Magnus Paajarvi has arrived in the NHL with a finely-honed talent for drawing opposition penalties. His next challenge is to survive in one piece the attentions of nasty opponents like Calgary's Adam Pardy.
A third of the way through the 2010-11 season the Oilers have had an exactly equal number of powerplay and penalty kill situations, with 101 of each. Alas, the equality stops there, as the Oilers powerplay has produced just 15 goals, ranking a dismal 24th in the NHL at 14.8%. The penalty kill, meanwhile, has allowed a staggering 30 goals against, ranking dead last with a "success" rate of 70.3%, 6% behind Toronto and 8+% behind the rest. 15 for, 30 against - that's double by my math, which is beyond horrific. Summing those percentages we arrive at a Special Teams Efficiency of just 85.1%, also DFL in the league.
Incorporating shorthanded goals for (4) and against (2), the Oilers' special teams are a net -13, accounting for over half of the squad's overall goal difference of -24.
Let's take a minute to look at who is responsible for creating those special teams situations, both for and against. The other day we looked at league-wide tendencies for both taking and drawing penalties, especially the split by position. How do the Oilers stack up?
The good news is the team has a positive drawn to taken ratio of 1.09, better than league average of about 0.93. Yet we've already seen that the Oil have had and allowed 101 powerplays at each end, which seems odd. Biggest factor here that I can come up with is that early in the season the Oilers powerplay was killing itself with penalties - happened 7 times in the first 6 games, and while I have stopped counting I can assure you it hasn't come close to evening up - whereas all Gabe's stats are from 5 on 5 situations. So I'm not sure there's enough here to suggest the speedy young Oilers as a group have developed a special talent for drawing penalties. Too small a data set as yet.
More than all of the Oilers advantage in that department comes from the forwards, who themselves demonstrate a remarkable split between centres and wingers. The centres are actually pretty poor, especially at drawing penalties. The wingers on the other hand, are amazing. Let's have a look at individual performances after the jump.
As with the team totals already cited, I have taken Oilers Penalties Drawn/Taken numbers from Behind the Net (26 games recorded so far), and added a few columns of my own. The default sort is on Penalty Differential (Drawn minus Taken). The differences in position are significant enough both by expectation and result that I will simply present them in three separate tables. You may prefer view mode "Wide" (clickable at upper right of the C&B page) to see the whole table.
Not a whole lot in here I don't think. Smid pleasantly surprises with his relatively low penalties taken rate, but the data set is small enough that a game with two penalties will level that out right quick. Certainly no surprise to see Peckham with the most penalties, although he has made up for some of that by drawing a few penalites himself. Unfortunately as we have already seen, a penalty against the Oilers has a higher sticker price than one taken by the opposition.
A couple of surprises here. One is how few penalties the centres draw. For all that they handle the puck a whole lot, none of the big three has so much as a positive differential in this category. Particularly disappointing are Cogliano's numbers; I would have thought a guy with his speed would be drawing a lot more penalties than he does, and he's been going to the box himself far too often. Yet another "needs improvement" for Cogs' report card.
Good to see the rookies doing so well by this metric, especially Hall and Paajarvi. Among the three of them that's a drawn-to-taken rate of 23:7, which is outstanding. Hemsky and Stortini also show extremely well by this measure, especially Zorg who ranks near the very top of the NHL in both PD and Pdiff per 60. I think that's partly small sample size - a couple of stray sticks to the beak, a couple of times getting instigated, and not enough minutes to balance the equation. That said, he's been able to stay out of the box himself in the process, so a nice positive that you don't see on, say, JFJ's resume.
A little startling to see Penner ranks so low in terms of drawing penalties. My admittedly biased eye is seeing lots of infractions but Dustin quite simply doesn't get the calls. He's also been burned for penalties himself a couple times simply by virtue of being stronger than his opponent.
The other surprise is that Jones has drawn so few penalties, after being in the top three in the entire NHL for Penalties Drawn/60 in each of the last two seasons. I've really noticed him taking the plunge on a couple of marginal plays recently, so perhaps the refs are on to him to some extent but I'm pretty sure the calls will come. Jones is just real good at that rather devious skill. It'll be interesting to track and see if he starts climbing the charts in the coming months.