• Looking Ahead II: Are The Oilers A Playoff Contender?

    by  • January 10, 2013 • Hockey • 8 Comments

    I wrote a post the other day in which I argued that there was good reason to think that the Oilers were more like an 85 point team last year than they were a 74 point team if you looked at their goal difference, frequency of OT games and success in OT games. There’s good reason to think that their record wasn’t really a fair reflection of their ability to play hockey.

    As I mentioned in that post, that was sort of what I think of as the first level of the analysis, looking to see whether the goal difference supports the record. The next stage, for me anyway, is looking into whether or not the underlying numbers support the goal difference. Here are the Oilers’ 5v5 numbers for the past three years:

    So the Oilers have gone from -53 to -20 at 5v5 over the past three years. This is positive. If you look at why that’s happened, it’s pretty clear: it’s got almost nothing to do with their shots ratio (which has barely moved), a little bit to do with a jump in their shooting percentage and a lot to do with improved puck stopping.

    In 2009-10, the Oilers took 46.2% of the 5v5 shots. In 2011-12, they took 47.1%. If we assume, for the sake of discussion, that a shot has probability of 0.08 of going in, a team that plays 3850 5v5 minutes and takes 46.2% of the shots is going to get outshot 2071-1779 and outscored 166-143. Improving to 47.1% of the shots belong to your team narrows things slightly. You’ll get outshot 2037-1813 and outscored 163-145. From -23 to -18. So, it’s something but not huge.

    The shooting percentage was up slightly but it’s well within the range of the reasonable. I’ve talked a lot about Jordan Eberle’s shooting and on-ice shooting percentage coming down but, team wide, some guys have good years, some guys have bad years. Given that the shooting percentage is pretty normal on a team wide level, there’s not much point in being excited about Eberle’s sky-high year at ES (except to the extent that it impacts on his situation in particular). Eberle will likely have fewer shots go in this year; other guys will likely have more shots go in. Not much to see here.

    The big improvement for the Oilers last year over the preceding two years was in the save percentage. I wrote about this in January.

    So at 5v5, this year’s team has a shockingly similar share of the shots to last year’s team. Why are they -7 instead of the more traditional -24 or so at this point in the year? PDO. The 5v5 goaltending’s produced a better save percentage which has kept the goals against down and a few more pucks are going in.

    A point on PDO – while we say it reverts towards 1000, it actually regresses towards whatever the true talent is. A good rule of thumb for 5v5 is that the goalies will post a .920 and the players will score on 8% of shots; it’s not true with bad goalies. I’m not sure that I’d be inclined to bet on Edmonton’s PDO ending the year above 1000. Who’d you rather bet on from here – Carey Price or Nikolai Khabibulin?

    In any event, if you were asked, “Is this edition of the Oilers better at 5v5 than the 30th overall teams?” you’d have a hard time saying yes, on this data. They also don’t compare particularly well to the teams around them in draft lottery contention. It’s all percentages separating them from those teams.

    I wrote that on January 6, 2012. To that point in the season, Khabibulin had played 25 games and Devan Dubnyk had played 17 games. From that point forward, Dubnyk appeared in 30 games to Khabibulin’s 15 games. Khabby put up an .890 save percentage in those games, so my instinct that he was going to regress appears to have been a good one. What I whiffed on was that the Oilers decided to go with Dubnyk a lot more from that point forward. Dubnyk played pretty well too – he put up a .921 save percentage (overall; it would have been higher at 5v5) from that point forward, which meant that the Oilers didn’t tumble into a pit of regression.

    Did Dubnyk play over his head? Tough to say. His track record entering the 2011-12 season wasn’t that great – he’d faced 1316 ES shots and posted a .914 ES SV%, which is pretty bad. His record was kind of polluted by the fact that he got lit up in his rookie season – 45 goals on 458 shots – and he’s actually had an averageish 2010-11, with a .921 ES SV%. For his career, Dubnyk’s now a .920 guy on 2461 ES shots. He doesn’t really have much of an AHL record but he played on some horrible AHL teams and I suspect that the further you get from the NHL, the more shot quality becomes a thing. All of which is to say that Dubnyk being an average goalie, a .920 ESSV% guy in the NHL, doesn’t seem outlandish to me.

