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Should Ken Holland Make a Big Move?

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Jason Gregor
8 months ago
Are the Edmonton Oilers more competitive than we think?
Currently, the Oilers are 15th in points and 15th in points%. Many will say you are what your record says you are. There’s truth to that, but what if 24% of your season was a major outlier?
After looking at some numbers, the Edmonton Oilers might be better we believe.
The Oilers had a great start. They had the best points percentage (P%) in the NHL after 21 games going 16-5. Then they were the worst team in the NHL over their next 15 games, going 2-11-2, and now they’ve rebounded and have the fifth-best P% over the last 25 games at 16-7-2.
Is their total 61-game record indicative of who they are, or was a horrific 15 game-stretch an outlier?
Let’s look at some numbers. Here is this Oilers’ season, in three parts.
RecordGF/GPGA/GPPP%PK%
16-5 (1st P%)3.81 (2nd)2.90 (17th)35.9% (1st)87.7% (3rd)
2-11-2 (32nd P%)2.33 (28th)4.13 (32nd)18.4% (23rd)63% (32nd)
16-7-2 (5th P%)3.52 (6th)2.80 (9th)19.3% (23rd)73.7% (27th)
In the first 21 games their special teams were incredible, their offence excellent and their team defence was average.
The middle 15 games were a disaster in every facet. We will look at why in a bit.
And now they’ve rebounded in the past 25 games, but they aren’t relying on their special teams. Their 5×5 play has improved significantly.
The 15-game stretch from December 3rd to January 21st was awful. It was so bad, that it has made the rest of the season look worse than the Oilers have played. For 76.5% of this season the Oilers are 32-12-2 with a .717P%. Only Calgary and Florida have a combined better P% over those two stretches. Here is how the current 16 playoff teams match up over those two stretches of play.
          EAST                                                 WEST
Florida: .720P% (29-10-4)                 Calgary: .750P% (33-9-6)
Toronto: .697P% (32-13-3)               Edmonton: .717P% (32-12-2)
Carolina: .689P% (29-12-4)              Dallas: .716P% (25-9-3)
Tampa: .687P% (25-10-5)                 Colorado: .686P% (28-12-3)
NYR: .682P% (26-11-4)                     Minnesota: .630P% (28-16-2)
Washington: .655P% (26-12-7)        Los Angeles: .602P% (23-14-7)
Boston: .625P% (26-15-3)                St. Louis: .593P% (22-14-7)
Pittsburgh: .588P% (22-14-9)          Nashville: .547P% (22-18-2)
Edmonton has been very competitive for those periods. But in the other stretch they were dreadful.
         EAST                                                 WEST
Pittsburgh: .882P% (15-2-0)             Colorado: .889P% (15-1-2)
Carolina: .833P% (12-2-1)                 St. Louis:  .765P% (12-3-2)
Tampa: .725P% (14-5-1)                   Nashville: .737P% (13-4-2)
Florida: .722P% (12-4-2)                   Minnesota: .615P% (7-4-2)
Boston: .706P% (11-4-2)                   Los Angeles: .605P% (11-7-1)
NYR: .625P% (12-7-1)                       Dallas: .471P% (8-9-0)
Toronto: .615P% (7-4-2)                   Calgary: .375P% (4-7-1)
Washington: .559P% (8-6-3)            Edmonton: .200P% (2-11-2)
Edmonton struggled, as did Calgary and Dallas. Nashville and St. Louis had really good stretches to boost their overall numbers, while Pittsburgh’s 17-game stretch was much better than their other 45 games.
COVID was more of a factor for teams in December and January. It was the peak of teams having players out. Calgary was lucky in the sense that they didn’t have to play games with players out, but they had 10 games postponed and didn’t play for long stretches.
The Oilers were hit with COVID, but they also had injuries on their blue line and their best players, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, had relatively pedestrian offensive totals.

