Could Less Be More for McDavid and Draisaitl?

Photo credit:© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
10 months ago
Barring a major comeback by the Florida Panthers, it looks like the Edmonton Oilers will have been eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup winner two years in a row. In 2022 the Oilers were swept by a juggernaut Colorado Avalanche team, and this year they lost in six to the Vegas Golden Knights. (Before you yell jinx, since Vegas is only leading 2-0, I don’t believe in jinxes and what I write today has zero impact on how the final games of the Cup Final will be played, but I digress.)
The Oilers were a legit Stanley Cup contender this year and should be for the next few seasons and beyond once Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid sign extensions. With Vegas winning, many have wondered if the Oilers need to match how they roll four lines. Would playing McDavid and Draisaitl for fewer minutes at 5×5 be helpful?
Before we get into the numbers, today is part one of a two-part series.
Here’s a breakdown of the Vegas/Edmonton six-game series. (*Winning team in Red).
The first four games were lopsided with Vegas and Edmonton each winning twice. In games five and six the difference was Vegas outscored Edmonton 2-0 and 3-2 at 5×5 and most of the damage occurred in the second periods. The Oilers didn’t get outplayed 5×5, they got outscored, often due to a bad decision or giveaway, rather than Vegas overwhelming them with sustained pressure.
Courtesy of Sportlogiq, the Oilers had more offensive zone possession time at 5×5 in all the games except game five.
Edmonton gifted a few goals and couldn’t slow down the line of Jack Eichel, Jonathon Marchessault, and Ivan Barbashev. That line crushed them.
Jonathan Marchessault6534156.389281.8258.12
Ivan Barbashev6494154.449281.8255.85
Jack Eichel6454251.728188.8953.07
Nicolas Roy6302950.85326053.42
William Karlsson6343648.57326046.84
Reilly Smith6323547.76418048.36
William Carrier6161945.71115050.97
Brett Howden6303943.481516.6736.41
Michael Amadio4162143.242166.6741.08
Keegan Kolesar6152042.86115041.72
Mark Stone6263741.272433.3336.36
Chandler Stephenson6233837.72528.5732.39
They were on for nine goals for and two against. The only other Vegas forward who was on the ice for more shots for than against was Nicolas Roy at 30-29.
Warren Foegele6402363.49234062.32
Zach Hyman6493062.035362.568.79
Connor McDavid6553561.114357.1463.18
Ryan McLeod6332556.9234056.47
Leon Draisaitl6574456.44464057.99
Derek Ryan5272452.94225053.47
R. Nugent-Hopkins6302752.631516.6747.68
Evander Kane64848502528.5749.26
Kailer Yamamoto6273841.542722.2242.84
Nick Bjugstad6183533.96142034.82
Mattias Janmark451033.33115042.15
Klim Kostin6133030.23132530.27
Edmonton only had two players, McDavid and Zach Hyman, who weren’t outscored 5×5 in the series. Vegas didn’t control the play more at 5×5, and didn’t outshoot the Oilers, but they were more consistent and reliable defensively. They also generated more rebound opportunities. Did Vegas gain any advantage by playing their fourth line a bit more at 5×5?
Carrier and Kolesar played two and three minutes more than Klim Kostin and Mattias Janmark, although Janmark’s stats are skewed because he got injured in game one and left early. McDavid logged 1:45 more/game than Eichel did at 5×5. It wasn’t a massive discrepancy in TOI. The Eichel line simply scored more in the series, but head-to-head he and McDavid’s line were even with two goals for and two against.
I don’t think TOI for the forwards was much of a factor in the series outcome. It was more about Edmonton’s inability to lock it down defensively when needed. The veterans outlined that very honestly in their end-of-season availabilities. None more accurate than this comment from Draisaitl: “I think sometimes, as a team, for us we find a way to lose games and more so beat ourselves than the team actually beating us,” he said. “We have to find a way to learn how to not beat ourselves.”
Playing consistent, sound defense can be tiring. You need to be diligent all the time defensively, and for the Oilers they will need to learn, and show it, during the regular season. I saw no issue with the Oilers TOI at 5×5 in the playoffs, but I do wonder if the team might benefit if McDavid and Draisaitl play fewer minutes 5×5 in the regular season.


