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The Oilers PDO Pony

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Photo credit:Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Sunil Agnihotri
6 months ago
Editor’s note: This article was written ahead of Sunday’s Oilers game.
The early season results for the Edmonton Oilers have been absolutely dreadful, with the club sitting second last in the league after seven games. There’s plenty of blame to go around with how the roster was constructed, which players were selected to the roster after training camp, how the coaching staff has deployed players and how the players have performed.
Most of these issues were visible at the end of last season. The general manager has a history of building flawed rosters and mismanaging the cap. The coaching staff has at times struggled to adjust their tactics, and mismanaged player deployment in the playoffs. We knew the forward group was at risk of seeing their production decline as a group of them are well past their prime years. And we also knew the team was taking a risk with the current goaltending tandem, with Jack Campbell struggling to post acceptable numbers last year and Stuart Skinner having issues in the playoffs.
What I don’t think many saw happening this early in the season was the team shooting percentage (6.10 percent) and team save percentage (88.61 percent) hitting all-time lows at even-strength. Combining them to determine the PDO, the Oilers are sitting at 0.947 – the fourth lowest in the league. And well below the 100 that most teams hover around over the course of a season. There’s a good, recent write-up on PDO and why it matters over at Canucks Army.
I wa curious to see if the Oilers ever hit this low of a PDO last regular season in any seven-game stretch, and it appears they came very close to it. The chart below shows the Oilers PDO over rolling seven games last season. And I’ve added a blue line across to show where they’re at after seven games this season.
Between November 8 and November 23 last season (games 14-20), the Oilers went 3-4 over seven games and were outscored 7-18. Their PDO was at 0.949 – their lowest point of the season. They came close to that again a few more times over the season, but for the most part were well above that and finished the 2022/23 regular season at 100.6. A team’s shooting percentage and save percentage is going to fluctuate throughout the season – that’s the random nature of hockey. And I doubt the Oilers current rate of scoring and saving goals is going to continue, especially when they have some decent talent on their roster.
The other positive for the Oilers is that they’re underlying shot-share numbers at even-strength, which predicts future results (i.e., goal-share), have been very solid this season. Their Corsi For percentage (a proxy for puck possession) is at 56 percent and their share of Expected Goals (which measures shot quality) sits at 54 percent. Their current goal-share of 35 percent (10 goals for, 18 goals against) should not last long if they can continue out-chancing opponents. But it’s anyone’s guess as to when that will happen.
I was also curious to see how each individual player has performed so far this season, as measured by their on-ice differential of shots and expected goals. And also what their on-ice results have been, as measured by their on-ice goal differential. In the tables below I’ve also included each player’s on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage along with their PDO to determine if their results have been sustainable or not. A basic heat map has been applied to show how each player compares to their team.
The one player to be concerned about is Evander Kane who has performed poorly, so it’s difficult to have confidence in his on-ice results improving. Same with Erne who was always a questionable signing and roster selection. On the flip side, Hyman should see his numbers gradually improve (if he starts shooting at a rate closer to his career levels), and hopefully Brown can get into form after missing almost an entire season and finishing his chances. I’d also give Holloway some time with the top-end forwards, as he’s performed well in his limited minutes.
It also might be wise to be patient with young Evan Bouchard. He’s definitely had his issues this season, but things should turn around for him as the team tends to do a better job at generating offence with him on the ice. I’d have some concerns with Ekholm who missed a lot of training camp, and is also in his thirties.
Hopefully things turn around sooner rather than later, especially in a massive season with championship aspirations. And hopefully it can start tonight against Calgary.
Data: Natural Stat Trick

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