logo

Yes, your favourite NHL team should still be trying to acquire Erik Karlsson

alt
Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
7 months ago
Something I think people get misconstrued when it comes to the concept of offence in hockey is that it’s not always just about scoring goals.
A significant part of it is about possession of the puck and keeping it out of your own zone. It’s a reason why the Edmonton Oilers going after Erik Karlsson made so much sense.
Did it all work out for them in acquiring Mattias Ekholm instead? Absolutely it did. No denying how significant his impact has been on the team.
And for as strong of an in-zone defenceman as Ekholm is, a major strength of his game is getting the puck into the offensive zone.
This, in turn, is why analytics, namely things like shot attempt share and expected goal share, are so important in hockey. If you have a player who is + in either one of these categories, it means that they are spending more time in the offensive zone than in the defensive zone. And remember — the word expected goal share really just means “of what quality were the shot attempts taken.”
If you are spending more time in the offensive zone than in the defensive zone, you have a greater chance to score goals and not be scored on. That’s how you win hockey games. It’s a simple concept that has existed since the dawn of hockey’s first organized game on March 3rd, 1875.
James G. A. Creighton, a McGill law student and later reporter for The Montreal Gazette, is believed to be the one who helped organize the game. Held in Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink, the match featured nine men per side and saw “notwithstanding the brilliant play of Captain Torrance’s team Captain Creighton’s men carried the day, winning two games to the single of the Torrance nine.”
While the flags, now known as posts, were set eight feet apart Creighton’s club’s ability to put what was then a flat block of wood between the flags is what led to them winning. That wouldn’t have happened if his eight com

A newspaper clipping from the March 4th, 1875 edition of The Montreal Gazette details the first organized hockey game.

The concept of scoring more goals, and having more chances to score goals, goes for players on the first line, and that goes for players on the fourth line. It goes for your first pairing for your third pairing. It goes for the superstars, and it goes for the grinders and defensive defencemen who are both still among the most talented hockey players in the entire world.
Erik Karlsson’s strengths as a player are his ability to generate offence with his skating and puck-moving ability. What makes him flat-out dominant is the fact he’s among the best at entering and exiting zones in the NHL and from there, being able to contribute shots and assists at otherworldly numbers.
At 5×5 this past season with Karlsson on the ice, San Jose scored 96 goals and allowed just as many, but relative to his teammates, his goal share was a staggering 13 percent better than the rest of his teammates. This number comes from his offensive contributions this season, not his defensive ones. With Karlsson on the ice at 5×5, the Sharks scored 3.45 goals for per hour — an 86 percent increase in the number of goals scored per hour from the 1.85 scored with Karlsson off the ice this season.
The numbers are staggering, and provide deeper context to how impactful his season was which saw him score 25 goals and 101 points.
While the Edmonton Oilers are on the outside looking in when it comes to acquiring Karlsson this offseason, it’s no surprise that teams with smart front offices like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes are the believed frontrunners.
Say what you will about the length of Karlsson’s deal and concerns about him entering his mid-30s, he will undoubtedly make either one of these clubs — or any of the other 28 that may try and acquire him — better as they pursue winning a Stanley Cup.

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.

Check out these posts...