• The Difficulty Created When ES Lines Aren’t PP Units

    by Tyler Dellow • November 16, 2008 • Uncategorized • 16 Comments

    There’s some good debate at Lowetide’s over MacT’s evisceration of Dustin Penner on a flight to Detroit today. The debate that’s broken out there deals with whether or not MacT is using Penner properly.

    Specifically, Penner’s PP TOI is way down this year. He’s no longer playing with Horcoff or Hemsky at ES and, to my recollection, MacT generally shies away from mixing and matching his ES and PP lines, to the extent that he can. Historically, he’s had one line at least that he likes to run out for the PP and maybe the second group is a bit more of a mish mash but he likes to have a line ready to go when the PP is over too.

    I think that, in the case of Cole versus Penner on the PP, the decision not to force ice time on Penner at the cost of screwing of the lines is a defensible one. I’ll concede that Penner’s results are slightly better historically on the PP than Cole’s, but it’s far less than the difference between them at ES. What’s more, screwing with your lines on the PP really does create problems, as the PP ends and you then need to find bodies that aren’t tired to throw out there, bodies that can play a certain position.

    Last night’s game against Colorado was somewhat unusual, in that MacT was mixing and matching both PP units and, I think, it illustrates my point. Thanks to timeonice.com, we can see how MacT dealt with PP’s. As becomes quickly obvious, it gets a little difficult from a coaching perspective, with less than ideal outcomes. Here are the first two Oiler PP’s, with a minute or so before and after:

    COLEDM1

    He kind of got lucky a bit with the first PP, as the fourth line had just come off the ice, so everyone else was reasonably well rested. Horcoff/Nilsson/Pisani draw the penalty. MacT flips to Hemsky/Gagner/Cole to start the PP, which mixes up two lines. I think it’s safe to say that we know that there’s a serious difference between Moreau and Cole on the PP. It’s hard to critcize the decision making there. The problem created by that move is that, if he throws Horcoff’s line over the boards next, he’s got the Gagner line with 2/3 of them having had a minute’s rest, the Cogliano line with 1/3 of them having a minute’s rest or the fourth line for the next shift.

    The decision to use Pouliot over Fernando on the PP was an interesting one – it’s a shame that these games aren’t archived somewhere online so that a guy could go back and see how the Horcoff line was attacking on the PP and whether there was an advantage in a RH shot over a LH shot being paired with Horcoff and Nilsson. In any event, Pisnani is bad on the PP so it’s hard to criticize that decision. It should be obvious why Cogliano wasn’t getting the minutes on the PP – with those lines, if MacT plays Cogliano with Horcoff/Nilsson on the PP, lines 1,2 and 3 have all had 2/3 of their players on the ice. If he has a fourth line he trusts, that’s not such a big deal but he doesn’t.

    PP expires and MacT still doesn’t have an optimal setup. He ends up sending Cole back out with a minute’s rest with Reddox. Then Moreau gets his first shift in four minutes and we’re back in the flow of things as far as the lines that the coach wanted.

    The next PP gets more complicated, as the penalty is taken at the end of a lengthy shift for the Horcoff line. Out come Gagner/Hemsky/Cole – Cole takes a short shift, presumably because he knows that he’ll be back in the fray as soon as the PP is over and because, although you can’t see it here, his line had just come off the ice before Horcoff’s line went on. In effect he’s being asked to do the Vinny L. thing there (shift-bench-shift-bench-shift) but MacT probably expects him to backcheck as well.

    Pouliot ends up getting a big chunk of time on that PP because Cole came to the bench early. Cole presumably didn’t have his breath yet, so MacT throws Pisani out with Cogliano and Reddox once the PP expires. Colorado’s better players snuck a shift in there and Smyth ended up popping a goal, albeit after Stastny had left the ice. Moreau ends up going six minutes without a shift in all of this.

