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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers need to be better when Connor McDavid isn’t on the ice

The Edmonton Oilers have a problem when Connor McDavid isn’t on the ice. McDavid’s been doing McDavid things, but he can only play 20 minutes a game.

McDavid’s on pace for another 99-point season, yet the Oilers are at the bottom of the standings. There’s a few reasons: Cam Talbot’s save percentage has dropped from .919 to .903, their power play and penalty kill are 31st in the league, and they get badly outscored when McDavid isn’t on the ice.

17-18 EDM CF% and GF% (5-on-5) With and Without McDavid

CF% GF%
McDavid on-ice 53.49 57.01
McDavid off-ice 50.14 42.07

McDavid drives things for Edmonton. With him on the ice, they out-shoot, out-attempt, and out-score the opposition. The Oilers have outscored teams 61GF-46GA (+15) with McDavid on the ice. They have one of the best first lines in the league as long as they McDavid.

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Without McDavid, things aren’t great. They’re average in terms of shot attempts but get outscored 69GF-95GA (-26). Edmonton’s save percentage has dropped from .929 without McDavid in 16-17 to .915 this season.

Their GF% without McDavid is comparable to the Buffalo Sabres. Although, the Sabres without Ryan O’Reilly or Jack Eichel see a drop into the high thirties.

McDavid’s played 100 minutes 5-on-5 with five players: Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula.

That leaves 12 players who have at least 400 minutes away from McDavid: Ryan Strome, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Jujhar Khaira, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, Drake Caggiula, Mike Cammalleri, Leon Draisaitl, Anton Slepyshev, Iiro Pakarinen.

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That group has some good players but hasn’t been able to outscore their opposition without McDavid this season.

Last season, there was a similar divide between the Oilers destroying teams with McDavid on the ice and being average when he’s on the bench.

16-17 EDM CF% and GF% (5-on-5) With and Without McDavid

CF% GF%
McDavid on-ice 53.07 62.1
McDavid off-ice 48.38 48.9

Connor McDavid: Destroyer of worlds.

The gap in goals has grown since last year, while shot attempts have slightly improved. The Oilers were respectable in terms of goals without McDavid last season, but are getting caved in this season. Last season, they demolished the opposition 77GF-47GA (+30) with McDavid and were almost even without, 89GF-93GA (-4).

The biggest difference in ice time without McDavid is Strome leads the non-McDavid group with RNH injured. Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Eberle are gone. Tyler Pitlick had a nice run in 30 games but signed in Dallas. They’re on pace for a similar amount of non-McDavid goals, but their goals against without McDavid is much worse.

How can they improve when McDavid’s not on the ice, or are the Oilers just not getting as many saves as last season when McDavid’s on the bench?

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Last year the Oilers had a better save percentage with McDavid on the bench than with. Both have fallen this year and the non-McDavid group is now lower. I’d expect that to be the case and maybe last year’s save percentage masked some deficiencies the Oilers had without McDavid 5-on-5.

In 2016-17, Leon Draisaitl spent just over half his time with McDavid at 5-on-5. This season he’s spent 44% of the season with McDavid. Can Draisaitl be a full-time centre and help the Oilers score more when McDavid’s not on the ice? McDavid’s probably going to outscore the opposition with just about anybody.

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The Oilers have to find a way to improve when McDavid’s not on the ice. McDavid’s line makes things look better than they are for Edmonton 5-on-5. Edmonton needs to be better 5-on-5 without McDavid, or the rest of the roster will give back everything the McDavid line creates.


  • Oilman99

    After Nuge, the cupboards are bare after Chia has raped the team of goal scorers. This problem is not going to get solved any time soon due to the lack of qualified wingers.

  • DannyGallivan

    Here is the reality. We have two great players in Drai and McJesus who are incredible players for their age or any age. The rest of the team are not, for their age. “What will (fill in the blank) be like when they get more experience?” Pulj, Khaira, Aberg, Slep, Nurse, Klef etc. have very little relative experience. Cammalleri is 35 a UFA and will be gone at the end of this season. Excluding him, we currently only have two players over 30 Montoya at 33 (not sure he will be here next year) and Sekera at 31. According to Natural Stat Trick in Jan/18 the average team age in the NHL was 27.1, highest was 28.9 (DET) and lowest 25.0 (COL and CBJ). Excluding Cammalleri we are at 25.0, with him we are at 25.5 which places us 3rd or 4th lowest.

    I believe there is a lot of talent on this team. Problem is, they need time to develop and we are in a hurry to win the cup while we have McDavid.

  • Slipknot 8

    Taylor Hall might have helped with this………..just saying.

    Klefbom and RNH make around 10M between them….

    Lucic and Russell make around 10M between them….

    Who do you think the Oilers trade????

      • Slipknot 8

        NMC are dependant on the GM, if the GM does his job, tells the players there is no room on the team for them and he will do his best job to move them to a team they would prefer then the NMC are pointless.
        Chiarelli has to man up and do his job, there’s 3 players on the Oilers making far to much money for the team to handle and get to better, trading RNH and Klefbom while the team keep Russell and Lucic doesn’t make this team better

          • Hemmercules

            Show me a contender that would actually want Lucic because he likely would not want to go to another bottom feeder. Maybe if the Oil retained half his contract a contender might pick him up. Thats a long time to be paying a guy to play for another team. Russel I believe would be movable but they would have to retain half his money too.

  • Sorensenator

    Yes we all know without Mcdavid we would be dead last behind Buffalo and Arizona. With the exception of our 3 centers, everyone has been worse this year then last, except for maybe Kris Russel, he’s our leading dman for points! LOL

    • crabman

      many players are not scoring as well as last year but this should not come as a huge surprise. Many players had above career average seasons and have regressed back closer to career averages. That said 9 regulars are still scoring above career average.
      McDavid, Draisaitl, Maroon, Caggiula, Nuge, Khaira, Russell, Benning, and Nurse all scoring better this year than previous career averages.
      The team is worse than last year because no improvements were made to the team and Chiarelli counted on too many players continuing career high scoring.

      • corky

        Add the fact that Talbot is not having a good year either and they didnt improve the backup situation also. Running a goalie 70+ games back to back is ludicrous.

  • Gravis82

    um, we knew this since Taylor hall was here….except they were too inept to make it happen Many people have said this over the last 10 years. Lucked into a way to make it happen with McDavid and then traded hall. Insanity.

  • E-Mac

    Perhaps Seattle will take Looch in the expansion draft, assuming he agrees to it. Obviously Edmonton would need to send a pick or prospect Seattle’s way as well. He is from Vancouver so perhaps he would welcome the change.

    Or perhaps Looch comes to camp slimmer next year, much like Maroon did. And maybe, just maybe, he gets a bit quicker. I don’t think he is totally done yet. I expect a bounce back next season for sure.

    • Hemmercules

      He doesn’t need to be fast and he likely wont ever get much faster. He needs to be smarter. He can still be effective but his hands and decisions are the real problems right now. He needs to use his body more to protect the puck and make/receive a clean passes are often.

    • The Whispererer

      Seattle would be a fine solution. However, if Lucic refuses to waive his NMC for the draft, the Oilers will be forced to buy him out; otherwise, they would have to use 1 of their protected forward slots on him and that could be very painful. Does the same dilemma apply to Russell and Sekera ? OUCH !