This is part of a series looking for reasons for the Oilers Corsi% collapse in 2012-13 by examining things on a shift-by-shift basis. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here.
I want to provide a bit of a roadmap as far as where I’m going from here. This is the fourth in a series of posts trying to obtain some insight into what went wrong with the Oilers this year by examining their play on a shift-by-shift basis. To date, I have looked at Shot Attempts Against (SAA) for both forwards and defencemen and examined Shots Attempts For (SAF) for defencemen. This post is going to get into SAF for forwards.
The three preceding posts and this one have been an attempt to kind of gain some high level perspective on this stuff as it pertains to the Edmonton Oilers of the last two years and sort of isolate some things as far as where things changed last year. To get beyond “Well, the Corsi went in the tank” or “They need to get bigger.” To me, talking about solutions before we’re entirely sure why things went so bad is kind of missing a link in the chain. From here, I expect to try and put some numbers on the changes that I’ve isolated in terms of their impact and explore a few other issues before moving into asking, in more detail, why these things might have occurred.
This post is, in my opinion, the most interesting of the four to date because there are some really startling changes in the numbers for a few key people. With that said, let’s get into the numbers. Up first, I’ll look at the percentage of shifts on which Oilers forwards got at least one SAF. There are 14 forwards who played at least 100 shifts in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and I’ve sorted them from the biggest increase in the rate of shifts with at least one SAF to the biggest decrease.
As I referenced in the previous thread, the spreads in 2011-12 and 2012-13, from best to worst, are a lot larger than they are with the Oilers defencemen. The inference that I draw from that is that the forwards tend to drive this more than the defencemen do.
The guys listed in this first graph didn’t do too badly in 2012-13 relative to 2011-12. Hall/Eberle/RNH all saw their rate of shifts with at least one SAF increase, as did Lander, albeit in a pretty small sample. Paajarvi, Gagner and Petrell all experienced declines, but they were pretty small – 1.7 percentage points to 1.9 percentage points. Let’s put that into some context. Sam Gagner played 919 5v5 shifts in 2012-13. The Oilers had a SAF on 373 of them. If he’d achieved an SAF at the same rate that he did last year, they would have recorded an SAF on 390 of them. Difference of 17 shifts with an SAF, or about one every 2.76 games. It’s not nothing but I don’t know that it’s the sort of thing that the naked eye would catch.
Let’s move on to the more significant decreases in this metric amongst returnees.
There’s kind of three groups that emerge here: Eager (-3.0 percentage points) and Hemsky (-3.7), Jones (-4.4), Hartikainen (-4.7) and Horcoff (-5.0) and then Smyth (-6.3) and Belanger (-7!).
A little bit of perspective is needed here, I think. First of all, Hemsky’s number, although down, is still not that bad. He led the forwards by this metric last season and was fifth this season (Hall, Eberle, RNH, Gagner, Hemsky). The decline is troubling but, on an absolute level, he still wasn’t that bad. It’s still like he basically had one shift every game and a half in which he had an SAF evaporate though.
Belanger’s decline is just astonishing. He averaged 16.7 5v5 shifts a night this year. If he was experiencing shifts with at least one SAF as frequently as he did last year, he’d have had 165 shifts with an SAF. Instead, he had 134 shifts with an SAF – he had more than one of those shifts per night disappear from his game. Sadly for him, it seems unlikely that he’ll get to be part of that third year that had Steve Tambellini so touched when Belanger told him that he believed int the rebuild. He’ll have to satisfy himself with the fact that he’ll get at least 2/3 of the money owed on that third year. Cold comfort, I’m sure – it was being part of the third year that he really wanted.
Here are the guys who didn’t play 100 shifts in each year:
No real surprises there. Amongst the guys who you could imagine being on the roster in the fall, Yak’s respectable relative to his peers and Mike Brown and Jerred Smithson aren’t. Let’s move on and look at the multi-SAF shifts as a percentage of SAF shifts.
Two things leap out at me in this set of information. First, the players with the best numbers at this aren’t the same as the ones with the best numbers at generating a single SAF. I suspect that this is because we’re kind of cutting out some of the skill that differentiates a player like Taylor Hall from a player like Eric Belanger. By using shifts with an SAF as the denominator in this fraction, we’re looking at situations in which we know that the puck has already been taken into the offensive zone and the defence beaten enough to permit an SAF. The chaos of offence has already sort of triumped over the regimentation of defence. Part of Hall’s genius is that he makes so much offensive chaos; we’re removing that advantage from him when we look at things this way.
As for the second thing: OH MY GOD what happened to Gagner and Hemsky?!? The changes in this figure from year to year were pretty small for 9/14 players. Lander experienced a big jump (in a small sample), Petrell went from terrible to less terrible and Eager had a very poor year at this. Then you see Gagner, and it’s eye popping and then you see Hemsky and it’s stunning. Put in raw terms, if Hemsky achieved multi-SAF shifts at the same rate he did last year, he would have had 103 of them. Instead he had 68. One shift per game that was multi-SAF, turned into a single SAF shift.
