• Help me believe in anything

    by  • March 13, 2012 • Hockey • 23 Comments

    As it stands, Ryan Jones is shooting 13.0% for the year. This is, however, somewhat misleading – he has two empty net goals which have inflated his shooting percentage. If you look at his shooting percentage with a goalie in the net, he’s scored 12 goals on 106 shots, an 11.3% shooting percentage. This is of note because Jones was a bit of a cause celebre for the people who believe that shooting percentage tells us a lot about a player before the season. Jones himself was one of those people, explaining:

    “When you go to the net and you’re banging home goals that are two feet away, you shooting percentage is going to be high. I don’t take a lot of perimeter shots because I’m a guy who likes to get rid of the puck. I let the defence and my linemates take the shots and I drive to the net hard.”

    I had some doubts about that as an explanation for his shooting percentage. As always, I think it’s helpful to break these things down into ES/PP/PK. At 5v5 before last year, Jones had taken 97 career shots, scoring 10. Last year, he took 98 shots and scored 15. This year, he’s taken 95 shots and scored 7. Less than half as effective as he was before. He basically invented a whole narrative for himself, on the basis of a single season, that didn’t even match with his past history.

    Of course, although Jones’ S% has fallen this year, it hasn’t quite fallen as much as we’d have expected. Why’s that? He’s got the two empty netters mentioned. He’s shooting a career high 40% on the PP. Coming into this season, he’d scored 7 goals on 40 career PP shots (17.5%). He also has two shorthanded goals this season, something that’s notoriously fickle – he had one, total, coming into this year.

    In any event, what was really interesting to me was that Jones had this whole narrative at the start of the year about how and why he deserved to have a high shooting percentage that sounded sort of bogus and, lo and behold, it was. He’s likeable though (so I’m told; his charms are lost on me) and will undoubtedly be an analyst somewhere when he retires.

    * * *

    One of the things I like to do here is document what the Oilers claim their expectations are for things (this year: the pathetically low goal of not being in the draft lottery) or why they do things. I am pretty much convinced that their hockey operations department is still in the Stone Age and that the only way we’re ever going to see real success in Edmonton is if these people get far luckier than they deserve. (Aside: if they don’t make the playoffs next year, I think you’ve got a decent argument that the rebuild is far enough off course that people should get fired, even if you aren’t sold on current evidence.)

    Anyway, I was eager to see what Tambellini had to say about why they acquired Nick Schultz.

    We’re acquiring a player that has very good experience in a lot of different positions, as far as left and right defence…Nick gives us an opportunity to use him with a shutdown player such as Ladislav Smid, where they can against the top units…It gives us an option to play with someone like a Ryan Whitney, who is starting to skate like he has in the past, and if he needs to go up the ice, you have someone like Nick Schultz who has the gamesmanship to be able to protect and allow him to do things he wants to do with the puck. I think it gives us an option as far as the last couple minutes of play that normally you would see Nick Schultz out there at a crucial time. We’re getting a player that has a lot of poise in a lot of different situations. He’s played in Minnesota for quite some time nwo and has been as steady and consistent a pro as what you can imagine so we’re really looking forward to that.

    I was speakin’ to Stevie Yzerman today who had him also at the world championships and his comment was ‘If you’re lookin’ for someone who is a true professional, extremely fit and very dependable, you’re gonna get someone like Nick Schultz that your coaches are gonna enjoy having.” So a nice comment from someone I have great respect for.

    …Nick Schultz who gave us that ability to use in different situations and I think we can be better as a hockey club under pressure moments, whether it’s the last couple minutes or when we’re defending a lead or learning how to play with a lead, I think he has the ability to show and demonstrate that type of poise that we’re going to need as a hockey club. We have some veterans that are getting better, we have some young players that are emerging on the scene where they’re starting to require the moments where it’s very important. And then, with that, you need players like a Nick Schultz to kind of settle things down.

