The Oilers powerplay has been trending upwards the past few weeks, and currently ranks 6th in the league with a 22.4% efficiency. Another way to look at the powerplay is by the number of goals the team has scored per 60 minutes, which currently has them second in the league, only behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, with 8.06. The league average for goals scored per 60 is 5.74, which the Oilers have been above for the most part thanks largely to a shooting percentage over 14% (4th best in the league). What's also been encouraging is the fact that the number of unblocked shots (i.e., Fenwick) the club generates per 60 has steadily increased on the powerplay, a good predictor for future success, and is now ranked 11th in the league with 68.12. At one point the Oilers were ranked quite low league-wide, well below the league average of 66.5.
Related: Letestu to the Rescue (2016, November 18)
It's really been the last 10 games for the Oilers, and the addition of Mark Letestu to the powerplay unit, that has driven the team's success with the man advantage. Over the first 17 games, Letestu had played a total of 19 minutes on the powerplay, which ranked him near the bottom in terms of ice time among forwards. This was surprising considering that Letestu has historically had a positive impact on the team on the powerplay, as the Oilers typically generated more unblocked shot atttempts with him on the ice. This impact also showed up in his teammates performance, as players often had better on-ice shot generation rates with Letestu than without him. Please note that the graph below contains the shot metrics as of November 18, 2016.
What’s funny was that soon after I published an article lobbying for his addition to the powerplay in mid November, Letestu was scratched for a few games by the coaching staff. But since his return to the lineup on November 25th, Letestu has been getting his usual minutes on the third and fourth line, but also getting regular ice time on the first powerplay unit. He's played a total of 24 minutes over these last 10 games, the fifth highest total among all skaters. And the results speak for themselves.
Below is a graph showing how the Oilers have done generating unblocked shot attempts on the powerplay, breaking it out into rolling 10-game stretches. So after the first 10 games, the Oilers generated 60.7 unblocked shot attempts per 60, well below the league average. In games 2 through 11, that number went up to 63.56. Over the last 10 games (game 22-31), with Letestu getting more minutes, the Oilers have generated 78.8 unblocked shot attempts, a significant improvement that would have them ranked near the top of the league if they sustain it long-term.
And since goals is what matters most, below is a graph showing how the team has done per 60 minutes on the powerplay, again broken out into 10-game stretches. We see here that the team has been producing goals at a high level over the most recent stretch of games, and should see their success continue if they keep up their ability to generate unblocked shot attempts.
With Letestu on the powerplay, there is no doubt in my mind that the team will continue generating a higher number of shots and goals. He has a history of having a positive impact on his team’s ability to generate shots and should continue getting ice time on the top powerplay unit. The team has scored at a rate of 9.7 goals per 60 with Letestu on the ice this season, but this number drops to 5.9 (which is around league average) without him. He’s one of the few right hand shooters, which is an ideal option for the left-handed powerplay quarterbacks on the team and should be relied on heavily by the coaching staff going forward.
Data source: Corsica Hockey