Lot of gnashing of teeth about the Oilers record right now, and understandably so. 5-10 sucks.
As fans, most of us I think recognize that there are a lot of contextual reasons (new coach, 35% roster turnover, brutal schedule) why a 5-10 record might be ‘reasonable’.
But we’re fans, we get to hate it anyway.
Wasn’t one of the reasons we were optimistic because we had, for the first time in years, an experienced, respected coach with a track record of success at the NHL level? Where’s the ‘Todd McLellan’ effect we were promised?
I think it’s there. It’s masked by injuries and lately, shoddy goalering, but it’s there. It’s masked by the pain of a .333 record, but it’s there.
Let’s look at some fancystats trendlines to suss that out.
Overall Balance of Play
To assess the overall balance of play, let’s look at the trends for two specific fancystats: the venerable 5v5 Corsi For % (CF%), and the slightly more modern War-On-Ice Scoring Chances For (SCF%).
That’s exactly what we’d hope to see in these trendlines. The team, much as we may hate to admit it, is getting better. I like what I see so far. You?
(Note: the specific stats I’m looking at in this and each subsequent section were not cherry picked. I selected the two stats in each case that I felt were the best analytical tools for the specific issue I was looking at, and I did this before I looked at the data. But I did look at the charts of other stats, after the fact, just to confirm that there wasn’t anything anomalous, and there wasn’t. For example, the Fenwick and High Danger Scoring Chances charts and trends look very much the same. The trendlines I’m using are standard linear regression trendlines courtesy of MS Excel. All data from war-on-ice.com).
Ah, the much maligned defense. We know it’s bad. We want to trade our best player just to try and shore it up!
Then again, I believe that Nurse, Klefbom, and Reinhart patrolling the left side for the next decade is nothing but sunshine and roses. These guys are young and they’re going to have some ups and downs. But truly, I don’t think they’ve been the problem most nights, and they won’t be.
It’s the other side we need to get squared away – hello Andrej, Mark, Eric, and Justin. I’m looking at YOU.
Now that said, let’s break the fancy stats down a bit, focusing on the defensive side of the equation, and look at the trends here. Is there reason for hope?
For this study, I’m going to look at the ‘other two’ stats in the family – Fenwick and High Danger Chances. Specifically, I’m going to look at rate at which the team is giving up those types of chances.
For assessing the defense, I like Fenwick better than Corsi because it gives credit for blocked shots. And High Danger Chances gives you an idea of whether the team is giving up deadly chances – not much benefit in keeping your shot volume down if you give up deadly chances by the dozen, right?
Again – this is exactly what we want to see. The two trendlines are going down – meaning the team is giving up fewer blocked shots, and fewer dangerous chances over time.
And lastly, let’s look at the guys up front. They’re the ones I’m least worried about, but you still need to score to win. This time, I’m going to look at Corsi For per 60 (the ability to generate shot volume), and High Danger Chances For per 60 (the ability to generate high danger chances – to confirm that any improvement in shot volume is not occurring because the team is shooting more from the perimeter aka “gaming Corsi”).
Again – these trendlines are exactly what we’d hope to see. The team is steadily getting better at generating shots – and the deadliness of those shots is also growing.
Standard caveats here – these are early season and therefore relatively small samples to generate a trendline. They could be misleading. More injuries could change the tune as well.
But otherwise – I like what I am seeing in these charts.
Underlying the mess and the angst and the slow starts and the porous goaltending is this: I think TMc is having the desired effect. He’s an excellent coach, we already know that he is.
With a brand new team, new coach, new system, 35% roster turnover, and now the injuries, I don’t think it would have been reasonable to think the team would be effective under the new system out of the gate. It was going to take time.
Those underlying trends are *very* encouraging. Maybe that’s why Chia wanted to wait 20 games. Not because he’s a patient man, but because he’s smart and experienced and knows that he won’t know what he’s truly got until the team is playing Todd McLellan hockey instead of “5 coaches in 6 years” hockey.
What say you?