    COLEDM2

    The last two PP were fairly close together. My jpeg here is a little better – you can see all of the leadup. MacT goes Gagner’s line, Cogliano’s line, Horcoff’s line – PP. Out goes Hemsky, Gagner and Cole. Cole is running on 30 seconds rest. They’re out for about a minute. Out come Horcoff/Nilsson/Pouliot. The PP ends and Cole comes out for another shift with his usual line. Moreau – who only got sat for about five minutes this time – comes out again with Hemsky/Gagner and…those guys draw a penalty. Crap.

    Cole comes over the boards..again. Hemsky and Gagner stay out. Horcoff/Nilsson/Pouliot eat up the remainder of the PP and then stay out for a bit. Rather than run Cole out for another shift, MacT gets him another 20 seconds or so on the bench and throws Pisani into the fray with Cogliano/Reddox. Cole then comes out AGAIN and takes a shift. At this point, MacT presumably still doesn’t want to go back to Gagner/Hemsky because they’ve been taking some big minutes over the past few minutes, so the Horcoff line gets another. Moreau ends up getting about one shift in ten minutes in all of this.

    My point, which I’ve probably belaboured, is that mixing and matching the lines on the PP has real consequences when you don’t have a fourth line that you can trust to go out and eat a shift in the minute or two post PP. Penner’s had two respectable years on the PP but nothing to suggest that he’s driving the bus. I haven’t done any serious analysis but the problems it creates throughout the lineup in terms of managing your bench are apparent enough to me that I’m not going to criticize MacT for his decision making in terms of not getting Penner more time on the PP because of the problems that are created by trying to do so.

    About Tyler Dellow

    16 Responses to The Difficulty Created When ES Lines Aren’t PP Units

    1. November 17, 2008 at

      Clearly Erik Cole is a winger that MacT would like to keep this offseason. The second chart in particular just oozes trust.

    2. PDO
      November 17, 2008 at

      I know a way to make this a lot easier…

      Mix and match by using Hemsky on both units.

    3. November 17, 2008 at

      Mix and match by using Hemsky on both units.

      I like it.

    4. November 17, 2008 at

      Moreau – Gagner – Hemsky
      Nilsson – Horcoff – Cole
      Penner – Cogliano – Pisani
      Reddox – Pouliot – Brodziak

      Swap Penner for Moreau on PP#1. Run the second line as PP#2. Send out Moreau-Cogliano-Pisani for the first shift after, then the second line, then revert back to the normal line combinations.

      I just don’t have much faith in MacTavish’s PP decisions because he’s never ran a decent one.

    5. November 17, 2008 at

      it’s a shame that these games aren’t archived somewhere online so that a guy could go back and see how the Horcoff line was attacking on the PP and whether there was an advantage in a RH shot over a LH shot being paired with Horcoff and Nilsson

      CBC archives all its HNIC games for the year, if I remember correctly.

      Cole is running on 30 seconds rest. They’re out for about a minute.

      Yeah, but if you look at it, that PP started with about three seconds to go in the second, so really, Cole’s minute-long shift came on 18 minutes’ rest. I would assume his choices are influenced by TV timeouts (which occur 6/10/14 min into the period, except when on ST or right after a goal or icing) and, of course, intermissions.

      This post definitely puts into stark contrast the oft-cited coaching line that a lot of power plays tends to throw the whole team out of sync.

    6. November 17, 2008 at

      Flipping through the channels the other day and Gary Valk was talking about the Canucks PP. Apparently Bernier hasn’t fit well with the Sedins at 5v4, but has been good at 5v5. And Vigneault is loathe to mix and match on the PP because he doesn’t want to screw up his EV lines for the shifts afterward. This according to Valk.

      The real problem here is that the Oilers have far too many young players to ice a balanced lineup. Not if you want to develop these guys at the same time, anyways. And right now Gagner is being fast tracked, as Dennis keeps reminding us.

      Of course a lot of other teams are doing similar things, so we can’t give the Oilers too much extra credit here. I think they are what they appear to be; an average NHL team. Less than that by the numbers, but they’ve had far more than their share of road games so far.

