Trendline optimism

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.

But wait!

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).

The Defense

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.

The Offense

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.

Conclusion

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.

Maybe?

What say you?

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16 thoughts on “Trendline optimism

  1. I like all these trends! It’s happening.

    I have them at .350 for the first half of the season. Finishing off the year around .480-.500

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    1. Not sure I understand your point, D.

      The hypothesis here is whether TMc might be having a longer term positive effect on the team, one that is masked by the short term volatility of results.

      The data is surprisingly positive in that regard. (surprising to me, anyway) Not just the trend in the overall results, but the fact that when you pull them apart, both the offensive sub-measures and the defensive sub-measures are both heading in the right direction.

      It’s early days, so this might just be a random blip and not indicative over the longer term.

      But the fact that the Oilers are facing 3 games in four nights is somewhat irrelevant. If the trend is indicative, then I expect decent efforts and underlying results in at least two of those three games. Chicago as well.

      Trends are not a fait accompli, they just point us in a direction of higher expected probability. And the trend is positive right now. Oiler fans are hoping it stays that way. No doubt you are not.

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  2. Nice post as usual G. Very interesting to see the trends so far, hopefully they continue and that in turn leads to more wins going forward.

    One thing that looking at this sheds light on is how poor the goalering has been. I know its small sample size, but i do not have sufficient confidence in our goaltending to either steal a game or make that critical save that keeps the team in a position to win. I wonder how much this affects the psyche of the Oilers themselves?

    It feels like the Oilers have lost a lot of 1 goal games, or 2 goal games where an EN goal was scored. Filtering out the EN goals, and assuming the Oilers got league average save percentage, how many additional pts and/or wins could that account for? Would they be 7-8 vs 5-5? Just a curiousity.

    Thanks

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    1. I agree – the goaltending has been part of the problem and needs to improve. Especially our man Talbot. Before he was signed, I felt the data supported his being elite in the long-term, but was worried about a ‘starters dip’.

      I’m hoping this downturn (he played five or so good games to start, .920, and five crappy games since then) is just a standard slump and not something that’s going to plague him the whole season.

      Decent goaltending gets us at least two to three points more right now. And let’s face it, it’s a minor difference, but 6-8-1 just feels a whole lot better than 5-10.

      Let’s hope Talbot is just going through an ordinary mini-slump.

      Otherwise, Chia will need to do something about it.

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  3. It is tough to say the HSCF/ 60 graph is trending up when looking at the data points alone. The Philly game seems to have skewed that line.

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    1. Hey Biebs. I agree – the Philly and Chicago games do tend to skew it. The problem is that if you start removing those as outliers, then in fairness, we should remove the outliers on the low side too, shouldn’t we?

      Slippery slope!

      I’d rather include everything and let the regression minimize the effect of the outliers.

      The trend we are seeing is not a fait accompli – it doesn’t guarantee long-term success. It just gives us some reason to hope that TMc may indeed be grinding this team into something good.

      That was the main point of the analysis – to uncover whether the data supported or didn’t support McLellan’s effect.

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  4. This reinforces the “eye-test” where we say things like: I’m seeing better puck support, and the wingers are coming back to the right position to support the C/D in puck retrieval, and those opposition passes from the corner to the slot aren’t finding lone shooters with no one around to cover him anymore.

    The team had rolled so far down the hill it was going to take a long time to build up the momentum to climb out. My only concern remaining is with regards to the roster decisions on D. McLellan is a smart coach and if he dresses Gryba over Davidson, I’m sure there is a reason. I just can’t see it yet and haven’t heard anyone offer a reasonable theory to explain it either.

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    1. Agreed. I think the structure is slowly coming. Hard to see with the game to game volatility (not to mention the frustration with breakdowns and goaltending), but it seems to be visible on the horizon. The data suggests that might indeed be true.

      But the roster decisions continue to be a bit of a mystery.

      All will be forgiven and forgotten if the team wins!

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    1. Why are you posting under both Andrew Smith and OceanSideWebTV?

      I will certainly pay you your Talisker if Mr. Monahan can keep that bloated sh% the whole season.

      I still expect he will fall back into the ether where he belongs.

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  5. Good to see! Kind of fits with my analysis, which suggests the Oilers are better than they appear. For the first 9 games, I compared the Corsi, Scoring Chances, & High Danger Scoring Chances from the previous season series. The overall trend was improvement, especially on defense! If I find time this weekend, I’ll update the analysis.

    http://wp.me/p6j9Gh-J2

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