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The Edmonton Offseason: Looking into Milan Lucic ... Again

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Another look into the forward, and if he would be a good fit for the Edmonton Oilers.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A player that could be of interest to the Edmonton Oilers this summer is 27 year old Milan Lucic. There have been rumblings that the Oilers could potentially add another player with size to play in their top nine, along with Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian, with Lucic being at the top of the list of potential acquisitions.

I wrote an article on Lucic about a month ago and came away with this: Lucic is a solid forward, who brings size to a roster and can play top line minutes. But his point production has been declining and is expected to decline further based on his style of play. He really isn't worth the dollars and term he'll likely be commanding (guessing more than $6 million over at least six seasons), and is actually producing at a similar rate as the reliable, and cheaper, Benoit Pouliot.

But since people are talking about Lucic again, I thought I'd look at the numbers once more. Maybe I'm missing something, who knows.

At first glance, it's easy to see why teams will likely be inquiring about the forward who hits free agency this summer. He's big, he fights, he has produced at a first line rate (Appendix A: Warrior Chart) and he's only 27. Below are his 5v5 numbers since he broke into the league (Source: War on Ice).

Season Team Games TOI/Gm G-A-P G/60 A/60 P/60 CF%Rel ZSO%Rel
2008/09 BOS 71 13.23 15-17-32 0.96 1.09 2.04 1.00 3.73
2009/10 BOS 49 13.51 8-10-18 0.73 0.91 1.63 0.70 4.92
2010/11 BOS 79 13.36 20-21-41 1.14 1.19 2.33 5.04 4.99
2011/12 BOS 81 14.12 19-30-49 1.00 1.57 2.57 2.99 4.05
2012/13 BOS 46 14.37 6-17-23 0.54 1.54 2.09 4.60 10.48
2013/14 BOS 80 14.45 18-21-39 0.93 1.09 2.02 -0.47 8.13
2014/15 BOS 81 13.7 13-18-31 0.70 0.97 1.68 -0.76 5.54
2015/16 L.A 61 14.37 11-15-26 0.75 1.03 1.78 4.84 2.38

And, as pointed out by GCW_69 yesterday, Lucic has been a positive influence on his team when it comes to scoring goals at even-strength year over year.

Percent of team goals contributed to:

2010/11 – 25%
2011/12 – 23%
2012/13 – 21%
2013/14 – 23%
2014/15 – 21%
2015/16 – 22%

He had been amazingly consistent in his contribution to total team offence. His total points and points per sixty has fluctuated as the total offence of each team has fluctuated. (Source)

Very solid numbers. And since possession and scoring chances more often than not lead to goals, I thought it'd be worth seeing if he's doing well in those metrics. Below are his numbers relative to his teammates when it came to possession (i.e., shot attempts), scoring chances and goals at 5v5.

Here we see that yes, Lucic was on the ice for a good chunk of goals over the last four seasons compared to his teammates, but his possession and scoring chance metrics weren't strong in his last two seasons in Boston. When coming across something like this, it helps to look at the PDO of the player, which adds up the player's on ice shooting percentage with the on ice save percentage at 5v5, and gives us a sense of how lucky or unlucky the player was.

Season On-ice Sv% On-ice Sh% PDO Personal Sh%
2008/09 94.65 9.60 104.26 18.52
2009/10 89.94 7.72 97.65 12.31
2010/11 94.57 9.85 104.41 15.75
2011/12 90.13 9.97 100.10 16.52
2012/13 92.16 8.79 100.95 8.70
2013/14 94.73 8.96 103.69 15.00
2014/15 94.26 8.86 103.11 10.92
2015/16 92.18 8.09 100.27 13.10

Here we see that in his last two seasons as a Bruin, Lucic was actually getting pretty lucky, as his on-ice save percentage was pretty high and might explain why he was still on the ice for a good chunk of his teams goals. He's the type of player who crashes the net, so I'm not surprised by his high personal shooting percentage, which is what Ryan Smyth's numbers used to look like.

Another way to look at Lucic, and to confirm what we're seeing in the numbers above, is to use Stephen Burtch's dCorsi metric, which looks at the difference between a player's actual Corsi and a player's expected Corsi. The expected value is determined by a series of variables including position, ice time, quality of teammate and competition,  zone starts, and team. If you're interested, the full explanation of dCorsi can be found at NHL Numbers. A dashboard to compile player and team information is sourced by War on Ice and found at Null Hypothesis Hockey.

To read the first graph, the line bar indicates what's expected when it comes to shot attempts for/60 each season. Ideally, the player should be above the line and purple. In the second graph, since it;s shot attempts against,/60 you want the player to be below the line bar and in purple.

Here we see that in the last three seasons in Boston, Lucic did not quite meet the expected Corsi For/60 and Corsi Against/60. He did play top line minutes, and spent a large chunk of time playing with the likes of David Krejci and Jarome Iginla. But he didn't post the shot attempts numbers that a top line forward is expected to reach using Burtch's methodology. Again, this is just another way to look at a player's performance and factors in things like a player's time on ice, their quality of teammates and quality of competition. I'm only using this to validate against my initial findings above and in past articles.

Thoughts

Milan Lucic is an excellent player that is very likely to land a heavy, long term contract this summer. He definitely brings that physical presence that NHL  teams covet and has the ability to produce. My issue with the player is that his actual point production should not be overvalued as there are many comparable players including Benoit Pouliot. Lucic does play more physical and can drop the gloves, but that doesn't necessarily translate into more points or wins for his team.

It does not make sense for the Oilers to pursue Lucic as his production will likely decline, and will leave a team on the hook to pay dearly for his services as he ages. The Oilers have made the right move by adding players like Kassian and Maroon, who bring size and toughness at a reasonable price point. Here's hoping Chiarelli continues with this strategy.

Appendix A: Milan Lucic HERO Chart (FAQ at Own the Puck)