We find ourselves standing directly in front of the 2017-2018 Oiler season. Coming off the heels of a second round exit, some individual awards for the Captain, and another year of development for what was still a relatively young team, the expectations are high. And that’s understandable. Except when it isn’t.
I turn my focus to one of the newest faces on the team, Ryan Strome. This is a player with some lofty expectations from the team and from fans. For reasons I do not fully understand, the Oilers are doing nothing to quell these expectations for Strome.
As the newest Oiler forward (is he a center or a winger?) comes to Edmonton he has been immediately plugged onto the top line. This was confirmed by General Manager Peter Chiarelli and subsequently the coaching staff has indicated that is how camp will start as well. This sets up a straight across comparison between Strome and Eberle, the man he was traded for. It’s true that the comparison would happen anyway, but now there’s no hiding behind one being a scoring winger and the other being a utility center/winger. If Strome plays on the top line the only real measure for success is offense (either individually or as a line).
Even McDavid himself said that Strome could be the sleeper fantasy pick of the season because he will be placed in such a great position to score. The increase in quality to teammates and access to Power Play time will boost that offense, per the Captain. That’s a heaping helping anticipated scoring.
When it comes to the player’s attributes, the ones that the Oilers believe will make him a fit with McDavid are his IQ and his shot. I certainly cannot speak to his Hockey IQ. It’s a buzzword, no doubt, but I like things can actually be measured. If someone is physically healthy and possesses great hockey IQ they should, generally, be performing by their early 20’s in some category or another. Either way, we wait to see on the hockey sense part of his game.
The shooting though…we have information on the shooting. Ryan Strome is a career 8.8% shooter in the NHL. Last season was the first time he cracked double digits in percentage at 11.4% in his final season with the Islanders. In terms of volume, it’s been trending the wrong way since he joined the league.
2013-2014: 9.62 Shots per 60 (3rd among NYI Forwards)
2014-2015: 8.63 Shots per 60 (4th among NYI Forwards)
2015-2016: 6.99 Shots per 60 (6th among NYI Forwards)
2016-2017: 6.03 Shots per 60 (12th among NYI Forwards)
So we have a relatively low percentage shooter who also trended down to be a low volume shooter as well. It certainly explains how Strome went from 17-33-50 at his career peak to 13-17-30 last year. The plain truth of it is that Ryan Strome cannot be described as a shooter nor as a sniper. He may have a good shot on his own, in practice. However, in NHL game situations that just hasn’t been the case.
At the same time, Strome’s on ice possession numbers took a huge tumble as well. He similarly fell from near the top all the way to the bottom. This is a player who has struggled in all facets of the game over the last two full seasons. To ignore these struggles or to hope they get washed away with a change of scenery is wishful thinking on the part of the Oilers organization.
There is a lot of confidence that Strome will succeed on McDavid’s wing. There doesn’t even seem to be a hint of hesitation and they certainly aren’t easing him into the role as of yet. Playing with McDavid is the greatest gift any top 6 winger can ask for and I’m sure he’s excited, but I think there ought to be more caution about predictions with Strome. Even if he has a 30% increase in offense (The McDavid Effect) over the last 2 seasons, we’re still talking about 40ish points.
Ryan Strome is entering the 2017-2018 season as a reclamation project but with the expectations of a top 6 forward. If he joins the squad and becomes the newest Pat Maroon – a perfect fit with McDavid and an offensive producer – then that will be fantastic. If that’s not the case, we really shouldn’t be surprised though. He hasn’t been the player the Oilers are telegraphing him to be in quite some time.