There’s a guy who posts on your various sources of Oiler related discussion who goes by the name of Asiaoil. He’s an Oiler fan (possibly located in Asia?) and he thinks that the cynicism about the Oilers coming season is simply too much; that the Oilogosphere has become a bunch of nattering nabobs of negativism. The power play was a topic of discussion at Lowetide’s and he had this to say:
I’m not sure how the lines and dmen pairings will work out – but a lot of usually open minded people are just being outright cynical for no particular reason. So no it’s not “[darned] crazy” that the Oilers may be pretty decent at ES this season, and the PP is likely to be very good along with the goaltending.
I’d love to share his optimism about the PP, let alone about the season as a whole, but I can’t. Let’s start by taking a look at NHL PP goal differential from last season:
It’s generally accepted, as a rule of thumb, that it takes 5 or 6 goal differential for a win. San Jose’s PP generated somewhere between 8.7 – 10.4 more wins than San Jose’s last year. That’s a lot. It’s striking that the difference between Ottawa in 13th and Edmonton in 27th is so small = 11 goal differential. 14 spots better in terms of goal differential is worth just two wins.
Now “very good” is a pretty subjective way of looking at things but lets assume that that means top 10 in the NHL. That’s another 19 goal differential that the Oilers are going to have to find.
The first problem that I see with that is that Edmonton had a pretty sweet season in terms of preventing shorthanded goals against last year. Now Edmonton does some things that make shorties less likely, like the controversial “keep the puck in your own end with only a single forechecker offering pursuit” gambit but shorties are pretty random. The median number of shorthanded goals allowed last year in the NHL was nine; if the Oilers allow nine next year, they need to find another 25 goals for. As I’ll demonstrate below, I can’t see where the Oilers have the forwards to get this done or, in the alternative, to come close without hurting themselves significantly at ES and on the PK.
If we assume the median for shorthanded goals against, the Oilers need at least 78 PPGF. Last year, only San Jose, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Montreal, LA, Dallas and Colorado hit that level. Being a charitable type, I’m going to compare the Oilers defencemen and forwards to those of the top 10 PP teams by percentage, which is the aforementioned teams plus Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the Rangers. Here are what the defencemen who played more than 100 minutes of PP time on the top ten PP teams did:
I did a weighted average of the defencemen who hit the 100 minute mark for each team, just to give an idea of the production that you should hope to be getting out of your defencemen in order to have a PP in the top 10. The Oilers only had two defencemen top 100 minutes on the PP last year: Steve Staios and Tjaggy. They played a combined 243:41 posting 0.5 PPG/60, 1.5 PPA/60 and 2.0 PPP/60. That’s well below the standard achieved by the D playing big minutes for the other teams. I suppose it’s arguable that I should be including Petr Sykora and Jarret Stoll in there but I didn’t do it for other teams forwards who played the point, so I’ll pass on doing it here for the sake of consistency.
I think it’s reasonable to think that the defencemen who’ll be getting the minutes on the Oilers next year will be able to hit the levels achieved by the defencemen on the top ten PP teams. Sheldon Souray, Joni Pitkanen and Dick Tarnstrom might be the only D to play more than 100 minutes and all are legit threats to top 4.0 PPP/60: I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to think that Edmonton should be able to match up in this narrow portion.
Now, onto the forwards, which is where I think that the Oilers are going to fall short. I’ve put together a big list of all the 100+ PP minute guys on the top ten PP teams; I’m going to summarize some of this data below.
Here’s the chart with the weighted averages:
Can the Oilers forwards reasonably expect to put up the type of weighted numbers it would take to not look out of place on this list? I can’t possibly imagine how that would be reasonable to expect. Who are the Oilers forwards that top 100 minutes of PP time going to be? Well, I think it’s safe to assume that Horcoff, Hemsky, Stoll, Pisani and Torres all meet that mark. Add in Penner and you’ve probably got the full list. I suspect that Sanderson will as well but again, I’m trying to make conservative assumptions here and he’s just going to make things look worse so I won’t.
