Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Closing the Gap

The lines on display this morning at Day One training camp have to be encouraging for the Edmonton Oilers and their fans. The idea of ‘strength down the middle’ takes on epic proportions at the center position with a depth chart boasting Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at pivot.

The important numbers to keep in mind this season (aside from wins and losses, goals for and against) will be the gap between “McDavid ON ICE” and “McDavid OFF ICE”. Here are the totals from last season:

  • Connor McDavid 5×5 goals for-against ON ICE: 77-47 (62.1 percent)
  • Connor McDavid 5×5 goals for-against OFF ICE: 89-93 (48.9 percent)
  • Oilers total 5×5 GF-GA: 166-140 (54.2 percent)
  • Source

You may say “so what they posted over 100 points and if the refs called the game right this team could have been in the final four or better” and I hear you. That said, it’s important to improve every year, and along with the penalty kill this Connor McDavid OFF-ICE thingy is pretty damned important.


Let’s look at this another way. Corsi is a proxy for possession, adored the world over by all. I keep waiting for someone to criticize Corsi, but nary a word. I like Corsi because it confirms things (or not) with a larger sample size. The kids with the big calculators tell me that’s going to give you a better view.

  • Connor McDavid 5×5 Corsi for-against ON ICE: 1,332-1178 (53.07 percent)
  • Connor McDavid 5×5 goals for-against OFF ICE: 2,331-2,487 (48.38 percent)
  • Oilers total 5×5 Corsi for-against ON ICE: 3,663-3,665 (49.986 percent)
  • Source

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Oilers without McDavid scored at expected levels. When he was on the ice, 97 exceeded expectations because of course he did.


Today’s lines tell us the Edmonton Oilers are making a smart bet, and if it pays off we could be looking at two or more scoring lines. The centers are set, the wingers are at training camp getting the chance of a lifetime and we wait for the results. Today’s lines could be a harbinger of great things to come.

  • Homer

    This team improves across the board again this year! So many young ones stepping up and while some peeps might be worried about our man Lucic I’m certain its totally unfounded. The man is as consistent as the tides and a complete professional who lives the game. Glad to see him getting credit on here for a change

    • OriginalPouzar

      Not to nitpick but, although Caggulia “can play center”, he is not very good at it. He was not a center in college and was poor in his NHL stint. It was a really weird experiment and it failed.

  • Oilerz4life

    Would have been nice to see them add a little more depth on the back end. They are one injured defenseman away from Keegan Lowe or Auvitu being the full time #6 guy. I know it’s the time of year for eternal optimism but it would be nice to see the lineup a little more solid. Still not sold on Strome as well and the right side.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Oh, the defensive depth is an issue. NHL teams use 11-15 d-men in a season generally. Even in such a healthy season as last year, the Oilers used 12. We are already in danger of a Bear or a Jones getting an NHL cup of coffee way too early because of injury issues and not because they are ready.

      One more veteran NHL d-man to battle Gryba and Auvitu and Stanton for 6D/7D would be great – further cover for the youngsters that simply should not be anywhere near the NHL this year.

      • Oil4Brains

        We already have a veteran NHL d-man to battle Gryba, his name is Mark Fayne. It’s too bad he’s not NHL caliber and gets paid way too much. I don’t understand why Chia didn’t buy him out this past summer instead of Pouliot.

      • Oilerz4life

        That’s what I mean and we have seen the Oilers make that mistake before, many times. Everyone is really optimistic this time of year. All the teams are positive this is the year and the media is only to happy to sell that story.

        Look at a team like Washington, which has gone mad over Ovi, like we do over McDavid and had a way better team plus reason to believe in a championship, only to come up dry. That is why players will say flat out in interviews that they have achieved nothing yet and have a long way to go. Even Chiarelli says there is no guarantee and doesn’t think the Oilers are quite there yet as a team.

