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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Calm Down Already

Alright, things aren’t good right now. I think it’s fair to say this start is concerning to everyone, even the really optimistic people. That said, we can afford to acknowledge the issues without scrambling for the ejector seat button. There are reasons to believe the team will push through this skid.

Here are problems that many people anticipated and look today like real issues:

1) The depth at RW is a mess

2) The second pair is a big problem without Sekera

3) Ryan Strome has not instantaneously reversed course on his career

4) The team isn’t as healthy as they were a year ago

All of those things were pointed out from the beginning of the off-season and remain issues today. Fine. Still, the start of the season is worse than expected and we have at least a few reasons to keep the panic at bay.

We are going to be hit with the phrase “small sample size” a lot as Edmonton struggles through four games. And the principle is still valid, even if it’s over-repeated. The reality is that the Oilers have played not even five percent of their season. Both the good and bad things have a long way to go before they are established. Still, we can try to look at a few things and see where the trends are heading.

Let’s start with the good. At even strength, the Oiler shot metrics are doing very well. Don’t you roll your eyes at me, mister! It doesn’t actually feel nice to hear that because when you watch them the club drains your soul of all happiness (during these losses) but the reality is that Edmonton is in control of the puck far more than it is not. Sample size bros are going to point to the blow out that the Oilers were a part of on Saturday and scream “SCORE EFFECTS” and it’s true that team who are being blown out tend to go hog wild on shots and attempts as the other club just plays to run out the clock. However, even in their first three games, they controlled the shot attempts.

During 5v5 play, the Oilers have outshot their opponents 124-95. Those are the actual shots on net. It’s the seventh highest percentage of shots for in the NHL. If we walk back through the unblocked shot attempts, then Edmonton is second in the NHL with 58.4 per cent Fenwick. That’s 189-129 unblocked shot attempts. If we include all shot attempts, blocked or otherwise, the Oilers are first in the NHL with 59.4 per cent Corsi. That’s 246-168 total attempts at even strength.

The classic anti-stats argument is that these attempts could be from anywhere and they shouldn’t all be counted and that’s fine. A few people have developed ways to identify more dangerous scoring opportunities based on things like shot location and type. There are no definitive numbers on those things because no two people will ever agree on what constitutes a “chance” but both the metrics from NaturalStatTrick (Scoring Chances) and from Corsica (Expected Goals) rate the Oilers quite high.

In Scoring Chances, the Oilers have the highest percentage for with 61.3 per cent. That’s 119-75 in scoring chances 5v5. In Expected Goals, the Oilers are second in the NHL with 59.8 xGF percentage. So in the most methodical and (hopefully) least subjective ways of addressing the issue of shot quality which are freely available to the public, the team is performing pretty well. Over time, we should hope that those chances turn into real goals and more games are won than lost.

Jan 8, 2017; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan follows the action in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Oilers 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

What’s actually been happening, however, is the exact opposite of that. Edmonton has been losing and by more than a little in their last two outings. They’ve been out-scored almost 2:1 during even strength play and it’s back-breaking watching the other team do it. So what the hell is going on? Well, PDO is a nightmare for the Oil right now.

So PDO is just on-ice shooting percentage added to their on-ice save percentage. This number, via the desire of the universe, pulls very high to a combined 100 per cent. If you’re far over that number, you can expect it to come down over time. If you’re far under that number, you can expect it to come up. You can look at PDO at a player level and at a team level. And by far over or under, I mean higher than 101 and lower than 99 per cent. That’s how tightly bunched teams are in PDO by the end of the year. It’s abnormal to be beyond those markers.

Today, the Oilers are 28th in PDO with 94.6 per cent combined shooting and save percentages at even strength. Cam Talbot will make more saves. The forwards will actually score. The Edmonton Oilers are not the world’s worst club and a complete mirage. At least, that’s not what the information we have says. They are in need of saves. Their forwards need to start burying the puck. But it’s not the time to freak out yet.

You should pump the brakes when you see alarmist stuff like the latest Mark Spector piece which concluded with:

Edmonton is tied for 28th in points, its penalty kill is the worst in the league and the power play ranks 26th.

Chiarelli wanted to wait until nearer the trade deadline to augment this lineup. He may have to act more quickly, if McLellan can’t coach his way out this early season slide.

Or else, the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers might just become the 2015-16 Calgary Flames.

The 2015-2016 Calgary Flames finished 26th after finishing 16th the year before. However, those Flames from 2014-2015 (the “good” year) were smoke and mirrors. They were bottom three in shot attempt metrics and bottom four in scoring chance metrics. The 2015-2016 Flames were bottom 10 as well. The Flames rode the PDO train until the end of the line.

