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Letestu to the Rescue

If the Oilers aren't going to acquire someone to help with the powerplay, there might be an internal solution.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers powerplay currently ranks 19th in the league, converting on 16% of their opportunities this season. One of the big reasons why they haven't done so well is because of the poor shot production with the man advantage. This is an issue that's lingered since last season, with the coaching staff often preaching the importance of getting shots through and finding second chances around the net (Source: Inside Sports, 630 CHED). As of today, the Oilers rank 20th in the league when it comes to the rate of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick For per 60 minutes), sitting at 62.15. This is slightly down from last season when the club generated just over 63 unblocked shot attempts per hour.

What I found last season when looking at the powerplay, was that the Oilers generated more shots when veteran Mark Letestu was on the ice. He finished the 2015/16 season with the fifth highest ice time on the powerplay, behind Hall, Sekera, Draisaitl and Eberle. This was in large part because of injuries to Klefbom and McDavid, but nevertheless, Letestu was effective in driving the team's overall shot rates.

This season, Letestu has only played 17 minutes on the powerplay through 18 games, which ranks him 10th on the team among the regular skaters just ahead of rookie Jesse Puljujarvi. (Source: NHL)

Player Games Played TOI
Connor McDavid 18 51:15
Jordan Eberle 18 50:25
Milan Lucic 18 48:14
Leon Draisaitl 18 43:38
Oscar Klefbom 18 43:01
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 18 39:05
Patrick Maroon 18 36:08
Benoit Pouliot 18 31:57
Andrej Sekera 18 30:06
Mark Letestu 18 17:37
Jesse Puljujarvi 14 17:07

In my opinion, Letestu should be getting more ice time on the powerplay, especially since the club is in a funk. If we look at what impact he's had on his teammates' on-ice shot generation numbers, we see that he has a positive impact on pretty much everyone. Below are Letestu's  current teammates, and how they've done with and without him (WOWY) since last season. (Source: Corsica Hockey)

Please note that the players descend in order of total ice time with Letestu, with Maroon and Klefbom playing less than 30 minutes with the pivot since the start of last season. I was surprised that the influence was there across the board, especially when it came to McDavid. A big reason why Letestu might be having a positive impact is because he's one of the few experienced right handed shooters, which allows for more passing options on the powerplay. If anyone has more thoughts on this, and how the powerplay can be better deployed, I'd definitely be interested.

What might be stopping the coaching staff from getting Letestu on the powerplay is that he's leading the team in ice time on the penalty kill, which ranks 5th in the league right now. What the team should be aware of is the fact that their penalty killing success is not sustainable, relying mostly on the play of Cam Talbot, and should be adjusted to limit the amount of shots they're allowing. Letestu himself is struggling on the penalty kill as the club allows more shots against when he's on the ice compared to his teammates (Fenwick Against/60 RelTM of +10.52) (Source: Hockey Analysis). If the team is serious about improving their success rate on both special teams units, and they're not willing to bring in someone new, moving Letestu from the penalty kill to the powerplay would be a good start.