    When we’re looking at the mix and going forward, it’s something that we don’t have enough also is what Nick Schultz brings. More importantly to us. Like I said, he has a vast experience as far as NHL play, international play, so he’s seen a lot of different things and comfortable in a lot of different aspects of the game of where we need to get better. and where he needs to. I love the poise he brings to our hockey club. And the fact that he can play left defence or right defence for a defence group that is emerging, changing as we go here, he’s gonna be an important piece.

    To summarize:

    1. Poise
    2. He can play left D or right D.
    3. Stevie Yzerman likes him.
    4. He can play with Ladislav Smid or Ryan Whitney.
    5. Ryan Whitney is skating better than he has in the past.
    6. He’s played lots of NHL and international hockey.
    7. Young players are emerging that that are starting to require the moments where it’s very important
    8. He can play at the end of the game when it’s important and you’re defending leads.


    1. Boy, he says “poise” a lot. It is, however, entirely possible that he doesn’t know what “poise” means. He went on to say, with respect to Yzerman: “I have great respect for Steve. His poise of analysis and discussion, y’know he brings good perspective. He’s a good person to listen to.” Maybe he thinks it’s a synonym for “quality”? I don’t know. Bizarre.

    I’ve been actually thinking about this a lot lately. It’s awfully easy to make fun of Tambellini’s speaking patterns – he’s a bad speaker who says odd sounding things. It always struck me as sort of unfair that debates were central to political campaigns because debates aren’t really a central skill when it comes to governing. Maybe the guy with the stutter and weird pronunciations is better at governing and policy than the smooth guy who can toss out good lines, you know?

    Maybe the way presentation pays off for a GM can be seen in Brian Burke and Tambellini. The Leafs have been pretty bad since Burke took over. Not Oilers bad but pretty bad. There don’t seem to be the same widespread doubts that Burke has any idea about what he’s trying to do though. That might be, in part, because Burke is basically a cartoon character GM, with his quippy one liners and gravelly growl. He has the managerial equivalent of the good face. Tambo? Not so much. Also, he has a complete lack of poise.

    2. There was some speculation, when Schultz basically was a third pairing guy initially (he’s averaged 17.6 minutes a night so far), that he might just be losing a bit of a body count, in that he could only play on one side and the left side was full. This doesn’t seem to be the case – looking at his time in Minny, he was paired up with lefties frequently and, presumably, played the right side.

    Looking at the games, Schultz has played two apiece with Sutton, Whitney and Peckham. In all of them, he appears to have been on the right side, despite being a lefty (although I noticed him lining up a bit differently for d-zone faceoffs against Dallas when paired with Sutton.) Lefty/lefty pairings. This makes it all the more curious that Schultz hasn’t been able to crack the top two pairings, outside of the two games that he’s played with Ryan Whitney. Maybe they want to have puck carriers in the top two? (Mirthless laughter.)

    In any event, I can see the limited use of Schultz as possibly being understandable if they want him tutoring a younger player or providing some of his world reknowned poise, but I’m not sure why he’d spend two games with Andy Sutton then. Nor can I fathom why you wouldn’t shorten the bench

    3. Pathetic name dropping.

    4. Oddly, Schultz has played three games with Whitney so far and four games with Peckham/Sutton. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with this Schultz/Whitney pairing but I’m wondering if they’re doing it to a) hide Whitney and b) give him some more protection in the form of a veteran defenceman. Last night against San Jose, Schulz played with Whitney most of the night and played just 1.1 minutes against Joe Thornton, which is astonishing. Andy Sutton and Corey Potter saw more time against Thornton than did Schultz. Whitney barely played against Thornton either.

    5. Ryan Whitney’s skating has been directly responsible for something like five goals against since this trade was made. As noted, Renney looked to be hiding him from Thornton. I’ve noticed an odd little tic in Whitney’s skating too; rather than stopping when he’s backing up and then switching direction, he does these long, looping turns. Like width of the circle long. The Oilers can say what they want about his skating coming back but the coach doesn’t seem to believe it. Neither do I.