If the logic that proved to be right with the Flames is applied to the Oiler situation then the conclusion we should find ourselves in is that the ship will right itself eventually, not crash into the rocks. Edmonton is nothing like those brutal Flames clubs that fluked their way to success. There are too many positive things happening, right now, to be concerned about the season turning into a total disaster. If that changes, I’ll change my outlook. Until then, let’s hope this funk gets snapped soon.

    • Plus, out East the Rangers are 1-5 and Montreal sits at 1-3-1, with 3 pts from five games. Not that I expect those teams to be powerhouses, mind you, but I certainly think they’ll be pushing for a playoff spot. New York has to be looking at New Jersey the way some of our faithful cast longing glances at the 4-2 Flames.

  • Hemmercules

    Expectations are at an all time high for this team. Anything less than above .500 hockey will never be acceptable again and the sky will be falling for Oiler fans everywhere until they get back to where they belong.

  • Aneheim started off very poorly last season and went on to take the pacific out of nowhere last March and early April so im confident but with how bad things have been instead of crying over how gloomy it’s been instead I couldn’t just help but laugh when not just Drake went on the IR but now Leon too.

  • Big red ginger snap

    Everyone is telling them how good they are and they are believing them this is the problem they need to be brought down a notch i hope Saturday helped.

  • Dean S

    Honest Oil Analysis. Our Oiler’s are missing the 2nd and 3rd leading scorers from last year. Additions to our forward group have been disappointing, not coming close to matching players we have lost. A top 4 D-man is out who was very good at killing penalties and was strong on the PP. We have asked our 2nd year 23yr old D-man could do more than he is capable of at this point in his career. Our Goaltender is very inconsistent, (always has been). Don’t be so surprised. A basic analysis if you take the personalities and emotions out of the equation.
    We shouldn’t be surprised.

  • Kuma

    The real concern is Elliotte Friedman’s discovery from a few years back: only about one in 10 teams outside the playoff picture on Nov. 1st ends up making the post-season. The Oilers are right on the edge of that now. If the losing continues, they’ll need an amazing run to recover. Thanks, Loser Point!

  • Oiler Al

    There is only “one” friggi9n player in the line up that can score…. at this time. Its a lot of pressure for one young guy to carry this team.Too many “cruisers” in the line. PS shooting from the other side of the fence won’t get you a ton if goals.

  • KMA

    As mentioned on Gregor’s show Monday afternoon, the team speed of the Oil is lacking. This is a problem that cannot be remedied by trading for one fast skating winger. Peter, Peter the pumpkin eater should start shopping.

  • Oilerz4life

    Ya right Henderson always plays the devil’s advocate, secretly only excited because his man crush Yak finally lit the lamp (when there is a veteran center to hold his hand). Don’t worry Fenwick and Corsica say everything is fine.

  • Svart kaffe

    I haven’t seen every game, granted, but it sure looks like the team bought in to the hype surrounding themselves. At least a little bit. Hopefully these past few games was their necessary reality check.

    Also, remember that McLellan said after the last season that their goal now is to do it again. Not make the conference finals. Not win the cup. But establish that last season wasn’t a fluke.

    To make this him and Chiarelli are betting on a lot of young guys taking the next step. That is certainly still a viable option, but didn’t anybody expect some growing pains? We shouldn’t be surprised by some ups and downs as they learn. But sure, this team could use some of Lucic’s patented swagger talk.

    I saw Las Vegas play the other day and confidence turns their lacklustre team into a decent one. Compare that to the Oilers that seems hesitant and afraid to lose.

    Anyway, I just look forward to the next game. This is what makes it interesting to follow a team.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    “The team isn’t as healthy as they were a year ago.”

    You don’t need the other three reasons.

    But here’s some practical hope for those not interested in fancy stats.

    Go back if you can and watch your season opener, then go listen to Gully talk. You guys executed, you won the individual battles, you broke out of the zone, everything you did was crsip and Connor was Connor. We did not play badly. We are a good team. You guys played your game and we were outhustled and out-coached.

    THAT IS YOUR TEAM.

    Please watch that game again. Because Calgary didn’t lose. We were beaten.

    Have faith, seriously. Hockey means a lot to us. Edmonton will work through this.

    You will see that team again.

