Putting Josh Archibald into the Edmonton Oilers lineup is overthinking it

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
Josh Archibald has reportedly gained a medical exemption and is now able to travel, and be available to play, for the Edmonton Oilers in the United States.
Jay Woodcroft said this was the case Wednesday morning after a morning skate that saw Archibald slide in on the Oilers’ third line alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Derek Ryan.
The Oilers have been so preoccupied with whether they could get Archibald in games, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
It appears ahead of game three the Oilers are preparing to make him a regular in the lineup, but you have to ask the question of why. Archibald has played in only eight games for the team this year and the results have not, in any sense of the term, been favourable towards him.
2021-2, forwards >50 TOI at 5×5CF% (CF%rel)GF% (GF%Rel)xGF%(xGF%Rel)PDO
Archibald39.33 (-14.55)33.33 (-30.95)31.66 (-24.15)100.8
Among every one of the key statistics above, Archibald is the worst player on the Edmonton Oilers. If you want to point towards his limited game you can do so, but Archibald’s underlying numbers have been well below average in his entire three-year stint in Edmonton.
Over that time, he’s been among the worst statistically relative to his teammates. When it comes to 5×5 play over his entire time in Edmonton, virtually every player has worse on-ice results with Archibald, than without him.
It’s also imporant to note how much of a drag Archibald has been with Nugent-Hopkins over the last three years, too.
RNH w/ Archibald114:1338.810-7 / 0%34.8590.07
RNH w/o Archibald1419:5550.7954.6953.5
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has had some struggles in recent years, which is very apparent, but playing with Archibald has drug him down even more. So right off the hop, the Oilers aren’t putting him on the ice expecting to win any of the statistical battles with him on the ice, goals included.
“But Zach, Josh Archibald is a physical player! He lays the body and is one of the best penalty killers when healthy!”
You can use that narrative, sure. Among all Oilers’ forwards with over 50 TOI at 5×5, he leads the Oilers in hits/60 with 27.04. He’s undoubtedly a physical presence on the ice.
In terms of his penalty kill ability, there hasn’t been a lot to write home about either. According to hockeyviz.com, the Oilers are giving up nine percent more expected goals against on the penalty kill with Archibald on the ice, than without him.
So now that we’ve identified what Archibald it, and isn’t, we need to look at Game One against the LA Kings. While there were a staggering 78 hits credited in the game, a number I think is quite high compared to the game itself, the Oilers laid 40 to the Kings’ 38. There were no big moments where physical play swung the game, either. Sure, Zack Kassian laid a few big hits along the boards, but that was about it. So Archibald isn’t going to do much in terms of swinging the physicality of the game, given there wasn’t a lot in the first place.
Secondly, if you’re in the camp that feels Archibald is a great penalty killer, there’s nothing really to fix given that the Oilers PK was a perfect 4/4 Monday night against the Kings. They didn’t allow one goal and while they allowed 10 shots against, only four shot attempts came from high danger areas. Edmonton did a tremendous job of limiting things to the outside.
Last year in the playoffs in game three against the Winnipeg Jets, he laid a low hit on Logan Stanley that landed him in the penalty box, and was suspended for game four. The Oilers were up 4-1 in that game, and the Jets scored on their subsequent powerplay chance and ended up coming back to win that game.
All in all, I struggle to see the value that Archibald can bring to the lineup tonight for game two, and I can’t help but feel like the Oilers coaching staff is overthinking things by having him play any games at all. He doesn’t address any of the issues the Oilers faced in game one, and quite frankly, he’s a liability out there on the ice.
If you want him to play, just put him on the fourth line with Zack Kassian. Limit them to six or seven minutes easy minutes a night where they can be a physical presense. Anything else doesn’t make sense.
Let’s hope he can prove me wrong.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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