The most difficult part of writing about the Edmonton Oilers is that the only things that ever change are the players in over their head being asked to do to much. The problems themselves never change. So it was with a smile that I read this tweet in the post-game wrap Saturday:
Nice puck movement on PP... Eberle quick release... Oilers PP woes have been over exaggerated.— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) January 18, 2014
The Oilers have had a brutal power play for a very long time. Fortunately for the team, they've been lucky and had a few years with a high conversion rate, and that conversion rate has obfuscated the structural problems from the fans and sports writers because it's conversion rate, not shot generation that the writers mistakenly pay attention to.
However, the structural problems won't go away. In December of 2011, I noted that the Oilers were only generating 44.2 shots per 60 minutes of power play time, but that their conversion rate was hiding the issue and went on to demonstrate the importance of shot generation vs. conversion. Last February I talked about the Oilers awful power play again. It would go on to finish 29th in shots per 60 at 41.1, but it was again hidden by the conversion rate that kept them in the top 10 in goals per 60. This season, the Oilers have improved their shots per 60 to 47.7, but still rank 23rd in the league.
The story is stark when looking at 5v4 power play time. Since 2007, the Oilers have ranked 30th, 30th, 30th, 30th, 26th, and 29th in 5v4 shots for per 60. Over that same time, they've ranked 17th, 25th, 21st, 22nd, 3rd, and 9th in goals for per 60. This year they've jumped up to 19th in 5v4 shots for per 60, but they've fallen back to 19th in goals for per 60. The structural problem can't hide any more.
The Oilers have had the worst power play in the league for seven seasons, encompassing 5 head coaches. Whatever common thread has prevented the five of them from fixing the structural deficiency should be expunged immediately.