  • Hockeyfan

    yah calm down, just because the coil were reading press clippings and patting each other on the back for winning the fanley cup again, just because the coil have no depth, no d, and an average to below tender, ( hello reality), now solely dependent on Mcd to do everything doesn’t mean anything. well, maybe another welfare pick. Rather fitting, isn’t it, you guys should be used to it anyways. BAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

      • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

        Look who Edmonton plays? Those aren’t easy teams and those are a crucial 8 points on the line. Carolina isn’t going to be easy because of their D and Darling, Pittsburgh are the reigning cup champs, Washington and Ovi seem to be tearing it up, Philly looks decent, and Dallas…well they’re good too.

  • Spoils

    love hearing this stuff. also loved seeing Yams play well on Saturday…

    that said, even with a regression back to wins, i still think this team needs augmentation. is there a move available?

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    You know, what if this is all “part of th plan”? What if this was somehow a big gimmick by Edmonton and they all of a sudden take off with like 5 or 6 straight wins. I doubt that’ll happen, but it’s nice to dream eh fellas?

  • Seriously Bored

    I enjoy reading some of the articles and used to enjoy the debates that would come up in the comments but this is just sad now.

    Whoever hockeyfan and some of these other guys are I just feel sorry for you. It isn’t even gameday and I see multiple comments from the same troll posters. This is not a new thing as some of these people have been at it for years. I get that there is chirping in sports but this really isn’t even very witty anymore. If you need to get your rocks off every night during the winter clicking away on the can and giggling to yourself about “coiler” jokes for years on end then life has passed you by. Do your wife a favor and go outside.

  • Samesame

    A ray of light…
    In your 4 reasons, I didn’t lost talbots struggles. Which is a huge reason. That said, he’llmmostblikelybrijnit around from those abysmal numbers. At least somewhat.

    But it’s all still concerning by the eye.

    As far as the shot metrics go, maybe they do tell a different story as in memory alone, it’s not like we didn’t have chances but it seems in all 3 losses, we played a goalie playing lights out.(markstrom, hellybuck and condon) but that could be poor positional play and not doing the rights things to bang those goals home

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I’m not saying this is a bad blog or Henderson is blind to the real problem. But the issue hasn’t been that they’re 1-3. It’s that the team hasn’t performed to their standard compete level. This is a club that has, outside of one game, not done anything to show they are playoff-worthy, let alone cup contenders. Having watched this team from 2006-now, I can tell that the level of play right now leads to a high draft pick, not a Stanley cup (not that I thought Edmonton was going to win one this season).

    I have no doubt that they’ll turn it around. But for me, it’s not a question of “if Edmonton turns this around”, it’s “when will Edmonton turn this around?” and “is it too late for them to make the playoffs?”.

    Now, they could just as easily take off in these next few games and everything will be all honky-dory gain, or they could continue to play as they are and suck again.

  • Let’s be honest. The Oilers looked great in game 1 and then they looked awful in the next 3 games. It’s not like they lost games where they outplayed their opponent. The team that played better won all 4 of the games they have played so far. Yes, there is lots of hockey left. But with the decade of darkness not far in the rearview mirror, I’m already at the point where I can’t watch the next game. They look completely out of synch and are getting outworked all over the ice. For me, it’s too upsetting to watch. I hope they turn it around soon.

  • Reinman

    I still blame a lot of this on Lucic. WHat is our biggest problem with our team. I would say it is secondary scoring. FIrst line is great, but Nuge and Lucic have done very little. I don’t really blame Nuge as he I think can drive a line if he has a good linemate ( he has shown that in the past). Lucic just seems like to much of a complimentary winger. He just doesn’t make plays to the extent where he drives a line by himself. He is great to throw on a line where the other 2 are creating the offense. But for 6 million a year, is that enough? Our right wing is a mess, but I would also assert that our left wing is not great either. I think we can be an average team, with our lineup as it is, but I just don’t think we match up against the NHL’s best. I don’t mind Chia trying to make the team bigger, but we also need guys that can skate and make plays. I still can’t understand why we did’t go after Hamonic too. He would have solidified our defense, at a very reasonable contract. Instead, we are going to be right up against the cap next year, just trying to hold on to what we have. So we need high draft picks ( ie Reinhart deal). Sigh!

  • Cauliflower McPugg

    95% of the season left to play. Grandiose conclusions and alarmist claims are click bait….. at best.
    For your pondering amusement, consider how Ken King feels this morning, their ROI on Smith is a large negative number now compounded by a keyboard happy minion overdosing on kool-aid. Big picture calamities are so much more amusing than overfitting small samples to stretched narratives, ironically, thats an analytics technique….. I wonder if Spec is aware? 😉