    6. I mean, who cares. Tom Gilbert was an established NHLer at this point in his career. Is Schultz’ experience that much more valuable? Or is it just more miles on the odometer?

    7. I pretty much just included this because it sounds delightfully crazy. I have no idea what it means or to whom it’s referring. Jeff Petry?

    8. I can see, in some circumstances, that there’s merit to the idea that you want a shutdown guy to preserve leads. It seems to me though that the time when you start worrying about fine tuning your car for optimum performance is when the only thing left to do is make tweaks of ever less significance to improve performance. In the Oilers’ case, the car is on fire and Tambo’s mucking around with the timing mechanism or something. They need about three more quality defencemen.

    I’ll be interested to see how this progresses but it seems to me like a trade that’s hard for the Oilers to win. If Whitney’s finished, they’re stuck looking for a Gilbert. At best it’s a sideways move, at worst a backwards one. Regardless of any of that though, the rationale just sounds crazy and that’s the most important thing – if the process stinks (“Steve Yzerman, who has poise, says this is a good idea”) then you’re stuck hoping you get lucky enough to win. Tough way to build a team.


    23 Responses to Help me believe in anything

    1. dave
      March 13, 2012 at

      Not much to argue against here – I’m sure Schultz is a great guy, but as you say he’s no upgrade and unless Renney is playing silly buggers then hes trusted way less than Gilbert

      Interesting that Renney was talking about guys with the wrong attitude in the dressing room – so is that saying that removing all those previous bad in the room types hasnt worked – or did they just have an inordinate number in the first place – mind I would guess a winning team doesnt show up so many of those guys

      Not heard much from you Tyler recently – where you going to do euro road trip report – I know a load would be interested to read it

    2. March 13, 2012 at

      Aaron Palushaj literally skated a circle around Schultz the other night. Aaron. Freaking. Palushaj. I guess it’s unfair of me to call Schultz out on a single game (a game where he and Pekcham looked like fools against the dynamic duo of Palushaj and Gomez), but still, honest question: from what you guys can see, isn’t that guy a pylon?

    3. marconiusE
      March 13, 2012 at

      I’m glad you made the point of how the guy with the stutter & hairlip may be better for the job then then the guy with the square jaw & smoother one-liners, but it just makes it more depressing to focus on the actual results rather then the delivery.

      Seriously, what other business keeps elevating guys to management based on nothing more then they worked for that business. Can you imagine a drive through guy being made CEO of McDonalds when he retires from the window? Or the guy who polishes the wheels being put in charge of BMW when a freak injury to his waxing hand takes him out of the showroom?

      Someone made a comment in the recent past about how they experienced some cognitive dissonance because they found a lot of your criticisms valid, but in doing so would also have to admit that the Oilers were being run into the ground. I find this more & more myself. How can I be fan when the future looks even more depressing then the present

    4. Chris
      March 13, 2012 at

      I laughed my ass off when I heard Tambo tossing in his two cents about what Stevie Y says. Like he is trying to sell us on it being a great trade. “If SY likes him then how can you give me crap for this?” is what I took from it.

      ST is such a douche!! Get him and Klowe out!! My parrot could put more thought behind some of his moves and answers. Tambo want a cracker?

    5. Carl Monday
      March 13, 2012 at

      Does Tambellini understand what “gamesmanship” actually means”?

    6. dawgbone
      March 13, 2012 at

      I mentioned this last night, but since they acquired the guy who is supposed to close out wins for them, they’ve lead for a grand total of about 6 minutes.

      I kind of want him to keep putting up points like he has been for the Oilers, so that over the summer someone can mention that he was a 0.5 PPG player for the Oilers and might be able to put up 40 points next year.

    7. Mr DeBakey
      March 13, 2012 at

      “7. Young players are emerging that that are starting to require the moments where it’s very important”

      Gotta be Klefbom, or someone they’re hoping to draft this year.

      Christ, just thinking about it makes my head hurt.

    8. Pete
      March 13, 2012 at

      Number 7 sounds like something badly translated from Chinese, pehaps on a pack of shrimp crackers: “Double Luck Brand Prawn Snack: crunchy tasty for the moments where it’s very important.”

