar problems outscoring the opposition when their top centre isn’t on the ice, and rely on their top-lines to carry the load.

The drop off usually isn’t as significant as Edmonton’s in terms of goals scored, but it shows just how good Connor McDavid is at generating goals and shots, but also that Edmonton needs to figure out how to add more scoring balance to its lineup if they want to continually improve.

Some of this lack of goal support without McDavid might be attributed to players like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shooting significantly below their career averages, even though both are setting career highs in terms of generating shots on goals. If the goals start to come for some of Edmonton’s secondary players, their numbers without McDavid could start to look more favourable and not like they’re relying on McDavid to provide all the offence.

Stats from

  • tkfisher


    Taylor Hall was/is one of the top 5×5 scorers in the entire league and has been for a few years now. Hall did this against top pairing defensemen. I can only imagine what it would have been like to shovel McDavid out there to dominate and follow it up with Hall playing second pairing guys. That could have been special to watch a team with two guys that can drive the play in the right direction.

    DON’T tell me trading Hall was the only way to get a decent Dmem. Larsson is a decent Dmen, but he is far from dominate. This team would have been far better with Hall and acquiring another defense option if it was a deal breaker. Heck, sign Lucic and keep Hall if you were that hard up for the big man and trade two other pieces to make salary work. But trading Hall was the one thing that never should have happened. Just awful.

    • Coach My PP

      Trading Hall was necessary. Hall made the team and the players around him worse. He didn’t get his points against top pairing defensemen.

      Why do you have to imagine what it would have been with McDavid and Hall? Why do you remember last year? If you do remember, was it special?

      Only options to trade for a defense man around the league was either Hall or Eberle. I don’t see other teams lining up to give their defense for either one of the two. If a team had to, which Jersey did, they take Hall over Eberle.

      The media loves to call Sekera the ShinPad Assassin. Hall was a Crest Assassin. He was a poor sport, gone when the going got tough, and had an attitude of a ten year old.

      If Hall is one of the top scorers in the league, where was he on Team Canada? What do you see that they don’t?

      • tkfisher

        Just because you’re not selected to be on TEAM CANADA doesn’t mean you’re not one of the top OFFENSIVE players in the league. Hall might be lacking in other parts of his game, (leadership, sportsmanship, sticking up for teammates, defense, etc. – all of which are not his strongest points, I agree) but it doesn’t change his offensive, play driving abilities – which are among the best in the league at his position.

        Your Team Canada argument is just flat out silly. By your logic Rob Zamuner was superior to MARK FREAKING MESSIER due to the selection process for TEAM CANADA 98′. Idiotic argument. Flat out dumb.

        If you say that Hall played easy minutes against second rate Dmen throughout his career, you’re also an idiot and flat out wrong. Condensing down years worth of stats to a few dozen games last year where Hall and a rookie McDavid were both in the line up is myopic and foolish. Just because the Oilers didn’t light up the league last year, doesn’t mean that combo on your 1st, and 2nd line wouldn’t be amazing this year.

        The Oilers defense last year was atrocious, once again, and that is why they lost. NOT TAYLOR HALL. And the solution to bad defense could have come in other ways than trading Hall (an extremely good/elite play in his own right) away for a good defense (not elite) player. That is simply bad asset management. Losing a trade that badly is never alright. And if Hall was required for Larsson, take another route to fix the back end.

        You don’t rip the engine out of a plane because you’re too heavy to fly. You leave the excess luggage at the airport. Hall was an engine.

        Larsson value isn’t worth Hall. Period.

  • LordVallko

    Definition of insanity, putting Connor, Jordan and Milan together and expecting a different result. This is a poorly coached team. Geez

    Trade eberle, nuge and klefbum with our first for ekblad and fire Todd is what I say. They r embarrassing.

    Team North America would have probably won the World Cup without Todd, lol

    • IRONman

      Yes. Get stud D.

      But Hall trade was Ridiculous. Nothing against Lars

      But Hall drove the play.

      97 drives this whole team.

      The GM has a duty to build around 97.

      Mark my words 97 will hoist the Cup, just hope it is with the Oilers

  • Natejax97

    You watch a game like last night and it makes you miss Hall.

    Overall, I like Larrson a lot.

    I read somewhere that Lucic takes a bit to get up and running and he is more of a second half player. He has 17 pts in 24 games, so I would argue he is where Hall would be anyways. We need Lucic to start doing what he is good at, he looks slow, sluggish most of the time and usually is left to try to stick check because he can’t close quickly enough. If he loses a step, we are in for a long contract.

  • TurkeyLips

    Did you see how Kadri finessed that non-call into a huge momentum shift for the Leafs? Say what you want about him but he is a prototypical agitator, kinda serves the Oilers right for all the comments calling for him to get hurt right here on this board. See the same crap on Gaudreau all the time – those are classless fans.

    But I digress, the Oilers are truly a one man team at the moment – got down voted to oblivion saying this at the start of the season. Seeing Draisaitl without Taylor Hall puts a lot of peace in the hearts of opposing fans, even with McDavid on the team.

