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The Surprising Triggermen In Edmonton

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The Oilers are struggling to put shots on goal in 2011. They rank 27th in the league in shots per game, in front of only Minnesota, Nashville, and Anaheim. At 26.3 shots per game, they are actually .4 shots per game off of last season's rate. Tyler wrote about improvements on the power play, so the Oilers must have issues at even strength. I've asked a couple of people who they believe to be the shooters on the 2011 Edmonton team and very few people realize which Oilers are generating shots at even strength.

The excellent George Ays compiled the league-wide even strength shot rates over each of the last four seasons (as usual, stats courtesy of the venerable Gabe Desjardins of behindthenet.ca)

ESS/60 2007 2008 2009 2010
Forwards 7.214 7.497 7.513 7.442
Centers 6.677 6.88 7.103 7.066
Wingers 7.597 7.905 7.796 7.722
Defensemen 3.377 3.325 3.478 3.654

I'll use these as reference points after the jump.

Forward ESS/60 ESATT/60
Magnus Paajarvi 8.921 11.573
Ryan Smyth 7.926 11.431
Taylor Hall 7.576 11.153
Sam Gagner 7.241 12.068
Jordan Eberle 6.521 9.610
Ales Hemsky 6.517 8.146
Team Average 6.322 9.016
Anton Lander 6.053 6.918
Ryan Jones 5.602 8.590
Eric Belanger 5.461 7.771
Shawn Horcoff 5.351 8.499
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 5.013 6.516
Lennart Petrell 2.260 2.906

Three forwards have generated shots better than recent historical league averages - Paajarvi, Smyth and Hall. A fourth, Gagner, is close. The other category, shot attempts (unblocked) per sixty minutes of even strength time shows a larger disparity between the top of the rankings and the rest of the team. Paajarvi, Smyth, Hall and Gagner have all attempted more than 11 shots per 60, 1.5 attempts per 60 clear of the next man on the list - Jordan Eberle. Gagner has become the triggerman on the Horcoff-Hemsky line and Paajarvi and Hall have demonstrated the ability to create shots on their own. Smyth has always been able to generate shots.

The rest of the forward crew is lagging, especially the centremen. Lennart Petrell might need a new stick.

Defenseman ESS/60 ESATT/60
Corey Potter 4.591 6.041
Jeff Petry 3.631 6.115
Andy Sutton 3.214 4.091
Tom Gilbert 2.808 4.467
Team Average 2.518 3.717
Ladislav Smid 1.752 2.291
Theo Peckham 1.366 2.146

The defensemen are struggling badly, led by Theo Peckham and Ladislav Smid, but only Jeff Petry and Corey Potter are above recent historical league averages. Ryan Whitney isn't on the list because he's hasn't hit 150 minutes of ESTOI, but he's averaged 1.682 ESS/60 and 2.102 ESATT/60.