        I’m an Oilers fan too, but there are other teams that have made improvements. Just being realistic. Don’t want to see management set the team up for failure and then blame the players. Just look at Shultz. Go ahead and trash away.

        • madjam

          Barring a major upset/ regression the Oilers should be stronger this year . Odds makers everywhere tab team at NBR.2 to win the cup this year , and they are generally pretty close in their predictions . Everyone one of them has Oilers to win division . Calgary , on other hand , many have as a bubble team or out of playoff picture @ 33-1 . They all rank Oilers above Anaheim . Edmonton should definitely be a contender . Calgary has one of the worst , if not the worst goalie tandem in the Pacific and they will have a tough time just trying to make playoffs .

    • OriginalPouzar

      While this is true, the team was below 50% goal share without McDavid and that’s not good enough.

      An important factor to remember though is that, for about half the season, without McDavid also meant without Drai as they played together. If Drai is playing 2C, presumably he should help the “without McDavid” goal percentage.

      • OriginalPouzar

        With that said, its also interesting to note that Drai’s goal differential was below 50% without McDavid and McDavid’s was actually a bit higher without Drai.

        That is one example of why these numbers can only be given so much credence – did Drai actually drag down Connor? Can’t imagine that’s actually true.

        These types of numbers don’t factor in other linemates, etc.

  • Roberto

    “I keep waiting for someone to criticize Corsi, but nary a word.” Ill be your huckleberry. Corsi is a stat that can supplement other stats and watching the game… but it certainly has it’s flaws… those being that, at the end of the day, shot attempts for and against don’t matter at all…. It can lead to gross over valuing or undervaluing of a player. For example, it’s certainly possible that a player like Russell thinks the game well, and allows players to take outside shot attempts that have no chance of going in the net. On the other hand, there’s a lot of players that bury their heads in the offensive zone to put pucks towards the net… those players may look good in practice and on Corsi, but when it comes to making the best play with the puck they actually hurt their teams chances to win. (Put it towards the net rather than making a play that may actually result in a goal). Guys like Pouliot may be a good example… or comparing ebs past season, where I believe, his Corsi was better than other seasons when he was a much more effective player (I didn’t look this up, but I seem to remember hearing it somewhere). Another example would be from an excellent player, a player I like and who helps the Oil drastically….. however, the shinpad assassin reggie often burries his head and takes an outside shot towards the net. I can’t count how many times he’s done this, rather than pass or wait for his teammates to provide traffic in front of the net…. this often ultimately results in a loss of puck possession for no real reason, but a shot attempt so his Corsi looks better. I love reggie and he’s a heck of a player, but that’s one area he needs to work on (watch video, reggie). That is also one reason I don’t think his injury will affect the PP too much. Again I love reggie and can’t wait till he’s back, but that’s one thing he needs to work on.

  • OldOilFan

    STROME: best fit appears to be 3rd line C…..

    imo, 3C is the best/most-likely “fit” for Strome. If so, then he might well rotate between 2RW and 3C (i.e. 2RW on Drai’s line; and then moving to 3C – when Drai moves up to 1RW with McD. This scenario may hinge on how well JP pans out.
    It’s also worth considering Kassian’s potential to move up the right side – possibly as high as 1RW or 2RW. Caggiula does not appear to fit well where he is slotted now. He demonstrated great things [briefly] last year as 1LW on McD’s line – when Maroon wasn’t going.

      • Trevy

        Hey there’s FN’s favourite little troll. I see you weaselled your way back to your home. Nice to see you actually can contribute a bit more here than the senseless garbage you usually spit out. We look forward to your stupidity back at FN!

      • OriginalPouzar

        they were really on different because Jokinen was “sore” and Laleggia took his spot.

        Caggulia got demoted of the Drai/Lucic line due to some “sleepy” play – Yamamoto took his spot for half a period and then Drake was put back.