    Trading an offensive powerhouse for a defensive defenseman may be one of the biggest blunders Oiler history. Setting the record for most consecutive years out the playoffs. As much as I dislike the Oilers that’s embarrassing for Alberta as a whole.

  • Spydyr

    Imagine where the Oilers would be right now without 97. Yep last place or close to it yet again. In the Katz era the thing the Oilers are best at is getting a high pick and winning the luck of the draw.

      • Sir Dudeinstein

        You are completely right. But we both know if they do, “it isnt just the stat game for Eberle, look what he does well when the puck is on his stick Prior to shooting or passing or skating or…anything…and look at his numbers from the junior days”
        they can even throw something that sounds good “how many players have this many shot attempts and miss the net, its bound to happen the he will score”

  • Natejax97

    Grit, drive and determination…got charts for those…that’s where we would see an even bigger difference.

    We are supposed to be a physical, imposing team. We are weak and fragile, and we suck again. we would be 28th in the league without that 5 game winning streak.

    When are these players finally going to do what it takes to win in this league? When are we finally going to have a full team we are proud of, not just a couple of players.

    Put Slepy and Pitlick back in, I would rather watch them play than these other high skilled useless losers. Slepy and Pitlick are high energy fun to watch.

    I can’t remember the last time Lucic had a body check, Eberle hit the net, or the power play did anything…anything at all. What a train wreck.

    Go back to the lines put together for the Dallas, Chicago and Colorado games. Please.

  • Gravis82

    Think of the numbers for ‘without mcdavid’ with hall on the 2nd line, who has always been a driver.

    If Laarson was doing what they thought he would, he would be attenuating the difference between + McDavid/ – McDavid

    Christian, is Laarson more likely to play with McDavid? Is that contributing to the divide?

  • camdog

    “Some of this lack of goal support without McDavid might be attributed to players like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shooting significantly below their career averages, even though both are setting career highs in terms of generating shots on goals.”

    In 3-4 years people will have a faint memory of what it means to win the “Corsi”.

  • Petrolero

    If I did my math right the average drop in corsi for those teams is 4% and the average drop on goals is 3.75%. The Oilers corsi drops 5.2% and their goals drop 18.5%.

    In other words the Oilers attempt about 23% less shots than the average of those teams but thwir goal differential is almost 500% less. That’s not a typo.

    Since the goalie doesn’t change with macdivd on or off the ice I will slap anyone who brings up pdo as an excuse.

    This is step on the ledge stuff right here, specially when considering pitlick who is one of the better even strength scores on rhe team this season has sat for 3 straight fames other reason than to give others a chance to earn their higher salaries.

    To me the most reasonable explanation is the quality of chances for and against. The defense has been a tire fire and when on the attack the Oilers don’t generate many second or third chances. I would like to see this same exercise but with quality of chances or scoring chances instead of corsi.

  • Sir Dudeinstein

    The Problem with the Oilers is right now, we are one line/Player. McDavid, doesnt matter who you put with him he will generate points.
    He needs support and thats where the Oilers are failing. For the past years…we failed to get anything going from the bottom 6 players. During our winning streak we been getting points from the third line, fourth line. The second line on the Oilers are acting like shut down because everyone on that line is scared to make a mistake. Hopkins coughs up the puck everyone will be on him, Eberle cant hit the net, pouliot is just lost…Maroon is trying to keep everything together.

    We need to relook at all of the lines and look what will benefit the team not a player. Pouliot isnt bad just makes bad decisions and yes he should sit, Pitlick can play 2nd line minutes if need to be but I do see the Eberle Hopkins duo sticking and Maroon or Pitlick will be okay as a wing. If we have to move Hopkins and Eberle to the third line oh well, if Drai/Pitlick/Cugglia/Maroon can prove they can keep up and keep the 2nd line a scoring Threat then I am all for that.

    The team defense isnt a problem, they have been improving but they also show their inexperience (Nurse/Benning…Klefbom/Larsson) but they are not the problem.

    Yes Talbot is being overplayed and will have a couple bad games…he is not Carey Price

  • JBear

    TKFisher I have to agree and disagree with you. The D has improved substantially (maybe Larsson moving everyone down the depth chart helps) but Hall (and Draisaitl) did go MIA last season when McDavid did come back. I have no idea why (only reasonable theory I have is his ice time dropped which ruined his mojo and momentum during the game). But having Hall here with his speed and moderate size changes things. Maroon is close, but nothing like Hall and Pouliot and Lucic just don’t have the same play-drive that Hall brought.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    After that loss to Toronto, I’m panicking. It should’ve been a statement game, and instead they forgot how to play defense for 40 minutes.

    McDavid and Talbot have been amazing. Everyone else, not so much.

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      The thing that emerging teams, in every sport, have to learn is how to do is to play against weaker teams. It’s not great that we lost to Toronto or Arizona x2 but it does mean that they are on the cusp and will learn.

