• After Mere Hours of Assessment, Oiler GM Correctly Identifies Problem

    by  • April 16, 2013 • Hockey • 12 Comments

    Craig MacTavish went on HNIC Radio yesterday afternoon. One of his comments sent shivers down my spine:

    “Even within the five game winning streak, a lot of games we get outshot. The shot differential in the game is quite significant for our club. It was a great run that we were on but I was never really under the illusion that we were a team that could put together that stretch nor did I think we’d lose four or five in a row here the last little while. It’s really a reflection of where we are. It’s not a set of specific circumstances that occurred over the last week that stopped us from winning five games in a row to losing five games in a row. Over that period of time we’ve probably been a .500 team and that’s where we are over the last ten games.”

    We haven’t heard someone in power in Edmonton talking about this sort of thing since God knows when. Loon bloggers? Sure. Guys with the power to actually address this problem? Not a word. MacTavish went on to make a point that he made in his press conference earlier in the day:

    “It would just be asinine to think that this situation that we’re in has anything to do with Ralph Krueger. I think that as managers and as players, we have to take the responsibility on ourselves to a) as managers get more out of the group that we have, we have to add depth to the group that we have and I think that’s where my focus certainly will be on and it won’t be on the coaching staff, that’s for sure.”

    Here’s a chart that I posted last week, looking at how the individual Oilers are doing this year in SF/SA ratio, as compared to their time in Edmonton between 2010-12.

    This is part of what I said when I posted that:

    The key data in this table is the SF/SA columns and the DIF column. In brief: five of the Oilers who were here last year are at least matching what they did in terms of their SF/SA. Eberle and Hall have both seen big jumps in their numbers. I was critical of Eberle last year because I didn’t believe the offence was real – this is a far, far more positive sign from him than last year’s big S% year. The guy’s a good hockey player, even if he’s not what the Oilers thought they were buying.

    The rest of it though…good lord, what a disaster. Horcoff and Jones have kind of posted similar numbers to last year, albeit in awfully small samples due to injury. Smyth’s numbers say he hasn’t performed as poorly as is widely believed, at least relative to last year. Then it just gets ugly. It’s easier to appreciate the scale of this if I do a comparison between the actual shot differential when given players are on the ice and what it would have been if they’d had the same SF/SA ratio as they had in the 2010-12 seasons.

    It is, I hope, pretty apparent where things are really going off the rails for the Oilers this year. Start with Smid and go down. The numbers for what is basically the second line (Hemsky, Gagner and MPS) and the fourth line (Petrell/Belanger/Eager/Smyth) are horrific. Even if we thought the fourth line guys were bad last year – and I did – they seem to have gotten dramatically worse for some reason. I’ve seen a lot of talk about Gagner on Lowetide’s site, how he cheats for offence but I think it does bear mentioning that he was once a guy who, while not great, didn’t get slaughtered at ES. This year, it’s Stalingrad out there.

    It’s not just guys who are over the hill who are struggling – Hemsky’s been dinged up, but guys like he and Gagner are in the prime of their careers and were getting hammered in SF/SA before the injury. I’ve said it before: I instinctively like Ralph Krueger. He seems like a thoughtful guy who is positive by nature and I identify with the former quality and envy the latter. I am baffled though, as to how you can bring back a roster that has so many of the same players, everyone can get markedly worse and MacTavish can be so comfortable that it’s not the coach’s fault.

    Hopefully, a media guy with access to MacTavish stumbles across this and raises it with him, with an eye towards getting his thoughts as to why this is occurring and why it’s affecting guys who are in what should be the heart of their career if it’s not a coaching issue. Fixing this is the most critical issue facing the Oilers and it’d be great to have a little more exposition from MacTavish as to why, precisely, he thinks it’s happening.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    12 Responses to After Mere Hours of Assessment, Oiler GM Correctly Identifies Problem

    1. Kris11
      April 16, 2013 at


      Are big changes in the individual Corsi numbers of players (in the prime of their career) THAT uncommon.

