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The Oilers Secondary Scoring Isn’t Getting Better

The Oilers continue to struggle when it comes to secondary scoring. There might be an internal solution.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A key concern for the Oilers this season has been their inability to generate offence when McDavid is not on the ice. After 61 games, the Oilers rank 9th in the league, and 4th in the west, when it comes to goal-share at even-strength (5v5) play with 52.7%. With McDavid on the ice, the Oilers have outscored their opponents 52-34, a fantastic goals-for percentage of 60.5%. Without him, however, the team has been outscored 71-65, which translates to a 47.8% goal-share. While the club continues to do well as a whole, it’s largely riding on the shoulders of their young captain.

Here's how the team's goal-share has trended this season, broken out into 25-game, rolling segments. With McDavid on the ice, the team's share of the total goals has typically been above 55%, which isn't surprising considering his ridiculous skill and ability to generate offence. Without him, the team's share of goals was initially pretty steady around the 45% mark over the first two months of the season, and that number has gradually increased towards the 50% mark over December and January as the other lines finally started producing goals. It's worth noting that the team's shooting percentage without McDavid on the ice was around 6.5% early on in the season, but that has since moved up to 7.5% in the more recent stretch of twenty five games.

Data: Corsica Hockey

So by the looks of it, things appear to be getting better for the team without McDavid on the ice. However, when we look at the team’s share of shot attempts and how that has trended over the course of the season, we see that the improved goal-share may not exactly be sustainable. The club currently ranks 17th in the league when it comes to Corsi For% with 50.2%, a rather discouraging drop considering they ranked in the top 10 in the league at one point. With McDavid on the ice, the Oilers are golden with a Corsi For% of 54.2%; without him on the ice, that number drops down to 48.1%.

Data: Corsica Hockey

If we look at the 25-game rolling segments of shot-share, we actually see that there’s been a gradual decline without McDavid on the ice, with the team having posted a very troubling 45% Corsi For% over the last 25 games (which is since the end of December). In the first few months of the season, the club did manage to post a 50% share of shot attempts without McDavid, which indicated to me at the time that the team’s goal-share would eventually improve if they could sustain it. But the recent play of the team without McDavid has really been the anchor of the team’s overall share of shot attempts, something that needs to be addressed if they want to remain competitive heading into the final stretch of the season.

Options

Now the OIlers can do a couple things as they head into the trade deadline and the off-season. The Oilers could look elsewhere in the market to shore up their scoring, possibly in the form a right-winger or another centerman. The other option is holding on to their existing assets and instead shuffle their line combinations to better optimize their roster.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One player in particular that could give a boost to the secondary lines is winger Patrick Maroon. The winger has shown the ability to be an offensive driver this season, having spent time playing with McDavid, RNH and Draisaitl at various points of the season. The coaching staff has used Maroon in five different combinations among the top six forwards this season, with four of the five lines featuring Maroon having posted a Corsi For% above 50%.

Linemates TOI CF% GF%
McDavid - Draisaitl 281.2 56.2 64.0
McDavid - Eberle 137.5 55.8 64.3
RNH - Eberle 121.5 59.4 40.0
Draisaitl - Puljujarvi 70.6 57.6 100.0
RNH - Draisaitl 50.5 49.4 100.0

Data: Corsica Hockey

While I understand it would be difficult to convince the coaching staff to split Maroon from McDavid as they’re sitting at a goal-share of over 65% when together at 5v5, it might be the best solution to improve the secondary offence. The fact that the Oilers overall share of the shot attempts has gradually declined should be a signal to the coaching staff that changes need to be made to the line combinations to ensure long term success.

Data: Corsica Hockey