An encouraging indicator of progress has been the Oilers improved Corsi For percentage over the course of the season, which tells us how well the OIlers are controlling the share of shot attempts and the overall flow of play at even-strength. After the first ten games of the season, the Oilers had one of the lowest proportions in the league with 47.79%, which likely played a role in their 4-6-0 start. But from that point on, they’ve gradually improved, posting a Corsi For% of 48.85% between games 11 through 20, and then a Corsi For% of 52.92% between games 21 through 30.
A big reason for their progress has been the improved play of the team without their top forwards on the ice. In the first 10 games of the season, the Oilers were outscored 2-14 at even-strength without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice, which is about 40% of the team’s total ice time. These results were largely due to playing the majority of the time without the puck and in their own zone as reflected by the team’s Corsi For% of 39.94%. We started seeing signs of life a few weeks ago when the team posted a Corsi For% of 45.19% over a ten game stretch, where they also posted a +2 goal differential (10 GF, 8 GA). And thankfully, they’ve continued to progress with the team posting a Corsi For% of 52.61% over the last ten games without their star players on the ice.
Since getting outscored 2-14 in the first ten games, the Oilers have turned things around nicely having outscored opponents 16-13 without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice over the last 20 games. That was a massive hole they put themselves in early on in the season, and they likely won’t recover to a 50% goal-share by the end of the season. But the adjustments they’ve made such as reducing Turris’ ice time and giving the depth forwards more offensive zone faceoffs, should be part of the lessons carried forward.
It’s also worth noting how well the Oilers depth compares with their North division rivals. What I did was take a couple of the top forwards from each team to serve as proxies for their teams top two lines, doing my best to find players who don’t play often with each other. I then looked at how their teams did without them at even-strength to gauge the performance of the team’s depth players. Below are the forwards I used for each club:
- Edmonton - McDavid, Draisaitl
- Calgary - Tkachuk, Gaudreau
- Montreal - Suzuki, Danault
- Ottawa - Tkachuk, Paul
- Toronto - Matthews, Tavares
- Vancouver - Pettersson, Horvat
- Winnipeg - Ehlers, Wheeler
For each team in the table below I’ve included the proportion of the team’s total ice time that the depth forwards played, as well as the Corsi For% that they posted and their Goals For%. Table is sorted by points percentage. Note that the Corsi For% is score and venue adjusted.
|Team||Points%||TOI%||Corsi For%||Goals For%|
On average, teams typically have their depth players on the ice for about 40% of the teams total ice time at even-strength. Here we see that over the course of the season, the Oilers have posted a Corsi For% of 46.27% without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice, and have a goal-share of 40.05%. As mentioned above, the Oilers depth played have made positive strides recently, and they’ll need to maintain a high level of play if they want to dig out of the hole they put themselves in. Vancouver and Ottawa are in a similar boat - their depth players have struggled in terms of puck possession, and they’ve been a black hole in terms of offensive production. And it’s made worse by the fact that even with some of their top players on the ice, they’re getting crushed on the score sheet. Toronto and Montreal appear to be in a good spot, doing a better job at controlling the flow of play with their depth players and getting good results. Winnipeg seems to have a team-wide issue when it comes to shot-share metrics, so it’ll be interesting if their results are sustainable. And if Calgary can find some finishing talent for their bottom two lines, they might be able to improve their overall goal differential.
It’ll be really interesting to see which teams in the North division can get the most out of their depth players, which can serve as a competitive edge in what should be a close playoff race.
(Special thanks to @OilersNerdAlert for the specific data set)