logo

Oilers’ Power Play: Can It Be 30% again?

alt
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
11 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ power play set a new NHL record for efficiency last season. It scored on 32.4% of its PP opportunities. The previous best was 31.9% by the 1978 Montreal Canadiens. That was the first season the NHL began tracking PP%. From 1978-1981 the Canadiens averaged 28.1% on the PP. The New York Islanders were 28.7% over the same four-year span, which was the best four-year run in NHL history until the 2020-2023 Oilers averaged 29.1% on their man advantages.
Last year’s record-setting season wasn’t a one-off for the Oilers. Their power play has been excellent for four seasons, and with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl the main focus I see no reason to see a significant drop in efficiency. Add in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has always been a very good power play producer, Evan Bouchard’s shot, and Zach Hyman and Evander Kane splitting the net-front spot, and the Oilers’ man advantage should once again be very good.
The Oilers power play has been incredibly efficient for the past four seasons.
YEARGPPPOPPO/GPPPGFPPGF/GPPP%
2020712002.82590.8329.5%
2021561743.11480.8627.6%
2022822352.87610.7426%
2023822753.35891.0932.4%
AVG722213.04640.8829.1%
Edmonton had the sixth-most PPO (power play opportunities) in the NHL last year at 3.35. The league average was 3.07, the highest we’ve seen since 2018. The NHL’s PP% average was 21.3%, which was the highest since 1986. Unless the league decides to stop enforcing the rules, the Oilers should draw above league average in PPO chances next season.
The Oilers’ PP success should continue, but it is important to point out the league has never seen a PP this efficient before. Since the league began tracking team PP%, we have only seen 36 teams finish a season at 26% or higher. The Oilers have done it four years in a row. In those four years, only Toronto (27.3% and 26% in 2022 and 2023 respectively) and St. Louis (27% in 2022) have surpassed 26%. Edmonton has more than the other 31 teams combined. Their PP has been ridiculously good.
Here’s a list of teams with a PP of 26% or higher since 1990:
2023: Edmonton (32.4%) and Toronto (26%).
2022: Toronto (27.3%), St. Louis (27%) and Edmonton (26%).
2021: Edmonton (27.6%).
2020: Edmonton (29.5%).
2019: Tampa Bay (28.2%) and Florida (26.8%).
2018: Pittsburgh (26.2%).
2013: Washington (26.8%).
1996: Pittsburgh (26%).
1990: Calgary (27.7%).
Edmonton has topped 26% in four in the past four seasons, and 13 of the past 33.
Edmonton scored 89 PP goals last year. Ottawa was second with 72 followed by Tampa Bay at 71. LA was the next highest team in the West with 68. Edmonton was fifth in 5×5 goals with 192, behind Seattle (209), Boston (199), Buffalo and New Jersey (197). The Oilers’ PP was deadly, but their 5×5 scoring was also quite good. Offence isn’t an issue for the Oilers and shouldn’t be next season.
And suggestions that power plays don’t matter in the playoffs couldn’t be further from the truth. In the last decade only Chicago (10th in 2015), St. Louis (12th in 2019) and Vegas (eighth in 2023) didn’t finish in the top six of playoff PP%. Since 2017 the Cup winner has finished fifth, second, 12th, fifth, third, first and eighth in PP%. You need to be very good in other areas, but it is rare that a lethargic PP will win you a Cup.
The Oilers’ PP was 46.2% in the playoffs this season, and 26% in 2022. It rarely isn’t productive. The Oilers didn’t lose because their PP wasn’t good in the playoffs. Improved attention to detail defensively is where they need to improve, and when they do, their PP success should give them a much better chance to win.

NEW WRINKLES…

May 3, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period of game one of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
What makes the Oilers’ PP so good is their creativity and adding new looks. A few years ago, Leon Draisaitl was near the bottom right circle. He was facing the net. He received a pass from McDavid on his backhand, and quickly, lifted his stick and shot it on his forehand. The penalty killers had never seen it before and didn’t know how to defend it.
Last year, McDavid decided to shoot more on the man advantage. He finished second in the NHL with 108 PP shots (David Pastrnak had 122) and McDavid was second in goals with 21, trailing Draisaitl’s 32, which was the second most in NHL history (Tim Kerr scored 34 with Philadelphia in 1986). McDavid’s previous high in PP goals was 11 in 2020 and his previous best PP shots was 79. Draisaitl also fired the most PP shots of his career with 105.
In game three of round one v. LA, McDavid walked down the left side and scored twice on the PP. He hadn’t scored from that side on the man advantage all season.
Their ability to change and evolve, combined with their vision and elite puck handling and shooting skills, makes the PP difficult to defend. If you try to take away McDavid, then Draisaitl is open for his one-timer, or RNH in the slot, or Bouchard creeps down from the point. With McDavid and Draisaitl both shooting more, the man advantage has become more dangerous and unpredictable. It will be interesting to see which new wrinkle they show next season.
Could the Oilers reach 30% again?
The New York Islanders had back-to-back seasons of 31.4% in 1978 and 31.2% in 1979. It is possible, and with the Oilers’ leadership core focused on being better all around next year, I won’t be surprised if they push for a second consecutive season above 30% on the man advantage.

Check out these posts...