Tuesday’s loss to the Dallas Stars was a sobering reminder of what this hockey club looks like without Connor McDavid. They are a dull team, who can stay competitive in any given game, but lack their offensive engine. There was no ‘wow factor’. There was not one point in that hockey game where I was impressed by an offensive chance the Oilers generated. That game was so much less fun to watch than any other game we’ve seen this season.
We all appreciate Connor McDavid and what he does, but maybe, just a little, we take for granted how much fun he makes it fun to be an Oilers fan.
While last night reminded fans just how boring the team can be without #97 in the lineup, don’t forget that the Oilers deal with that reality on almost a nightly basis. There is a massive difference between the quality of hockey when McDavid is on the ice compared to when he’s off the ice.
If you want to take that even a step further you could look at the difference when the Oilers top six, a line centred by either McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, is on the ice compared to when they’re not. Here are their numbers at 5v5:
|ON THE ICE||GF%||Scoring Chances For %|
|McDavid & Nugent-Hopkins||55.33%||55.88%|
|McDavid & Draisaitl||55.56%||54.60%|
|None of 97/29/93||33.33%||48.20%|
(all numbers via naturalstattrick.com)
The difference is right in those numbers. The bottom six can still generate scoring chances, but they simply cannot find the back of the net. That’s simply due to a lack of skill in my opinion. It’s not like they’re costing the Oilers wins. In 27 games this season, the Oilers have given up 18 even strength goals while McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, and Draisaitl are off the ice. That isn’t detrimental but it’s far from great, or even acceptable, in my opinion.
What I get from that number, and what I get from watching the team play, is that the bottom part of the lineup does a fairly decent job of generating chances, they just don’t have the skill to finish off those chances.
Since Ken Hitchcock took over, the Oilers have played in seven games. In those games, their forwards have generated a combined 114 scoring chances at 5v5. I counted up those scoring chances and found that 67 of those chances came from players in their top six and 47 of them came from players in their bottom six.
Now, that math isn’t perfect because McDavid got shifts with players in the bottom six, so that could skew the numbers but generally, I think this gives us a good look.
So in short: 57.76% of the 5v5 scoring chances generated by their forward group came from their top six and the other 42.24% came from players that play in their bottom six.
Those splits are actually pretty decent and if you look just at that, you would be led to believe that the Oilers have actually been getting some good offensive support from the bottom of their lineup.
Then you go back through the 5v5 goals that the Oilers have gotten since Hitchcock took over, and it tells a different story. By my count, the Oilers have scored eight goals 5v5 in their last seven games. Those goals have been scored by McDavid (x2), Nugent-Hopkins, Caggiula, Chiasson, Puljujarvi, Spooner, and Khaira.
Take away the fact that Khaira scored his goal while playing with Leon Draisaitl and you get one goal scored by someone who wasn’t playing in the top six. That’s far from good enough.
The Oilers don’t need their bottom six to chip in a goal every game, that’s not what I’m saying, but they need more than one 5v5 goal every seven games from them. This isn’t a knock on Hitchcock or anything like that, it’s far from it. But what I take away from the numbers that I have laid out is that the Oilers bottom six doesn’t have a problem generating chances, but they aren’t skilled enough to finish those chances.
The Oilers need more skill in their bottom six and they don’t have it on their roster right now.
Could Valentin Zykov provide a spark? Sure, he also has natural finishing ability. There is potential there. I believe Ryan Spooner can be better than what he’s currently showing. I think Ty Rattie has some natural finishing ability but he can’t do it on his own.
They have some nice pieces, but they’re lacking a significant piece that can really change the look of their bottom six. How can get they get that piece? I wouldn’t mind seeing a trade to address this.
It might have to wait until closer to the trade deadline but given how poor the Pacific Division is, I think the Oilers are in a position where they can sacrifice a draft pick and a lower level prospect for a proven forward that can come in and give their bottom six a legitimate boost.