      I mean, I would imagine they are somewhat uncommon (outside of injury), in players in their prime, but does it happen, say, 10% of the time?

      By eye, Gagner has given up on playing a complete game. And Hemsky has struggled a bit, too. Who knows, maybe they gave up on this loser team. Who would blame them. Maybe they have injuries. Maybe they aren’t following coaching.

      Moreover, is there any reason (I’m asking seriously, I don’t know) to believe that coaching ever (or more than very rarely) has that big of an effect on individual Corsi, year to year? IMO, coaches get rewarded incorrectly for lucky PDO numbers in small sample sizes, or punished for bad ones. The best teams are just sets of the best players and coaching matters little.

      I’d suspect coaching has only marginal effects on possession, certainly nothing that could really explain the huge, huge swing in, especially, Hemsky’s numbers. (Sometimes guys do fall in the toilet before 30, right? And he has had so many injuries, who knows what he might be playing with.)

      Actually, I suspect what happened to Gagner and Hemsky, partially, is that the awful effect of the awful D on the forward’s Corsi numbers doesn’t get distributed through the forwards evenly, as you might suspect. Rather, the big minuses clump together to harm some forwards over others, and Gagner and Hemsky drew the unlucky straw. I know the TOI data doesn’t suggest this is true (Hemsky and Gagner didn’t play with the worse D significantly more than others) but I think it might, if you look at it the right way, which I’m still thinking about.

      • Chenson
        April 16, 2013 at

        But why the consistent drop off across almost everyone if not coaching? The top five (including Peckham, I guess?) are all in the first years of their career and should be significantly better players this year than last. The numbers bear that out. You can come up with explanations for individuals if they’re facing tougher minutes, or playing with injuries, but tougher minutes for one player should mean lighter minutes for another. I don’t think that’s the case. The Oilers are loser team this week, but I don’t think the players had reason to give up until recently. This chart is a couple weeks old anyway.

    2. Kris11
      April 16, 2013 at

      That said, maybe it is the coaching.

    3. Bank Shot
      April 16, 2013 at

      Perhaps Krueger’s defensive system is similar to that of the Predators who have been outshot pretty much every season while having some success. The Oilers have seemed to be collapsing down low fairly well this season. Since we can’t really measure that, moving on……..

      Option two could be score effects. What’s the percent change in tied situations from year to year?

      This season the Oilers are 7th in goal scoring in the first period, last season it was 23rd. Perhaps teams don’t get early leads as often then let off the gas. They certainly have seen more starters this season then the past few. Maybe its just as simple as more teams taking them seriously.

    4. Woodguy
      April 16, 2013 at

      The man in charge of the Oilers discussing that the main problem is that they are out shot?

      I’m weeping with joy.

      Hope he can figure it out.

    5. Sliderule
      April 16, 2013 at

      I think coaching is a big part of the problem.

      The defensive zone coverage for our forwards is brutal.The defense gets all the blame but you could add Yandle or Suter and we would still be in trouble with all those open shots from slot.

      So far as I am concerned the test will be if MacT adds to his staff with an experienced technical coach like Pearn or a guy like Strudwick.

      • Mr DeBakey
        April 16, 2013 at

        The jolly guy who is on the radio all the time, that Strudwick?

        • dawgbone
          April 16, 2013 at

          I think it was a comparison.

          MacT is good if he adds Pearn, but bad if he adds Strudwick.

          • Mr DeBakey
            April 16, 2013 at

            Ahh yes.
            You are right, methinks.
            Words are hard.

    6. George B
      April 16, 2013 at

      Is there a metric to account for PP and PK shots. I read but didn’t see anything touching on this. A guy like Smid or Petrell that plays on the PK but never on the PP would see that metric beat the snot out of them whilst the kids get the gravy time.

      If someone has some insight please assist.

      • Tim Bayer
        April 17, 2013 at

        I believe the shot data is only from 5v5 situations to account for this.

    7. chartleys
      April 17, 2013 at

      Western conference effect?

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