Apr 26, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and center Leon Draisaitl (29) talk prior to a face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
I looked at the previous two regular seasons. McDavid and Draisaitl led the NHL in 5×5 TOI with 2,626 and 2,554 minutes respectively. Both were very healthy as McDavid missed a total of two games and Draisaitl sat out four. I ranked them by TOI/game to eliminate games played and set the minimum TOI at 1,100 minutes, and then I looked at pts/60 and Draisaitl was 32nd.
I have them listed by TOI/GP. Nathan MacKinnon is first, and the column “Rank” shows where they sit in regard to points/60.
3Nathan MacKinnon13616:211.31.813.1
14Connor McDavid16216:161.231.432.66
32Leon Draisaitl16015:571.011.462.47
4Auston Matthews14715:471.651.43.05
11Jack Hughes12715:221.351.352.71
27Artemi Panarin15715:020.811.682.49
13Nikita Kucherov12914:590.91.772.67
10Johnny Gaudreau16214:500.971.82.77
20Kirill Kaprizov14814:471.181.432.6
24Nick Schmaltz12614:360.951.62.54
30Brayden Point14814:351.221.252.47
6Jason Robertson15614:311.271.592.86
2Mitchell Marner15214:
1Matthew Tkachuk16114:181.251.933.18
7David Pastrnak15414:081.541.322.86
15Carter Verhaeghe15913:591.321.322.64
22Jordan Kyrou15313:581.231.352.58
28Robert Thomas14513:570.621.872.49
23Michael Bunting16113:420.951.62.55
17Nikolaj Ehlers10713:391.191.442.63
8Jeff Skinner15913:351.391.472.86
25Pavel Buchnevich13613:351.071.462.53
21Jesper Bratt15813:341.151.452.6
5Tage Thompson15613:311.391.482.87
18Steven Stamkos16213:301.041.592.63
16Alex Tuch12413:221.011.632.64
29Nazem Kadri15313:220.851.642.49
12Filip Forsberg11913:181.521.172.69
19Vladimir Tarasenko14413:181.191.442.63
30Aleksander Barkov13513:180.91.572.47
9Kevin Fiala15113:050.971.822.79
26Jonathan Huberdeau15912:490.791.742.53
McDavid is 14th and Draisaitl is 32nd. McDavid is third in total points with 117 and Draisaitl is eighth with 105. Would they benefit from a bit less time/game at 5×5?
In 2022 McDavid averaged 16:35/game and produced 22-36-58 in 82 games.
This past year he skated 15:57 per game and scored 32-27-59 in 80 games.
However, Draisaitl had a slight dip in TOI and in points.
In 2022 he skated 16:03/game and scored 26-28-54 in 80 games.
In 2023 he averaged 15:52/game and scored 17-34-51 in 80 games.
The biggest difference was he had 148 shots in 2022 and 119 in 2023.
Their production and their TOI/game was very close each season. It would be a reach to suggest Draisaitl playing 11 fewer seconds per game was why he scored nine fewer goals.
When we look at their total TOI compared to other teams’ top players, playing those extra minutes isn’t leading to a significant increase in point production. It also isn’t leading to significantly more goals against/60 as well. If you look at the same 32 players, McDavid ranks 12th in GA/60 and Draisaitl is 21st.
C. Verhaeghe15956.131278061.352.160.92931.017357287
J. Robertson15656.211398262.92.170.92151.025429225
D. Pastrnak15456.691348062.622.220.92181.022533206
M. Tkachuk16159.521818667.792.240.92011.034428341
N. Ehlers10753.58825559.852.260.92631.022276154
A. Panarin15750.491199256.42.340.92091.021275233
P. Buchnevich13650.281167261.72.340.92621.044299263
K. Kaprizov14852.661188857.282.410.91551.017413139
A. Barkov13556.421077459.122.470.91551.01291267
A. Matthews14756.791639762.692.510.90931.025458206
M. Marner15254.841429360.432.540.90861.024474252
C. McDavid16255.2614811256.922.550.91691.006474293
M. Bunting16154.321539561.692.580.91361.031426218
N. MacKinnon13653.221499660.822.590.92141.029511250
S. Stamkos16249.161309557.782.60.91711.034483395
J. Huberdeau15955.951158956.372.620.90711.002431190
J. Gaudreau16251.3715010957.922.720.91381.026452383
J. Bratt15857.212310055.162.80.91380.992411288
K. Connor16149.3311511749.572.820.91371.001515273
N. Kadri15356.5711310053.052.930.8950.986356232
L. Draisaitl16051.0714112752.612.980.90741.006505362
V. Tarasenko14445.561109753.143.040.91171.031355232
N. Kucherov12951.031229955.23.070.9071.017394222
R. Thomas14548.4712910654.893.140.90471.028338248
B. Point14850.6313111453.473.170.90291.012438263
A. Tuch12452.291078954.593.220.89951.008359179
N. Schmaltz12646.441049951.233.230.89891.021304306
J. Kyrou15346.8711611749.793.280.90081.012335257
J. Hughes12754.5311410951.123.350.88740.986359152
J. Skinner15951.6514312253.963.390.9011.01498224
McDavid has the 10th-highest on-ice Sv%, while Draisaitl is 20th.
When you look at points, goals for, goals against, Sv%, and a few other stats, I don’t think you can accurately state that fewer minutes at 5×5 for Draisaitl or McDavid will lead to improved success.
However, in part two tomorrow we will look at one factor which, while not directly connected to 5×5, does impact the overall numbers, and that is where Jay Woodcroft might consider how it impacts their minutes at 5×5.

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