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Volume Shooting

NHL: Preseason-Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Early in his first season as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Todd McLellan emphasized the value of volume shooting, and its importance in generating offence.

Volume shooting, I don’t know what that does to Corsi or Fenwick because I don’t even know what those things are, but volume shooting is important. I think it breaks down defensive zone coverages, gets players out of position, taxes the opposition, makes them play more minutes in their zone. (Source)

Taking a look at the rate of shot attempts (i.e. Corsi For/60) the Sharks generated when McLellan was behind the bench, we see that they were always above the league average and typically ranked in the top five.

Season Corsi For/60 League Rank
2008/09 57.87 7th
2009/10 58.80 6th
2010/11 61.91 1st
2011/12 60.22 5th
2012/13 59.74 5th
2013/14 64.78 1st
2014/15 60.60 5th

It appears that the Oilers have gradually made progress when it comes to generating shot attempts under McLellan, as they currently rank 12th in the league, 5th in the Western Conference, with 57.18 shot attempts per hour at even-strength. The top five teams: Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Washington.

As you might guess, one of the key drivers for the team’s rate of shot attempts includes Connor McDavid. When he’s been on the ice this season, the team has generated 62.66 shot attempts per hour, which is just below what Boston, who ranks first in the league in this metric, is generating. Without McDavid, the Oilers generate 54.55 shot attempts per hour, which is below league average, and would rank them 19th in the league. Also worth noting that the Oilers top line of McDavid, Maroon and Draisaitl is currently generating 71.12 shot attempts per hour.

If we break out the Oilers rate of shot generation over rolling 10-game segments, we see that they had at one point been generating over 60 shot attempts per hour, but steadily declined starting around the end of November. As I mentioned in my previous article, I suspect this has to do with two things. One, the team lost Darnell Nurse, who was showing progress in his offensive game, to a long term injury at the end of November. And two, the team began giving more and more ice time to Kris Russell, who provides very little to a team’s offence. More on individual players later.

In the graph above I have the team’s rate of shot attempts, but I’ve also added two additional lines: one for the rolling 10-game averages of when McDavid is on the ice (orange line), and one for the rolling 10-game averages of when McDavid is off (blue line). The team is having issues this season where they’re relying heavily on one line, more so than other teams with elite players. Knowing his ability to escalate the play of his team, and the importance of having depth to win a cup, we’ll need to know how the rest of the roster is doing without McDavid on the ice.

What we can start to do is look at each player this season, and how the team does when it comes to generating shots with and without them on the ice. I’ve ranked the table below by Corsi For/60 Rel, which tells us how the team does with the player on the ice, compared to how the team does when they’re on the bench. So when Patrick Maroon is on the ice, the Oilers generate 65.65 shot attempts per hour. Without him, that number drops by 11.77 shot attempts.

Player GP TOI Individual Shot Attempts/60 Team Shot Attempts/60 CF/60 - Relative to team
PATRICK MAROON 44 588.91 13.14 65.65 11.77
CONNOR MCDAVID 44 696.11 13.45 62.66 8.11
JORDAN EBERLE 44 609.71 14.17 61.69 6.30
LEON DRAISAITL 44 589.61 10.38 59.27 2.83
MILAN LUCIC 44 620.58 12.09 58.51 1.79
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS 44 559.85 14.79 57.12 -0.14
JESSE PULJUJARVI 28 286.12 12.79 55.86 -0.37
BENOIT POULIOT 39 455.99 9.34 55.27 -2.05
ANTON SLEPYSHEV 16 176.96 15.60 55.51 -3.42
ZACK KASSIAN 41 434.31 11.60 53.64 -5.05
DRAKE CAGGIULA 26 276.63 9.98 52.54 -7.67
MARK LETESTU 41 366.46 10.64 49.27 -9.18
MATT HENDRICKS 18 161.85 8.53 51.02 -10.96
TYLER PITLICK 31 291.26 15.24 46.51 -12.66
ANTON LANDER 20 143.49 5.44 44.34 -14.45

What’s also worth noting here is that the Slepyshev, Pitlick and Nugent-Hopkins lead the team in individual shot attempts per hour (these are the shots that they take at even-strength), with Eberle, McDavid and Maroon not to far behind.

Now I’ve listed the Oilers defencemen below, as defencemen do play a critical role in generating offence. We’ll see the more depth defencemen rise to the top of the list, which makes sense considering that they play against the lesser competition.

Player GP TOI Individual Shot Attempts/60 Team Shot Attempts/60 CF/60 - Relative to team
BRANDON.DAVIDSON 10 129.70 13.42 63.77 14.12
ERIC.GRYBA 23 332.83 11.36 61.19 6.56
MATTHEW.BENNING 31 468.11 10.38 60.85 4.10
DARNELL.NURSE 25 381.54 11.48 60.56 4.03
OSCAR.KLEFBOM 44 701.93 13.68 58.16 1.37
ADAM.LARSSON 44 758.13 7.28 56.24 -1.58
ANDREJ.SEKERA 42 680.33 9.88 54.91 -3.23
KRIS.RUSSELL 37 651.29 8.20 51.21 -9.72

Benning is in a nice spot here, as the team generates over 60 shot attempts per hour when he’s on the ice, and he himself shoots towards the net over 10 times per hour. Nurse was having about the same effect on the team when he was on the ice as Benning, and he actually shot a little more frequently with 11.48 shots per hour. Klefbom, who has the most offensive potential on the team, and has played top competition at times this season, has had a positive impact on the team’s shot attempts, and leads the team in the rate of individual shot attempts among defencemen.