Again, being the charitable guy that I am, I’ll assume that all of these guys play 82 games. For Hemsky, Stoll, Horcoff, Torres and Pisani I’ll use their average PP TOI from the past two years; I’ll stick Penner with Smyth’s minutes. I’m also going to use two year averages of points – this makes things look better than relying on last year alone. It produces a chart like this:
If I run a weighted average on that, it comes out to 1.4 PPG/60, 2.9 PPA/60 and 4.3 PPP/60. That puts the Oilers within the range produced by the top ten teams but at the very bottom. So that’s enough right? It’s reasonable to think that they can be a “very good” PP team?
I don’t think so. First of all, this is all based on the assumption that everything comes up peaches as far as health goes. If you see Horcoff, Hemsky, Stoll or Penner struggle or get injured, the numbers go in the toilet – I’m blueskying things here.
Secondly, while Dallas was able to slide into the top ten in PP efficiency with a relatively poor number put up by their forwards, they did it on the back of some unreal numbers put up by their defencemen. Boucher and Zubov were that PP and given the extent to which that’s unreliable in that in requires big shooting percentages from your defencemen, I wouldn’t want to bet on that. TB was the only other team to put up a top ten PP % while simultaneously putting up a bad forward number. I’ve got no real explanation for this one – that’s the one exception.
Third, Stoll put up his numbers as a shooter. Now that Lowe has gone out and added legitimate PP defencemen, he’s back as a forward. Will he be as effective working down low as he is blasting away? He’s never struck me as a really creative passer on the PP – he was a rarity for the old Oilers PP – a guy who was playing a role that fit him. It’s a shame that the Oilers went out and fixed one of the areas that wasn’t a huge problem but what can you do? He’s also one of the guys propping up the numbers and his TOI is likely going to fall – I’d think that Horcoff, Hemsky and Penner get the lion’s share of the F minutes, with Souray and Pitkanen eating a lot of the first unit defence time.
Fourth, there seems to be some sort of misconception that Penner is a tipping artist. I think that that’s because he’s collecting Ryan Smyth’s money - everyone assumes that he has all of Smyth’s good traits and none of his bad ones. Looking at Penner’s goals on the PP last year, I see a wrist shot from 13 feet off a rebound, a wrist shot from 8 feet away off a pass from Perry, a tip-in on a shot from Niedermayer, a wrist shot off a blocked shot from 16 feet away, a wrist shot from 9 feet away on a pass from Perry, a tip-in off a Niedermayer shot, a wrist shot from 17 feet away off a pass from Niedermayer, a backhand from 14 feet away off a rebound from Getzlaf and a 21 foot slapper. So that’s two tipped in goals plus the odd rebound. I’m strongly suspicious that there are a lot of plays down low there – that’s the way ANA seems to run the PP. Given the way that the Oilers have structured the PP forever, I can’t imagine that there are going to be a lot of plays like that. Maybe he’s awesome in front of the net tipping shots, maybe he isn’t: I don’t think that the data really tells us either way.
Fifth, the depth really sucks. If you think that it’ll be someone other than Pisani and Torres eating PP minutes on the second unit then so be it; I defy people to explain how they can reasonably expect anything out of those two or their replacements though. Sanderson is nothing special on the PP, young guys generally suck…I don’t see the upside.
If I had to guess, I’d guess that Edmonton ends up slotting somewhere between 15th and 20th on the PP. As you can see from the chart above, it’s basically a cluster outside of the extremes and that’s going to have a minimal effect in the grand scheme of things. I suppose that means that I see things from the Scully side of things but I don’t really see how you can examine the numbers, have some sense of history and come to a different conclusion. It’s the only rational conclusion. If the Oilers have a “very good” PP, I’d suspect that it’s going to be almost certainly due to a very healthy dose of luck. I’d take it without complaining but this team has come nowhere near putting together an elite PP.