      Of course young players are going to go through ups and downs as well, especially as responsibilities shift for them. But with this many young guys, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t get steadily better as a team on our way to April. If we don’t start seeing the Oilers not just outplay the ooposition more often, but win more often, MacTavish might not be the coach that coaches the better version of this team in April, though.

      A couple of ass-kickings by DET this week and he’s gone, I suspect. Hopefully the Oilers play their best, and they catch DET on a night where their best players don’t have their legs. A bit of help from the hockey gods would help MacTavish right now as well.

    7. November 17, 2008 at

      Also, loading Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky onto one line and using them on the PP makes sense. But when that trio had real success Horcoff was taking more offensive zone faceoffs than the bad kind for the first time in his career. And 27 and 83 even moreso.

      They don’t have Stoll/Reasoner (and Torres/Thoresen) to throw to the wolves now, though. Plus they are trying to get Gagner some minutes with good players and vs good players (sensibly I think).

      And with the three goalie situation MacTavish just doesn’t have decent forward options in the press box either (benching two regulars for one game remedied that briefly, with the Reddox call up, but that won’t last, I suspect, Liam is always going to be one bad game away from Springfield).

      And Semenko is probably scouting the Texas Prison League for another goon as we speak. This so that Tambellini has a replacement ready for Boulerice the next time that he tries to murder somebody and gets suspended. I have Thursday in the pool, btw.

      Interesting times, Tyler. Nothing ever flows along smoothly with these fuckers.

    8. Tyler
      November 17, 2008 at

      …that PP started with about three seconds to go in the second, so really, Cole’s minute-long shift came on 18 minutes’ rest. I would assume his choices are influenced by TV timeouts (which occur 6/10/14 min into the period, except when on ST or right after a goal or icing) and, of course, intermissions.

      Damn it. I meant to check for that, I really did. I think my point still stands with respect to how the PP’s and extra lines screw things up but I should have caught that.

    9. Tyler
      November 17, 2008 at

      And with the three goalie situation MacTavish just doesn’t have decent forward options in the press box either (benching two regulars for one game remedied that briefly, with the Reddox call up, but that won’t last, I suspect, Liam is always going to be one bad game away from Springfield).

      Even then, the callup was only available because Smid is on IR. Once he’s off, MacT has the same problem, which is a shame because I thought that the CCR line looked pretty good the other night.

      They really need to move Penner, IMO. He just doesn’t fit in the salary structure anymore and he certainly doesn’t fit on the ice. I wonder if there’s someone out there willing to take him.

    10. November 17, 2008 at

      Yeah, I don’t mind Penner as a player, I like him a lot more than I thought I would. But there is no way that he is ever going to cover the salary.

      Rivers compared him to Laraque in the Lowetide thread, and I think that’s not far off of the truth. Laraque with better hands. He’s nearly impossible to move off of the puck in the offensive zone, but he doesn’t bring much in the other two parts of the ice. If you start him in the offensive zone a lot he can be useful, and he can probably keep it there for the shift. Not so much otherwise.

      The problem, besides his salary, is that the Oilers are already knee deep in young guys who need the benefit of favourable context to get results. And if you’re spending a lot of it on them … well you’re not spending it on the guys who would likely do even better with it (Horcoff, Hemsky, Cole).

      BTW: I see you brought up Penner’s EV on-ice save% and shooting%. Sum those up and you get PDO’s Luck Number.

      That’s a pretty cool thing, actually. Doesn’t repeat worth a damn. And if you look at the Oilers hot streak, basically from when Horcoff went down (20800 or so) … well the guys who had great luck numbers have almost universally see the dice start rolling the other way for them so far this season. And the opposite for the Oilers who couldn’t buy a break in March. Even with the guys who have been traded.

      I mean the wheel has no memory, that’s just coincidence. Still, you can see how a lot of bipolar Oiler fans see the Oilers as being bipolar.

