Everyone is frustrated with the awful state of refereeing in the NHL.
When you look at how rare power play opportunities have been, though, no-one else has the right to be as frustrated as the Edmonton Oilers.
The fact that the Oilers rank dead last in the league in power plays, and Connor McDavid sits seven spots behind Matthew Tkaslewfoot in penalties drawn … well frankly, that reeks.
But it’s not just that the Oilers are last in power plays – it’s by how wide a margin.
Here, for example, is a graphical view of the power play counts as of March 12th:
See that drop off a cliff at the very end? That’s the Oilers. (note: data from nhl.com)
So again, it’s not just that the Oilers are last on this chart – the reality is that even in a perfectly fair league, someone would be first and someone would be last – it’s by how much.
To dig a little deeper, you can list the teams in order of most to last power plays, and then calculate the difference between each team and throw that on a histogram. Here’s what it looks like:
As you’d expect, the majority of teams are bunched up on the left, with very little difference from their neighbours. A handful of teams push the envelope.
And then … there’s the Oilers. Anything about this look fishy to you?
I should also mention that because the Oilers have so few power plays, that gap is all the more enormous when you express it in percentage terms. The gap between Chicago and Colorado (9 opportunities) is just 3.7% when you consider that the Hawks have had 245 power plays. Only one other gap (St. Louis to Pittsburgh, a difference of 7 power plays, which equates to 3.2%) hits over the 3% mark.
The Oilers? A gap of 13 power plays on just 171 opportunities is 7.6%. Basically double the next nearest gap, which is itself already an outlier.
(h/t to @kirkr55)
To put this in historical context, here are the two worst (lowest) power play per game rates for each of the 48, 80, and 82 game seasons, going back to 1977.
Unless the rate at which the Oilers are getting man advantages increases noticeably, the Oilers are on track to have the second worst rate of power plays in the last 40+ years!
Without getting too far into the tinfoil hattery, this stinks to high heaven. When you watch a dozen uncalled fouls on McDavid every period, then consistently watch a power play go to the other team for less, sorry, I’m not buying that this is just variance or coincidence.
While the last few games have seemed a bit better, it’s still brutal to watch. If I were Katz or Chiarelli, I would be absolutely livid, and I’d be on the phone to Bettman and Campbell every damn day until I got an explanation. And a fix.
Side note: Maybe the reason the Oilers power play stunk this year is because they hardly ever get to practice in game situations?