The Oilers rely a lot on Connor McDavid. That much isn’t a secret. McDavid leads the team in ice-time and is fifth in the entire NHL for forwards, along with having a 12-point lead on the next highest scorer on his team.
It’s safe to say McDavid is a massively important part of Edmonton’s team. But do they rely on him too much? Is there an actual good NHL team on the ice when he isn’t? How do they compare to other top teams in the league in terms of reliance on their top centre?
Edmonton currently sits ninth in the NHL in terms of Corsi For percentage at 51.89%, meaning they generate slightly more shot attempts than they give up, and are one of the better teams in the league at it. It’s still early in the season with only 23 games played, but that is a sizeable improvement from last year’s 48.77 (19th). They have gone from a team that would usually lose the shot-attempt battle to one that is wining it more often than not. They sit tenth in Goals For %, as this simply counts the amount of goals scored for and against a team, another improvement from last year’s 44.33% (29th).
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If you eliminate all the time on ice with McDavid it paints a different image of the Oilers. The amount of shot attempts they generate and limit decrease, as well as their goals scored, but do the Oilers really need McDavid any more than any good team does? I’m not sure that’s the case.
With McDavid on the ice the Oilers are dominant, generating shot attempts and outscoring opponents like the league’s best teams. Edmonton sees a pretty significant drop in their ability to get shot attempts without McDavid on the ice, but their ability to score goals craters to that of Buffalo or Arizona levels.
McDavid is easily the Oiler’s best player, but if you eliminate the time he’s on the ice you get a different image of the Oilers. It’s difficult to consider the results without considering what other teams look like without their best centre, as generally a team will look worse without their first-line centre.
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The Oilers want to be a good hockey team, so I’m curious to see how some of the league’s playoff teams look like without their top centre on the ice, and if Edmonton really is over-relying on McDavid.
Pittsburgh seems a similar drop in their shot attempts without Sidney Crosby on the ice, but the difference is they remain able to outscore the opposition without Crosby. This is likely because Evgeni Malkin or Phil Kessel on the ice when Crosby isn’t, so they don’t suffer as much as Edmonton does without their top centre on the bench.
San Jose’s play without Joe Thornton mirrors that of Edmonton’s without McDavid. Their capacity to score goals without Thornton is much worse, but it’s still less severe of a drop than Edmonton. San Jose still edges ahead in shot attempts without Thornton, whereas Edmonton is just close to breaking even without McDavid. San Jose remains a very good team despite this drop off, which might be encouraging for Edmonton.
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Kopitar plays 21-minutes a game like McDavid, and Los Angeles does see a decline in both their shots and goals without Kopitar. There is a fairly significant drop in shot attempts, but Los Angeles remains well ahead in terms of goals compared to the drastic difference Edmonton endures.
Chicago sees little difference in terms of shots with or without Toews, but a hefty increase in goals. Chicago’s scoring depth of Artemi Panarin, Artem Ansimiov, and Patrick Kane likely allows them to still be a strong scoring team without Toews out there. Edmonton’s secondary offense of Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins haven’t been as consistent.
Stastny isn’t likely to be compared to McDavid too often but he is St. Louis’ leading centre with over 20 minutes of ice-time. The Blues fair pretty well with and without Stastny on the ice. Their goals for and against aren’t as equal and they have a hard time without Stastny out there, similar to Edmonton and McDavid.
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The Oilers need McDavid a lot, but even some of the top playoff teams see some sort of drop in shots and goals without their best centre on the ice as their other lines generally aren’t as productive. Edmonton’s drop in shot attempts is similar to some of the better teams in the NHL, and teams like San Jose and St. Louis share similar problems outscoring the opposition when their top centre isn’t on the ice, and rely on their top-lines to carry the load.
The drop off usually isn’t as significant as Edmonton’s in terms of goals scored, but it shows just how good Connor McDavid is at generating goals and shots, but also that Edmonton needs to figure out how to add more scoring balance to its lineup if they want to continually improve.
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Some of this lack of goal support without McDavid might be attributed to players like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shooting significantly below their career averages, even though both are setting career highs in terms of generating shots on goals. If the goals start to come for some of Edmonton’s secondary players, their numbers without McDavid could start to look more favourable and not like they’re relying on McDavid to provide all the offence.
Stats from puckalytics.com.