Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
What the Edmonton Oilers have and haven’t been getting from their bottom-six forward group
14 days ago
For a long time, Edmonton’s bottom-six forward was a sore spot.
The word was that the Oilers were top-heavy, carried by star players in their top-six and bogged down by the third and fourth lines that couldn’t score or defend. However, that has changed this season, as the depth forwards have found ways to contribute to the team’s recent success.
Chief among them are Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod, two players who have played in the top-six with Leon Draisaitl as their centre. The former will likely smash career-highs in both goals and points, as he has 10 goals and 26 points in 46 games. McLeod, on the other hand, is the first effective third-line centre the Oilers have developed in years, and he has nine goals and 19 points after a tough start.
Sam Gagner has only played 22 games this season after coming back from hip surgery, but he has five goals and 10 points. Derek Ryan has just four goals and nine points in 46 games, far off his pace of 13 goals in 2023-24, but he’s still proved to be a valuable fourth-liner who can play on the wing and at centre. The Oilers recently signed Corey Perry, who had four goals and nine points in 16 games before the Chicago Blackhawks terminated his contract.
Although they aren’t with the team at this moment, James Hamblin and Adam Erne are great depth options to play on the fourth line when injuries happen. Both players are currently with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL and represent solid depth for the big league club.
There are two more bottom-six forwards who have played significant time for the Oilers this season who haven’t been able to produce much on the scoresheets but have been effective in other ways. They’ll be the topic of this article. Let’s talk about Mattias Janmark and Connor Brown.
Feb 9, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Mattias Janmark (26) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Janmark has got that dawg in him. However, the grizzled veteran simply just isn’t producing this season, as he has just one goal and six points across 36 games. All but one of those points came during a three-game point streak, which was capped off by a three-assist night on December 6, 2023. In his last 23 games, Janmark has just a single assist and has 24 shots on goal.
The Oilers are paying Janmark $1 million and on paper, he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Last season, he scored 10 goals and 25 points, which was the second straight season with 25 points. At one point in his career, he scored 19 goals and 34 points, hitting the 10-goal plateau four times in his eight-year career. This is to illustrate that he’s supposed to be a depth scorer, but let’s dig deeper than that.
I was scrolling Reddit one day when I came across a post from u/Outside-Today-1814 which highlighted that Janmark hasn’t been on the ice for a goal in 2024. In fact, he hasn’t been on the ice for a goal since December 30.
In total, he’s played 143:07 minutes at all strengths, with the Oilers scoring two goals with him on the ice. As you can guess, “all strengths” include the penalty kill, so yeah, Janmark has played 20:31 minutes since December 31 on the penalty kill and the team hasn’t allowed a goal. In fact, they’ve only given up one goal on the penalty kill since December 31.
There’s something to be desired in Janmark’s game, as he’s been good for around 10 goals and 30 points in previous seasons. However, when you look a little deeper into his performance this year, you can see that the team has a great penalty killer and a forward who is defensively responsible.
At a glance, this signing hasn’t gone as planned for either side. Brown, who was coming off an ACL injury and missed the entirety of the 2022-23 season has just four points in 39 games this season. It’s not a great look for a right-winger who was brought in to be a top-six forward, especially considering he was given a bonus of $3.25 million after 10 games.
The Oilers had a chance to cut bait and release Brown as he was injured during his ninth game of the season, but they kept him, and for good reason.
Brown may not be scoring at all, but it’s not for a lack of trying. This season at five on five, Brown has a PDO of .963, with 1.00 considered average luck, and anything below it being considered unlucky and vice versa if it’s over. Out of any players with 400 minutes played, Brown’s PDO of .963 ranks 48th worst in the league of 517 players.
The stat PDO is a combination of your team’s shooting percentage and your own netminder’s save percentage. When Brown is on the ice, Edmonton’s netminder (mainly Stuart Skinner) has a 92.68% save percentage, which ranks 114th in the league, so better than most.
It’s the team’s shooting percentage, however, that makes Brown super unlucky. The team as a whole has a 3.48% shooting percentage, which is the fourth worst in the league for players with 400 minutes or more played. For context, the next closest Oiler is Vincent Desharnais, as the team has a 6.08% shooting percentage with him on the ice, which is the 38th worst.
Moreover, it’s not like Brown hasn’t had his chances either. With Brown on the ice, the Oilers have 86 high-danger scoring chances, which is tied for 423th in the league. It’s a good sign that the team has only given up 80 high-scoring danger chances for a 51.81 HDCF%.
Once against, statistics don’t tell the full story, as Brown provides a ton of value elsewhere as well. Like Janmark, Brown plays on the penalty kill and has the fourth-most minutes played for a forward at 67:27. He and Janmark are a big reason for Edmonton’s turnaround in the penalty kill department, which is highlighted in an excellent article by Sunil Agnihorti.
Brown is a proven scorer like Janmark, hitting the 20-goal plateau twice in his career and the 30-point plateau five times in his six full seasons, falling just a point shy in the only season he didn’t. He may not be the same player after his knee injury, but it just takes one goal to get that monkey off your back, and then maybe, just maybe, he’ll start to produce.
At the end of the day, it really depends on how you look at Brown. As a player who is making a minimum salary, his penalty-killing is well worth it, and it’s clear he’s just been plain unlucky. As a player who will cost more than $3 million against the salary cap next season, he hasn’t scored enough to validate the deal. However, that’s more so a failure of management.
The Bottom Line
Let’s hope that Janmark and Brown are able to start finding the back of the net like they have in the past. These two have been major contributors on the defensive side of the puck for Kris Knoblauch, but getting goals from them as well will take Edmonton’s bottom-six from strong to excellent.
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