      The Oilers young guys especially, ridiculous on ice EVshooting%’s during that stretch, way better than Ovechkin, Crosby, Iginla or Lecavalier averaged over the season. And last I checked they were averaging 7% or so, which is 4th line type levels.

      I mean when they get hot (and they will, in turns, surely) then guys like Pisani, Moreau and Penner probably will stop catching breaks. But it’s interesting nonetheless.

    11. November 17, 2008 at

      Also, do you think that anyone would give up a mid-first-round pick, as well as a 2nd and 3rd rounder, for Penner right now?

      The NHL is a quirky little market, so I really don’t know. But if Lowe still has clout, there is no way in hell that they move him unless they get that much back in trade.

    12. November 17, 2008 at

      Never a dull moment is right, Vic.

      Watching the game Saturday night I was struck how a few guys looked to be on the cusp of some good things. Pisani, Horcoff, Cole and Cogliano all had fine games imo. Nilsson and Reddox too and of course they showed on the scoresheet.

      A couple of weeks ago Gilbert was getting shat on and then he gives Hemsky the puck twice and Ales does his thing and Tom ends up with a three point night. Hasn’t looked back since. Just needed that break.

      Reddox has a few things going for him – he has sense, he can PK and he plays LW. this team is so strong on the RW and not so much on the left side.

      As for moving Penner, I would say someone would take him, sure. Plenty of immovable contracts have been moved – heck Carle has been moved twice in the last few months. he’s a big guy and he is young and you know somewhere some GM is looking at him thinking, man if we had him …

      Because when it comes down to it I think you’re right Ty. He doesn’t fit with any particular set of linemates and he doesn’t seem to have the passion. He seems to recognize that too, based on his comments.

    13. Tyler
      November 17, 2008 at

      Also, do you think that anyone would give up a mid-first-round pick, as well as a 2nd and 3rd rounder, for Penner right now?

      Not if they’ve learned any sort of a lesson from Lowe: he’s not good enough to be a top two line player on a good team and too expensive to be a bottom sixer on a good team.

      Maybe some EC team that’s desperate to make the playoffs would take him, I don’t know, but most of those teams have serious money problems, so I don’t know how they pay him.

      Realistically, I think moving him involves sending him down and calling him up. With Brian Burke about to have the Toronto media as a bullhorn, I don’t see it happening.

      I mean the wheel has no memory, that’s just coincidence. Still, you can see how a lot of bipolar Oiler fans see the Oilers as being bipolar.

      I’m reading Fooled by Randomness at the moment, as was politely suggested by McLea in the comments to an earlier post. Taleb refers to the example of a trader who has a 15% rate of return with a 10% error rate. He puts together the following table of the odds that a guy will experience success (better than zer return):

      1 year – 93%
      1 quarter – 77%
      1 month – 67%
      1 day – 54%
      1 hour – 51.3%
      1 minute – 50.17%
      1 second – 50.02%

      Taleb’s point, which also relies on people feeling pain from losses more than pleasure from gains, is that the guy’s better off just getting his statements once a year rather than following it on a second by second basis. More broadly, it’s that there’s a lot of information that just isn’t important that fools us.

      The really funny thing is that Billy Beane kind of put that same thing into play, what with refusing to watch A’s games and all that. I would guess that getting sucked into obsessing over hockey players on a shift by shift basis is the same sort of a thing.

    14. November 17, 2008 at

      Vic – oh not that much I would say

      This is a weird little world here. Who is in charge? Is Tambellini setting up MacT for the fall so he can bring in his own man?

      Even with all of the youth and goofy shit going on roster wise I’m not convinced MacT is getting the most out of this club.

    15. November 17, 2008 at

      I think you could get something for him Ty. Just not that much.

      And unless there is some outside shit going on we don’t know about they aren’t going to waive him, I would say.

      Some have said MacT’s comments aren’t over the top but imo he’s burning his bridges with this guy so unless Penner comes back in and lights the world afire (unlikely) its one or the other.

    16. November 19, 2008 at

      Maybe Columbus would make a good offer.

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