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Possession metrics under Todd McLellan

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The Sharks were good under McLellan.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from landing Connor McDavid, the Oilers biggest improvement for 2015-2016 will be behind the bench. After being released by the Sharks, finishing with an overall record of 311-163-66 (a 0.637 points percentage), McLellan joins an Oilers club that may not  have the experienced forwards and defencemen, but now has the potential to blossom under new management.

The Sharks were a very good team under McLellan. It helps to have guys like Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, along with a defense core that included Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns. Combining an excellent coach like McLellan with a well-built roster produced some outstanding results, especially when it came to possession metrics.

Using score-adjusted Corsi, which factors in the score of the game to give a more accurate rating, we see that the Sharks have been quite good at even-strength (Source: War on Ice).

Season 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Corsi
(Score Adj) with NHL rank
55.1%
(5th)
51.6%
(11th)
54.5%
(1st)
51.9%
(9th)
51.4%
(11th)
54.6%
(4th)
51.5%
(13th)
Division Rank 1st 1st 1st 2nd 3rd 2nd 5th


Digging a little deeper, the Sharks were quite good possession wise regardless of the score. Here's a breakdown of what percentage of even-strength time they spent tied, leading or trailing, along with their Corsi for each season McLellan was behind the bench (Source: Puck on Net).

Season Down 2 Down 1 Tied Up 1 Up 2
Time Spent Corsi Time Spent Corsi Time Spent Corsi

Time Spent

Corsi Time Spent Corsi
2008-09 9.2%
58.5%
(11th)
16.9%
59.1%
(3rd)
37.3%
56.6%
(2nd)
20.4%
49.2%
(7th)
16.1%
45.8%
(6th)
2009-10 13.5%
60.0%
(5th)
11.6%
55.8%
(13th)
37.2%
52%
(10th)
20.1%
45.9%
(17th)
17.6%
45.4%
(8th)
2010-11 10.0%
58.3%
(15th)
13.6%
59.7%
(3rd)
41.0%
53.7%
(6th)
18.7%
49.5%
(2nd)
16.7%
48.5%
(1st)
2011-12 10.4%
59.2%
(10th)
20.0%
54.7%
(16th)
39.7%
52.2%
(8th)
18.1%
47.4%
(8th)
11.7%
47.6%
(3rd)
2012-13 9.7%
61.9%
6th)
20.0%
56.3%
(11th)
41.2%
52.8%
(8th)
12.4%
43.2%
(22nd)
16.7%
41.3%
(21st)
2013-14 8.0%
61.5%
(2nd)
13.8%
58.8%
(5th)
38.5%
54.0%
(5th)
20.0%
50.0%
(4th)
19.6%
48.7%
(4th)
2014-15 12.3% 56.5% (21st) 17.8% 57% (12th) 35.7% 52.4% (9th) 22.1% 46.7% (11th) 12.1% 43% (18th)

When the game was tied, McLellan's club always had a decent chunk of the shots, always finishing in the top 10 league-wide. What's encouraging to me at least, is that the Sharks under McLellan got a decent share of the shots even when they had the lead. Typically, teams would tighten up defensively and play a more conservative game if they have the lead, often resulting in reduced possession time. If McLellan can get the Oilers playing an aggressive, puck possession style, regardless of the score, I really think success will be right around the corner. God knows how often the Oilers have blown leads mainly because they sat back far too often.

Now there are two seasons, 2012-13 and 2014-15, when the Sharks finished with a score-adjusted Corsi outside of the top 10, including some troubling possession numbers when trailing last season. What's interesting is that when the Sharks trailed by two or more in 2014-15, their PDO was the third highest but they had the second lowest offensive zone starts in the league (47.9%). It's hard to pinpoint exactly why they finished out of the playoffs last season (i.e., coaching tactics, players, luck, all of the above) but there's enough of a trend in the historical possession numbers to indicate that the Oilers will be much improved with McLellan behind the bench.