      The Oilers are going to need to rely on Double Luck for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid.

    9. Scottie
      March 13, 2012 at

      I think Tambo has done more in the last few months to hurt his chances of earning a contract extension than anything.

      1. Jerking around the Hemsky camp for months and then finally getting down to serious negotiations with the trade deadline looming
      2. New reports that he is doing the same with Ryan Smyth now
      3. Signing Corey Potter to a contract extension based on half a season’s worth of performance. Potter has now come back down to earth since the signing and is showing signs that he is in face an AHL journeyman for a reason
      4. The overpayment on the contract extension for Sutton
      5. Trading away a complete defenseman in Gilbert for a defensive defenceman in Schulz when they already had Smid and Sutton in those roles. As Tyler said, either a lateral move or a step back.

      And of course there is his entire track record prior to that (in no particular order, except for #1):
      1. Khabibulin singing
      2. Barker signing
      3. Eager signing for 3 years (tentatively a negative until proven wrong in subsequent years of the contract)
      4. Belanger signing for 3 years tentatively a negative until proven wrong in subsequent years of the contract)
      5. The Smyth trade(s) fiasco
      6. The Pat Quinn experiment
      7. The Hordichuk signing
      8. The Visnovsky trade to Anaheim
      9. The Brodziak trade
      10. Letting Glencross go for nothing
      11. The Pitkanen-Cole trade
      12. The Cole-O’Sullivan trade
      13. The Brule extension
      14. The Nilsson extension
      15. The Foster Signing
      16. The Souray saga
      17. Trade for Fraser

      Sure there were some good things that he has done, but they have been outweighed by the bad. It also doesn’t take much skill to fall into two consecutive first overall picks, and have the Eberle picked by the scouting staff the same summer that you are hired. How does this guy still have a job at this point?

      • Mike W
        March 13, 2012 at

        Good grief. Look at that list of awful moves.

        • Doogie2K
          March 13, 2012 at

          The original Smyth trade was ’07, making it pure Lowe. Unless he’s referring to the original deal with Creme Brule.

          • Scottie
            March 13, 2012 at

            I was referring to what happened this summer.

          • March 13, 2012 at

            Glencross walking and the Pitkanen-Cole trade are also prior to Tambellini being hired. Still awful, but it’s not like the guy needs help getting there.

            • JMC88
              March 14, 2012 at

              I would also add the “3 headed goalie monster” during Tambo’s first year when the Oilers had Roloson, Garon, and JDD on the active roster for at least half of the year until Garon got traded. Why the Oilers thought they would lose JDD through waivers if they sent him to the minors was beyond me. During that time, I lost all faith that Tambo had any competence in running the club.

    10. sacamano
      March 13, 2012 at

      He basically invented a whole narrative for himself, on the basis of a single season, that didn’t even match with his past history.

      Oh puhleeeze. Are you getting worse at analyzing numbers (still waiting on pt. 2 of Bobby Orr and Stats where all will become clear), or have you become intentionally misleading?

      First, did Jones ever claim that his 14.3% was a sustainable number?

      Second, did he just start playing hockey last season. Or hasn’t he played on an awful games throughout his life? It may make sense for you mathemagicians to make a distinction between NHL Games and everything else, but its pretty unfair to say that a player shouldn’t be able to draw on his entire playing career to define his own game.

      Third, his mean NHL shooting percentage since 2008: 13% (low of 11.1, high of 14.3).
      One of those 11.1 seasons was his first in the NHL, the second was a season when he only played 8 games. Throw out those two atypical seasons, and the average NHL career shooting % is 13.25%. Both are higher than his current 12.6). Hell — rather than his numbers being inflated due to a ridiculously high PP%, some SH and some EN goals, it looks like he might be the victim of some bad luck this season ;-), relative to most of his NHL career. I’m not smart enough to find his pre-NHL numbers, which again are certainly relevant for his own understanding of how he plays the game.