I’m getting ahead of myself here but there’s a significant knock on effect here. The Oilers got out-Corsid 367-466 with Hemsky on the ice this year, which comes out to 44.1% of the Corsis, which is really, really bad. Last year, on shifts on which Hemsky got at least one SAF, 62.3% of the shifts saw one SAF, 26.6% of them saw two SAF, 7.8% saw three SAF, 1.8% saw four SAF and about 1% were five or more SAF. If you were to distribute his shifts on which the Oilers got at least one SAF this year the same way, you end up with 418 SAF, which is of course 418 Corsi For, instead of 367. That alone would move the needle for Hemsky’s Corsi% from 44.1% to 47.3%.
This is a very specific and curious problem. It’s so large that I tend to think that it’s outside the range of changes that might occur just through chance – as I noted, most of the Oilers who played significant amounts in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 put up numbers that were very similar year over year. I can’t see how this is a defensive zone thing – we’re looking purely at shifts in which we know that there’s an SAF.
As I pointed out when I wrote about this earlier in the season, Hemsky and Gagner had a good track record together coming into this season. (As I’ve alluded to a few times – I suspect that there’s a very strong relationship between these metrics and Corsi, because we’re basically looking into the places where Corsi happen.) Hemsky’s numbers showed a massive decline at generating multi-SAF shifts even before the shot to the foot in Detroit.
What does that leave us with? There are four possibilities that I can see. First, this is all just random noise. I don’t really find that compelling because of the size of the decline that Hemsky experienced relative to other players. Second, Hemsky himself has entered a massive decline as a hockey player. If you look at this data, you see that the really crappy players, the Lennart Petrells and the Darcy Hordichuks, do seem to be worse than the rest at turning SAF situations into multi-SAF situations. The thing is…Hemsky was still reasonably good at being on the ice for single SAF situations – they just stopped turning into multi-SAF situations. If he had entered some sort of massive decline, wouldn’t this have shown up there? I would think so and I just don’t see it.
Third, there’s the possibility that Hemsky ended up playing with significantly different players this year and that this somehow affected the numbers that he put up. Let’s look into that.
I don’t really see anything in that. He did really well with Tom Gilbert last year but I’d have trouble accepting an argument that Tom Gilbert is responsible for his loss of multi-SAF shifts this year. He played more with Gagner this year and less with Horcoff but, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, he and Gagner were just fine last year. I don’t see it.
That leaves one possibility (other than an unknown unknown, an always terrifying prospect): there was something happening in the offensive zone that was different this year than last year which led to this falling apart. If I was the Oilers and I wanted an answer to this – I would want an answer, even if I planned to put Hemsky on the first bus out of town – I’d be digging into video. There was a great article that Tom Tango linked to a little while back talking about the video package that teams use to link data and video:
At age 24, Snow’s task as director of hockey operations was to find a way to incorporate new technology and analytics into the organization.
He teamed with Syndex Sports, the creator of the baseball software BATS, and with input from the Boston Bruins helped create the software PUCKS.
It was a risky play six seasons ago. Now, almost two-thirds of the league uses PUCKS. The other third uses a rival software called Thunder.
They essentially do the same thing.
They are software databases that allow users to pull up a player’s stats with matching video. Take faceoffs. Users can look at the overall record of a player on the draw. Each win and loss has a link for video of that faceoff.
I believe that the Oilers are using one of these systems – I recall seeing some video in one of the Oil Change episodes that showed Tom Renney sitting in front of it looking at breakouts and in the most recent episode, you could see a computer that was modified to let a video coach mark spots in a video when something of note happened. Here’s a screen shot of it:
You can see from the keyboard that there are keys marked to enable the noting of chances, goals, fights, play in various zones of the ice and which pair/line is on the ice. The game gets broken down pretty ruthlessly with video. It seems to me like it’d be nothing for a video coach to sit down for a day and work his way through Hemsky’s shifts with at least one SAF, this year and last, and figure it out. A video coach armed with specific knowledge of what the Oilers were trying to do in the offensive zone in 2011-12 and what they were trying to do in 2012-13 might find this even easier to accomplish. If it’s something related to a change in how they played this year, I’d want to know what happened.
I am assuming that they were never able to pinpoint a cause for this change during the season because surely to God they would have fixed it on the spot if they had – wanting to play a system is great, wanting to play a system that neuters one of your best offensive players is insane. Move the guy and get someone who fits if you’re that dedicated to your system. In the short term, you might be better off altering your system to match the players you have.
Moving on…here’s the data for multi-SAF shifts as a percentage of shifts with at least one SAF for guys who weren’t with the Oilers for 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Kind of surprising that Yakupov’s numbers are so low and (I checked) there’s no real difference in the first and second half of the season. I assume that he’ll figure this out as things go on with him. Mike Brown is terrible – no real surprise there either. He’s not a very good hockey player.
I don’t have a lot to say about the data for multi-SAF shifts per shift taken; as I’ve explained previously, I think the previous two sets of graphs kind of show the same information and identify changes and issues more discretely. That being said, I’m nothing if not a slave to tradition, so here it is:
So…big picture. To me, the decline in Hemsky and multi-SAF shifts kind of dwarfs everything else that’s contained in this information and has to be considered a major factor in why the Oilers were so bad possession-wise this year. As I move forward, I’ll be coming back to this.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com