DECEMBER-JANUARY SWOON…

The results from those 15 games were so vastly different than the other 46 for the Oilers it deserves investigating. They struggled mightily in goals for, goals against and on special teams. What happened?
If you look at their 5×5 play, the shot attempts and scoring chances weren’t awful, but they were outscored 38-25. Not good.
Here is a look at their 5×5 numbers during the three stretches.
GPCF%FF%SF%GFGAGF%xGF%SCF%HDCF%HDGF%SH%SV%PDO
2149.7948.6947.85464848.9449.4448.3946.7954.728.9791.411.004
1554.5653.1452.64253839.6852.8952.150.1945.956.2789.420.957
2553.7952.3952.7574158.1653.5751.0755.7666.678.7393.001.017
Edmonton got caved in goals for/against. Their shooting% and Sv% were much lower in those 15 games at 5×5. And I think injuries and a rare scoring funk were the main factors.
In the 15-game debacle the Oilers dressed 11 different D-men. In only one game did all top-six D dress, and that was the final game on January 20th. Their best D-man during that stretch was Duncan Keith and he missed six games. The struggles in those 15 games for everyone on the blue line, except Keith, were noticeable.
Player15 gamesTOIGF-GA
Nurse132866-11
Bouchard1525611-17
Barrie142315-8
Ceci122227-12
Keith917110-6
Russell5541-6
Lagesson7714-6
Ceci played the fourth most minutes and Keith was fifth during this run. Kris Russell only played five games, and in those games in the top four his GF-GA took a beating. But look at the other 76% of the season for the Oilers’ blue line.
PlayerOthersTOIGF-GA
Nurse4180939-31
Ceci4578633-25
Bouchard4570130-30
Keith3456425-21
Barrie3855932-29
Russell1622516-5
Lagesson2325610–9
Nurse had a 35.2GF% in 15 games, but he had a 55.8GF% in the other games. Ceci was a 36.9GF% in that stretch and a 56.8GF% in his other 45 games.
Bouchard was a 39.2GF% compared to 50GF% in his other 45 games. Tyson Barrie was 38.4GF% instead of 52.4%. Russell had a 14.2GF% compared to 76.1GF%. Only Keith was close posting a 62.5GF% compared to 54.3% the rest of the way.
Injuries are a part of the game, and when the Oilers had multiple injuries on their blue line the young recalls just weren’t as good as the veterans. Philip Broberg, Markus Niemelainen, Dmitri Samorukov and William Lagesson aren’t on the same level right now. The results showed it. Broberg looked more comfortable in March, but very few young D-men are as consistent as the veteran counterparts.

OFFENSIVE DIP…

I understand if someone says other teams had injuries as well. Fair and valid point. Injuries are part of the game and the Oilers struggled when their defence corps got banged up. The other factor, which is difficult to pinpoint, is that McDavid and Draisaitl’s offence dipped significantly during those 15 games.
Here are their point totals and pts/game in parenthesis.
TotalFirst 21Middle 15Recent 25
McDavid15-25-40 (1.90)4-9-13 (0.93)15-19-34 (1.36)
Draisaitl20-21-41 (1.95)6-7-13 (0.87)14-16-30 (1.20)
For most players 13 points in 14 and 15 games respectively would be great, but for McDavid and Draisaitl that was well below their average. Their first 21 games were unreal, mainly due to their power play prowess, but for them to go almost two months averaging below 1.00 point/game was rare.
Their 5×5 scoring was down.
5×5 ptsFirst 21Middle 15Recent 25
McDavid7-9-16 (0.76)3-4-7 (0.46)8-8-16 (0.64)
Draisaitl6-12-18 (0.86)3-4-7 (0.46)9-6-15(0.60)
So was their power play production.
PP PointsFirst 21Middle 15Recent 25
McDavid5-13-18 (0.86)0-4-4 (0.26)3-9-12 (0.48)
Draisaitl10-6-16 (0.76)3-3-6 (0.40)4-6-10(0.40)
Even the best players in the game have dips, but for those two that was an extended drop off we haven’t seen in five seasons.
Those two, along with a healthy blue line and a new commitment to improved play at 5×5 under Jay Woodcroft, makes me wonder: How good are the Oilers?
There are questions about their goaltending. Valid. But they had the same goalies in the 15 game stretch as they’ve had in their other 46 games and they went 32-12-2.
I wonder how Holland views his team.
I think they are better than a 15th place team. I wonder how much of an outlier that 15-game stretch was. The forward group had a total of 38 games from players currently not on the Oilers roster in Colton Sceviour (15), Tyler Benson (8), Brendan Perlini (7), Kyle Turris (6) and Cooper Marody and Seth Griffith (1). Essentially, that is 2.5 forward spots/game that are filled by different players now. Evander Kane is in the lineup, while the other 1.5 is filled with players who missed games in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (when he returns), Zach Hyman, Zack Kassian and Josh Archibald.
The forward group today is faster, more skilled, bigger and has more depth than they had earlier in the season.
The play in their 46 games makes me think the Oilers might be better than we think. But how good?
Are they good enough to win a round? I think so. They match up well v. Los Angeles.
Could they beat Calgary? Hard to say. They’ve had success against Calgary the past few seasons. It would be a good series. Kane and Tyler Toffoli were good additions for both teams. The Flames just added Calle Jarnkrok to bolster their top nine. Holland likely needs to add a piece to match that. Maybe he adds more.
There isn’t a goalie available who is a significant upgrade (Marc-Andre Fleury has declined coming to Edmonton thus far), so the Oilers will go with a combination of Mikko Koskinen, Mike Smith and Stuart Skinner. Maybe one gets hot at the right time.
After looking at these splits, if I was the GM I could be convinced to add a bigger name than a depth D-man at the deadline if the cost to acquire him isn’t too high.
How big of a swing should Holland take before Monday’s deadline?
For me it should be a fairly big one for physical, aggressive defender. They don’t need another non-physical defender.

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