Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Larsson: 2018-19 Season in Review

As we move through the off-season, putting the disappointing 2018-19 campaign behind us, we’re taking a longer look at some of the key players and how they performed over the course of the year.

Today, we’re looking at one of the players that is expected to do a lot of heavy lifting for the Oilers: Adam Larsson.

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It was a rough year all-around for the Oilers, particularly for the defensive corps, and Larsson was leaned on a lot, especially when Sekera and Klefbom missed significant time. Larsson was one of only four Oilers to play in all 82 games– along with Nurse, Draisaitl, and RNH– and finished fifth in TOI/GM (21:37) and second in total even strength ice-time (1601:25), behind only Nurse. He also played the most amount of PK time (165:19), while he played only 6:19 on the PP all season. The reliance on the penalty kill could be considered a bit of a black mark, considering the team finished second-last in the league in PK%.

How did the pressing of Larsson into big minutes translate into his individual numbers? Here’s a look at his advanced counts (All stats are at Even Strength):

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF% HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off. Zone Starts%
49.29 38.17 48.15 47.40 40.00 6.41 .903 .967 36.00

Admittedly, these numbers aren’t pretty. Larsson drives little-to-no-offence and goals are almost nowhere to be found when he’s on the ice with a below-average shooting percentage– granted the amount time he started in the neutral zone and defensive zone severely limited his opportunity to muster any quality chances.

Now of course, though these numbers are individual counts, they’re still tied somewhat to the rest of the team and relatively how poorly they underperformed as a whole. So let’s take a look and see how the team comparably performed relative to when Larsson was on the ice:

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CF% Rel CF/60 Rel GF% Rel HDCF% HDGF%
1.78 1.66 -12.25 .36 -9.61

Again, even compared to the rest of an underperforming squad, Larsson was nowhere near to generating goals, but he did drive more chances than he allowed, and it is impressive to see the High Danger Chances in the black rather than the red.

Blueline Pairs

But even though these are relative numbers, they’re still tied to the performance with other teammates. Particularly with defencemen, the amount of time they play with a regular partner will have an impact on these numbers.

So let’s now take a look who Larsson was paired with the most often throughout the 82 games he played in:

w/ Oscar Klefbom

Even Strength TOI together: 1025:01

50.00 49.48 37.31 48.28 181/198 47.76 36.84 4.79 .921 .969

To no one’ surprise, even though he only played in 61 games, Klefbom and Larsson were practically joined at the hip (FWIW, Klefbom only played 165:43 of ES time without Larsson). Even with Klefbom, goals were hard to come by, but the most staggering things that stand out are the shooting and save percentages, both of which are acute outliers.

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w/ Darnell Nurse

ES TOI together: 283:04

47.77 46.44 37.50 44.23 48/74 39.34 42.86 8.76 .873 .961

The only player to be on the ice more than Larsson was Nurse, and though the Corsi and Goal-Scoring counts are similar to playing with Klefbom– though the Corsi chances dropped slightly– it’s interesting to see the Shooting Percentage nearly double, but the Save Percentage take a sharp decline, which might be attributed to Nurse’s style contrasting too much with Larsson’s.

w/ Caleb Jones

ES TOI Together: 136:11

43.55 40.88 31.25 50.81 3/3 55.56 50.00 8.93 .864 .953

Though he only played in 17 NHL games, Jones played with Larsson the most during his spot-duty. The Shooting Percentage is even higher than with Nurse, but the Save Percentage is even more paltry, coupled with the relatively high counts of Scoring Chances, this pairing seems to have been a bit of a heart attack on the ice, scoring as many High Danger goals as they allowed.

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w/ Kevin Gravel

ES TOI Together: 76:06

47.58 46.67 42.86 46.00 9/13 40.91 25.00 10.71 .904 .982

Though he’s likely gone next season, Larsson still played over an hour of Even Strength time together, which makes it worth looking at. Even with a solid shooting percentage, still barely any goals were scored.

w/ Andrej Sekera

ES TOI Together: 28:22

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68.89 75.00 100 69.23 10/3 76.92 (0-0) 5.56 1.000 1.056

Though they hardly played together, I included Sekera more something to consider for next season. They pushed a tonne of offense, and didn’t allow a goal. Obviously unsustainable, but something that might be interesting to see for the 2019-20 season.

Final Thought

Larsson with always be linked to Taylor Hall. Fair? Certainly not. Larsson, a steady #2/#3 shutdown defenceman, didn’t choose to be traded, one for one, for Taylor Hall, a dynamic, Hart-winning forward; fans without a doubt would consider anything less than a Norris Trophy-bearer coming back to be a rip-off. But regardless, as much as I would like to never to have that conversation again, that will always be the Swede’s legacy on the Oilers. It doesn’t help that all the goal-scoring numbers are pitiful, but on a team that finished 20th in GF in the league with 229, that was a problem that was endemic to the entire roster, and can’t be placed squarely on Larsson. The same can be said for the On-Ice Save Percentages, it can be hard to discern whether those are a result of the goaltender or the defensive corps in front of them. In this case, I would likely say that it’s likely a healthy combination of both.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the implementation of Tippett’s system will have an effect on Larsson’s numbers, but I’m personally confident that in a more disciplined structure– and not to mention hopefully some run-support with more goal-scoring– Larsson will have a solid year as a player who isn’t going to blow anyone away with scoring totals, but will play thrive as a steady hand on the backend.

  • Spydyr

    The problem was not trading Hall for Larsson. The problem was the “Oilers braintrust” getting bent over on the trade. There should have been a first or a high end prospect coming over as well.

  • Nellzo

    I look at Larsson and see a good player that had a down year on a bad team. He’s the steady top 3 D-man that every team needs. He’ll have a better season in ’19/20

      • Big Nuggets

        I think he will bounce back next year as well. Not that he will be offensive in any way, but he has the ability to defend with physicality that is essential in the playoffs, should we get there again.

  • camdog

    If you’ve got Larsson pencilled in as your 2/3 d-man good bet you aren’t making playoffs. When I think of number 1, 2 or 3 d-man I think of guys that can play over 20 minutes a night every night and look reasonably good doing it. For Larsson and Sekera the last 2 years they haven’t been there. I don’t know if it’s a back injury or just the wear and tear? Russell is defiantly a guy you don’t want playing over 20 minutes a night, he’s small and gets beat up pretty quickly.

    I like Larsson, Sekera and Russell, but they just aren’t players I’d want to play top line minutes each and every game, not right now in their careers. Oilers need a guy that play those minutes. Maybe it’s somebody in system maybe it’s a trade.

  • kormega

    -28 is awful. Only three players in the league got worse +/- (though Ristolainen, Doughty and Bobby Ryan are not a bad company)) Larss should be better than that.