It’s been ten games since the Oilers made the switch from Todd McLellan to Ken Hitchcock and the team is winning. It feels good, doesn’t it Oilers fans? Yet, there are still some of you who aren’t satisfied. Some of you say that Ken Hitchcock has made this a boring team and some of you fear that the veteran Head Coaches emphasis on structure and defence will hurt Connor McDavid’s ability to produce offence.
I’m here to tell you that could not be further from the truth.
In 20 games under Todd McLellan the Oilers the Oilers averaged 2.85 goals per game. In their first ten games under Hitchcock, they have are averaging just 2.40 goals per game.
A deeper look will show you that the Oilers haven’t gotten better at producing or preventing chances since making the coaching change. Under McLellan, they averaged 21.15 scoring chances for per game (at even strength) while giving up 22.75 scoring chances per game.
Under Hitchcock, they have produced 20.70 scoring chances per game while giving up 22.90 scoring chances per game. The difference under McLellan was (1.60) while the difference with Hitchcock is (2.20). Those numbers and all numbers in this piece are via naturalstattrick.com.
The Oilers appear to be playing a more structured game with their new bench boss. I find that they aren’t turning over pucks as much as they used to and they’ve been a little bit better at moving the puck up the ice in an efficient manner. That isn’t being reflected in a lot of the numbers I looked at, scoring chances included.
Could the difference possibly be simply that the Oilers are getting better goaltending under Hitchcock
In the 20 games under McLellan, the Oilers goaltenders faced 505 shots at even strength and gave up 47 goals. If my math is correct, and I believe it is, that’s a save percentage of 0.906. In the last ten games, they’ve faced 238 shots and allowed 16 goals at even strength. That’s a save percentage of 0.932. That is a massive difference.
Some will say that the system Hitchcock has implemented has made life easier on the goalies. Less wide open looks and such. I buy that to an extent and while I do think Hitchcock has made a positive impact on this team, their goaltenders have gone from below average to sensational at even strength. That cannot be glossed over.
Is it sustainable? I don’t think so, but I also don’t want to take anything away from Mikko Koskinen and Cam Talbot. Their even strength shooting percentage has also dropped, so one would believe the Oilers will get more luck in the offensive zone as the season goes on. If their goaltending does happen to come back to earth a little bit, then their offence should be able to pick up some of the slack.
WHAT ABOUT CONNOR?
“He might lose some of his offence, but Hitchcock will make McDavid a better overall player.”
“He might not get the same number of chances, but the Oilers will win more.”
Those were two very common phrases being thrown around at the time of Ken Hitchcock’s arrival. The idea that he would suck the offence out of McDavid’s game like some sort of weird defensive vampire. Naturally, that made Oilers fans a little nervous. We want to see the Oilers win and make the playoffs, but we also want to see McDavid embarrass defenders and create the endless amount of offence we’ve become accustomed to.
Let me run a few numbers by you.
This season, under Todd McLellan, McDavid averaged 2.2 shots per game, 2.7 individual scoring chances per game, and 1.15 high danger corsi events per game. When he was simply on the ice, the Oilers averaged 9.7 scoring chances per game.
How has he fared under Hitch? 2.7 shots per game, 3.3 scoring chances per game, 1.0 high danger corsi events per game. When he’s on the ice, the Oilers averaged 8.9 scoring chances per game. All of these numbers are at even strength.
The numbers are honestly pretty identical. The fear that Ken Hitchcock would make Connor McDavid less of an offensive threat has proven to be rather silly
In general, the numbers paint a bit of a mixed picture when it comes to the beginning of the Hitchcock era in Edmonton but there is one number that I haven’t mentioned, and that’s wins.
The Oilers have won 70% of their games thus far with Hitch behind the bench. You really can’t complain about that.