      I don’t have stats to show this, I just have personal experience. When I’ve been on poor teams we would get slaughtered by the best teams. When I was on a good team we could beat or compete against any team. When I was on a team with lots of talent but newly formed we would beat top teams and lose to bottom feeders. We always improved as the season went on.

      It’s a skill to stay focused and play the system when you are up against teams that are chaotic and choppy but play with full effort. Everyone wants to jump on the other teams mistakes but this creates your own mistakes too.

      Don’t panic. Just realize this is part of the growth of good teams (ie. Chicago, Pittsburg)

      • Total Points

        Most fans think the re-built started 10 years ago with the drafting of Gagner Gog, Neilson and then the Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Yak era but in reality the rebuilt started with the drafting of McDavid.

        The new core is McDavid, Klef, Nurse, Larsen, Drai Talbot and maybe RNH.

        So it will take a while until they are all up to speed.

        So sit back and enjoy McDavid while the rest are getting more experience and Chai builds a team.

        • Hemmercules

          I consider this the second Rebuild. Drafting Hall was rebuild 1, Mact tried some retooling and failed hard. Chia got Conner as a base and rebuild 2 is still under way. The team is better so far. Expecting them to go from 28th to cup contender is a bit much. I still think they will be in the hunt in March but it will be a tight race to make the show.

      • Hemmercules

        I have a feeling your comment will get trashed quite a bit but I agree. The Oilers were pegged to either miss or barely make the playoffs and I think thats what we have seen from them so far. There will be ups and downs like this all season. The key to keeping sane is not to get too high on the ups and too low on the lows. Things will even out a bit. Bunch of new guys on the team again. Some scoring forwards shooting percentages are way low and should hopefully improve in the coming weeks. I realize its been a long time coming to watch some consistent playoff worthy hockey but the Oilers are going to be all over the place this year.

        Those last 3 loses sucked pretty bad purely on who the teams were. I saw lots of bad puck luck in those games too. That pinball goal last night landed right on the leafs stick and Russels own goal was the decider a couple games ago. Not to mention Conner winning that game and it getting called back.

        There is no immediate trade that will make the team better. Their top 8 forwards that aren’t named Connor need to start producing more is the bottom line. If I’m Mclellan I got back to the exact roster and lines that won 3 in a row last week.

      • Sir Dudeinstein

        was this not said last year? the year before that? well the last 10 years, Oilers able to compete verse good teams, but cant keep that pace against bottom teams? Its like Oilers are TRYING to match the pace of the opposition and fail to drive the play as a team. By that I mean, McDavid drives the play but who else on the oilers keeps a up-pace tempo that makes opposition unable to set up or unable to match.

        • Cheap Shot Charlie

          If you look at the standings from the last 10 years you’ll notice that we aren’t in the bottom 1/3 of the league. No doubt we NEED McDavid and Talbot to be as good as they’ve been. But point is that when teams make the move from potential to good they usually stumble against the worst teams more often than the best teams.

          But you’re right though, not everyone pulled their weight last night. and It’ll happen again.

    • T.J.F.M.

      Talbot was horrible last night. But then again, other than McDavid, everyone had an off night.

      Talbot has bailed the team out many times this year, and it was one game where his team should have bailed him out. But, unfortunately, consistency is the biggest issue for the Oilers.

      If the game is evolving to a faster, younger mans game, then why the heck do we have Letestu and Hendricks (and Pouliot) in place of Pitlick and Slepyshev??

      The coaching this year really has been questionable. I really like MacL, but his decisions with line ups and matchups has not made sense.

      PP is the worst ive seen, ever, on the Oilers. And that says something. Just by having McDavid, we should be at least top 10. This is inexcusable. But, again, the lineups that he creates are very questionable. Eberle has not worked on the first unit, so swap him and Pujuls. I thought we brought in Lucic, Maroon, and company to stand in front of the net and create traffic, but where did that plan go? When they have done that, its worked. But they resort back to lazy passes and sticking to the perimeter. This must be on Woodcroft. Inexcusable.

      These are not difficult changes to make, and i believe that most games are winnable with a decent PP and obvious matchups/lineups. Veteran status and pay scale should have no bearing on who starts, who plans, and who stays.

      Hendricks and Pouliot are not working. So don’t play them.

      Pitlick and Slepy have shown speed, willingness to engage, confidence and attitude. So why the hell are we sitting them???

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I find the balance of scoring in Pittsburg and Chicago to be something to emulate as they have all four lines going. The more you depend in one line for all the goals the more risk if they get injured for the team to tank in the standings. We have indeed a far ways to go I expect some lineup changes before next game.

  • Oil Can

    It would be interesting to see how many non power play goals have come from each of the second, third and fourth lines and compare that to other teams, and then we could see which lines are under performing the most. By my eye the fourth line is doing it’s job a lot better than the second and third lines. The second and third lines are the problem with this team, and it would be nice if the bloggers would hold them accountable in the blogs.