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Taylor Hall, The Rest Of The Edmonton Rookies And "Shelter"

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Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

--Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, "Gimme Shelter"


One of the words being tossed around in descriptions of the rookies and various young players on the 2010-11 Oilers is "shelter", as in "Magnus Paajarvi has been sheltered thus far."  More common "Taylor Hall (or Jordan Eberle) isn't being sheltered." Casting certain players as being sheltered versus being left to fend for themselves is a way to delineate between rookies and determine future ability to handle certain roles.  But there is a problem with using qualcomp as a metric to evaluate players against tough situations - Edmonton's qualcomp is not being generated by the Oilers' coaching staff.

In what must be a protest over the way Pat Quinn was unceremoniously fired, Tom Renney has yet to match lines in any significant manner.  Instead, he's allowed Quinn's Rawhide Line Changes to dictate playing time and the opposing coach to dictate the on-ice matchups while holding firm to his 1-2-3-4 "strategy".  Because Renney never actively seeks or avoids matchups, it's impossible to know if a player is being purposefully sheltered or if if Desjardins qualcomp numbers are simply the mashing of random electrons accidentally cobbled together by 1-2-3-4 line changes.

There is, however, a simple method of measuring whether or not the coaching staff has given shelter to a forward and it involves the few forwards on the team who don't need shelter.  The Oilers have only three legitimate NHL forwards on the roster - Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky.  On most nights, those three are capable of carrying a line of nominal talents against actual NHL opponents.  Determine who is playing with those forwards most often, either on a line with two of them or only one, and who is playing "alone" or apart from any of the three and those numbers can serve as a proxy for shelter.

There is a second, less-reliable metric which can assist in determining which forwards are receiving shelter - Zonestart.  Forwards receiving more favorable starting locations are likely receiving some form of protection from the coaching staff, though on the Oilers it's not as clear because of the Rawhide system.

Below is a sortable table consisting of the percent of even strength scoring chances, both for and against, accumulated with two of Horcoff, Penner and Hemsky, then with one of the big three, then independent of the three, and finally the offensive zonestart percentage rank among Oilers forwards this season.

This table can be sorted by clicking on the column header record.

Player %SC w/ 2 of Big 3 %SC w/ 1 of Big 3 %SC Alone Ozone Rk
Taylor Hall 0.176 0.585 0.415 3/14
Sam Gagner 0.169 0.421 0.579 4/14
Drew Cogliano 0.071 0.534 0.466 9/14
Jordan Eberle 0.037 0.496 0.504 10/14
Linus Omark 0.008 0.126 0.874 1/14
Gilbert Brule 0.005 0.429 0.571 12/14
Magnus Paajarvi 0.003 0.336 0.664 2/14

 

  • It's abundantly clear - Taylor Hall is not only the most sheltered young forward on the team, he's the most sheltered forward on the team.  He has the highest percentage of chances accumulated with two of Horcoff, Penner and Hemsky, as well as the highest percentage of chances accumulated with one of the three.  He has the least chances alone and his Ozone rank is third of fourteen forwards.  He's an offensive dynamo getting the most cherry minutes on the team, but he's not being forced to slog up and down the ice with inferior teammates.
  • Magnus Paajarvi is the young forward, including Gagner and Cogliano, suffering from weak linemates the most.  He's receiving almost no playing time with two of the big three and has been forced to go it alone more often than any young forward - 66% of his chances are alone.  He does receive an easy zonestart, but he's not getting the benefit of superior teammates to push the play up the ice.
  • Sam Gagner has the second-highest percentage of chances alone, though he also has the second-highest percentage of chances with two of the big three.