      Speaking of throwing out numbers — you can’t just throw out numbers you don’t like in some cases but not others. If you want to exclude empty netters, fine. But do so for all of his seasons and do so for all players. Similarly, if you want to break down his shooting % by PP, EV, SH, etc., then do it for all seasons. His PP % is way higher than normal this year, but how about his other %? Are they lower? My suspicion is that no matter what player you pick, if you break down all of their seasons in the same way, you will always find one or two of the categories that are atypically high or low. But, as a whole season, I bet they tend to even out in the wash.

      • March 13, 2012 at

        I don’t know his college numbers, but Jones scored 22 goals on 135 shots in the AHL (16.3%).

    11. Sunny Mehta
      March 13, 2012 at

      Everybody wanna pass as cats.

    12. Hambone
      March 14, 2012 at

      We have evidence that other teams are using sophisticated analytical tools on which to base their decisions. Not surprisingly, these are teams that consistently outclass the Oilers (San Jose, Boston). When the Oilers’ pro scouting staff and executives are still using gut feel and boxcars, (as we saw in Oil Change) is it any wonder they are spinning their wheels in 29th place?

      I don’t understand the argument for NOT using a scientific approach for evaluating players. The astute former GM Mike Milbury said something to the effect that due to the subjective nature of scoring chances, etc. it was harder to apply in hockey than in baseball, where it is much more established. Well then, if you’re a blind man do you reject any pair of glasses that comes along just because it won’t give you 20/20 vision?

    13. Maestro Fresh Mess
      March 14, 2012 at

      With the Oiler’s organisational version of accountability, Tambellini’s body of work should be rewarded with a raise and more executive-sounding job title. Vice-chair of Hockey Operations? Governor-General of Hockey Operations?

    14. Bank Shot
      March 15, 2012 at

      I’ve been looking at the scoring chances for every game since Shultz has become an Oiler.

      It appears that while he hasn’t played a tonne of SH time, the Oilers haven’t given up a scoring chance with him on the ice.

      It also appears without doing the math, that he is equal or better in terms of scoring chances in almost every game he has played in.

      What have his zone starts been like since becoming an Oiler? Is he starting a lot in the defensive end? What’s his GA/60, his CORSI, his ES save %, his PDO?

      By the scoring chances it looks like Schultz is doing extremely well with the minutes he is given. Is it possible he is an equal or better player then Gilbert? Why isn’t there more statistical analysis being done then ES minutes played? Perhaps that is the only category Gilbert has the advantage in.

      Who knows, but I haven’t seen them compared using advanced stats yet.

      • dawgbone
        March 15, 2012 at

        Sure it’s possible.

        We won’t know unless he plays the same role Gilbert was playing. Instead what he’s done is taken over Petry’s minutes and 5 and 58 are now the go to defensive pairing.

        Schultz didn’t replace Gilbert. He’s not playing the same type of minutes at either ES or PK (in either amount or in terms of responsibility). Schultz replaced Petry who replaced Gilbert.

    15. FastOil
      March 15, 2012 at

      I agree with your point about stutter and hairlip, yet they refer to appearance versus substance. Thinking about Oiler management and coaching, other than the entertainment value, it has begun to concern me that Tambellini and Renney have such a hard time speaking coherently.

      I am starting to think that it is a sign of just not being bright enough to think outside of the box of hockey mythologies, and why there seems to be so little interest in growing more understanding within their chosen careers, despite appalling results. You’d think it might spark a little interest in learning something new, especially when new has become quite easy to find. Maybe Stevie Y could mention it.

      I am not sure yet about how bright Lowe likely is, but I think he is far enough off base it likely doesn’t matter.

    16. Woodguy
      March 19, 2012 at

      21:42 5v5 TOI for Shultz last night playing with Whitney (22:25 5v5).

      0g 0a 0pts 0PIM 1SH

      7-5 in SC according to Dennis.

      Renney finally playing him in top minutes role.

      Nice to see.

      Playing him 5th was driving me crazy.

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