What’s concerning is how poor of an impact Russell has had on the team’s rate of volume shooting, and his own poor shooting rate. Russell has been playing above his established NHL ability this season, often slotting in on the top pair with Sekera to take on top competition. But as we see above, Sekera, and even Larsson’s, relative-to-team number takes a hit because of their assignments, but not to the degree of Russell’s.

From previous work, I’ve found that the Sharks defencemen under McLellan were relied upon for regular shot attempts, with very few posting less than 8.0 shot attempts per hour. Below is every defenceman who played under McLellan in San Jose, ranked by their individual shot attempts per hour.

Player Season GP TOI Individual Shot Attempts/60
BRENT.BURNS 2011-2015 449 4110.49 17.41
IAN.WHITE 2010-2011 333 359.45 14.02
KARL.STOLLERY 2014-2015 12 75.17 12.77
MATT.IRWIN 2012-2015 149 2290.11 12.24
ROB.BLAKE 2008-2010 142 2067.11 11.90
BRENDEN.DILLON 2014-2015 209 1009.28 11.30
JUSTIN.BRAUN 2010-2015 287 4414.06 10.78
TAYLOR.FEDUN 2014-2015 11 100.21 10.78
MATT.TENNYSON 2012-2015 31 448.73 10.70
CHRISTIAN.EHRHOFF 2008-2009 477 1147.97 10.61
MATTHEW.IRWIN 2012-2013 4 63.26 10.43
DAN.BOYLE 2008-2014 495 7448.57 10.04
JIM.VANDERMEER 2011-2012 87 239.49 10.02
MARC-EDOUARD.VLASIC 2008-2015 507 8569.87 9.38
BRAD.STUART 2012-2014 470 1759.35 9.04
NICLAS.WALLIN 2009-2011 206 1285.93 8.87
JASON.DEMERS 2009-2015 361 4247.82 8.83
DOUGLAS.MURRAY 2008-2013 382 4796.86 8.58
JOHN.SCOTT 2014-2015 274 277.52 8.43
MIKE.MOORE 2010-2011 6 57.76 8.31
DEREK.JOSLIN 2008-2011 116 603.61 7.26
SCOTT.HANNAN 2012-2015 465 1701.05 7.13
ALEXEI.SEMENOV 2008-2009 47 537.88 6.92
JAY.LEACH 2009-2010 65 350.88 6.84
BRAD.LUKOWICH 2008-2009 76 809.43 6.52
MIRCO.MUELLER 2014-2015 39 585.3 6.46
KENT.HUSKINS 2009-2011 208 1853.2 6.31
COLIN.WHITE 2011-2012 185 684.6 6.05

What’s also worth noting are the four Oilers defencemen from last season who shot less than eight times per hour: Fayne, Oesterle, Schultz and Reinhart. Three are currently in the AHL, or would likely be in the AHL, and one was traded, possibly due to his lack of shooting. Currently, Russell is hovering just above that low mark with 8.22 individual shot attempts per hour, and Larsson is at 7.28.

Lastly, it’s worth looking into how each defenceman has done this year when it comes to volume shooting with each centerman. Below is a grid, with any combinations that are above the team rate of 57.18 CF/60 highlighted in blue. Any combinations below the team rate is highlighted in orange.

Here we see that Sekera and Russell combined with any centerman produces a shot rate lower than the team average, with Russell often posting a lower number than Sekera. If we look at how each of the two does away from each other, we see that Russell’s play may in fact be dragging Sekera down as they have played over 400 minutes together this season. When paired together, the team posts a shot rate of 50.60. Sekera apart from Russell, and the team generates 61.15 shots, which is above the team rate; Russell apart from Sekera, the team generates 52.20 shots.

We can also see how each of the Oilers defence pairings has done this season to get a sense of which pair is driving shot volume. The table below is ranked by Corsi For/60.

Defence Pair TOI Corsi For/60
Gryba-Davidson 70.68 70.98
Nurse-Benning 113.20 67.38
Sekera-Benning 196.36 62.03
Gryba-Klefbom 56.86 58.68
Nurse-Gryba 181.95 57.69
Larsson-Klefbom 512.05 56.76
Sekera-Russell 402.50 50.60
Russell-Larsson 137.56 49.77
Russell-Benning 50.19 47.43

Here we see that two of the top three pairings when it comes to volume shooting features young Benning. And the three worst pairings feature Russell. What’s encouraging is that the Larsson-Klefbom pairing is generating shots just below the team average, which is impressive considering they play top competition and that Larsson doesn’t generate a lot of shots himself.

Takeaways

The Edmonton Oilers may not replicate exactly what the Sharks did under McLellan, but it’s obvious based on the Oilers progress that volume shooting will be part of their game going forward. The issue right now is that while the Oilers are generating a decent amount of shot attempts, they have been trending downward since Nurse was hurt and Russell started getting more ice. In my opinion, the club should be relying on Klefbom more often, and finding ways to get Benning more ice time. Ideally, the defence pairings should include Sekera with Benning, who have generated over 63 shot attempts per hour together, and have gradually seen tough competition as a pair. Klefbom should be paired with Larsson, as they can play top competition and still generate a decent rate of shots (currently 56.76). The third pair could be any combination of Davidson, Gryba, and, when he’s healthy, Nurse. Based on McLellan’s push for volume shooting, it does not appear Russell can be of any help. As a player with over 500 NHL games, there is plenty of value he can bring to a team. But at this point, he doesn’t exactly fit into the volume shooting strategy of the Oilers.

Data: Corsica Hockey