        • OriginalPouzar

          Some notes from the scrimmages today:

          When Drake got his break from playing with Leon and Milan, its was Yamamoto that took his spot – reports are that Drake had a “sleepy first period” but its nice that Yama got the short promotion

          Still no Slepy but Khaira is participating in full.

          All the reps yesterday and during the scrimmages today had the projected pairs (Klef/Larsson, Russ/Benning, Nurse/Gryba

          Auvitu was paired with Simpson – the likely 7D battle

          Lowe and Fayne pairied together as longer shots for 7D

          I’m not sure where Stanton was.

          McLellan was impressed by LaLeggia at LW – I’ll be very interested to see how he does in a preseason game as a forward – is there a real chance for him to provide offence at the NHL level.

  • Kepler62c

    Not saying it’s not a concern… but, McDavid OFF ICE can mean a lot more than just “oh McDavid isn’t out there and we suck”. You have to look at what else you are “removing” during that time.

    A few things: Who else isn’t out there very often during McDavid OFF ICE time? Likely Leon and Maroon, who are a big part of the offence. Possibly less Klefbom too? So that’s a lot of productive ice time from more than just McDavid being removed.

    We saw last year that other coaches weren’t matching their top offensive players against McDavid, rather their 2C/3C who can try to shut him down – Kesler over Getzlaf, Toews over Kane, Kadri over Matthews, etc. that would mean during McDavid OFF ICE time, better offensive players from the other team are playing our weaker offensive players.

    What is the zone start % with and without McDavid? Is this deployment? Or is it a real effect that we can’t get out of the d-zone/hold the o-zone without him? If it’s a deployment thing then that’s going to impact the corsi and GF but it’s explainable.

    How do other teams stack up? Chicago without Kane? Capitals without Ovi? etc. I’d be surprised if many teams are better offensively (statistically) without their best offensive player on the ice.

    Not saying it’s not an issue, I just think a more in depth analysis is necessary – and all of those points above are things to consider.

    • OilCan2

      Agreed. The stat in itself is flawed unless a lot of other teams are over 50% with their star on the bench.

      My feeling is that the McDavid effect gets the best from his teammates.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    If corsi is so correct, why did players like Yak and Pou regress in performance than what corsi and the other analytics tell us? It has its uses and some merit to that system, but to me it’s just as flawed as the “old school” +\- stat that was so heavily relied upon “back in the day”.

    I’m no hockey guru, but I have watched Oiler hockey since I was 4, I’m 37 now, and I still stick with what I see on tv, if the player plays like crap, he’s playing like crap.

  • camdog

    Has anybody written a blog on how LD was the dominant forward for the Oilers during the playoffs? A lot of talk on McDavid being far superior to every player on this team, that isn’t always the case…

    • Spydyr

      The other teams put there best players and checkers on McDavid (well duh what coach wouldn’t). That allowed Drai to play against weaker players than McDavid faced.

  • Spydyr

    During the off season there were filler articles everyday and one a week about how much Russell sucks. Now that camp has started and there is actually hockey it has been two days since a story posted. What gives I’m jonesing for some hockey over here.

    • Spydyr

      With the technology available today why is there not a special coating on the puck that an sensor can pick up at the blueline and take the human factor right out of offsides? Any part of the puck in or out counts.

      • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Wouldn’t there have to be sensors on the players’ skates, too? If you know that the puck’s over the line but are uncertain if the player’s over then you’ve only got half the equation. I could see this working for goals, though. I would’ve liked to see that special coating puck in play for the goal McDavid scored against Quick in his first season that was disallowed because the ref couldn’t see that the puck was in the net under Quick’s glove.

  • OldOilFan

    “Off Ice” (i.e. Oil shifts w/o McD on ice):

    The critical missing piece is at 1RW. Strome is not going to magically fit there. If anyone “fits” it will be JP or Sleps or Kass or TBD. What do you think??

  • WillyWonka

    it’s been a long time since there has been this much excitement in Alberta heading into a season! good luck Oilers and Oiler fans! bragging rights on the line!