The Edmonton Oilers have played 16 games since the calendar flipped to 2019 and in that span, Milan Lucic has scored four goals and added two assists. In the first 39 games of the season, he had one goal and seven assists.
To put it a different way, in the first 39 games, Lucic was producing at a pace that works out to about two goals and 14 assists over an 82 game stretch. Since January 1st, he’s been producing at a 20 goal, 10 assist pace when prorated to 82 games.
That seems to have taken some of the heat off of Lucic. When he’s struggling, he becomes a bit of a whipping boy among most fans and media. It’s fair, after all, the guy is making $6 million. Based on his pay, he should be a driving force behind the Oilers offence.
Of course, it’s rarely been that way since he slipped on an Oilers jersey for the first time, and the 2018 calendar year was an especially tough one for #27 but since the new year, I’ve noticed some mistakes start to evaporate from his game and he appears to be turning a corner.
The goals are great, but I’ve also noticed that he isn’t turning over pucks at the same rate as he did earlier this season and I’ve noticed him making smarter, confident plays with the puck on his stick. That has resulted in his line spending more time in the offensive zone and an uptick in his offensive production.
Has Lucic actually turned a corner? Or did the general feeling on his play change simply because he banged home a couple of goals? I looked into some numbers to get some more details.
|Month||GP||Individual Scoring Chances For Per 60||Individual Goals||Individual Assists||On Ice Goals Against Per 60||On Ice Scoring Chances Against Per 60||On Ice Scoring Chances For Per 60|
*all at even strength*
In January, which most Oilers fans would say was been Lucic’s best month of the season, the Oilers gave up far fewer chances at even strength, but individually, Lucic didn’t produce much more in terms of scoring chances, although he scored more goals in the month than the rest of the season combined.
To me, that shows that he simply got a little bit of better puck luck. As for the drop in scoring chances against, you could attribute that to him playing more with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins instead of Kyle Brodziak. The zone starts would also play a role.
February has been his arguably his worst month of the season when you look at the numbers I laid out, but the whole team has been awful and I’m not going to put all of the blame on Lucic.
I don’t mean to rip open a big “eye test vs analytics” debate, because I value both, but after looking through the numbers, I’m a little bit less enthralled with Lucic’s play than I was before. Is he actually playing better, or is his game full of what I call “empty calories”? Meaning he does things that look good, but they clearly aren’t attributing to any real success.
While it was nice to see him bang in a couple of goals, and I hope he can jam home ten more before game 82 rolls around, it’s also important that Lucic continues to avoid turning over the puck in his own end and keeps making positive strides in terms of his play in the offensive zone.
I do value the leadership that Lucic brings and I would agree that his physical play is a positive attribute, but the team needs offence from the guy they’re paying $6 million.
Again, based on what I was seeing from watching the games, Lucic was starting to look like a more confident player and I was hoping the numbers would back up what I was seeing. All the numbers really showed me was that for a brief stretch, he went from being painfully horrible to simply mediocre and that isn’t enough. He needs to keep building on this recent stretch.
Based on the Twitter poll I ran yesterday, most of you seem to agree with me.
Since January, Milan Lucic has been ________.
Fill in the blank:
— Tyler Yaremchuk (@tyleryaremchuk) February 12, 2019
Now, the ship has sailed on Lucic ever being a $6 million player, but they still need more from him. Even more than what we’ve seen since January.
He needs to continue hitting and playing physical and also find a way to keep the play moving up ice when he gets in his own zone. If he can keep doing that and combine with smart playmaking in the offensive zone, then it should lead to more scoring chances for both he and his linemates which will lead to more goals.
I make it sound more simple than it is, but I’m seeing Lucic do a lot of little things right when I watch the games. For the first time in a while, I’m slightly confident that if he can keep doing those little things, we’ll see his numbers improve.