    That doesn’t mean that I thought that they should have paid him what they did, for what it’s worth. If you’ve paid attention to the details that have trickled out about the CBA, you’ll have noticed that one of the changes is that teams can no longer walk away from deals that are under $3.5MM. It struck me as odd last summer that the Oilers didn’t use the threat of arbitration walkaway to try and chisel down the amount that they’re paying Dubnyk or, if they did, that it was so ineffective. I guess the NHLPA was worried some other teams might think of this or be good at doing it.

    In any event, the only thing that significantly changed at ES for the Oilers last year was the ES save percentage. It wasn’t spectacular or something that was so high that it’s almost certainly an outlier, like Jordan Eberle’s shooting percentage. It was out of keeping with Dubnyk’s career as a whole, if not his last season, but it’s certainly possible that Dubnyk is an average starting goalie in the NHL. It would have been nice if the Oilers had done something about the backup goalie position but I’ll talk more about that later on.

    Nothing from the team level ES data last year makes me think that the Oilers didn’t get fair results in terms of goals for/against for their ES efforts and that, in thinking about what this year’s team might do, they were significantly better or worse at ES last year than the goals for/against would suggest. Next up: special teams.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    8 Responses to Looking Ahead II: Are The Oilers A Playoff Contender?

    1. dawgbone
      January 10, 2013 at

      I was waiting for part 2 to bring this up in case you addressed it.

      The Oilers picked up a lot of points and goal differential early on in the year. They were +11 in their first 12 games while going 8-2-2 and had a team sv% of .953 (most of it on the back of Khabibulin’s .965 sv%).

      A goalie putting up a .965 sv% over an 8 game sample doesn’t seem unrealistic… but it skews things a lot more when it’s a bad goalie who does it.

      Basically, I think their goal differential from last year flatters them a bit. The good news is this year there should be less bad Khabibulin games (due to lack of playing time) which should help reduce the fact that we won’t see as many games like we did at the start of last year.

      • Tyler Dellow
        January 10, 2013 at

        I think there’s too much that gets made about Khabby putting up a .965 over the first eight games. If you take Khabby’s best 10 games last year, he let in 9 goals on 303 shots (7 of those were prior to Nov. 4). If you take his best 10 games the year before, he let in 10 goals on 293 shots. Goalies, even crappy NHL goalies, are gonna have good games. Khabby just happened to have his early on last year.

        • dawgbone
          January 11, 2013 at

          But he did it with fewer games. I’d suspect a goaltender will have a better opportunity to put up more quality starts the more chances he gets.

          That being said, a lot less Khabibulin and league average goaltending by Dubnyk over those games has got to be worth a significant upgrade in the points.

    2. Custard
      January 11, 2013 at

      Last year, Eberle had one of the top shooting % in the league at an incredible 18.9%. This year he led the AHL in scoring with 25 goals in 34 games on 106 shots. That’s good for 23.6%. Is it possible that his amazing shooting % might not be an outlier?

    3. Custard
      January 11, 2013 at

      Last year, Eberle had one of the top shooting % in the league at an incredible 18.9%. This year he led the AHL in scoring with 25 goals in 34 games on 106 shots. That’s good for 23.6%. Is it possible that his amazing shooting % from last year might not be an outlier?

      • May 6, 2014 at

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    4. Jordn S
      January 12, 2013 at

      Trade Nail Yakupov for Adam Larsson

      Trade Sam Gagner for Ryan O’Reilly

      Make these trades you have a playoff team .

    5. dan
      January 16, 2013 at

      I have Edm with ~83 expected pts last year using my regression formulas & eliminating OT/SO random effects. It places them 26th BUT 5 pts out of eighth in West.Need to improve PP SF. & Fenwick%

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