Want the puck? Get these two on the ice.
Three Oilers's forwards held their heads above water during the 2011-12 season. Two are obvious - Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall. Hemsky has done this time and time again as an Oiler and is still criminally underrated by the fans and media. Hall is a literal game-changer, when he steps on the ice, the ice immediately tilts in the Oilers' favor. He's only 19. The third forward? Well, he's not so obvious.
After the jump, I've plotted the Oilers' forwards usage and results from the 11-12 season.
The horizontal axis shows qualcomp, specifically Corsi relative quality of competition taken from Gabriel Desjardins' behindthenet.ca. The vertical axis shows percentage of percentage of faceoffs taken in the defensive zone, again from behindthenet.ca. The bubbles are color-coded: blue means the player in the bubble has a positive zonestart-adjusted Corsi, white (transparent) a negative. Finally, the size of the bubble indicates absolute value zonestart-adjusted Corsi.
*Click to enlarge or find the full-sized chart here.
What does the plot tell us? A few very obvious things:
- Ales Hemsky still drives play against top competition. Even through his injury issues over the last few seasons, that has never changed.
- Taylor Hall is remarkable. He's light years ahead of the other young Oilers forwards and the centerpiece of any future success the Oilers might have. Compare his usage and results from last season to Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and it's obvious that one of them is driving the bus and two of them are still passengers. Hemsky and Hall are the Oilers best forwards and it's really not close.
Magnus Paajarvi was beaten by bad luck last season, but won the territorial battle. Compare his results to anyone else facing third-line minutes and the contrast is stark. If the Oilers want to be a competitive team, they need Paajarvi on their roster - not anchors like Petrell, Hordichuk and Eager.